The Suzuki GSX-R1000, king of the superbikes has got meaner…Overdrive (April ’09) takes a dekko..
The latest K7 model launched for 2007 (and known as the K8 for 2008) has lost some of that intoxicating mix of grunt and light weight that made the 2005 K5 the sensation that it was. Strict Euro 3 emissions regulations have forced the Suzuki to take on weight and strangle performance. This left the K7 feeling relatively flat until 7,000rpm. Suddenly Suzuki’s flagship wasn’t good enough to keep its crown in the face of Honda’s new Fireblade, and Kawasaki’s insanely powerful ZX10R. And now it’s even got Yamaha’s 2009 crossplane-crank YZF-R1 to content with.
Clearly Suzuki is aware of all this and has given the GSX-R1000 a major overhaul to confront the competition. So what has it done this time? Take the engine for starters. The new 2009 powerhouse is more compact and lighter than ever. This has as much to do with the chassis as anything else. Race teams around the world asked Suzuki for the longer, banana-style swing arm of the Fireblade for improved grip and predictability at the rear. So Suzuki delivered by shortening the K9’s engine by 59mm front-to-back to accommodate the shorter frame and longer swing arm. While the overall length of the GSX-R1000 remains the same at 2,045mm, the wheelbase is actually 10mm shorter at 1,405mm –which means better agility, as well as improved traction from the longer swing arm. The K9 engine has a bigger bore and shorter stroke to give more power at high rpm but it still has the longest stroke of all the Japanese 1000s. And a long stroke means more grunt.
Meanwhile, a new two-piece crankcase design and a lightweight crank mean the engine has shed 670kg. The K9 retains the twin exhaust design of the K7/K8 model but the headers are now titanium, while servo-controlled butterfly valves maximize power through the rev range. Overall the exhaust system is 400g lighter than before. As for the remainder of the chassis, Suzuki has replaced the Kayaba front suspension with Showa Big Piston Forks. The simpler yet superior set-up means the forks are 720g lighter than conventional components.
The brakes now feature super-stiff Tokico monobloc calipers, while the wheels have also been overhauled with lighter, better-performing versions of their old selves. The bodywork has been modified for a sharper and more aerodynamic look, with the Suzuki Ram-Air Direct (SRAD) intakes now cutting into the new headlight.
The seat is comfortable, you sit in the bike rather than on top of it, there’s no big stretch to the bars and it feels roomy for such a dedicated superbike. The GSX-R1000 has always been a guided missile down the main straight and no change here. The straight-line speed of the K9 boggles the mind. Yes, despite the engine overhaul, Suzuki claims the same 187PS maximum power as on the K8 – and anything over 180PS is a little insane anyway and certainly not to be sniffed at says OverDrive (April ’09).
Despite the shorter stroke engine the K9 oozes grunt and growls like a ferocious beast as you twist the throttle. Give it a handful and it wants to wheelie everywhere. Gone are the days of trying to edge more power out of these insane production machines. It’s about being able to harness the power that’s these so the rider can make more use of it.
Alas, just like all bikes this year, owning a brand new Suzuki GSX-R1000 in the UK will cost you more. The price has gone up 9,800 (pounds) this year, a shade cheaper than Yamaha’s 10,, 000 (pounds) YZF-r1.
Despite the major overhaul, Suzuki’s latest GSX-R1000 still manages to feel and look much like last year’s model, albeit a more agile and even faster version. The K9 is an evolution rather than a revolution of the K7/8. It still lacks the breath-taking impact the K5 has when it was first launched, what with that entire staggering low-down grunt at a twist of the wrist and no weight to speak of. But we’ve all been spoilt really and the K9 is still a ballistic machine, so hang on tight….