Line up the 2013 Suzuki V-Strom 650, Kawasaki Versys, and the Honda NC700X, rev ‘em up, drop the clutch, and the V-Strom gets the drop on the other two. The Strom’s V-Twin gives it the advantage in the low-end, throttle response is immediate, and the Suzuki demonstrates that of the three, it displays the most sportbike-like performance.
A peek at its dyno chart reveals how evenly its power is delivered, from the instant hit on the low-end to the pull on top. While the Strom surprisingly had the lowest numbers on the torque chart at 41.94 lb-ft @ 6700 rpm, all three motorcycles put up numbers within a couple lb-ft of one another. Where it separates itself from the NC700X is top-end biased horsepower, because while the Honda’s hitting its rev limiter and topping out, the V-Strom is still pulling strong. The Suzuki put up an almost identical horsepower number as the Versys at 63.73 hp @ 8900 rpm, which translates to plenty of pull late in the rev range, too. The edge the V-Strom exhibits in the lower ranges thanks to its V-Twin configuration, teamed with the smoothness of its power delivery, gives it a slight advantage on the potent powerplant of its rival the Versys.
“What stands out is how ridiculously smooth it is. That smoothness sort of masks its power, and the V-Strom can haul the mail out on the interstate. If you want to get your license revoked and tossed into the clink, Suzuki makes the Hayabusa… For real-world sane riders, the V-Strom 650 delivers plenty of power for the street,” said Managing Editor Bart Madson.
The 2013 Suzuki V-Strom 650 benefits from last year’s revisions to the powerplant that was originally made for the SV650. In 2012 it received new pistons, fuel injectors and camshafts aimed at improving mid-range power. It also got a new crank and fresh ECU engine mapping aimed at improving gas flow. The ECU in question is a 32-bit onboard computer controlling Suzuki’s proprietary Dual Throttle Valve system that keeps the flow of fuel feeding the 645cc V-Twin constant regardless of throttle position. We already mentioned it also received a new oil cooler last year, its low-
The 2013 Suzuki V-Strom 650 ABS stands tall in the saddle and spritely in the engine department thanks to a capable 645cc DOHC 90-degree V-Twin.
A peek at the dyno chart reveals how evenly matched the Suzuki V-Strom and Kawasaki Versys really are. While the Versys has the Strom covered in midrange and top-end, the torquey delivery of Suzuki's V-Twin gives the V-Strom the edge off the line.
The 2013 Suzuki V-Strom is stable and handles intuitively when the roads begin to twist up.
We found the big gauges of the V-Strom to be the most useful because of its placement and the easy to see dials of its digital speedo, gear indicator and analog tach.
to-mid rpm range torque beneficiaries of the addition. While the engine has plenty of zip, it functions efficiently too with the second-best average of 50.578 mpg, down quite a bit to the highly efficient NC700X but five mpg better than the Versys.
While the V-Strom wins the race off the line, its sportbike-like disposition continues to shine when it’s time to carve up some asphalt. The V-Strom’s aluminum twin-spar frame and swingarm keep it very composed in corners and riders can confidently carry plenty of speed into turns. Leaned over, the foot controls of the V-Strom are up high enough to allow for generous lean angles and turn-in is sharp and precise. And while turn-in matches up favorably with its competitors, the V-Strom is very tall in the saddle with its 32.9-inch seat height, so it doesn’t transition as fast as the other two. The more compact Versys enjoys a slight advantage in this regard, and neither can match the side-to-side quickness of the NC700X and its best-of-the-bunch center of gravity.
“Handling for the Strom is much like the engine, so smooth that it’s easy to overlook the performance. I found the Versys a skosh sportier and quicker to turn in and transition, but the V-Strom is more intuitive and stable,” concurred Madson.
Between the V-Strom’s 43mm fork and link-type rear shock, the damping and spring rates provide riders with plenty of feedback through the suspension. It has generous amounts of travel front and back, both in the six-inch range, and while there’s not a great disparity in ride quality between all three motorcycles, Suzuki has made getting the 2013 V-Strom dialed-in properly the easiest of the three. There’s a convenient knob to dial in the five-way preload adjuster on the rear of the V-Strom, the shock outfitted with stepless rebound damping as well. Similar to the Versys, the telescopic fork on the V-Strom is spring-preload adjustable with five available settings. Once again, the two match up favorably, the main advantage the Suzuki exhibits is ease of use thanks to its easily accessible knob for the rear shock.
The 2013 V-Strom gets the drop off the line and keeps pace with its competitors in the curves and continues to separate itself when it comes time to bang through gears. The constant mesh transmission slips between all six of its gears quietly and smoothly, the gearbox on the Versys not as refined and the Honda just a tad clunkier at the point of engagement. Conversely, the V-Strom has a light-action, two-finger pull clutch that teams with the seamless operation of the transmission so running through gears is quick and reliable.
“The Suzuki’s transmission is smooth and unremarkable, like the Honda. I’d give it an edge, if only for the gear position indicator on the dash,” said Madson. His reference alludes to the fact that the V-Strom is the only bike of the three with a readout for gear position.
When it comes time to break down the action, the V-Strom demonstrates the most stopping power. The Tokico calipers on the front bite into the dual 310mm discs firmly without having to pull the lever to the hilt. Step on the pedal to activate the Nissin caliper on the rear and response is likewise immediate and strong. Despite being the heaviest bike of the bunch, the braking system on the V-Strom provides the shortest stopping distance. All three motorcycles have competent brakes, but the ABS is a big bonus on the Suzuki. The system isn’t overly intrusive, and when it does engage it only exhibits a small pulse in the ball of a rider’s foot at the brake pedal.
“The V-Strom’s brakes are hands down the best in this comparison, by a long ways. They offer the best initial bite, best feel at the lever and ABS is standard,” commented Madson.
Besides carrying a few more pounds than its competitors, the V-Strom overall just feels like a much bigger bike. It has the longest wheelbase, a couple more degrees of rake than the Versys, a taller front wheel at 19-inches, a bigger tank at 5.3 gallons, and it’s taller in the saddle. One of its drawbacks is that because it is so tall, pushing it back is a challenge even for me at six-feet tall. Once in motion, this is a non-issue because it also has the most open rider’s triangle of the three, but we found ourselves frequently tip-toeing at stoplights.
Styling-wise, the V-Strom features subtle fit and finish offerings that can go unnoticed, like adjusting the backlight on the LCD display to make it more visible. We’ve already mentioned some of its 2012 changes like a re-styled front fender, the oil-cooler it got last year, and the reshaped seat with extra padding. It has the least amount of bodywork, leaving more of its engine and mechanical bits on display. Its dual headlights and louvered cooling fins hint at its sporting performance. The bodywork it does have, primarily a front fairing, is highly functional. It has a taller windscreen than the other two middleweights in the shootout which provides riders with more wind protection. The windscreen is three-way adjustable, capable of being moved up 24mm or down by 18mm in addition to its standard setting.
The Suzuki has the most useful instrument cluster as its dials are up higher and easier to read at speed, a digital speedo on the right with a gear indicator in the left-hand corner of the display, a large analog tach sitting to the left. We didn’t like how the low fuel indicator blinks incessantly, but do appreciate the convenience of the gear indicator and other rider-friendly features like the knob to dial in preload on the rear.
The steady Wee-Strom is a sum-of-its-parts type bike - a refined and versatile mount without any glaring weaknesses.
“At 6’1” I felt most comfortable on the V-Strom. Protection offered by the screen and wider half-fairing enhance its long-distance credentials. However, the seat is quite soft, a little too spongy for optimal comfort I think, but better than the Honda’s. I did really enjoy the big footpegs and the Strom felt the most comfortable standing up on,” added Madson.
After spending time in the saddle of Suzuki’s 2013 V-Strom, we better understand why its owners are so passionate about the motorcycle. With its combination of snappy power delivery, sharp handling, and strong braking, it’s a tight all-around package. While the Versys is a bit more acute in the curvy stuff, the pull of the V-Strom’s V-Twin gives it an advantage off the line, its gearbox is smoother, and the braking package is better. The Versys has a buzz coming up through the frame and tank at higher rpm that can try a rider’s patience and overall the V-Strom is a bit more refined. Throw in the fact that it offers the best protection from wind buffeting, has the most useful instrument console, and has the most rider conviences and you’ve got the clear-cut winner of our 2013 650 Twins Shootout.