Launched in North America in 2006, now with less brightwork than the overly chromed early versions and fuel-injected since 2009, the sporty cruiser from Korea was crafted for show. But the GV650 Aquila also has the goods for go.
Hyosung says the Aquila – Latin for Eagle – is the most powerful 650cc cruiser on the market, and that may well be true since it has almost no competition.
Time Tested Mill
The motive force behind the 513-lb. boulevard bike is a trusty iteration of a liquid-cooled V-Twin that’s similar to Suzuki’s SV650 mill, which should come as no surprise considering Hyosung started out in the late ‘70s as a subcontractor for Suzuki.
We’ve seen scant coverage and some rumors and conjecture on the subject, so we asked Garrett Wong, Hyosung’s U.S. Sales Coordinator, to clarify the Hyosung-Suzuki past and current relationship. He checked with Korea, and this is what he came back with:
“In 1979, Hyosung and Suzuki entered into a technical alliance. This involved Suzuki engine designs, and Hyosung doing the parts development,” said Wong. “The engines were assembled in Korea, the parts were developed by Hyosung, and then motorcycles under the name Hyosung Suzuki were produced. These bikes were sold in Korea and were not exported to Japan or the U.S.”
As for what we have today, Wong continued.
“In 1987, Hyosung began producing motorcycles under solely the Hyosung name and with Hyosung designs,” he said. “When Hyosung initially began developing their own, the engine designs were assisted by Suzuki engineers from Japan, which is probably why there are similarities. I do not know exactly when Suzuki stopped supporting/helping Hyosung, but since 1987, the bikes no longer had Suzuki’s name on them, and we just kept going from there…”
No doubt there’s cost-savings in using the same basic engine for five out of seven of the company’s motorcycle models, but the upside is a buyer essentially gets a proven sportbike engine concealed in the cruiser.
Running an 81.5mm bore and 62mm stroke with 11.5:1 compression, Hyosung’s DOHC 4-valve-per-cylinder design’s only difference when placed in the cruiser is it channels power through a five-speed transmission geared more for low-end grunt instead of the higher strung sportbikes’ six-speeder. Also, the Aquila employs a no-maintenance and quiet belt final drive instead of a chain.
Is that a Harley?
“No, but thanks for asking,” you might say if you get a GV650, and you’d not be the first to field a question with a similar answer from someone noticing its resemblance to Harley-Davidson’s V-Rod.
Among the first to notice was reportedly Harley-Davidson not long after the GV650 was shown in Milan, and the first to say “thanks” was Hyosung. As the story goes, the Korean machine’s similarity to the Yankee-made liquid-cooled machine was broached by H-D via a letter to Hyosung.
When asked in 2006 about the Aquila’s similarity to the V-Rod, Hyosung’s chief designer, N.C. Heo, explained that the GV650’s tough-guy design was a unique in-house creation, and Hyosung was taken aback by H-D’s letter.
"This was very strange, because in fact we were afraid that the GV650 styling was too oriental!" Heo told motojournalist Alan Cathcart. "It was quite a nice compliment to be told by Harley-Davidson that we got it right!"
Years later, Garrett Wong says no one at his U.S. office in Georgia ever heard of the letter sent by H-D to Korea, and before Wong was with the company, so H-D is apparently over it. Now it only sounds funny in hindsight to hear of what was tantamount to an accusation of trademark infringement being taken as validation for one’s work.
In any case, the bike does fill a similar purpose to the V-Rod, albeit a purchaser would save almost enough greenbacks to buy a second GV650. And guess what? Claiming a respectable 72 hp at 9000 rpm and 45 ft. lbs of torque at 7250 rpm, plus a lofty 10,600-rpm redline, Hyosung’s value-priced ride has been known to turn mid-to-upper 12-second quarter-mile times - less than a second slower than the 1130cc V-Rod. Top speed for the GV650 Aquila is said to be in the mid-120s.
Its riding position is also reminiscent to the American bike, as are round-tube frame rails and other design cues beyond the prominent V – not a 60-degree as on the Harley, but a 90.
The Korean steed is slung low with an unintimidating 27.2-inch seat height between a long 66.9-inch wheelbase. Suspension is handled by a 41mm inverted fork that’s adjustable for compression and rebound damping, plus preload adjustable twin shocks out back.
And as mentioned, it looks sharp. Our black Aquila’s aforementioned chrome and blacked-out treatment complement its shapely 4.2-gallon fuel tank and stylized treatment throughout, and of course, the obligatory fat tires.
In this case, up front is a 120/70-18 mounted on a black three-spoke alloy wheel, and a supersport-sized 180/55-17 out back.
Nits and Picks
The Aquila’s fit and finish for the most part is good, with glossy paint, properly positioned frame accents and body panels. It’s also available in red or white, by the way.
Less desirable details include switchgear that looks a couple notches below premium quality and signs of oxidation on a few fasteners and pieces of our demo with just 575 miles on the odometer passively requesting this bike be kept waxed and stored in a garage. The throttle assembly on our test bike had too much free-play, and the throttle housing was a little loose where it clamps to the bars.
Function-wise, the buttons on the plain-looking digital gauge pod are just okay, too. The Select button does little more than toggle the clock setup. The left-side high/low switch has a middle position that can be used – whether intentionally or not – to engage both the high and low beams together.
Not unusual for a cruiser is that it lacks a tachometer or gear shift indicator, but adding these would be simple, and display real estate is available. Other shortcomings include what appears to be a sand-cast brake master cylinder that was chromed before they had a chance to fully polish and prep the metal.
This said, we’re not trying to bash this bike. Nothing is majorly wrong with the GV650 and it is far above the quality of some Chinese efforts we’ve seen passed off on unsuspecting consumers looking for a bargain. We’re just saying there is room for improvement.
The issues noticed could all be lived with and no real harm would be done, or an enterprising owner could source aftermarket parts to spruce it up and add uniqueness all at the same time.
On the Road
Start-up is suitably quick for the injected machine, and warm-up is not excessively long. Throttle tone from the bulbous right-side 2-into-1 EPA-satisfying muffler is muted, authoritative enough for a stocker but probably not loud enough to save lives.
Accelerating from a stop, the machine is balanced and easy to get going. Its throttle bodies meter fuel sufficiently to get going cold, with acceptable torque fed from a smooth-releasing clutch. Gearshifts are crisply executed through the wet multi-plate clutch into the five-speed tranny.
With forward-set footpegs and swept back chrome handlebars, dimensions suited my 6-foot height for all-day cruising. The saddle is so low that shorter riders should have no issues straddling the bike. It is also accommodatingly contoured, as is the not-too-small passenger perch.
If need be, a rider can lean forward into an almost standard bike’s seating position, albeit with legs still out catching the breeze. This can help on the highway, and with no frontal wind protection to speak of, air does push on your torso with full force. An add-on fairing would be worthwhile, unless you are a strong, burly man or otherwise comfortable fighting oncoming air.
The basic twin shocks and upside-down forks do a decent job of attenuating rough edges on the highway. On the other hand, another tester said after a week of daily riding he would begin to “feel more butt burn than I think I should have felt on a cruiser,” but otherwise grooved on the powertrain and handling overall – for a cruiser, that is.
Riding twisty backroads, the Bridgestone Battlax BT-54 radial tires do a decent job of holding on until the wide-splayed pegs start to scrape. Learning the bike’s handling dynamics comes quickly enough, and brisk riding on both straight and curving sections is as enjoyable as would be expected for a sporty cruiser not purpose-built to carve asphalt.
Braking action is solid, if not stellar in feedback. The 300mm twin discs up front are clamped by twin-piston calipers that are cast to appear as though they are four-piston units. Regardless, they work, as does the similar rear caliper pinching a 270mm disc.
As you might expect, ABS is not available, and the brakes have enough power to easily lock the rear and chirp the front or induce an outright lockup at low speed.
An Aquila Pro in your future?
Like any bike purchase, this is as much an emotional decision as it is objective. Beauty is something you ultimately must decide for yourself. If you base your decision on what others think, most people we asked like its look.
At $6,899, the GV650 is competitively priced. As far as actual head-to-head alternatives go, Hyosung Motors America, Inc. observes there are none on the market, but alas, it ought to know better. There is one bike that directly competes and it is imported also from Korea by none other than... Hyosung!
It is a private-labeled duplicate of Hyosung’s own product, also called the GV650, sold through ATK dealers in North America.
Actually, Hyosung freely concedes this, and explained the deal with ATK was made by the parent company in Korea. The main difference between the bike it’s trying to sell and the one its home corporation offers ATK to compete with are colors and subtle details, but price and specs are the same.
Aside from Hyosung’s own evil twin, other bikes that give the GV650 a run for your money include Yamaha’s 650cc Star V Custom, a $6,990 twin that is really styled more like Hyosung’s $7,299 ST7 cruiser.
Also remotely competitive, but not in the same middleweight power cruiser category, are Honda’s four versions of its over-$8,200 745cc Shadow. But Hyosung is essentially correct when it says the GV650 Aquila is a unique bike.
It ought to be a pretty durable one too, though we cannot ultimately vouch for that given our one-month tenure with the machine. We think it should be, as its running gear has been proven over the years by the other Hyosung variants that rely on the same powertrain and are still going strong.
2010 Hyosung ST7 Review
2010 Hyosung GT650 Review
2010 Honda Shadow RS Review
2010 Honda Shadow Phantom Review
2012 Harley-Davidson 10th Anniversary Edition V-Rod Review
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