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Full Review: 2008 Suzuki Hayabusa

Escalating the Horsepower War with Suzuki’s Fastest Bike Yet

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Full Review: 2008 Suzuki Hayabusa

The Hayabusa doesn't mess around.

Photo © Suzuki

The Suzuki Hayabusa has long been one of the fastest bikes money can buy, and the all-new 2008 Hayabusa flaunts even more excessive power.

Priced at $11,999, the reworked and restyled 2008 Suzuki Hayabusa comes with numerous drivetrain and chassis improvement, and a 12 month unlimited mileage warranty. We've got the scoop on how this 'Busa is better than ever, so come along for the ride.

The Goods

The changes to the 2008 Suzuki Hayabusa are many, and most are evolutionary, not revolutionary. Starting with its skin, the 'Busa maintains its signature silhouette but is now wrapped in slightly more angular bodywork which features twin stacked headlights up front and a slightly less bulky rear cowl. A large "Hayabusa" decal in Kanji still sits strategically on the fairing.

The Hayabusa's engine has been enlarged from 1,299cc to 1,340cc, and sports improvements including twin swirl combustion chambers that offer an 11% bump in output. Suzuki claims the Hayabusa produces a staggering 194 horsepower at the crank, and we believe it.

Other improvements include a new 4-2-1-2 exhaust system, a hydraulic slipper clutch, and Suzuki's Selective Drive Mode System (S-DMS), which allows engine power to be modified using a three-mode thumb selector switch.

Beneath the new body, chassis refinements include a bridged aluminum alloy swingarm designed for superior rigidity, and new inverted 43mm forks to help the 'Busa turn. Front calipers are now radially-mounted and bind smaller 310mm rotors for reduced unsprung weight. In spite of the twin-spar aluminum frame, the 2008 Hayabusa weighs in at 485 lbs dry; if you're looking for a lightweight Suzuki sportbike, you might want to check out the slimmer GSXR-1000 instead.

Throw a Leg Over

Photo © Basem Wasef

If you’ve ever climbed aboard a Hayabusa, you were probably surprised by its girth. Not only is its body wide with a relatively low seat height of 31.7 inches, the reach forward is somewhat long and your legs stretch further back than on the Hayabusa’s nemesis, the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14. Nonetheless, these ergonomics lend the Hayabusa a slightly more sporting posture than the ZX-14, which feels like more of a sporty tourer.

The redesigned instrumentation features attractive bezels, and its clear displays include an indicator for the S-DMS setting, gear selection, and the usual tach, speedo, water temp, and fuel gauge information.

The restyled body is a welcome improvement (though the clunky mirrors remain.) Revised ergonomics incorporate a lower fuel tank and a taller windscreen designed to create a cozier place for the rider while he or she tucks and presumably doubles or triples the speed limit.

The Hayabusa doesn’t feel like a premium product, and it’s not supposed to. Wanting superlative fit and finish on a ‘Busa is like expecting a 1960s muscle car to win the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. It simply ain't gonna happen.

All those aesthetic and functional improvements aside, the real fun begins when you start up the engine. At idle, this smooth-running inline-4 doesn’t come close to revealing the blistering reserves of power that lie beneath.

On the Road

I’ll never forget my first real blast of power on a Hayabusa. I was on a vacant stretch of freeway and, already traveling at a considerable clip, I gunned the throttle in third, naïve to the brawn of this immense two-wheeled beast. Nothing prepares you for a Hayabusa’s speed; though it’s tranquil and manageable around town, cracking the throttle open will stretch your arms and produce a flood of acceleration that feels bottomless. It’s scary, dangerous entertainment that’s both addictive and fruitless—after all, it’s hard to find the space to properly exercise a ‘Busa, and it’s even more difficult to avoid the long arm of the law.

Police forces were thankfully absent during my time on the Hayabusa, and once I acknowledged the novelty of a motorcycle with nearly 200 horsepower at its disposal, I was able to focus on other attributes. The brakes are a vast improvement over the prior model, and have good feel and excellent stopping power. Handling is decent when considering the ‘Busa’s 485 lb dry weight, and the inverted forks are a step in the right direction. It may be hard to get away from this bike’s large physical dimensions and its natural desire to travel in a straight path, but somehow you keep returning to its marvelous engine.

Ergonomics are a tad less comfortable than the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14, but the Hayabusa's sportier posture is clearly a conscious choice.

Road's End

Photo © Suzuki

If you’ve noticed a trend so far, it’s that the Hayabusa’s shining feature, its reason for being, is the 1,340cc inline-4 powerplant hidden under the curvy bodywork. Not that it doesn’t excel in other areas—it does, as a matter of fact, stop well, maintain a reasonable amount of grip and stability in turns, and offer lots of flexibility for a variety of riding scenarios. However, it’s hard to steal the show from an engine that sits at the top of a very long list impressive competitors.

The S-DMS engine programming system is a noble effort at curtailing potential abuse of the Hayabusa’s incredible powerband, but frankly the only reason I could see anybody intentionally reducing horsepower is if they’re riding on rain-slicked roads; otherwise, what’s the purpose in buying a ‘Busa?

Strip away its engine and the 2008 Suzuki Hayabusa boasts plenty of worthwhile improvements in areas that were previously lacking. Those deficiencies may have been more apparent when we sampled a 2005 model, but now they’ve simply moved closer towards the level of the Hayabusa’s outstanding engine. Though no motorcycle can do it all—produce this much horsepower and handle with agility—if you’re satisfied with straight-line power and all-around ridability, the Hayabusa will blow you away.

<<Click here for a photo gallery of the 2008 Suzuki Hayabusa>>

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