Suzuki introduces the GSX-8R middleweight sport bike.
It has a fairly new and relatively potent 776-cc upright parallel twin that makes 82 hp and 58 lb-ft of torque, more than enough to move the 452-pound bike.
Price is $9999, including destination and freight.
It used to be that you needed at least 1000cc in a transverse-mounted four-cylinder to really have fun. Maybe even 1200cc, or 1250. And maybe you still do. It’s hard to argue with the enjoyment provided by 1000cc of just about anything, especially when you’re talking sport bike displacement.
But the new Suzuki GSX-8R makes a pretty good argument that you can still have fun with 224 fewer cubic centimeters. As your grandpappy used to say, “There ain’t no substitute for cubic centimeters, unless’n you’re talking digital port fuel injection via 42-mm throttle bodies matched by 10-pinhole injectors and a 270-degree firing order.”
The GSX-8R is all that, with a stout new two-cylinder from the sportbike kings at Suzuki—the same guys who brought us the original GSX-R (pronounced “Jixxer”) way back in 1985. The new 8R is similar to the naked-bike GSX-S in many ways, except that the 8R has a smooth, aerodynamically efficient fairing on the front. Pricing is a reasonable $9999 including destination and freight.
That’s another benefit of a midsize sport bike: cost. Two fewer cylinders means a lower sticker. Compare the new GSX-8R’s price to the GSX-R1000R at 1000cc but with a $19,059 MSRP and you start to see the benefits of the midsize sport bike category.
The GSX-8R is built around a new, upright parallel twin with 776cc. That compact and tidy powerplant makes a solid 82 hp at 8500 rpm and 58 lb-ft of torque at 6800 rpm. The power and torque peaks may be a bit high, but you can access both all up and down the tach.
On a very pleasant day’s ride bombing apexes across the Southern California lower desert and over the local mountains, that engine felt entirely useable, offering as much twist as I may have wanted on what started out as a very slippery, wet day.
And if it ever exceeded my ability, Suzuki’s electronics stepped in to keep the bike upright and going strong. Ride modes were easy to access via a left-thumb-operated switch. That controlled the Suzuki Drive Mode Selector (S-DMS) and Suzuki Traction Control System (STCS).
Modes are A for Active, which has the quickest throttle response and power delivery; B for Basic, a little softer throttle; and C for Comfort, which is a little like a rubber band on the controls. In the wet morning—with water, mud, and maybe even a little ice—I started in C, then kept it in B. Later I upped response by one click and lived to tell the tale.
Modes are displayed and easy to read on the TFT screen, which also offers an easy-to-read tachometer, speedo, gear position, gas gauge, odometer, battery charge level, and coolant temp, as well as few warning lights.
The bike starts with one touch of the start button and off you go. At first, you miss your larger-displacement full-size sport bike. Who can blame you? But within a few miles your brain has adjusted to the lighter—452 pounds—midsize setup you’re straddling and soon you are enjoying what turns out to be some surprisingly meaty power and torque curves.
At first, in the rain and the cold and the damp, I took it easy, enjoying that power and torque in appropriate dollops. But soon enough the sun was out and the roads dried up and I found myself dive-bombing apexes with all the highly skilled full-time biker writers in front of me.
“Say, this is fun,” my brain said.
There were patches where I happened to look down and see 111 mph or so on the speedo and didn’t even know I was going that fast. Top speed is 134 mph, which is an extra 3 mph over the GSX-S (and more front stability) thanks to that fairing. The engine is perfectly balanced, with two counter-rotating balance shafts to keep everything running smoothly.
You can cruise along happily in sixth at 75 mph with the tach parked at 5000 rpm and be perfectly happy. That's the same rpm my carbureted 2001 Suzuki SV650 is happiest. Life’s full of ironies. Or coincidences. Or something.
With a relatively long set of intake runners the GSX-8R also provides a good pile of mid-range torque for such a relatively small displacement. This means you can exit a corner without necessarily having to downshift in the middle of it, thus adding to your day’s enjoyment.
After a long day in the saddle, I was not at all worn out. Other commitments kept me from attending the next day’s track time at Chuckwalla Raceway out in the desert, but all reports from those who did go said the bike acquitted itself well on that track, as if it was perhaps most comfortable as a track bike.
Suzuki, meanwhile, is trying to present this as sort of an everything bike.
“Yes, it’s a sport bike, but it can do a heck of a lot more than that,” said Avery Innis, training and publication manager at Suzuki Motor USA. “This is like the decathlete of sport bikes: sport touring, track days, commuting, you can do just about anything you want to do with it.”
It did work as a sport bike, and I could see taking it to a track day, but the only saddle bags offered from Suzuki are relatively small, and for real touring you’d want a bigger wind screen, more luggage capacity and a wider, softer seat.
You could commute with it and probably have a good time doing it, but I don’t know that I’d call this a commuter, per se. It is first and foremost a sport bike and a good one—affordable and fun. And that’s more than enough.
Is 800cc enough displacement for you? Or do you need the full liter? Let us know in the comments below.