2017 Suzuki V-Strom 650 and 650XT Review | Adventure Ride
Although released at the same time as its 2018 V-Strom liter-bike brothers, the new Suzuki V-Strom 650 and 650XT are 2017 models. Also, unlike the bigger V-Stroms, the differences between the 650 and 650XT are a bit more significant, and command a $500 premium for the 650XT version.We took both bikes onto the pavement and the dirt to find out how they work. Here are the essential fast facts you need to know about the 2017 Suzuki V-Strom 650 and 650XT.
1. An updated engine based on the new Suzuki SV650 sport bike powerplant highlights the 2017 Suzuki V-Strom 650 and 650XT. The big motor changes are inside, and include new cams, resin-coated pistons in a cylinder with a Nikasil-style coating. The result is a more low-to-mid-range power, according to Suzuki, which is exactly what you want in an adventure-touring motorcycle. Without a doubt, the power is delivered smoothly and predictably, and there’s more propulsion on tap than you expect from a 645cc motor in a roomy chassis. At the back end, the muffler is new.2. Traction control is now standard on the V-Strom 650. You get two levels of intervention, along with the ability to turn it off. I didn’t notice much difference between low and high intervention, though I was happy to turn it off when riding in the dirt. If you’re the type to do wheelies, turning off traction control does help, but I’m not sure why you would want to wheelie a V-Strom 650.3. The wheels are the big difference between the V-Strom 650 and 650XT. The street-focused 650 standard gets slightly lighter cast aluminum wheels shod with Bridgestone Battle Wing tires, while the dirtier 650XT has aluminum rims with stainless-steel wire spokes, along with tubeless Bridgestone Battlax Adventure rubber. Tire size is the same for both bikes. For off-roaders, the 650XT’s durable and compliant wheels are better suited to the rigors faced when the pavement ends. When riding the two versions back-to-back, you’re not likely to notice a significant difference under normal usage, either on-pavement or off.4. Two exclusive adventure-oriented features add to the value of the V-Strom 650XT. While the standard 650 has naked handlebars and an unprotected underbelly, the XT has plastic protection for the front header pipe and engine cases, along with handguards and heavier vibration-reducing bar-ends. On cold days, you’ll be glad to have the handguards, while those who ride on dirt roads will be happy the gravel is hitting the plastic skidplate rather than pitting the steel pieces behind it.5. The fairing is updated and flaunts a distinctive beak styling. Suzuki started the beak look for adventure bikes on the 1991 DR-Z Dakar rally racebike, and it continues to be a signal to observers that you’re not on a traditional street or dirt bike. Not just a styling exercise, the new fairing also enhances the ride by reducing noise and buffeting. The windscreen is adjustable, though regrettably requires Allen sockets for the job. It’s definitely quieter, though it will take time to determine which of three height positions is best for you—bring an Allen wrench along on your first few rides for the four bolts.6. Inside the fairing, you get a new dash plus a traditional 12-volt plug. The dash is excellent, with a big analog-style tach, plus large digital readouts for speed and gear position. A screen in the bottom right corner is a bit crowded, with small readouts for fuel level, coolant temperature, air temperature, traction control setting, a clock, tripmeter or odometer (switchable) and fuel consumption. There are also a few warning lights, including a freeze warning.7. The Suzuki V-Strom 650 chassis and suspension are unchanged, but that’s okay. Handling is perfectly neutral and drama-free, making it ready for extended trips. The V-Strom 650 suspension is plush without being sloppy, with only the spring-preload and shock rebound-damping adjustable. With its flawless ergonomics, an upright seating position, and fairly tall seat, you have a commanding view of the highway—perfect for adventure touring.8. There are three big functional differences between the V-Strom 650 and 1000. Obviously, there’s a lot more motor on the 1000, making it a better choice for two-up touring and higher-speed running. The 1000 has much better braking than the middling binders on the 650, and the 650 lacks the 1000’s sophisticated IMU-supported Motion Track ABS and Combined Braking System. Finally, the V-Strom 650XT is much more manageable in the dirt than the 1000XT, and would be quite good with more dirt-oriented tires.9. It’s easy to choose between the 2017 Suzuki V-Strom 650 and 650XT. If you intend to do some off-pavement riding, ride solo, and stick primarily to back roads, the 650XT is the best V-Strom. Take off-pavement out of the equation and the standard V-Strom 650 is the way to go, and that includes the V-Strom 1000s.10. Suzuki has standardized the sidebag mounting system, rack, and subframe dimensions on all four V-Strom models. That’s great for everyone—owner, dealer, and aftermarket companies. That means you will have a wider choice of cargo-carrying accessories, and most likely at a lower price.The Suzuki V-Strom 650 was a great solo adventure tourer, and the 2017 versions are better than ever. While most adventure riders look to liter-or-higher motors, the fantastic 90-degree V-twin on the 2017 Suzuki V-Strom 650 is absolutely worthy of consideration.Photography by Enrico Pavia
This week, Senior Editor Nic de Sena rides the all new Ducati Monster. Big changes have been made by Ducati–has the company ruined the considerable heritage of the iconic Monster–or are the changes worth it? In the second part of the show, we chat with Nick Ienatsch, Founder and Head Instructor at the Yamaha Champions Riding School. He says: “We aim to change your riding life by introducing you to Champions Habits: The techniques, approaches, skills, and the mindsets of the best riders in the world. These Champions Habits are the foundation of safety and consistency to whatever speed you ride, in any venue on any bike. Street riders, this is just as much for you as track riders. The best way to make safe riders is to make good riders.“ We hope you enjoy this episode!