GRR

The Goodwood Test: Suzuki GSX-R1000R

03rd March 2017
Roland Brown

Each week our team of experienced senior road testers pick out a new model from the world of innovative, premium and performance badges, and put it through its paces.

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Heritage

No sports bike has a more glorious lineage than this long-awaited update to Suzuki’s four-cylinder flagship. The original GSX-R750 began the modern super-sports era on its launch in 1985, followed a year later by the GSX-R1100, which combined more power with a similar format of lightweight, aluminium-framed chassis, full fairing and take-no-prisoners attitude. The “Gixxer” cult was born; high-performance motorcycling would never be the same again.

The GSX-R1000 took over in 2001 with an unprecedented blend of 161bhp performance and agility. Suzuki raised the superbike bar again in 2005 with an updated, K5 version that was supreme on road and track, and also brought the firm its first ever World Superbike championship. But in recent years the reputation has faded. Recession-hit Suzuki halted development, leaving the GSX-R1000 increasingly off the pace – before finally hitting back hard with this, the biggest update the model has ever had.

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Design

The Gixxer’s look and 16-valve, aluminium-framed layout are familiar but the GSX-R1000R is basically all new. Its 999cc engine is more compact and over-square, has revised valve operation and uses an ingenious, MotoGP-developed variable cam timing system. Maximum output is 199bhp at 13,200rpm, a gain of 17bhp over the old model. The chassis also shows MotoGP influence in its cut-down and narrower frame, stiffer swingarm and more forward-biased weight distribution.

This flagship GSX-R1000R model differs from the standard GSX-R1000 by using Showa’s more sophisticated Balance Free suspension at both ends. The R-bike also gets the two-way gearbox quick-shifter that is an option on the standard model. And its most important innovation is its electronics package, incorporating a motion sensor that allows advanced traction control, plus cornering ABS for a Brembo brake system that is also uprated with larger discs.

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Performance

The GSX-R1000R looks competitive on paper, its hefty power output balanced by a respectably light wet weight figure of 203kg, and riding it confirms that it puts Suzuki right back in the game. Its engine feels as ferociously powerful as that huge peak figure suggests. Yet it’s refined and rideable, thanks to sweet fuelling and the strong midrange torque enhanced by the variable-valve system, which cuts in at 10,000rpm to boost high-rev output. The flawless quick-shifter contributes to effortlessly slick changes both up and down the box.

Handling is similarly excellent, combining stability with light, neutral steering and taut, well-damped suspension. On track the engine’s power can overwhelm the standard tyres, especially in the 35º C heat of the launch at Phillip Island in Australia. But with race rubber fitted the Suzuki is as controllable as it’s fast – and with a top speed of over 180mph it’s certainly that. It feels slightly roomier than several key rivals, which helps bigger riders on track and should be especially beneficial on the road.

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Passion

This GSX-R hits the spot with a similar blend of pure performance and aggressive character to the one that made the original and K5 models so popular. Styling is unexceptional, and not helped by the large silencer, but the bike is unmistakably a GSX-R and its MotoGP-replica paintwork (the alternative is black) adds to the racy look. The new LCD dashboard is informative, if less colourful than some, and the switchgear does a good job of controlling the electronic options that include a choice of three riding modes.

Even this higher-spec GSX-R1000R doesn’t quite match some rivals for glitz, but it looks like being competitive on track and should also make a hugely effective and entertaining street bike. And Suzuki’s payback comes with a price of £16,099 that gives an edge over upmarket equivalents from rivals including Honda and Yamaha. After too long in the shadows, the big GSX-R is back and fighting as hard as ever.

Price tag of our bike: £16,099 (standard GSX-R1000 £13,299)

Photography by Steve Duggan & Andrew Gosling.

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