First Ride: 2008 Suzuki GSX-R600 - Supersport Stalker

More Midrange Power And S-Dms Adjustability Whip The GSX-R600 Into Shape.

By Aaron Frank, Photography by Brian J. Nelson

S-DMS has some cachet on the sales floor, and we can see its utility on a GSX-R1000 or Hayabusa, but who ever asked for a slower 600? While this technology seems slightly superfluous on big bikes, it strikes us as downright unnecessary on the GSX-R600. Perhaps less-experienced riders will appreciate this form of passive traction control, but especially on a bike with such predictable power delivery as this latest GSX-R, it's redundant.

Compared to the minor powerplant refinements, the styling updates for '08 are pretty radical. Suzuki characterizes this as "emotional" styling, whatever that means; we might characterize it as "exaggerated." There's lots of surface tension and dramatic details, little points and fangs along the nose, peaks and spines on the fairing and lots of highly stylized elements that seem a bit over-the-top in person. Whatever our opinion, it's certainly aggressive looking, and at least effective as far as keeping you out of the wind. A new triple-headlight array (center projector low beam with left/right multi-reflector high beams) is said to offer an expanded illumination area, especially while cornering, while making room for larger SRAD ram-air intakes at the center of the nose where positive air pressure is the greatest.

Underneath the plastic, the GSX-R600 chassis is essentially unchanged for '08. We had no objections with the light-steering, neutral-handling '07 model. This was our first time riding at Misano since the course had been reconfigured to run clockwise, a change to make the track safer and pave the way for the return of MotoGP. This change also created one of the most challenging turn sequences we've confronted anywhere (turns 11-14 are now essentially one decreasing-radius corner), which revealed loads about the manners of this new bike.

Despite the substantial gyroscopic effect of two wheels spinning at almost 150 mph, turning the GSX-R600 into Turn 11 is surprisingly low effort: Lighter wheels and thinner brake rotors slightly decrease rotating mass. Bumps in T11 are nothing to worry about, even at this insane speed, because the new electronic steering damper keeps the front wheel right on line. You're still leaned over and now entering T12, maintaining throttle (and speed) right up to the apex.

As soon as you apex T12 it's time to stand up the bike as much and as quickly as possible before clamping on the brakes for third-gear T13. Stronger four-piston radial Tokico calipers (same as on the Hayabusa) slow the '08 GSX-R600 down, and a revised radial master-cylinder ratio makes the more powerful brakes as easy to modulate as before-a good thing because you need to trail brake right to the apex to make this corner successfully.

The T13 exit is the first spot since the entrance to T11 that you have the bike completely upright, accelerating down the short chute into hairpin T14. This is the slowest corner on the track, with the hardest braking zone, and the best test of the newly upgraded (and excellent) slipper clutch that benefits from an extra clutch plate and a revised drive-cam profile that improves clutch action and feedback.

This back section of Misano, entering the stadium, is a tremendous test of chassis stability and overall composure and the rider's testicular circumference. That we were able to negotiate this challenge without major troubles for two days straight in what can only be described as dodgy conditions says loads about the little Gixxer's attributes. "Balanced Performance" was the primary goal of this redesign, Suzuki Sportbike Product Planner Norihiro Suzuki told us at the beginning of his presentation, and balanced performance is exactly what the '08 Suzuki GSX-R600 delivers.

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