Their answer? The first redesigned GSX-R1000 since 2001, an all-new flagship that promises more power, less weight, and even more flagship-worthy charisma... all for a scant $12,899. Does Suzuki's new superbike deliver?
The Goods: Better, Stronger, Lighter
Suzuki engineers altered virtually every aspect of the GSX-R1000 for 2009 in order to build a better bike. A more compact twin spar frame shortens the wheelbase for more maneuverability, while a longer aluminum alloy swingarm is arched to accommodate new twin titanium exhaust cans. The all-new 999cc inline 4-cylinder engine is more compact while producing greater torque and horsepower, and the Suzuki Drive Mode Selector (S-DMS) programming has been re-mapped, and hand controls now choose between A-B-C more easily using "Up" and "Down" buttons on the left grip (as opposed to a rocker switch on the right grip of the previous model.) New radially mounted mono-block front brakes shave unsprung weight, as do new three-spoke cast aluminum wheels. New, race-inspired BPF (Big Piston Front-forks) by Showa feature rebound and compression valving adjustment screws on the fork caps.
The GSXR-1000's styling is also revised, with graphic-less fairings that are narrower for aerodynamics, as well as a revised air-ram intake on the nose. Overall mass has been cut 6 pounds for a total wet weight of 452 pounds.
The Ride: Whooooaaaa Nelly!
The clutch-- like so many components in the new Gixxer-- weighs less, having ditched hydraulic actuation for a cable-wire system. It's still easy enough to operate in bumper-to-bumper traffic, and the six-speed transmission shifts positively. Rev the engine, and the tach's jerky leaps reflect the crisp throttle response from the bike's one liter engine. As you rev through each gear, you're treated to strong acceleration at low rpms that yields even fiercer, more arm-stretching pull once you get past the first third of the bike's 13,750 rpm powerband. That first third offers more than enough speed for law breaking velocity, and pushing the engine even further yields downright salacious speed. The GSX-R1000's capabilities are extreme, as evidenced by the fact that I hit over 100 mph on a short freeway onramp-- in first gear.
Also fierce are the GSX-R1000's handling and braking abilities. It's not quite as tossable as the GSX-R600, but Suzuki's latest literbike certainly holds its own with quick direction changes, confidence-inspiring feedback, and effortless stability (thanks in part to an electronic, speed-sensitive steering damper.) Its talents are so astounding, they're far better suited to the track than they are to public roads. One of my only complaints after two weeks aboard the Gixxer is that its engine produced quite a bit of heat on my right thigh when the weather was warm; apart from that, it offered a killer blend of performance, smoothness, and user friendliness... you read that correct, user friendliness. Unlike sharp-edged bikes like the Ducati 1098, the GSX-R1000 invites you to explore its limits while maintaining a cool sheen of composure. This bike seems eminently capable of almost anything, and it seems to egg the rider on with its easygoing, surefooted confidence-- all while offering surprisingly comfortable ergonomics. Neck-snapping acceleration comes instantly, the chassis feels responsive but settled, and the brakes seem ready to bail you out of any predicament. The only downside to all this refinement? It takes a mighty strong will to resist doing something crazy-- and ultimately stupid-- while wringing out the GSX-R1000's awesome performance.
The Bottom Line: A Question of Preference
The superbike wars have raged for decades, and each major manufacturer has proved they can build tremendously competent machines that far exceed the abilities of most riders who aren't currently employed as professional racers. That said, the GSX-R1000 offers both intense performance and surprisingly livable ergonomics. Its suspension won't beat you up, its seat is relatively comfortable over long hauls, and with the exception of some excess engine heat the GSX-R1000 is an impressively well-rounded package.
We didn't think we could enjoy a Gixxer more than we did the 2007 model, but we walked away impressed with the all-new 2009 flagship; kudos to Suzuki for making a great bike even better.