2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000: It’s Real…and It’s Spectacular! (with apologies to Seinfeld)
Suzuki has finalized the long-awaited new GSX-R1000, and it will be a 2017 model available in the States, although no specific release date or pricing has yet been announced. I visited the Hamamatsu factory in Japan for a sneak peek and, although I wasn’t allowed to ride it, I can tell you why I believe this machine is likely to be the motorcycle to beat for 2017, and maybe beyond.
Although most of the upgrades are somewhat predictable and merely bring the flagship Suzuki up to date, overall the claimed specifications tell us that the new GSXR1000 will be more compact, more agile, and more powerful than its competitors in the inline-4 class.
The 2017 Suzuki flagship will be available in three versions—a standard GSX-R1000 model with and without ABS, plus the GSX-R1000R with ABS. The top-of-the-line R version is aimed at Superstock racers, track day junkies, and the hardest-core street riders. “R” upgrades from the standard models include Showa Balance Free forks and shock, a quickshifter, launch control, a lightweight top triple clamp, and a lightweight battery. All models will have the same completely redesigned 1000cc engine.
It’s in that motor where the GSX-R’s game-changing secret can be found. A new proprietary variable cam-timing system allows Suzuki engineers to tune for monster top-end power and maximum revs, without losing any low- or mid-range power. Until now, this simply wasn’t possible.
They say the best ideas are the simple ones and, without wanting to diminish the brilliance of what the Suzuki engineers have accomplished, it seems the SR-VVT (Suzuki Racing-Variable Valve Timing) is so elegantly simple, I’m amazed someone hasn’t thought of it before.
At any rate, it’s clearly an idea that is long overdue; Suzuki has been using it in its MotoGP engines since 2008 (including the previous V4 GSV-R motor)—and there have been zero failures according to Suzuki.
Essentially, it’s a mechanical system that uses centrifugal force operating on ball-bearings moving in angled slots to vary the cam timing. As the camshaft spins faster, centrifugal force slides each ball outwards in its slot, which in turn rotates the piece of the sprocket attached to the camshaft a few degrees.
Because the process happens in a subtle and infinitely smooth way, there is no step in the powerband, and I was told the system is completely undetectable by the rider. I spoke to a couple of the factory testers at the Suzuki track, and they both affirmed that the power delivery feels absolutely linear from idle onwards.
Think about this for a moment. Normally, engineers have to choose between a motor that produces big horsepower, but it’s only available at very high revs (racebikes), or they have to sacrifice top-end power for manageable power on the street. In each case, the camshaft timing is completely different.
Because of this technology from Suzuki, it now means that in a racing situation, the GSX-R1000 will have competitive top speed on the straights, as well as loads of power coming out of the corners as well. Of course, this is purely conjecture at this point, but I think it’s looking more than good for any riders that will be on Suzuki in 2017.
The new motor is the familiar ‘screamer’ configuration that we’re used to in the current GSX-R. Suzuki opted to stay with it rather than go to the uneven firing order motor it uses in MotoGP because, although those engines—Yamaha’s Crossplane concept, for example—have superior traction feel at extreme (MotoGP-level) power outputs, they have other challenges.
Drawbacks to uneven firing order motors include being harder to make low- and mid-range power; more vibration (a balancer shaft is needed); and increased frictional heat that requires higher cooling capacity. The latter two add complexity and a fair bit of weight. Considering all that, Suzuki opted to go with the standard firing order configuration.
For me, there’s nothing like the sound of a howling inline-4 at full chat, followed by the popping and banging through the pipe on deceleration, so I’m delighted they kept the screamer. Beyond that, everything else with the motor has changed.
With monster peak power as one of the goals, the Suzuki engineers have now raised the motor’s redline to an amazing 14,500 rpm (up 1000 rpm from 2016). This has been accomplished by major internal changes that include reducing the stroke to 55.1mm (from 57.3), and increasing the bore to 76mm (from 74.5).
Power production is also helped by significantly reducing the engine internals’ weight, as the valve train goes to a significantly lighter (0.2 ounces) finger-follower system from the present bucket/shim. The balancer shaft has gone away completely, and the 1.5mm-bigger intake valves are now titanium.
Fueling will now be ride-by-wire, and still features the three power modes. All three modes deliver full power in decreasing levels of aggression, with C mode recommended for city or wet weather riding.
The airbox is segmented, with dual injectors for each cylinder. The primary injectors are in the normal locations in the induction tract, with secondary injectors on the roof of the airbox, premixing fuel into the air.
Stacked air intake funnels help with both maximum revs and low-down power. The servo-operated valves in the exhaust header balance tubes are closed for maximum mid-range, and then open wide for top-end power.
Chief Engineer Shinichi Sahara—Suzuki’s MotoGP Project Manager 2007-2011 and MotoGP Technical Manager 2004-2010—did say the new GSX-R would produce “around 200 horsepower.”
The true target was to beat the current power benchmark, the BMW S 1000 RR (claimed at 193 horsepower and 83 ft/lbs torque). Suzuki claims a very specific peak of 199.27 horsepower and 86.7 ft/lbs of torque with the GSX-R, so clearly the engineers have handily accomplished their goal.
The final piece of the power delivery puzzle is that the new Gixxer gets all the de rigeur electronic aids to help the rider maximize this promising engine. An IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit) measures pitch, roll, and yaw, and the software includes 10 levels of traction control (including two wet settings), and a Motion Track Brake System that works with the optional ABS and mitigates (but doesn’t completely eliminate) rear-wheel lift.
The R model adds cornering ABS as well—the front brake pressure is optimized when the bike is leaned over—for those who like to trail brake as they turn in to a corner.
The GSX-R1000 also has the easy-start system now found on the GSX-S1000—a light push of the starter button ignites the engine, eliminating the need to hold the button until the motor fires up.
There is also a Low RPM Assist function. As the clutch is engaged, if the revs drop a little and risk a stall, the ECM will raise the revs just a tad for a smoother start; it also helps at parking lot speeds or in slow traffic.
The gearbox has been completely redesigned to match the higher engine power output, and the primary gear ratio is changed to help with power delivery. Suzuki gearboxes have always been silky smooth and false neutrals are almost impossible to hit. I’m delighted to report that the factory has now added a fully bi-directional quickshift system to the R model. That means it includes a blip-downshifter—the throttle does not have to be completely closed for downshifts.
This is good news for me, as I found that I often have the throttle cracked ever so slightly when braking hard. It’s a flaw in my riding, and I’m sure I’m not alone, but it means that some downshifters don’t work well for me; it seems this one will fix my problem.
The chassis itself is noticeably more compact; viewed from above you can see it is obviously narrower than the present model. The side beams that wrap around the engine are clearly much shorter/thinner, and the triangulation section from the mid-beam section down to the top engine mount has gone away. The whole aluminum frame is claimed to be approximately 10 percent lighter; judging by looks alone I’m surprised it isn’t more.
Likewise, the swingarm is also noticeably smaller, and the sections are shorter and thinner. The fuel tank has been redesigned, with a lower profile that will help the rider tuck in and move around the machine in corners.
Suspension is standard Showa BPF fork and shock, while the R model has the state-of-the-art Showa Balance Free Fork with remote reservoirs, and a Balance Free Lite shock. That shock has both hi- and lo-speed rebound damping adjustment, in addition to the expected adjustments.
The Suzuki’s engine has been rotated backwards by six degrees for a more centralized mass. At 55.5 inches, the wheelbase is almost exactly the same as the current model’s 55.3 inches, although the ratio has changed. The critical distance from front axle to swingarm pivot is now three quarters of an inch shorter, and the swingarm the same amount longer.
The chassis is also about three quarter of an inch narrower. Although these changes don’t sound like much, they will certainly help make the 2017 GSX-R even more agile than its predecessor.
As demonstrated with the latest MotoGP bike, Suzuki has always had the uncanny ability to build sweet handling motorcycles that turn exceptionally well. The 23.2 degrees of rake and 3.74 inches of trail are a little more than the current model’s 23.5 degrees and 3.9 inches, likely giving the new GSX-R the most aggressive steering in class.
Those numbers are very similar to Honda’s sweet-handling 2016 CBR1000RR. Compared to the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R (25 degrees and 4.2 inches) and the Yamaha YZF-R1 (24 degrees and 4.0 inches)—which are both excellent handling machines—it tells us that the Suzuki will be a very quick-turning machine with the traditional agility of a Gixxer.
Although the 2017 GSX-R1000 is more compact than the current model, and there are certainly weight savings to be found, new features such as the ABS and electronics add weight. Claimed curb weight of the latest Gixxer ranges from 441 pounds for the base model to 447 pounds for the GSX-R1000R model with ABS. So, although when comparing like-with-like there is a saving of some seven pounds over the current version, the loaded model is essentially the same weight as the 2016 GSX-R1000’s 448-pound curb weight.
Braking is still by Brembo, and the rotors are now Brembo’s new T-Drive. The new system allows for lighter rotors that use 10 pins instead of 12. The rotor diameter goes up to 320mm from 310mm.
The wheels and tire sizes are also new. The new Gixxer Thou goes to an elegant-looking six-spoke wheel design from the current three-spoke. The rear tire is now slightly higher profile—a 190/55, compared to the current 190/50 profile. Interestingly, Suzuki has not gone to the latest-fashion 200mm rear tire.
The 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000 will certainly make things a little easier for the rider. It now uses the slip-and-assist style clutch for a lighter clutch pull in addition to the slipper function.
The instruments have been completely changed, and the usual analog rev counter with digital speedometer has now been replaced by a single monochrome LCD multifunction readout, with warning lights either side and the shift light across the top.
Revs are shown as a sweep bar up the left side and across the top of the display, and other functions are clustered underneath. The R model has adjustable illumination that can go to a completely black background. I haven’t used it, but it looks very readable at a glance.
The general motorcycle lighting is new. The head and tail lights are LED, although the turn signals—no longer integrated into the mirrors—are not allowed to be LED in America (yet). Going LED allows for a smaller headlight at the front giving room for the much larger air intakes. Either side of the headlight are cool-looking LED position lights that flare up either side and give the GSX-R a slightly aggressive look. In general, LEDs are lighter, draw less current, and much less prone to vibration damage.
The three versions of the GSX-R1000 come in the Metallic Triton Blue MotoGP-like paint and graphics. The GSX-R1000 non-ABS also comes in Metallic Matte Black, the ABS version comes in Pearl Mira Red, and the R model also comes in Glass Sparkle Black. All three alternate color versions are muted and cool—I for one love the classy look of the new Gixxers.
As well balanced and sweet handling as the current Suzuki GSX-R1000 is, it had been rather left behind by the other manufacturers in recent years. Although the Yoshimura Suzukis are definitely competitive in the MotoAmerica championship, in WSBK competition the GSX-R has struggled, and there isn’t a Gixxer on the grid in 2016.
With this completely new generation of machine and the incredible new variable valve timing engine technology, the GSX-R1000 now appears to have a racebike motor that, paradoxically, is also rider-friendly enough for the street-riding public.
Updating the already sweet-handling GSX-R chassis and including the latest whizz-bang rider aids simply brings the GSX-R1000 up to date. Those upgrades and the extra engine step, should see this bike back on the top step of the podiums around the world.
One rider at the Suzuki track on a current GSX-R1000 told me that when he was following the new bike out of a corner and they opened the throttles together, the new Gixxer just cleared off—not just accelerated away.
Apparently, the 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000 lit up the afterburners and jetted away so rapidly it made him feel like he was riding a 600.
Now that’s a game-changer.
I can’t wait to ride it!
2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000 Tentative Specs:
- Engine: DOHC inline-4
- Bore x stroke: 76.0 x 55.1mm
- Displacement: 999.8cc
- Compression ratio: 13.2:1
- Maximum power: 199.27 horsepower
- Maximum torque: 86.74 ft/lbs
- Redline: 14,500 rpm
- Cooling: Twin-fan aluminum radiator; aluminum oil cooler
- Valve train: Finger follower, 16-valve; variable timing
- Valve diameter: 31.5mm (intake) / 24.0mm (exhaust)
- Valve material: Titanium
- Crankshaft timing: 180 degrees
- Fuel delivery: Ride-by-wire; electronic throttle bodies
- Exhaust: Titanium
- Transmission: 6-speed constant mesh
- Quickshift: R version only
- Clutch: Wet multi-plate slip-and-assist
- Final drive: 525 chain
- Frame and swingarm: Aluminum
- Front suspension: Showa BPF forks (R: Showa BFF forks)
- Rear suspension: Showa shock (R: Showa BF Rear Cushion shock)
- Front brakes: Radial mount Brembo Monoblock calipers w/ four 32mm pistons; Brembo T-drive 320mm floating disc
- Rear brake: Single piston Nissan w/ 220mm solid mount Sunstar disc
- ABS: Optional; Cornering ABS standard on R version
- Front tire: 120/70-17
- Rear tire: 190/55-17
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- L x W x H: 81.7 x 45.2 x 27.9 inches
- Wheelbase: 55.5 inches
- Lean angle l/r: 56/56 degrees
- Rake: 23.2 degrees
- Trail: 3.74 inches
- Seat height: 32.48 inches
- Fuel capacity: 4.22 gallons
- Curb weight: 441 pounds (w/ ABS: 445 pounds; R: 448 pounds)
Colors: Metallic Triton Blue (all versions); Metallic Mat Black No. 2 (standard only); Pearl Mira Red (ABS only); Glass Sparkle Black (R only)
2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000 Preview – Photo Gallery