2007 And 2008 Suzuki GSX 1300R Hayabusa - New Busa vs. Old - Big Bird Smackdown

Has Suzuki built a better 'Busa? We ride the first- and second-generation GSX1300RS head to head to find out

By Aaron P. Frank, Photography by Kevin Wing, Rich Chenet, Brian J. Nelson

Although we didn't have the opportunity to ride the two bikes back to back here, we did have a chance to explore the outright handling abilities of the '08 Busa at Road America during that machine's official U.S. press launch. The legendary 4-mile circuit was an appropriate choice--the track's three long straights are some of the few places you can safely explore the upper reaches of fifth gear (sixth is effectively an overdrive--the '08 'Busa hits its 186 mph speed governor in fifth, Suzuki officials say) without fear of death, dismemberment or permanent disruption of your driving privileges.

The '08 Busa was a handful on the racetrack. Hammering up the front straight was like being fired from a howitzer--the rear tire spins through second gear and then hooks up and carries the front wheel all the way through third, fourth and even fifth (up to 150 mph!) up the big hill, testing the abilities of the new, reservoir-equipped steering damper and uprated shock every inch of the way. Outrageous, all this power...and the chaos only continues at the other end of the straight, when you clamp on the binders just north of 175 mph and feel the front end pack down and start weaving under all that weight and speed. Even with the chassis upgrades, the new 'Busa still came apart like a cheap pair of shoes in as little as four fast laps, liquefying the stock street tires on both ends, boiling the brake fluid and smearing hot, melted brake pad all over the rotors. Impressive enough for a near-600-pound (wet) machine, but the Hayabusa is definitely not a track bike.

If the Hayabusa was out of its element on the roadrace track, it was more at home on the drag strip, where we had test rider Greg Moon run the '07 and '08 bikes back to back at Great Lakes Dragaway in Wisconsin. The best pass on the '07 bike was dispatched in 10.277 seconds at 137.90 mph. Moon described the bike as "so easy" to ride, and proved it by clicking off a half-dozen virtually identical passes. By contrast, he said the '08 bike was "virtually unlaunchable" in stock form. The combination of shorter gearing, more violent acceleration and the extra weight of those massive exhaust cans hanging off the back made the new bike wheelie hard and prevented 150-pound Moon from reaching wide-open throttle in first and second gear. The new bike still went quicker and faster than the old one (10.135 sec. @ 142.54 mph), but this was mostly due to the superior top-end power asserting itself on the big end of the track. With a set of lowering links and a strap up front the '08 'Busa would easily be a 9-second bike, but in stock form it's a challenge for even an experienced drag racer.

But the drag strip and racetrack both are highly specialized environs. In the natural surroundings of the street, this comparison showed there's simply no comparison between the first- and second-generation Hayabusas. We were won over immediately by the overall fit and finish of the new bike. The '08 model feels so put together compared to the previous version (dare we say compared to any previous Suzuki sportbike?), and that alone is enough to convince us that this second-generation Hayabusa is a clear improvement on the original. That it offers significantly better performance in every other area--handling, braking and acceleration--only underlines its superiority. The 2008 Hayabusa is an exceptional motorcycle. And an exception to the rule: Sequels don't always suck.

By Aaron P. Frank
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