They say: "An unmatched package of performance, style and value."We say: "Um, they're righ
A The air/oil-cooled 1157cc inline-four that powered the Suzuki Bandit 1200S since its introduction in 1995 was one of the most venerable motorcycle engines ever made, with roots reaching back to the first 16-valve GS1100 in 1980. It was an exceptionally long-lived motor, but its time had come and gone, finally undone by failure to meet the latest Euro3 emissions standards. Outdated motor aside, the Bandit remained a strong seller worldwide, so Suzuki gave the model a new lease on life by building an all-new, liquid-cooled, fuel-injected version that not only cleared the new emissions regulations, but is smoother, torquier and more refined. Couple this with a new frame design that makes the new Bandit 1250S feel even sharper in the curves, and you've got the best Bandit yet.
At a glance there's little difference between old and new. Styling is essentially unchanged, except for the rectangular radiator and smooth cylinder barrels that give the 1250S away. The frame is the familiar tubular-steel design, but its main sections are 4mm larger in diameter (and 10 percent more rigid). Suspension is also new and slightly firmer at both ends, and although the wheelbase is unchanged, the new, shorter engine allows a slightly longer swingarm to increase rear-wheel traction.
Great motor, but the suspension is too soft for serious scratching.
The all-new, liquid-cooled engine combines the air-cooled unit's 64mm bore with a 5mm longer, 79mm stroke to give a capacity of 1255cc. Key elements include a more compact, semi-stacked gearbox now with six gears instead of five, and the addition of a balance shaft. Suzuki's main requirement when developing this engine was reducing emissions, so in addition to a catalytic converter the latest Bandit also incorporates the firm's Pulsed-AIR (PAIR) system that injects fresh air into the exhaust ports to ignite unburnt hydrocarbons and reduce carbon monoxide emissions. They've added some performance, too: Peak output remains a claimed 98 horsepower, but that number now arrives 1000 rpm earlier, at 7500. Maximum torque, however, is up from 67 lb.-ft. to 79, and is produced at just 3700 rpm instead of the previous 6500. That's some serious low-end grunt.
The riding position remains as relaxed as a favorite armchair. Though the view over the stubby windscreen is the same as before, the sound is different when you fire up the bike, engine noise muffled by a combination of jacketed cylinders, double-walled 4-into-1 exhaust system and twin-layered countershaft sprocket cover. Another difference is clear the moment you let out the hydraulic clutch and pull away: The 1250S is far smoother than the old 1200, the traditional Bandit buzz (especially through the footpegs) notably missing. Although the low-rev torque increase doesn't feel like 18 percent (perhaps because the fuel-injection system produces less-abrupt throttle response than the old CV carbs), the bike is outstandingly responsive at low revs, pulling without complaint from 1500 rpm. The big, somewhat softly tuned motor absolutely whooshes the bike forward thanks to a torque curve that, now more than ever, is as flat as the Spanish plains where the press intro was held.
You'll only get a knee down if you've got legs as long as Rollie's.
I was pleased to find this extra sophistication hasn't made the big Bandit bland. It might not buzz and grumble like the old models, but it still has enough character to put a grin on my face. There's none of the snatchy throttle response that mars Yamaha's rival FZ1; just acceleration that gets stronger until the bike is barrelling along with the digital speedo flicking briefly to 150 mph. Braking from those speeds is impressive as well, led by dual four-piston Tokico front calipers that are strong and sure. The anti-lock system (a $500 option) didn't cut in too early in the dry, and added some reassurance when rain arrived to make the road slippery-which it does in the Spanish plains, remember?
The decent windscreen, generous riding position and a motor that is barely breathing at legal speeds should make the Bandit 1250S a very useful commuter/tourer, and it showed plenty of sporting potential on narrow, twisty roads as well. The liquid-cooling adds 13 pounds to give the 1250S a claimed dry weight of 496 pounds, so it's no lightweight. But the chassis is rigid and well damped enough to cope, and the bike is fun to flick about, despite its relatively conservative steering geometry (25.2 degrees of rake, 4.1 in. of trail). But one figure stands out above all others: its price. The 1250S sells for $8299 ($8799 with ABS), an absolute steal compared to the $9199 Yamaha FZ1. Suzuki has done a good job of updating the Bandit, but the greatest achievement is doing so while retaining its biggest asset: unbeatable value for money.