Intro: 2023 Suzuki GSX-8S – Everything You Wanted In An SV650, But Were Afraid To Ask For…

Intro: 2023 Suzuki GSX-8S – Everything You Wanted In An SV650, But Were Afraid To Ask For…

© 2023, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc. By Michael Gougis:.

COPYRIGHT 2023, ROADRACING WORLD PUBLISHING, INC.

By Michael Gougis

It’s in the transitions where it all comes together. Hauling up a two-lane road toward Castellane in southern France, where the 9th century Notre-Dame du Roc chapel overlooks a small town where signed photographs of 2021 MotoGP World Champion Fabio Quartararo hang on a restaurant wall, the new Suzuki GSX-8S is in its element.

Solid torque from the quick-revving new twin-cylinder engine punches out of each corner, a new type of twin-spar frame keeps everything stable when the bike is on its side, and the new weight distribution, wider bars, and inverted forks make flicking the machine from side to side precise and fun.

Suzuki introduced the model to the world press this week, and after about 120 miles of riding, what became clear is that the GSX-8S warrants serious consideration for anyone looking for a new, value-priced sporting street middleweight, a.k.a. naked sportbike, a.k.a. friendly and fun ride.

Tech Briefing

According to the Suzuki engineers on hand for the launch, the Product Planning Department consulted with the Engineering Department and asked for an engine suitable for an adventure touring bike and for a streetfighter. What the engineers came up with was a 776cc parallel (side-by-side) twin-cylinder engine with some interesting twists. It has some inherent advantages (related to weight and length) compared to the SV650’s 90-degree V-Twin, including a single cylinder block and head as opposed to two cylinders and two cylinder heads. It gives up the SV650’s perfect primary balance, but the engineers had a cure for that.

To damp out vibration from the 270-degree firing-order engine, Suzuki engineers added two balance shafts, one aimed at reducing the primary imbalance and another aimed at reducing the rocking couple vibration. One of the balance shafts is located underneath the crankshaft, to keep the engine shorter, so it can be positioned further forward in the chassis, one of the design goals for the GSX-8S.

An unusual design feature of the GSX-8S engine is the intake, which draws in air from underneath the seat into a substantial airbox directly under where the rider sits. It is reminiscent of earlier motorcycle designs where the air filter was located behind the engine, rather than on top of it. Suzuki engineers chose this layout because it allows for a slimmer, lower gas tank that is still large enough to deliver more than 200 miles of range. And Suzuki’s engineers say the configuration results in a higher intake air speed and contributes to the machine’s combustion efficiency, which results in better fuel mileage.

The new engine produces a claimed 81.8 horsepower at 8,500 rpm and 57.5 lbs.-ft. of torque at 6,800 rpm, making it easily 10-horsepower stronger than the SV650 V-Twin.

The compact engine gave the engineers more freedom of design and rider positioning, helping center the mass. Further mass centralization comes from placing the catalytic converter directly underneath the engine, with exhaust gasses exiting through a stubby silencer just behind the rider’s right heel.

The all new steel frame features a single steel rail on each side, reminiscent of a twin-spar design, and is carefully designed for rigidity where needed, with appropriate flex characteristics for cornering. The sub-frame is a styling element on its own, exposed and color-coordinated with the rest of the bike.

The new bike features clutchless upshifting and downshifting, three power modes, and three levels of traction control. It is a solid electronic rider aid suite, aimed at giving the rider control over the degree of electronic intervention that they want, and doing so in a way that does not require extensive thought or effort. The power modes and traction control levels are set with a simple mode switch and a rocker switch that, once the mode has been selected, allows the rider to quickly move up and down through their options.

The GSX-8S’ “New Era Streetfighter” styling has a familial resemblance to the other GSX-S models the company has been making for years. The cowling is low, the components ahead of the triple clamps are as truncated as possible, and major structural elements like the sub-frame are exposed. The bike is supposed to look elemental and mechanical. The new mono-focus headlights are simpler and lighter.

The other major upgrade compared to the Suzuki SV650 is the inclusion of inverted front forks. Beyond that, suspension is typical for this market segment, with a non-adjustable single shock at the rear. Brakes are four-piston Nissin radial-mount calipers on twin discs in the front and a single disc at the rear.

Riding The GSX-8S On The Street

The seat is narrow, the tank supportive but low, and the handlebars and pegs put the rider in a stance somewhere between racebike and traditional upright standard. Thumb the starter button and the engine settles into a controlled, comfortable rumble–the vibration is never intrusive–even when run up to redline.

An assisted slipper clutch means a light pull at the lever. Clutchless upshifts are positive and smooth, but the downshifts require a solid stomp on the lever. This would likely get better over time–my test bike had about 400 miles on it when I threw a leg over it for the first time.

The engine and chassis combine to make the GSX-8S a lot of fun to ride through the Prealpes de Castellane. Once through and out of the city and into the countryside, the solid, low-rpm torque give the bike real acceleration out of corners–grab a handful of throttle and it goes. I set the bike in its maximum power mode and set the TC at the middle setting, just because there were lots of damp patches on the pavement and ice on the roadside.

The bike feels narrow and responsive and the new frame keeps everything feeling solid–what flex there is was built in because the chassis designers wanted that movement at full lean. The new 41mm forks add rigidity, but I felt there was a little too much movement at the rear from the single, pre-load-adjustment-only shock. Then again, we were barreling down sometimes bumpy two-lane roads at well over any speed limit in the U.S., and even then the bike was well-mannered enough. (The speedometer on our units displayed kilometers per hour, and I was constantly doing multiplication to try to figure out exactly how fast I was going!) The ABS brakes are strong, the riding position sporty and comfortable, and the cowling keeps a fair amount of wind off legs and lower torso.

There is a lot of variety in the middleweight non-sportbike market segments. With the GSX-8S, Suzuki has staked out its own turf with a unique combination of performance, style, features, and a competitive price of $8,849. It is a worthwhile addition to the GSX-S family, and I look forward to taking a longer ride in the near future!

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