The Suzuki GSX-8R takes an ironic turn in the evolution of motorcycles. For decades we’ve extolled the virtues of sporty standard-style motorcycles over dramatically more aggressive pure sportbikes, but American riders largely turned up their collective nose at naked bikes and ignored them in favor of swoopier sportbikes.
The Honda 599 and 919 came and went seemingly without notice. Same for Kawasaki’s Z750, BMW’s F 800 R, Yamaha’s FZ8, and Aprilia’s Shiver. The only really successful naked bikes were the Ducati Monster and Suzuki SV650.
But now the script has been flipped, and sales of pure sportbikes are but a blip on the radar, while every manufacturer successfully sells sporty nakeds. A recent example is Suzuki’s GSX-8S that debuted last year. Powered by a new 776cc parallel-Twin also found in the V-Strom 800, the 8S proved to be both sporty and utilitarian, capable of nearly any type of riding.
Related: Suzuki GSX-8S Review | First Ride
And now here we are with the new GSX-8R, which is a slightly sportier version of the 8S, but it’s a far cry from something like a GSX-R. You’ll notice the new fairing, but you might not notice the new Showa suspension, accounting for the $440 price increase over its stablemate’s $8,999 MSRP.
“We wanted,” says Suzuki, “to create a new middle-class standard in the sport segment that achieves high levels of practicality and rider-friendliness.”
Road and Track | Suzuki GSX-8R Review
To demonstrate the breadth of capabilities offered by the GSX-8R, Suzuki invited us to Palm Desert in California for a ride on rural and mountain roads, followed the next day by sessions at a racetrack.
First impressions were favorable, as the 8R displays nice fit and finish details that belie its sub-$10K price tag. Three colorways are available, and I think they all look great. For my steed, I chose the Metallic Triton Blue version that best represents Suzuki’s heritage. Scaling in at 452 lb with its 3.7-gal. tank full, it’s easy enough to wheel around but not exactly light. The seat is placed at 31.9 inches.
Our street ride took place on a chilly and damp day, climbing out of town from 440 feet above sea level on the Palms to Pines Scenic Byway, cresting at nearly 5,000 feet. I was grateful to be aboard the 8R rather than the 8S, as its fairing provided welcome shelter from the elements. The windscreen is low but reasonably effective, and I was also pleased with the airflow deflection offered by the fairing, which kept my legs shielded from the wind.
On a typically sunny California day, this road invites horizon-tilting lean angles, but damp sections and automobile bottle-ups thwarted sporting maneuvers. It was difficult to determine if the Dunlop Roadsmart 2 tires lacked grip or if it was simply the fault of the cool pavement. I switched the bike’s ride mode from A (active) to B (basic) to help moderate throttle response in conjunction with the traction-control system, which can be set independently if desired.
Helmet: Arai Corsair-X Vinales-5 Replica
Jacket: Alpinestars Hoxton V2
Gloves: Alpinestars GPX V2
Boots: Alpinestars Grange
Antilock brakes provide another level of security, although the system doesn’t benefit from an IMU, so it doesn’t feature a cornering ABS function. Regardless, the triple-disc brakes are precise, allowing a rider to deftly apply just a hint of application to scrub off 1 or 2 mph while angling into corners. The Nissin radially mounted front calipers deliver a firm lever feel despite not using braided-steel lines.
The most frequently used rider assist on the 8R is the standard quickshifter, which allows clutchless upshifts and auto-blipping downshifts. It works reasonably well but not with the seamlessness as experienced with other quickshifters that benefit from data gathered by IMUs.
After descending the mountain road, we were faced with a boring straight one that provided the opportunity to settle in and evaluate the 8R’s cockpit and ergonomics.
The tubular handlebar from the 8S is traded for a pair of clip-ons that are about 2 inches lower and a smidge farther away from a rider. They deliver a sportier riding position but one that’s a mile away from truly aggressive, similar in ergos to the GSX-S1000GT sport-tourer. A moderately tight seat-to-footpeg distance might cramp riders long of leg, but the seat proved to be comfortable after hour-long stints in the saddle.
The 5-inch TFT instrumentation from the 8S is also used on the 8R, providing a bright and readable display with a large analog tachometer. It’s a modern but basic system that is easy and intuitive to navigate via switches on the left handlebar.
Motor’n | Suzuki GSX-8R Review
This was my first chance to sample Suzuki’s first all-new engine, and the 776cc parallel-Twin proved to be amiable and sweetly tuned. It uses the Low‐RPM Assist System that automatically increases engine speed as the clutch lever is released for smooth getaways. The patented Suzuki Cross Balancer mechanism, consisting of two counterbalancers, tames vibration beyond what’s experienced from most parallel-Twins.
The engine is friendly and vibe-free, but what it isn’t is thrilling. It makes accessible and usable power, supplying the necessary grunt to elicit satisfaction while performing most street duties, but when pointed down a deserted road, it feels a little strangled at its top end. Power hounds will wish for more.
Suspenders Surprise | Suzuki GSX-8R Review
An upgrade from the 8S is the Showa suspension that replaces the Kayaba components. There are two surprises here. First, there isn’t any suspension adjustability other than rear preload. Second, it’s remarkable how well it works at providing comfortable bump absorption as well as respectable chassis composure.
The 41mm Separate Function Fork-Big Piston inverted fork nicely holds up its end of the bargain with 5.1 inches of travel. The SFF-BP design uses an oil-bathed spring in one fork leg, while the other leg uses a big-piston damping circuit, which saves a bit of weight while delivering more precise damping characteristics. The link-type rear suspension incorporates a Showa shock that has a single-rate spring rather than the progressive coil on the 8S. It uses a cam-style spring-preload adjuster for easier adjustments than the more basic locking-ring design.
As set up, I noticed the rear end lacked a bit of rebound damping and consulted with Suzuki engineers. They told me the 8R is sprung for a 165-lb rider, so to accommodate for weightier American physiques, they added a step of preload on all the test bikes. My geared-up 155-lb mass doesn’t require as much spring, so I backed off the preload one position and enjoyed better rebound-damping balance.
The final portion of our street ride was accompanied by sunny skies and dry roads that culminated in a fun descent on Montezuma Grade into Borrego Springs. Finally, we could push the 8R like a sportbike, leaning into corners briskly enough to skim the pavement with footpegs. Good front-end feedback had me salivating for exploring the bike’s limits at the twisty Chuckwalla Valley Raceway.
Chucky Cheese | Suzuki GSX-8R Review
When we arrived at Chuckwalla, I smiled as I saw a row of GSX-8Rs ready for flogging and fitted with Dunlop Sportmax Q5+ tires. With warm pavement and grippier rubber, I donned my leathers and soon began dragging knees.
Sportbike snobs have disdain for motorcycles without aluminum frames, but just like the Kawasaki ZX-4RR I tested last year, motorcycles with steel frames have nothing to be ashamed of aside from some extra poundage. The 8R demonstrates its GSX-R heritage and provides a capable and secure platform to explore sporting limits.
I didn’t expect a 452-lb sportbike with sport-touring ergos to comport itself so well on the racetrack, but it wasn’t the first time I’ve been mistaken, as the missus often reminds me. A firm set of trustworthy brakes combines with neutral steering responses for trustworthy composure when leaned over all the way to – and sometimes beyond – the footpegs decking out and grinding on the tarmac.
Helmet: Arai Corsair-X Vinales-5 Replica
Gloves: Racer High Speed
Boots: Sidi Mag-1
It’s only on the straightaways where the 8R comes up a bit short. The 776cc Twin that works so well in the V-Strom 800 and in most street scenarios with the 8S and 8R feels a bit breathless when exploring the upper reaches of the tachometer. Its redline is just shy of 10,000 rpm, but it’s claimed to produce peak power at 8,500 revs, so there’s no advantage to screaming it out. When we dyno’d the identically tuned GSX-8S, it spat out 76 hp to its rear wheel at 8,300 rpm. I discovered the 8R gathers speed better when leaving some revs on the table and shifting at 9,000 rpm.
Regardless, I can attest that if you took a GSX-8R to a trackday, you’d be impressed by its composure and sure-footedness while scratching pegs. Chuckwalla has a fairly smooth surface, so the rudimentary suspension wasn’t greatly taxed and held up both ends without complaint.
Sum Up | Suzuki GSX-8R Review
The GSX-8R’s best attribute is that it straddles a wide line in the world of motorcycling – an all-in-one machine. It’s docile and friendly for commuting duties, but it’s also fun and engaging when ridden like a sportbike. Strap on some luggage, and it can be a reasonably comfy and capable sport-touring rig. Suzuki’s accessory line offers side cases, tankbags, a taller windscreen, and heated grips to help transport you to the next horizon in style and comfort.
Complaints about the 8R are few. I would’ve liked to have seen a mildly hot-rodded motor to up the ante from the 8S, and an aluminum frame would’ve trimmed a few pounds from a moderately portly curb weight. An IMU and fuller suspension adjustability would be welcome additions.
But all those things would add to Suzuki’s build costs, resulting in a bike that would likely push past $12K. In this era of ever-increasing prices, the GSX-8R’s MSRP of $9,439 hits a sweet spot of value and capabilities that set it apart from similar offerings on the market. To ease the way into 8R ownership, Suzuki is offering 1.98% introductory financing for it.
Prior to testing the bike, the jaded and expert journalists at the launch didn’t seem terribly excited about riding what seemed to be a relatively tame motorcycle. After two days experiencing the GSX-8R on road and track, our preconceptions had been banished. It proved to be one of those rare machines that feel greater than the sum of its parts.
2024 Suzuki GSX-8R Specs
Base Price: $9,439
Warranty: 1 yr., unltd. miles
Engine Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse parallel-Twin, DOHC w/ 4 valves per cyl.
Bore x Stroke: 84.0 x 70.0mm
Horsepower: 82.0 @ 8,500 rpm (factory claim)
Torque: 57.5 lb-ft @ 6,800 rpm (factory claim)
Transmission: 6-speed, cable-actuated slip/assist wet clutch
Final Drive: Chain
Wheelbase: 57.7 in.
Rake/Trail: 25.0 degrees/4.1 in.
Seat Height: 31.9 in.
Wet Weight: 452 lb (factory claim)
Fuel Capacity: 3.7 gal