2016 Suzuki V-Strom 650XT ABS |
Back To Basics
As a journalist, it pains me to type the words “less is more,” but in the case of the 2016 Suzuki V-Strom 650XT ABS, it’s pretty much unavoidable. There are a couple of reasons for that, so I’ll give myself a pass on using a hoary cliché.
First up, Suzuki rethought the V-Strom 650XT for 2016. Last year, it was a decked-out-for-dirt adventure bike with engine guards, aluminum cases, and a high-end windshield. Suzuki went back to basics for 2016, and all of those parts are still available as accessories, but no longer standard on the 650XT.
Second, the removal of all those parts allowed Suzuki to drop the price by $1900—about 18 percent.
Third, much of the focus in the V-Strom line is on the impressive 1000 version. However, there’s much to be said for the 650, and it may turn out that 1037cc aren’t necessary and a liquid-cooled, DOHC, 645cc V-twin motor is all you need.
As far as the differences between the 2016 Suzuki V-Strom 650XT ABS and the standard V-Strom 650 ABS, there are few. The 650XT gets wire-spoked wheels, giving it more of an off-road appearance, plus it has the modern beak-style front end that debuted on the V-Strom 1000 a couple of years ago.
You pay $100 for the premiums offered by the 650XT compared to the standard version. We’d go with the XT goodies, but you’re not going to feel a difference between the two when riding.
The magic of the 2016 Suzuki V-Strom 650XT is in how well it handles the basics. Suzuki starts with an outstanding chassis and powers it with the same endearing motor found in the pre-2017 SV650 sport bike (and variants). We like it in the earlier SV650s, and it’s great in the 650XT.
Power comes on very controllably right off idle on the V-Strom 650XT, as you might expect from a V-twin. The combination of the excellent Suzuki Dual Throttle Valve fuel injection system and twin-spark heads are due credit—flawless fuel delivery and combustion is a good thing.
Impressively, the 650XT doesn’t run out of breath, and revs right up to a redline of 10,000 rpm. Sporting a wide-ratio six-speed transmission, the 650XT is good for over 100 mph, easily. At the same time, the docile nature low in the rev range allows the bike to be ridden with confidence in the dirt.
While it is an adventure bike, complete with spoked wheels, you will want to restrict yourself to light duty off-pavement. Even with the Bridgestone Trail Wing tires and wire-spoked 19- and 17-inch wheels, the V-Strom 650XT is not a natural off-roader.
As is often the case with adventure bikes, the XT works quite well in a straight line and you can take it over 60 mph comfortably on a smooth dirt road. However, when you start to throw corners into that dirt road, the street-accented tires and 474 pounds of bike start to make things tricky for all but experts.
Back on the pavement, the 2016 Suzuki V-Strom 650XT is pretty much flawless as an upright sport-tourer. The twin-spar aluminum frame and decent-sized 43mm forks make for a stable platform. Suspension is spring-preload adjustable at both ends, and rebound damping is available for the shock. Unless you are riding two-up or are an outlier, the factory setting is fully satisfactory.
If you intend to ride the V-Strom 650XT like a sport bike, I would suggest you pick up an SV650 instead. Given its weight and height, you can’t attack corners with sportbike-like aggression, and the handling isn’t there for cut-and-thrust riding.
However, if you are about corner speed and smooth throttle and brakes, the V-Strom 650XT is performer that will exceed most expectations of adventure riders. Stability in corners is good, and the Bridgestone Trail Wing tires will let you take advantage of the generous cornering clearance. If you don’t do anything abrupt, you’ll love the 650XT.
The performance of the triple-disc ABS is appropriate for adventure riding. Initial bite is light and early lever movement is anything but abrupt or overpowering. If you really want to slow down, you will have to grip the brake lever with authority. The rear brake is fine for casual street use, and for off-roading.
Taking off on long trips across the desert or open-terrain interstates, you might think you’d be wishing for the V-Strom 1000, but that’s not really the case. The 650XT will cruise all day at speeds that will get you big tickets if an officer happens upon you—the motor is that smooth and that powerful.
Ergonomics are standard adventure style, with wide dirt-bike style handlebars, a slightly high seat, and a fairly girthy chassis—the 5.3 gallons of fuel have to go somewhere. Happily, 474 pounds (claimed wet) isn’t all that heavy, so the height of the bike isn’t a problem on the pavement, even if you’re doing urban duty on the 650XT.
The Suzuki V-Strom 650XT’s size makes it a less-than-ideal commuter. You’d probably prefer a Kawasaki KLR650 or Suzuki SV650, but it’s still reasonably capable. In California, lane splitting is a bit tricky with the wide bars and mirrors, though still certainly doable.
The dash is minimalist, which makes sense on a basic bike such as the 650XT—there are no adjustments for ABS, traction control, or power modes. There’s a good-sized analog tachometer, plus a large digital LCD speedometer—both easily readable in any conditions. Gear position, fuel level, coolant temperature and a clock are there—a bit smaller but still clearly displayed. You can toggle through more info via a switch on the left handlebar cluster. It’s all very well thought out.
The 2016 Suzuki V-Strom 650XT is a wholly inviting machine to ride, rewarding for novice and experienced rider alike. While not naturally fast, it can be ridden at a good pace. It can take me down a dirt road with confidence that I’ll make it back to the highway.
While it’s not a traditional big-inch tourer, I’d ride it across country solo in a heartbeat, though I wish it were easier to add sidebags to the bike (the luggage platform is nice).
Although I liked the decked out 650XT last year, Suzuki made the decision that DIY was the way to go with its small-displacement adventure bike. Given its ability to excel in a wide variety of disciplines, the 2016 Suzuki V-Strom 650XT ABS is truly an example of “less is more.” Sorry!
Photography by Kelly Callan
2016 Suzuki V-Strom 650XT ABS Specs
Engine: DOHC 90-degree V-twin
Bore x stroke: 81 x 62.6mm
Compression ratio: 11.2:1
Fueling system: EFI w/ Suzuki Dual Throttle Valve and 32-bit ECU
Ignition: Transistorized electronic
Lubrication: Wet sump
Final drive: DID chain
Front suspension: 43mm spring-preload adjustable forks
Rear suspension: Linkage-assisted spring-preload and rebound-damping adjustable shock
Front brakes: Twin 310mm discs
Rear brake: Single 260mm disc
Front tire: 110/80-19; Bridgestone Trail Wing 101 radial
Rear tire: 150/70-17; Bridgestone Trail Wing 152 radial
Overall length: 90.2 inches
Overall width: 32.9 inches
Wheelbase: 61.4 inches
Seat height: 32.9 inches
Ground clearance: 6.9 inches
Curb weight: 474 pounds
Fuel capacity: 5.3 gallons
Warranty: 12-month, unlimited mileage, limited warranty
Color: Metallic Matte Fibroin Gray
2016 Suzuki V-Strom 650XT ABS Price: $8499 MSRP