Dramatic horsepower gains and weight savings may have become a thing of the past with Suzuki’s introduction of push-button performance technology to its Open Class monster, GSX-R1000. Oliver Jervis reports from the worldwide press launch at Phillip Island.
Perhaps it’s jetlag from a 30-hour flight or the lingering effects of stuff I tried with my friends back in 1992. Whatever the case, I simply can’t shake the feeling that Australia’s Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit has somehow become significantly smaller since I was here last, 12 short months ago for the press introduction of Suzuki’s 2006 GSX-R 600 and 750. Fortunately for me it’s none of the above. It’s just that the 2007 GSX-R1000 K7 is consuming this fast, flowing race course with violent yet relative ease. Bodes well for the bike, not so much for me.
The new GSX-R1000 is more of an evolutionary than revolutionary redesign of Suzuki’s flagship sportbike. While it does host myriad new and technically chewy changes, the foremost features, and relative gains, aren’t found in cold, hard traditional figures like higher horsepower and lower weight. Rather, the focus seems primarily fixed on the implementation of state-of-the-art electronics, specifically engine management systems, that allow the rider greater access to the bike’s legendary horsepower and ultimately make it easier to ride in a variety of conditions. Specifically, it’s Suzuki’s new drive mode selector system that we’re talking about here. A GSX-R1000pilot can now select different engine power characteristics to suit riding conditions via a handlebar mounted switch, all of which can be changed on-the-fly with immediate effect. Like the Goldilocks fable, you now get three options: engine performance settings labeled A, B, and C. I wonder which one will be “just right” for you. The system breaks down like this:
A-setting: offers all the power output possible at all throttle positions.
B-setting: softens the bike’s power up to the top third of the rev range, but allows full performance at full throttle at the highest revs.
C-setting: reduces the power and throttle response dramatically at all revs and throttle positions.
SOUNDS TRICK, RIGHT? WELL, IT IS. AS A DEFAULT, THE A-SETTING IS automatically selected every time the ignition is turned on. To choose a different engine map the rider pushes and holds the thumb-operated switch for a few seconds, initializing the system. With that, the digital dash displays the current selection and the rider toggles up or down to arrive at the desired setting. So how does it work when riding? Well, to be honest, due to inclement weather, I didn’t quite get the time playing with the system I had planned for. However, I did manage to get in one session with my lap timer. A-setting delivered, as expected, the fastest lap time with the bike proving itself everywhere (more on my riding impression later). B-setting was actually quite surprising to me. In contrast to A-setting, it enabled me to get on the gas and, more importantly, to full throttle much sooner, thereby increasing my overall exit speed from the tighter sections of the track.
To sweeten the deal further, in B-setting, once the bike was above 9,500 to 10,000 rpms at full throttle position, it was just like being on A-setting. Essentially the phenomenal power was there when it could be more easily harnessed, as the bike was straight up and down on the fat part of the tire. On a much tighter track I would envision producing a better lap time using B-setting. The lap time on B-setting was a mere 1.09 seconds slower than on A-setting.
C-setting is like lobbing off a cylinder and would, in my mind, be used only in very slippery conditions or when you lend the bike to a buddy in whom who you don’t have much faith. Essentially the power is very soft throughout, producing similar acceleration to a decent current model 600. My lap time on C-setting was exactly 3.5 seconds slower than with A-setting and 2.66 seconds slower than on B-setting. Very interesting, and obviously the drive mode selector feature must be seen as a sign of things to come for the Open Class—performance gains will likely arrive now in terms of digital technology as opposed to the more traditional weight-shaving/pure horsepower increase method. But, don’t let me give you the impression that the electronic package was, or is, the only significant change to the GSX-R for 2007.
The new GSX-R1000 hosts several subtle changes in almost every department. Some are not as apparent as the revised styling—notably, a new twin muffler system with rather large canisters situated on either side of the bike. The new exhaust system, considerably quieter by the way, is said to have improved emissions while providing more efficient flow. However the two gaudy canisters add a weight factor, at 172 kg it rings in a full six kg over last year’s version. To be honest, I didn’t even notice the additional weight while riding the bike as my attention quickly focused on the available power.
Overall engine performance is said to have improved by four per cent over last year’s 178 hp at 11,000 rpm—the result of developed combustion efficiency and the incorporation of a new 12-hole fuel injection system.
The nearly vibration-free 999cc mill boils massive amounts of torque from even the very bottom of the rev range while delivering a huge increase at 8,500 rpm up to 10,000 where the inline four really starts to come on. Keep it between 10,000 to 13,000 rpm on the most attractive tachometer Suzuki has ever produced (there’s a very cool 3-D look to it) and you’re accelerating to the next corner as only an Open class sportbike can. Unfortunately, the only issue with getting to the next corner was the new Bridgestone BT015 tire set. They simply weren’t up to the task at hand, something I found quite surprising because my previous experiences with Bridgestone rubber had been very positive. In any event, the rear tire would just spin, thankfully quite predictably, when any effort was made to drive out of a corner and use the bike’s potent power.
Slowing things down are brakes similar to the previous model with the exception of a slightly different disc, though still incorporating 310mm units clamped by radial mounted calipers. Although the power and bite of the brakes were excellent, it was in this situation I found the latest GSX-R1000 slightly less stable under hard braking than the previous model, but the new electronically controlled steering damper keeps things in very good order—the faster you go, the more damping the system offers.
However, when braking hard from higher speeds, particularly into Phillip Island’s turn four, the rear end of the bike kept coming up and around, forcing me to let off ever so slightly to compensate. Even with an especially positive gearbox, that allows seamless downshifts, mated to an even smoother updated slipper clutch I never really felt as though the bike was digging in and getting into the corners as effectively as it should be while braking.
Before you crucify me for not noting that this could be “tuned out” with some suspension and chassis adjustment, I have to say that with a now-longer wheelbase (1415mm) I expected the GSX-R1000 to more stable in this type of scenario. That’s all. Once keeled over in the turn using the ample ground clearance you really can’t complain about anything as the bike dives for the apex and, despite the lack of outright grip and feedback from the tires, goes where you want. Regrettably, our riding sessions were cut short (to just over one hour of actual track time) due to foul weather conditions. It was a long trip for very little track time but I came away impressed yet again with Suzuki’s flagship that will, surprisingly, maintain last year’s sticker, MSRP $15,299. Suzuki Canada’s Nathan Naslund says sales were up 12.7 per cent last year, and given the infusion of new technology and stability of price point, that trend will very likely continue for the big sportbike which will be available in these colours: orange and black, yellow and silver and, of course, traditional Suzuki blue and white.