SUZUKI: New Bikes 2004

Cruisers, sportbikes, adventure-tourers--a little bit of something new for everyone

GSX-R600

In the 600 Supersport class, last year's leader is often this year's loser. Now that the Japanese OEs have more or less committed to a two-year development cycle for 600s, you can count on major class advances every other year. And with all-new bikes in 2003 from Honda, Kawasaki and Yamaha, well, it's no surprise to see an all-new GSX-R600 for '04. And here it is.

The latest GSX-R600 incorporates all the cutting-edge class features, including an inverted fork, radial-mounted brakes and, within the engine, titanium valves. Bore and stroke are 67.0mm x 42.5mm, and displacement holds steady at 599.4cc, but that's where the similarities with last year's model end. New con-rods are 3.0mm shorter (and 9.7 grams lighter) for a more compact cylinder block, and all-new, 18-grams-lighter pistons have shorter, thinner-walled skirts. A new cylinder head features a more compact combustion chamber and a tighter included valve angle (28 instead of 22 degrees) that together allow higher compression (now 12.5:1). Straighter and steeper intake ports reduce flow resistance, as do 2mm-larger exhaust ports. And for the first time on a production Suzuki, lightweight titanium valves (7.8 grams lighter apiece) are used. All these weight savings in the engine contribute to a claimed dry weight of 354.9 pounds.

Like every other GSX-R, Suzuki's Dual Throttle Valve (SDTV) digital fuel-injection system is used, now feeding larger 46mm-38mm (they're tapered) throttle bodies, and the fuel injectors now sport multihole tips for better fuel atomization. Also new is a revised Auto Fast Idle System for better cold-weather starts, and a smaller, lighter, 32-bit ECM to keep tabs on everything.

Beneath the black paint is a new twin-spar aluminum frame that's 15mm narrower at its widest point than the '03 rack. Accentuating the smaller feel of the new bike is a more compact fuel tank, shorter seat-to-handlebar distance and 5mm-lower seat height. The 43mm, fully adjustable inverted cartridge fork is from Showa, and the swingarm is now externally braced. The brakes are race-proven, radially mounted four-piston Tokicos biting 300mm floating rotors up front; in the rear is a two-piston caliper mounted directly to the swingarm and a 220mm disc.

Complimenting the compact chassis is new, more aerodynamic bodywork that reduces the overall width of the bike by 29mm, and the frontal area by 4 percent (despite a taller windscreen). As on the GSX-R1000, stacked headlights allow ram air inlets to be positioned closer to the bike's centerline, where air pressure is highest.

The price for the new bike is exactly the same as the '03 model--$7999. Suzuki doesn't make horsepower claims, but judging from the spec sheet, this new GSX-R600 ought to be right in the hunt with last year's leaders.



GSX-R750

Which came first--the new GSX-R600, or the new GSX-R750? Look at them side by side (or compare the spec sheet) and you'll see that, save for displacement, the two bikes are nearly the same, clearly suggesting they were designed alongside each other.

One thing the two GSX-Rs don't have in common is the engine. The 750 utilizes a 72.0mm x 46.0mm bore and stroke for a displacement of 749.2cc, and features all the same technologies and processes as the GSX-R600 (SDTV, SCEM, etc.). New this year is a more compact combustion chamber and a higher compression ratio (now 12.3:1), reshaped pistons with flatter crowns, titanium valves (8.5 grams lighter than the old steel pieces), and new aluminum retainers on the valve springs to reduce reciprocating mass. New, thinner-walled, hollow cams further save weight, and lighter piston rings help improve horsepower and increase durability. Intake and exhaust ports have been upsized slightly, and the new multihole injector tips are also used here.

The 750 is slightly shorter between the axles (55.1 inches, compared with 55.5 inches), trail is reduced (from 96mm to 93mm) vs. last year's bike, and it's a few pounds lighter at a claimed 359.3 pounds dry. The 750 also gets the same inverted Showa fork and Tokico radial-mounted brakes as the 600, as well as the new bodywork.

Now that racing superbikes have transitioned to 1000cc displacement worldwide, the GSX-R750 might be less relevant than in past years. But for riders who want engine performance approaching that of a true literbike in a slightly lighter, easier-to-handle package, the GSX-R750 has always been a solid choice--and these 2004 upgrades should only make an already great bike even better.



Marauder 1600

A few years back (2001, to be exact), Suzuki and Kawasaki signed what they called a "strategic business agreement" to create synergies between product development, design, engineering and manufacturing. In the intervening years the two companies collaborated/cobranded on a few products, mostly in the ATV and off-road motorcycle categories. The Marauder 1600 shown here is the first significant street motorcycle to emerge from this partnership.

Not an upsized version of Suzuki's Marauder 800 as you might be led to believe, the new 1600 is really a reskinned version of the Kawasaki Mean Streak, which has grown to displace 1600cc for '04. The liquid-cooled, SOHC, four-valve-per-cylinder V-twin is rubber-mounted in a double-cradle steel frame that rolls on 17-inch polished, cast-aluminum wheels. The fork is a 43mm inverted cartridge unit, and rear suspension is handled by dual hydraulic air shocks. The bodywork is a pastiche of Kawasaki and Suzuki bits, with what appears to be a Mean Streak tank and side covers paired with the familiar, kicked-up fender of the Suzuki Marauder cruiser. For Suzuki cruiser fans tired of the bloated Intruder 1500 and the dated Intruder 1400, this supersized Marauder, set to sell for $10,999, will no doubt be a welcome addition to the company's line.



DL650 V-Strom

Suzuki excels at turning a little (product development) into a lot (product diversification). For proof, look no further than the history of the 996cc V-twin engine that originally debuted in the TLS sport twin: It almost immediately appeared in a superbike (the TLR) and later an adventure-tourer (the successful DL1000 V-Strom). Suzuki follows the same path with this new-for-2004 DL650 V-Strom, which puts the celebrated 650cc V-twin from its best-selling SV650 into an adventure-touring chassis.

Tuned for low- and mid-range performance, the $6599 DL650 uses short-duration camshaft timing and an oversized, 7.8-liter airbox. Carrying the reconfigured V-twin is a twin-spar aluminum frame and swingarm, with a 43mm, preload-adjustable fork and a rebound-adjustable rear shock, the latter equipped with an easy-to-use hydraulically adjustable spring preload system. Saddle height for the baby V-Strom is a reasonable 32.8 inches, claimed dry weight is 419 pounds, fuel capacity is 5.8 gallons, and the same broad, protective fairing as its big brother all but assure that this bike will be a blast to ride.



GS500F

Believe it or not, many people were disappointed when the GS500 disappeared from Suzuki's lineup last year. Although oft ignored, the little parallel-twin has a well-deserved cult following--thousands of riders fondly remember it as their first bike, not to mention the scores of amateur roadracers who learned the craft on yellow-plated examples of the same.

No doubt the GS' many fans will be happy to see the model return in 2004, now fully faired and more functional than ever. Power comes from the same stalwart 487cc, air-cooled parallel-twin, fed by dual 34mm Mikuni carbs and attached to a six-speed transmission. The frame is still a box-section steel cradle frame with a single-shock rear suspension, and a single four-piston caliper resides up front, with a dual-piston caliper in the rear. The biggest change is the new fully enclosed fairing for better wind protection and a sportier look. With Suzuki's signature stacked headlights, from 50 feet it looks just like its GSX-R big brothers. Best of all, the price of the new GS500F remains well within reach of even the most economical entry riders: just $4999.

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