What have you done for me lately? That’s the name of the game in the world of superbikes. Face-melting performance, NASA-spec technology, and looks to kill must all be standard. Plus, unique: Or at least different enough from the others that the plumage shines brightly among the flock of exotics from around the world. So then, if you’re Suzuki and aiming to create the 2017 GSX-R1000 in the spitting image of a cutting-edge superbike and with enough brawn to proudly stand as the latest in what is arguably the greatest lineage in the history of sportbikes, your task is not easy.

Luckily for Suzuki, they have umpteen world and national championships over the course of the past three and a half decades to pull from in order to make the latest Gixxer the greatest. And luckily for me I have Ari Henning, our resident expert on all things motorcycle technology, who traveled to Japan and wrote a Tech Review of the new GSX-R1000 and GSX-R1000R, which you can read here. That story has all of the juicy details on the technical updates to the engine, chassis, aerodynamics, and electronics.

Suzuki GSX-R1000R Action Left
Suzuki worked hard to make the new GSX-R1000 easy to move around on at speed, and it paid off. The 2017 bike is an excellent blend of sporty and comfy.Suzuki
Suzuki GSX-R1000R Static Beauty Right
The 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R: the extra R means you get the Showa Balance Free Fork and those little LED position lights just above the ram-air ducts. The MotoGP livery is pretty snazzy, too.Suzuki

I, on the other hand, went to Australia to ride the new GSX-R1000R around the Phillip Island GP circuit, for the express purpose of learning how this new bike works. First things first, why the extra R? That’s the up-spec version of the 2017 GSX-R1000 line, and it means a Showa Balance Free Fork and shock (instead of a standard Showa shock and Big Piston Fork), Launch Control, a bi-directional quickshifter, and LED position lights flanking the LED headlight. Some show, some go.

THE RIDING IMPRESSION

The ergonomics on the new GXS-R1000 are essentially the same as before, but it feels smaller. Narrower bodywork helps that, visually at least, but also the thinner and smaller frame feels narrower between your knees from the saddle. It’s not as compact as the 2017 Honda CBR1000RR I just rode, but few bikes this side of a Panigale are. The ergos on GSX-R1000s have typically been a terrific compromise of comfort and aggression, and this new bike feels much the same. Lastly, it’s easy to move around on at speed, which we all know is key to a quick, easy lap.

Suzuki GSX-R1000R Brake
Brembo is the benchmark in braking, and the GSX-R has the good stuff: monoblock four-piston calipers and floating 320mm discs. The up-spec GSX-R1000R uses Showa’s latest Balance Free Fork, easily identifiable by the external cartridge.Suzuki

After a couple of sessions aboard the 1000R, learning my way around one of the most epic and visceral racetracks I’ve ever ridden, I started to overwhelm the stock Bridgestone RS10’s rear grip. That meant lady luck and 10 levels of traction control were the only things keeping me from landing on my head. Since this is Suzuki’s first fully ride-by-wire, performance-oriented traction-control system, I was eager to experiment with it. I sampled levels 1 through 5 and found a very linear change in each setting. Level 5 was a little too conservative for me, whereas in level 2 I only threw myself out of the seat a couple of times before I realized that wasn’t the setting for me.

Suzuki GSX-R1000R Dash
The dash setup on the base-model GSX-R1000 and the up-spec GSX-R1000R are the same, but the display inverts the colors on the R model. All of the info is there—including a fuel gauge (!), a first for the GSX-R line. The small crown of lights at the top are shift lamps, which engage in sequence until the center blinks, letting you know you’re about to hit the rev limiter.Suzuki

It came down to 3 and 4, the former allowing bigger slides and more laughing in my helmet, but truthfully level 4 was the one for me—satisfying smears of the rear tire exiting the many sweepers of Phillip Island, without the heart palpitations. I only mention level 1 because it was purely an experiment to escape the traction control limiting wheelies (a suggestion from a Suzuki engineer), which it does in every level except the first one. Suzuki was adamant that the 2017 GSX-R1000R does not include wheelie control, but because the TC uses front- and rear-wheel speed sensors to help determine when the bike is sliding, there is the side effect of inhibiting wheelies. I would love to see Suzuki apply a fully functional IMU that uses pitch data to limit wheelies and control anti-lift under braking. We've seen what those systems can do and it's magic.

The upshot with the traction control system is that it’s a little simplistic compared to some other brands but it’s a much-improved system both for safety and performance compared to what’s on the V-Strom 1000 and GSX-S1000, not to mention it puts a lot of adjustability in the rider’s hands. That’s a good thing. Frankly, by far the biggest difference that was made all day was swapping the showroom-spec Bridgestone RS10 rubber for R10 race tires. The stiffer R10 gave me much more confidence and allowed me to really trust the bike when peeling into corners.

GSX-R1000R Lean Action
The bike felt good on the showroom-spec Bridgestone RS10 rubber, but it wasn’t until Suzuki fitted R10 race tires that the GSX-R1000R really came alive.Suzuki

Once the 2017 GSX-R1000R is mostly upright, it can unleash its full fury of 199 claimed horsepower. The VVT system (which changes intake cam timing above 10,000 rpm) engages seamlessly and the engine absolutely screams all the way to its 14,500-rpm redline. I hit the rev limiter numerous times on the front straight, for no other reason than the rush of power felt like it would keep coming forever. Get my shifts right and tuck in properly and the speedo would show 186 mph by the time I sat up for turn one. This new Gixxer is fast, and is smooth doing it.

I definitely wasn’t missing shifts an account of the new quickshifter—it’s excellent, and a seriously pleasant surprise on the new GSX-R. It’s not complicated or difficult technology, but Suzuki’s up/down system brings out the best of the Gixxer’s transmission, with buttery smooth gear changes whether putting along at a gentle street pace or flat out at a GP track.

Suzuki GSX-R1000R Taillight
All-new bodywork more closely resembles Suzuki’s latest MotoGP GSX-RR racebike. Gone is the arrowhead tail section of the 2016 bike, replaced by a narrower, more pointed assembly with an LED tail light.Suzuki

When the time comes to stop, the GSX-R has the same fat, radial-mount Brembo calipers that it got in 2012, now squeezing 320mm rotors. I’m always sad to see rubber brake lines on a bike of this caliber, but the GSX-R’s binders are quite good. The ABS is not switchable, or adjustable, but Suzuki did pull the ABS fuse and let me try it with the system disabled. I preferred no ABS for track riding, but it served to show that the system wasn’t overbearing when it's on—rear wheel lift is apparent but other than that it stays out of the way and lets you ride fast.

Suzuki GSX-R1000R Wheelie Right
Traction control seems to use wheel speed to monitor wheelies, and usually keeps the front wheel close to the ground. In TC level 1 it allows wheelies, a nice feature considering there is no independently adjustable wheelie control. Incidentally, if TC is switched off and the key is cycled, the setting remains. That’s rare in this age of electronics.Suzuki
Suzuki GSX-R1000R Switch
These simple switches on the left bar control the dash, and all menus. Companies are finally getting the hang of this—the GSX-R1000 dash is a quick study and easy to use.Suzuki

An incredibly high-energy powerplant is something the new GSX-R1000 has on lock, there’s no question about that. But, the relationship of power to handling is exponential: It takes much more agility and poise to make up for just a little more power. Where the Suzuki hasn’t improved quite enough is overall weight. The ABS version of the 2017 GSX-R1000 is listed at 445 pounds—it’ll be about 5 pounds less for the non-ABS version and a couple of pounds more for the up-spec GSX-R1000R that I rode at Phillip Island.

Suzuki GSX-R1000R Quickshifter
Bi-direction quickshifters were reserved for factory racebikes up until recently. That little electronic sensor in the shift linkage permits full-throttle, clutchless upshifts as well as clutchless, rev-matching downshifts.Suzuki

The extra weight on the upgraded R model is likely due to the suspension. The Showa Balance Free Fork and shock are fancier and presumably add some feel (I didn’t ride the base-model GSX-R back-to-back so I can’t say for sure) but they also add a bit of heft. A few pounds here or there aren’t a huge issue, but considering how small this new Gixxer feels it’s a little heavier to steer than I was expecting. Then again, the GSX-R1000 has never been the scalpel of the superbike class. That title has always been reserved for Honda’s CBR1000RR and Ducati’s flagship Panigale, and for my money those two still stand above the rest as the lightest and most agile of the liter-class sportbikes.

THE BOTTOM LINE

From my day in the saddle flying around the Phillip Island circuit, it’s a clear improvement over any GSX-R1000 I can remember riding. Suzuki made big changes to the chassis—a 40mm longer swingarm, 16mm narrower bodywork, and fifteen more millimeters of wheelbase. Those are just a few examples of very real changes that affect the rider’s feel and perception of the bike, and the new GSX-R blends them well. The 2017 GSX-R1000R reminds me most of the Kawasaki ZX10-R—a compact riding position and generally good feel from the chassis.

The Gixxer feels like it might have a little more steam at the top of the revs than the ZX10, and that’s no accident. Laying down industrial amounts of power (especially a fat midrange punch) has always been a strong point of the GSX-R1000, due in part to historically using a relatively long stroke engine design. For 2017, the GSX-R1000 has a shorter (55.1mm) stroke and larger (76mm) bore, which matches the ZX10’s specs. Suzuki’s VVT system should give it a leg up, though, and it feels like it when you’re wide open above 10,000 rpm. Suzuki has found a way to change its outlook while maintaining the thrill ride, and that’s no easy feat.

Suzuki GSX-R1000R Head On
The bodywork being 16mm narrower (thanks in part to a 6mm narrower engine and revised frame) helps the 2017 GSX-R1000 look smaller from the front, as does the stacked, LED headlight setup.Suzuki

Keep in mind, too, that I rode the GSX-R1000R with the up-spec suspension and a price tag of $16,999. That puts it right in line with other superbikes from around the world. What’s most impressive is that you can get a standard bike for $14,999 (or $14,599 without ABS), which still includes the VVT system and all of the R&D dollars that Suzuki has poured into the new bike. That’s a lot of engineering muscle to flex for $15K.

So, that’s what Suzuki has done for us lately. The team in Hamamatsu invented the sportbike 30 years ago, and at some points along the way it has seemed like they were resting on their laurels. It’s nice to see that the fire is still burning at Suzuki, and the GSX-R1000 is defending its title as the granddaddy of superbikes with more drive than ever.

Suzuki GSX-R1000R Action Right
A day at the Phillip Island circuit aboard the 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000R showed that the updates have made a big difference. Everyone on staff is looking forward to pitting the GSX-R against the rest of the revised superbikes later in the year.Suzuki

TECH SPEC

EVOLUTION
Since 1985, the name GSX-R has been synonymous with performance. For 2017 the GSX-R1000 gets a full electronics package, variable valve timing, and more power and poise than ever before.
TECH
PRICE $16,999
ENGINE 999.8cc liquid-cooled inline four
TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE 6 speed/chain
CLAIMED HORSEPOWER 199 hp @ 13,200 rpm
CLAIMED TORQUE 86.7 lb.-ft. @ 10,800 rpm
FRAME Aluminum twin spar
FRONT SUSPENSION Showa fork adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping
REAR SUSPENSION Showa shock adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping
FRONT BRAKE Brembo four-piston calipers, 320mm discs with ABS
REAR BRAKE Nissin one-piston caliper, 220mm disc with ABS
RAKE/TRAIL 23.2°/3.7 in.
WHEELBASE 55.9 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 32.5 in.
FUEL CAPACITY 4.2 gal.
CLAIMED WEIGHT 448 lb. wet
AVAILABLE Spring 2016
CONTACT suzukicycles.com
VERDICT
A much improved package puts Suzuki back in the fight. Making full use of the IMU is the next step.