Sequels suck. Sure, there are exceptions, but as a general rule, second efforts almost always pale compared to the original. Was Hannibal anything more than an off-key imitation of The Silence of the Lambs? Who's thirsty for a New Coke? And what's a late-'80s Suzuki GSX600F Katana if not an utter blasphemy of Hans Muth's stunning GS1000S Katana from '82? Sequels, which are usually just a lazy attempt to exploit previous glory, are almost destined to disappoint. And the more successful the original, the more likely the second act is to let us down.
Suzuki's original GSX1300R Hayabusa was nothing if not an utter success, the bike that redefined our expectations regarding big-bore sporting performance. And the Big Bird was more than just some critic's darling: The 'Busa was a smash hit sales-wise for Suzuki too, the rare motorcycle that actually sold better as the years passed--a remarkable 10,000 units last year alone. What's more, it appealed to an impossibly wide range of enthusiasts, from gentleman sport-tourers to street-racers to boulevard-bound bling-kings.
The 'Busa's living-legend status goes a long way toward explaining why that model soldiered on without an update for eight years--an eternity in sportbike time. If it ain't broke, don't f*ck it up! At the same time, sportbike technology has advanced dramatically in the past decade, and Suzuki saw numerous opportunities to improve the second-generation Hayabusa. With much scrutiny, then, project Hayabusa redesign was launched in '04, culminating in the substantially updated second-generation machine seen here. Did Suzuki successfully avoid the sophomore slump? To find out, we ran the '07 and '08 versions back to back on the street, the strip and the dyno.
The most successful sequels are the ones that stick closest to the original formula. No one wants to see Steve Carell play Jim Carrey's role, after all. Thus Suzuki was careful to keep the basic 'Busa elements intact--so much so that at first glance the new bike appears to be little more than a warmed-over retread of the '07 machine. You don't appreciate how different the new bike is until you see the two parked side by side. Start with the styling: The new bike's A-line is essentially unchanged--the rounded proboscis, the deep-welled fairing that encloses the top of the front tire, the signature tail hump, all remain. This is intentional; these elements are key to the 'Busa's aerodynamic efficiency and ultimate top speed, and are not to be sacrificed. Also, enthusiasts identify this signature shape with the very ideas of speed and power. Abandoning those associations would risk commercial suicide.