Categories: Features

Suzuki SV650 Retrospective

In 1999 who would have ever thought Suzuki’s unassuming SV650 would become a cult classic? The basic motorcycle, with its 645cc V-Twin, may have had components sourced from the bargain bin within the factory, but the sum of its parts was so affordable, and so enjoyable to toss around, riders all over the globe hold the bike in high regard – including MOrons like Yours Truly and Editorial Director Sean Alexander. Both of whom have owned, modified, and raced SVs.

Next week Suzuki is holding its U.S. press introduction of the new 2017 SV650 which I’ll be attending (so be on the lookout for the First Ride Review!), but in lieu of the intro we felt it was a good time to take a look back at the SV over the years. Below you’ll find a spec chart featuring four generations of the SV650 in America. We’re sticking mainly with naked versions of the SV since the new bike is sans fairings, but the specs are mostly the same between the S and N models. Also included here is the Gladius/SFV650 because as much as the media (MO included) and the riding public may have ridiculed its name and the strange direction Suzuki took in the styling department, it’s basically the third generation SV with a different name. That and its chassis and engine form the basis of the new bike.

First Gen (1999 – 2002)

What better place to start than with the first SV. At its heart is the 645cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC, four-valve, 90-degree V-Twin that has become legendary. Its bore and stroke measurements of 81.0mm x 62.6mm have remained the same over the years, and remain so even with the new fourth generation model. Two Mikuni carburettors were equipped on first gen units. In 1999, MO measured rear wheel horsepower at 68.0 at 8,750 rpm. Torque was 44.5 lb-ft at its peak. Both numbers line up with Suzuki’s claimed figures of 69 hp and 45 lb-ft.

A tubular aluminum frame, similar in style to the SV’s bigger brother, the TL1000, wrapped around the V-Twin and helped keep the SV light – to the tune of 395 lbs wet on the MO scales. A non-adjustable damper-rod conventional fork was mated to a preload-adjustable shock. In 2002 fork preload adjustability was introduced. Stopping power was provided by twin 290mm discs and two-piston calipers, while a 240mm disc sat out back with a single-piston caliper. All of the SV variants have stayed true to the 160/60-17 rear tire size, while first and second gen models came equipped with the oddball 120/60-17 front. A switch to the more conventional 120/70-17 front was introduced starting with the Gladius.

Second Gen (2003 – 2008)

The SV received a major revamp in 2003 with a new rectangular-shaped aluminum frame replacing the oval-tube unit, and angular body lines instead of the rounded shape before. But the big news engine-wise was the introduction of fuel injection. In 2006, when we pit the SV650 against Kawasaki’s Ninja 650, the SV made 71.2 hp to the wheel and 45.3 lb-ft of torque – also in line with Suzuki’s claimed numbers of 70 hp and 45.7 lb-ft.

Bargain-level suspension components are a staple of the SV lineage, and so it is that the second gen also features a basic fork and shock with only preload adjustability. Brakes, too, don’t change from the first gen. The bike remains relatively the same throughout its lifespan; 2004 saw a revised subframe, and in 2005 frames were painted black.

The Gladius Years

Many (myself included) think Suzuki lost its way when the Gladius replaced the SV650 in 2009. Its styling didn’t capture the elegance of the naked SVs (with some opinions claiming an excess of femininity), and the long single seat also missed the mark, styling-wise. Worst of all is its name: Gladius. While it may be the Latin word for sword, the bike doesn’t conjure up thoughts of ancient battle weapons. Instead it almost feels like a SV knockoff named Gladys, like your aunt. Perhaps the media barrage about the name finally hit home, as Suzuki changed the name to SFV650 in 2013.

Still, the venerable 645cc V-Twin soldiers on in the Gladius/SFV650. Suzuki made several improvements to the engine, highlighted below:

Engine Updates:
• Cylinders receive racing-derived SCEM (Suzuki Composite Eletrochemical Material) for better heat dissipation, reduced friction, etc.
• 5% increase in crankshaft inertia enhances low-to-mid range output and “highlights power-pulse feel.”
• Single spring per valve versus the SV650’s two springs per valve reduces inertia weight, and thereby mechanical losses.
• High-lift cam for increased torque.
• Throttle body intake funnels, though longer than what the SV650 used, are two different lengths for improved mid-range.
• Idle Speed Control (ISC) system integrated into throttle body –first ever on any Suzuki street bike– improves idle, cold starting and eliminates additional wiring and hoses. The same 10-hole fuel injectors used on the GSX-R600 and 750 offer better atomization of fuel mixture. Two Iridium-tip spark plugs per cylinder complete the package for more thorough, consistent combustion which in turn is claimed to lead to better economy, emissions, power, etc.
• All new compact exhaust with mid-chamber is claimed to increase low and mid-range torque while different length exhaust pipes allegedly improve low-end performance; exhaust design also contributes to lower CoG.
• New radiator is smaller; oil cooler is now liquid-to-liquid rather than air-cooled, and its new design helps centralize mass.

Suzuki claims horsepower and torque numbers of 71.1 hp at 8,400 rpm and 47.2 lb-ft at 6,400 rpm, and in our 2014 six-bike Middleweight Mashup, our SFV test bike made 67.5 rear wheel hp at 8,300 rpm and 44.2 lb-ft at 7,900 rpm. Both numbers are within acceptable ranges factoring 10% driveline loss from crank to wheel, but it is odd our test bike’s peak torque came 1,500 rpm later than Suzuki’s claim. The engine is now wrapped (again) by a trellis-style frame, only this one is steel instead of aluminum. The same basic suspension remains, though a 120/70-17 front tire is finally used instead of the 120/60-17. We liked that the Gladius/SFV650 handled and stopped about as well as the SVs before it, but we never could come to like the funky styling. To make matters worse, as competition for the SFV started to appear – at cheaper price points – Suzuki was asking up to $8,149 for the SFV in 2014. Nail, meet coffin.

The Return Of The SV

With the fourth generation SV650 it looks as though Suzuki has heard the calls of the media and SV fans alike, and is returning to the simplicity that made the SV popular. The bones of the Gladius/SFV650 remain, including the 645cc V-Twin and steel trellis frame, though between the two components Suzuki claims it has made over 140 changes, including over 60 items on the engine alone that are either new or redesigned, resulting in Euro 4 emission compliance and a boost in power. Better still, pricing is competitive with the competition: $6,999 without ABS, $7,499 with.

Full details on the changes to the new SV650 will be included in the First Ride Review, though it’s worth noting that Suzuki is claiming four more horses than the outgoing SFV650 through the myriad of changes it has made: 75.1 hp at 8,500 rpm vs. 71.1 hp at 8,400 rpm. Torque stays the same at 47.2 lb-ft, though interestingly, Suzuki’s press materials have the new model reaching that torque peak at 8,100 rpm compared to 6,400 rpm for the SFV. Looking at the spec chart below, it’s also revealed that the new SV has a lower compression ratio: 11.2:1, compared to 11.5:1 before. Part of the appeal of the SV’s V-Twin engine was the abundant torque available at relatively low revs. We’ll be curious to see if the new engine character detracts from the experience.

On paper anyway, the fourth generation SV650 looks to have the same formula that made the original so great.

The new SV has also gone on a diet; the new bike weighing in at a claimed 430 lbs wet. That’s 15 lbs less than the SFV650 (445 lbs) and 18 lbs less between the two when equipped with ABS (434 lbs vs 452 lbs). Suzuki says over 70 chassis parts and components are new or redesigned to achieve this weight target.

Despite the weight loss, the SV still has the same fuel capacity as before – 3.8 gallons (or 3.6 gallons if you’re in California), but makes a big jump in fuel economy: a claimed 61.3 mpg vs 56.5 mpg on the SFV. Brakes are still the same as on the SFV, but with a new ABS unit from Nissin that shaves 830 grams (1.8 lbs) off the SFV ABS unit.

The More Things Change…

Unlike the sportbike world, where technology is moving quickly and new bikes rarely share components with their predecessors (especially major components like engines), the SV650 timeline is clearly evolutionary rather than revolutionary. The engine is basically the same after all these years, as are the suspension and braking components. Does that mean Suzuki has rekindled the flame that made the original SV so special nearly two decades ago? I’ll let you know next week.

MSRP $6,999 – $7,499 (ABS) $6,899/$8,149 $5,799.00 $5,699
Engine Type 645cc Liquid-cooled, EFI, DOHC, four-stroke, 90-degree V-Twin, 4 valves per cylinder 645cc Liquid-cooled, EFI, DOHC, four-stroke, 90-degree V-Twin, 4 valves per cylinder 645cc Liquid-cooled, EFI, DOHC, four-stroke, 90-degree V-Twin, 4 valves per cylinder 645cc Liquid-cooled, Carburetted, DOHC, four-stroke, 90-degree V-Twin, 4 valves per cylinder
Bore and Stroke 81.0mm x 62.6mm 81.0mm x 62.6mm 81.0mm x 62.6mm 81.0mm x 62.6mm
Compression Ratio 11.2:1 11.5:1 11.5:1 11.5:1
Horsepower (claimed) 75.1 hp @ 8,500 rpm 71.1 hp @ 8,400 rpm 71.2 hp @ 9,000 rpm (measured) 68.0 hp @ 8,750 rpm (measured)
Torque (claimed) 47.2 lb-ft @ 8,100 rpm 47.2 lb-ft @ 6,400 rpm 45.7 @ 7,500 rpm 45.7 lb-ft @ 7,400 rpm
Transmission 6-speed; multi-plate wet clutch 6-speed; multi-plate wet clutch 6-speed; multi-plate wet clutch 6-speed; multi-plate wet clutch
Final Drive Chain Chain Chain Chain
Front Suspension 41mm conventional fork. 41mm conventional telescopic fork, coil spring, oil damped, preload adjustable 41mm conventional telescopic fork, coil spring, oil damped, preload adjustable 41mm telescopic fork, coil spring, damping rod (preload adjustable 2002)
Rear Suspension Link-type single shock, preload adjustable. Link-type single shock, preload adjustable. Link-type single shock, preload adjustable. Link-type single shock, preload adjustable.
Front Brake Dual 290mm floating discs, two-piston calipers. ABS Dual 290mm floating discs, two-piston calipers. ABS Dual 290mm floating discs, two-piston calipers. Dual 290mm floating discs, two-piston calipers.
Rear Brake Single 240 disc, Single-piston caliper Single 240 disc, Single-piston caliper Single 240 disc, Single-piston caliper Single 240 disc, Single-piston caliper
Front Tire 120/70-17 120/70-17 120/60-17 120/60-17
Rear Tire 160/60-17 160/60-17 160/60-17 160/60-17
Rake/Trail 25.0º/4.1 in 25.0º/4.1 in 25.0º/4.0 in (naked), 3.9 in (S) 25º / 3.9 in
Wheelbase 56.9 in 56.9 in 56.7 in (naked), 56.3 in (S) 55.9 in
Seat Height 30.9 in 30.9 in 31.5 in 31.7 in
Curb Weight (Claimed) 429.9 lbs (434.3 lbs ABS) 445 lbs 401 lbs 395 lbs
Fuel Capacity 3.8 gal (3.6 gal CA) 3.8 gal (3.6 gal CA) 4.5 gal (4.2 gal CA) 4.2 gal.
Troy Siahaan

Published by
Troy Siahaan
Tags: gladiusretrospectivesfv650Suzukisv650

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