2007 Suzuki GSX-R1000 - First Ride

The Fastest Gixxer Ever Made-Or The Slowest, If You Push The Button On The Handlebar

Chief engineer Itoh-san does a fine job of explaining the concept during the technical briefing, but it's still not finding traction in my simple squid-brain. Let me get this straight: You push a button with your thumb and it decreases power output? Detunes on demand? Why would you ever want to do that?

Later in the day, after a few dozen laps around Australia's Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit on the all-new 2007 Suzuki GSX-R1000, I could almost understand the inclination to soften the power output. With a freer-breathing head and more aggressive cams that give the newest Alpha Gixxer an utterly ferocious high-rpm blast, this is the nastiest GSX-R ever built. Intimidating, even, especially in Phillip Island's Turn 12 where, once you finally dislodge your testicles from your stomach and find the courage to stay in the throttle all the way through, you will basically liquefy the rear Bridgestone Battlax for the duration of third gear. So tell me again, which button do you push to slow this sucker down?

After two decades exciting us with ever-increasing horsepower numbers, this latest GSX-R asks us instead to embrace the concept of less power on demand using something the acronym-happy Japanese have dubbed S-DMS, or Suzuki Drive Mode Selector. The key to getting your head around this idea is not to think of it as something that makes the bike slower, but to think of it as something that makes the bike easier to ride faster. S-DMS is essentially a passive traction-control system intended to make this bad beastie easier to manage in less-than-optimal riding conditions by allowing you to select from one of three preset power maps. Welcome to the next revolution in performance! Suzuki engineers candidly state that modern sportbikes make too much power for most riders in most situations, and the next frontier will be to harness that power and make it usable with electronic controls. The '07 GSX-R1000 is leading that charge.

The S-DMS system offers a choice between three power output levels: A-mode is unrestricted maximum power output; B-mode significantly softens throttle response until the throttle position reaches 97 percent open, at which point it merges with the A-mode map for unrestricted power delivery in the upper rev range; C-mode reduces power output by roughly 35 percent at any throttle opening. Make sense?

S-DMS is operated via two buttons (one up, one down) located on the right-hand control housing, sandwiched between the kill switch and starter button. Pressing these buttons allows you to toggle up or down between different maps on the fly. The S-DMS is driven by a new, 32-byte ECU that controls power output according to a series of complex (and instantaneous) calculations based on throttle position and engine rpm and alters either the ignition timing, the rate at which the secondary throttle valves open or both, depending on which power setting you selected. Illuminated letters beside the gear indicator on the tachometer face tell you what setting you are in. If you choose not to activate the S-DMS system (activation requires depressing either the up or down button for 2 seconds anytime after the bike is started), it automatically defaults to full-power mode.

In simplest terms, think of the differences between the A, B and C settings as the differences between the 1000cc, 750cc and 600cc GSX-Rs. Suzuki's engineers claim maximum output in C-mode is approximately 120 horsepower, roughly identical to that of a GSX-R600. B-mode produces power roughly equivalent to a GSX-R750 at anything less than full-throttle. Can't choose among a GSX-R600, 750 or 1000? With S-DMS, you can have all three bikes in one.

Offering a method to mediate the power of this latest-generation Gixxer is not unwise. The cylinder head has been revised with less-restrictive intake ports (enlarged 10 percent) and exhaust ports (20 percent larger than before), and the exhaust valves have grown 2mm (to 26mm) to better pass spent gases. New 12-hole, showerhead fuel-injectors are now positioned at a steeper, 30-degree angle to shoot more directly into the intake tracts, and a new dual exhaust flows nearly twice as much volume as the single can on the GSX-R600 and 750 finishes the job. These tweaks add up to a respectable 4 percent increase to a claimed 185 horsepower, with peak power now arriving at 12,000 rpm-1000 rpm higher than last year.

In addition to the power peak's upward migration, the dyno trace shown at the launch displayed a slight loss of midrange power, as one might expect with the move to bigger valves and more aggressive cams. The engineers said this was intentional, as the superior midrange of the last-generation bike made it more difficult to apply full power mid-corner under racing conditions. Interestingly, the strong midrange power of last season's GSX-R1000 was a welcome contrast to the more top end-biased competition in Yamaha's YZF-R1 and Kawasaki's ZX-10R and one of the main reasons why we preferred it as a streetbike. Though it was difficult to judge on such a fast track as Phillip Island where one seems to always be at the top of the rev range, it will be interesting to see how this new power characteristic will affect our opinion of the GSX-R on the street.

The '06 GSX-R was the most compact bike in its class, with the lowest seat height and narrowest seat/tank junction, a sensation reinforced by the swept-back clip-ons and relatively forward-mounted pegs. The '07 model features an all-new frameset that only enhances this compact nature by moving the rider even farther ahead against a shorter fuel tank, bringing the rider closer to the bars to increase forward weight distribution for better handling. My 5-foot, 7-inch, 150-pound frame fit this position near perfectly, though bigger riders might feel cramped. Three-way adjustable footpegs offer some relief.

Hot laps start by slipping out the creamy-smooth clutch-a self-adjusting hydraulic unit now, replacing last season's cable-actuated piece. Off-throttle response from the Suzuki Dual Throttle Valve (SDTV) system is flawless as ever, and the bike alights easily without stuttering, even as you account for the typically super-light Suzuki throttle-return spring.

As with any modern literbike, accelerating hard through the bottom three gears is an exercise in wheelie control, especially with the S-DMS switch set in full-power mode. In fact, second- and third-gear corner exits were where the S-DMS system proved most useful. Charging hard in A-mode out of the second-gear Siberia corner, with its uphill exit, had the front wheel aiming at the clouds every lap. Flip into B-mode in the same spot and you could apply the throttle with vigor, the front end staying planted and the bike charging forward. Same with the super-fast Turn 12 leading onto Gardner Straight-in B-mode you could roll deep into the throttle worry-free and focus on finishing the corner without fear of spinning up the rear or skimming the front over the bumpy, tankslapper-inviting exit. We didn't have the benefit of lap-timers, but if we weren't faster in spots with the motor set in B-mode we were at least working less to go the same speed. We didn't spend nearly as much time in C-mode (who wants to ride a 600 on a high-speed course like Phillip Island?), but suffice it to say that flipping from C-mode to A-mode heading down the front straight is akin to engaging an afterburner.

The press briefing revealed a startling, 13-pound weight increase between the '06 and '07 bikes, no doubt due to the new, larger radiator and related cooling components as well as the heavier dual exhaust. Some components did go on a diet, however, such as the brake system with new rotors that are .5mm thinner to reduce unsprung weight. You'd never guess that Suzuki changed anything in the brake department, though, as the GSX-R stops as authoritatively as ever. The front radial-pump master cylinder pushes enough juice to allow one-finger stopping from any speed, even into the Honda hairpin, and the new, thinner rotors give no indication of fade or other evidence of overheating, even when coming down from 175 mph (just a little) in preparation for Phillip Island's infamous Doohan Corner. Aiding aggressive corner entries is an effective, cam-operated slipper clutch mechanism that has had one more reaction spring added this year to more smoothly control engine braking.

Despite slightly more-relaxed front-end geometry (the trail has been stretched from 96mm to 98mm), the '07 GSXR turns in even more quickly and easily than before, most likely due to the rider being closer to the front axle, as well as lighter wheels and other changes that reduce rotating mass. Where you do notice the new geometry is in the increased stability through long, fast sweepers, where the bike feels as planted as a prairie oak. Suzuki went to great lengths with this new chassis to increase torsional rigidity, including using fewer main frame pieces held together with fewer welds, and also designing a new swingarm with relocated pivot linkage to reduce side loading. These changes pay big dividends in increased stability when leaned over at high speeds, with very little directional energy sapped by chassis flex.

Even after accounting for the weight gain, the stiffer frame, revised geometry and altered riding position all combine to make the '07 GSX-R1000 behave similar to a GSX-R750. And largely thanks to a big ol' brainpower boost inside the ECU, the new Gixxer Thou is also both faster and easier to control at the same time. But is S-DMS the performance revolution we've been waiting for?

The theoretical utility of having softer power delivery characteristics available on demand is obvious (particularly with racing homologation in mind, if you're a factory Suzuki Superstock racer riding a bike equipped with three Yosh-spec'd power maps), but we are left questioning the practical applications of this technology. By the end of the day, after we knew the track and our confidence level was high, everyone's switch always migrated back to A-mode where we could control the chaos the old-fashioned way-with our right hand. Snap-wheelies on demand and 100-foot darkies out of every corner? Bring it on! If you want 600-like power delivery, why not save yourself a few grand and buy a GSX-R600 in the first place?

Is it too early, then, for us to already be whining for next-generation traction control-a genuine active system like the GP riders have that mediates wheelspin as it happens, rather than a passive system that just neuters the motor so wheelspin isn't even an option? Now that would be something our simple squid-brain would have an easier time grasping.