In the flesh, the new 'Busa is attractive and powerful-looking in a way many full-coverage, plastic-fantastic sportbikes aren't. My response to first laying eyes on the thing during our very first meeting was, "Whoa!" It's all Hayabusa, but stronger-looking, more muscular and even a bit retro-but also very similar in overall shape and concept to the original. Not yet knowing the customer research Suzuki had done and its plan regarding the second-gen bike's shape and overall design, I wondered if folks might want something more visually different. In time, however, the carryover-but-amplify strategy made sense, and my thoughts about a total redesign vanished.
Suzuki's performance goals for the new bike are similar to those on the sales side: more. More handling, comfort, cornering, braking and sprinting ability. The latter element-quickness via more power-comes from a thoroughly reworked engine. During a tour of the test facility's engine dyno rooms where a pre-production 'Busa engine was being flogged, I spied a three-digit number beginning with a "2" on the monitor. Suzuki isn't saying how much horsepower U.S.-spec GSX1300Rs will make. But considering the fact that the ZX-14 makes a buck seventy-five at the rear wheel, and that Suzuki has had 18 months to work on the new bike's output since the 14's debut, one can assume the 'Busa will make at least that, and likely more. Either way, it's going to be a very rapid ride.
The source of this newfound steam comes from several mods. The primary ones are a 2mm longer stroke via redesigned pistons and crankshaft for a displacement of 1340cc; a more compact and freer-flowing cylinder head filled with lightweight titanium valves; higher compression (12.5:1 vs. 11.0:1); GSX-R1000-spec 44mm fuel injectors; and a completely new 4-2-1-2 exhaust with cata-lyzer and oxygen sensor, which help the bike meet Euro 3 and Tier 2 emission requirements.
"Making more power while making the engine meet Euro 3 requirements is difficult," said LPL and Chief Engineer Hiroshi Iio. On hearing this, engine team member Chiaki Hirata laughed: "Sorry for the large, heavy muffler. It was necessary in order to meet regulations."
The counterbalancer was retained, so the engine remains relatively smooth. But the longer stroke introduced a slight bit more buzz into the proceedings, according to chief tester Nakashima. "Still, it's a very smooth machine overall," he said.
Hop into the 'Busa II's cockpit and you'll see and feel both similarities and differences. Ergonomics, for instance, are identical to the old bike's. The tank is similarly shaped, though the view ahead is different due to the redesigned dashboard (with analog gauges done in interlocking circles) and a slightly higher windscreen. The seat remains 31.7 inches above the pavement, and the wheelbase is same-same at 58.5 inches. At about 490 pounds dry-a few pounds heavier than the old bike due mostly to the larger, heavier exhaust system-the new bike still feels a touch long and heavy, though suspension at both ends feels a bit firmer, at least during a seat-of-the-pants bounce test.
Speaking of the new 'Busa's legs, both ends have been upgraded. The 43mm Kayaba inverted fork gets a DLC coating (Diamond Like Carbon in Suzuki-speak) for its sliders and revised (read: firmer) spring and damping settings, while out back there's a beefier Kayaba shock with, again, firmer settings and a piggyback reservoir. Both systems are fully adjustable.
The overall fit and finish of the pre-production bike I was exposed to seemed exceptionally high. Suzuki has clearly paid more attention here. "We thought a lot about the customer," product planning leader Norihiro Suzuki told me. "This is our flagship model, after all, and so it must have a luxury feel, must be top-of-the-line." A few items hint at this, most notably the hidden fairing fasteners on the main cowl (so fairing bolts don't interfere with custom paint), the retro instruments, the hot-rod, '60s custom tail section and the two-tone paint options.
With the new 'Busa ostensibly able to go corner-to-corner (or stoplight-to-stoplight) more quickly, nastier brakes were a natural, and the new bike's binders are thoroughly modern: radial-mount Tokico calipers grabbing slightly smaller-diameter rotors for what Naka-san enthusiastically says results in "very strong, very controllable" braking power. After watching him rip around Suzuki's exceedingly fast and dangerous Ryuyo circuit for a few laps from the seat of a current-spec 'Busa, I get the feeling the guy isn't exaggerating. He tossed the big bike around like a middleweight, which tells me Suzuki has made a good-handling Open-Class GT an even better scratcher. That can't be a bad thing.
In fact, a lot of the team members I spoke to seemed exceptionally enthused about this motorcycle. "People inside Suzuki are very excited," Suzuki told me with a laugh, "especially the test riders. They want to buy the bike for themselves!" I got a confirming nod from Naka-san when I related the story a day later.
In the end, this is a key point. These testing and R&D folks know that a good many enthusiasts worldwide-and especially in the U.S.-might look at the new-generation Hayabusa and conclude from a glance that it's really not that much different than the old one. After all, the two look pretty similar, and as stated here, the engine and frame have been carried over from the old bike. But the men and women who actually designed, built and tested the new 'Busa-who know exactly what went into this project and how much better it is from a functional and design perspective-confirm this really is a thoroughly new motorcycle.
Suzuki is simply savvy enough to understand that its core Hayabusa customer-the thousands who've already voted for the bike with cold, hard cash-will appreciate the evolutionary approach and embrace the new bike just as they have the original.
Time will surely tell. But from what I learned in Japan, I'd put my money on the Suzuki folks getting this one right.