2009 Suzuki Dealer Show Report
Suzuki comes clean and comes out swinging for 2009
At its annual dealer meeting, held this year in Sin City, Suzuki came clean with its dealers, admitting a failure to supply enough product to sell in ’08. To make up for its miscalculations, Team S brought out a heavily revised Gixxer Thou, new Boulevard M90, a stripped down and styled-up version of the venerable SV650 called the Gladius (SFV650), and in an obvious attempt to capitalize on current economic woes, including those at the pump, the retro-looking TU250X rounded-out Suzuki’s headliners.
The underpinning theme throughout the opening evening of the conference was what seemed like a constant apology from Suzuki’s top Japanese brass, and a promise that the company would regain the trust and confidence of its dealers in the coming year. I was rather puzzled by this prostrating position, and came to learn that Suzuki reeled in its production forecasts last year in order to ride out the building wave of economic sorrows, attempting to be conservative and avoid overstocked showrooms. At the time what seemed like good, safe decision making was met with the unpredictable pain at the pump, and the subsequent demand from consumers for more economical modes of transpo.
For all its experience, Suzuki, like so many of us, was caught off-guard by rising fuel costs. The end result? Dealers were left hanging. Demand for two-wheelers was up but the supply of Suzukis was down, apparently way down.
The “official” theme of the event was 45 Years of Teamwork, and by unveiling the following new machines Suzuki hopes that dealers and consumers alike will stay with the team for 2009.
We learned only days ago in our report from Suzuki’s 2009 model line unveiling in Paris that, what is in this day and age already old news, the mighty Gixxer Thou got hit with a heavy dose of updates, to the point of being very much a new machine.
Bore and stroke of 74.5 x 57.3mm are different from the K8 model’s 73.4 x 59.0mm but still yield 999cc. A reshaped combustion chamber and cylinder head, thanks in part to a shorter intake camshaft with a relocated cam angle sensor, now sees a compression ratio of 12.8:1 vs. 12.5:1, and a lighter and reshaped airbox works with downdraft intake manifolds decreased in length by 10mm.
Titanium intake and exhaust valves are marginally larger, by 1mm each: 30 to 31mm and 24 to 25, respectively.
One of the contributing factors to an engine that is 59mm shorter than the previous model is a more triangular arrangement of the tranny in relation to the crankshaft with the added benefit of simplifying crankshaft assembly, eliminating 16 screws and shaving weight. The counter-balance shaft was also reduced from 23 to 20mm. Further weight savings come from a unified clutch and starter motor cover; the clutch is now cable-actuated for improved feel and feedback.
Also, the radiator takes on trapezoidal shape as does the oil cooler for more efficient cooling while at the same time creating a narrower shape with new bodywork tailored around that new shape. These are all lessons learned from factory race teams.
The result of all this reshaping, tweaking, shaving, boring and stroking and so on is said to not only have increased top end performance (a natural result of more oversquare mills), but somehow, magically, more mid and bottom came with it.
American Suzuki’s Garrett Kai told me the ’09 1K will come with a (drum roll, please!)…14,000 rpm redline! Holy 600cc supersports, Suzukiman!
The clean sweep didn’t stop in the powerplant.
There are still two titanium exhaust cans, but, thankfully, they’ve been restyled and their performance is MotoGP-derived. I asked Kai if we can ever expect to see the now-trendy mid-ship under slung exhaust system on the 1,000. “Probably not,” was his response, citing the need to meet ever more restrictive EPA and Euro regulations. The revised exhaust is purported to keep weight fairly low, in effect achieving the same mass centralizing benefits of the under-bike exhaust systems. Fuel is squirted into the combustion chamber through new 12-hole injectors.
A more compact engine means that the chassis could get in on the redesign action. Reduced distance between steering and swingarm pivot allows for a longer swingarm, yet wheelbase is 10mm shorter than last year’s (less than half an inch off 55.7 inches). Generally speaking, handling has been honed to create (if you can believe this!) a quicker turning bike with increased stability.
Suspension is front page news with the new Big Piston Fork (BPF) from Showa. Thus far for 2009, the GSX-R1000 is the second bike we’ve seen with the BPF, but we must note that the Gixxer’s fork is 43mm and nitride coated as compared to the non-nitride coated 41mm BPF on Kawasaki’s all-new 2009 ZX-6R.
The Tokico Brakes are still radial-mount but are now monoblock forged-aluminum-alloy. Front and rear wheels are said to be lighter as well as the redesigned front brake rotor carrier. All the compactness of the mechanics means that bodywork saw some scalpel time. The fuel tank is narrower as is the bike’s waist; a new headlamp contour is joined by ram-air intakes that have moved closer to the bike’s centerline in order to take advantage of the higher pressure in that area (while the bike is in motion).
Lastly, the instrument package looks essentially the same with the tacho taking center stage, but the cluster, too, has been updated. Really, though, the biggest news with respect to the instruments is the relocation of the S-DMS toggle switch from the right switch gear to the left switch gear. But you’re sure to be easily fooled like myself and several dealers.
The big Mode toggle on the right bar that allowed the rider to flip between A, B and C is still there, but it now serves to toggle through the instrument panel modes and whatnot. The S-DMS is much more conspicuous. What was the passing light toggle on the left bar is now the Drive Mode Selector, with a second toggle doing the same duty, but located under the left switch gear housing. And the passing light now has a new toggle placed more atop the left switchgear housing.
According to Kai the redeployment of the S-DMS switch(es) was developed with the help of racers. A number of them stated the case for being able pull the top toggle like a trigger in order to go from A to B to C, while operating the lower switch seemed to make more sense for working backwards. This location, two switches or one, makes more sense than being on the right as it no longer interferes with throttle operation, but since that very same Mode toggle is on the right, many will be easily confused, just like me and the dealer.
After some of the drunken dealers cleared off one of the Thousands on display I was able to swing a leg over the liter weapon. The GSX-R was the better part of 30 pounds or more in deficit to the competition last year, and it still takes a good heave-ho to get it off the sidestand, and thus I couldn’t really perceive the claimed 11-pound weight loss for the 2009 model. That’s a good start, but I think many of us were hoping for more weight savings. Regardless, the cockpit feels much roomier, due largely to the narrower fuel tank that allowed endless amounts of room for my knees and legs to move around, creating what felt like more room in the rider triangle. I also perceived what seemed like a taller or repositioned windscreen that may be a tad wider too. Also, there’s ample room to move about on the seat.
This cozy and comfortable mount led me to ask Garrett Kai if any of the changes to the bike were focused on the street side of things. He said simply that the changes will always be dictated by and for improved track and racing performance. This new GSX-R, then, probably has a good chance of staying on top of the podium again in the coming year, and I’m sure it’ll do pretty well on the street, too.
U.S. colors will be Metallic Triton Blue/Glass Splash White, Solid Black/Metallic Mat Black No.2, Glass Splash White/ Metallic Mistic Silver and Candy Dark Cherry Red/SolidBlack. MSRP is $12,199 and the bike is slated to be in showrooms in March 2009.
2009 SFV650 Gladius
The bike possibly more anticipated than the new Gixxer since its announcement last week in Paris is the all-new Gladius. It is what most of us suspected it to be, and that is a largely restyled SV650. The primary differences in the Gladius’ SV-derived 90-degree Vee is revised cam shape and valve lift along with a 10-percent increase in crankshaft inertia, “newly staggered intake and exhaust tract lengths,” and increased exhaust volume. As you’d imagine, engine tuning has been done with a bias toward more bottom and mid-range torque, yet it apparently hasn’t impeded top-end performance.
The trusty Twin is carried in a very stylish steel-tube trellis frame that’s matted to a cast aluminum lower section. The Gladius retains the SV’s 25-degree steering angle but picks up a nominal 2mm of trail at 104mm. Wheelbase is also longer by eight-tenths of an inch, but seat height is over half an inch lower (30.9” vs. 31.5”) on the Gladius.
The 41mm fork is adjustable for pre-load only; the shock connects to the box-section steel swingarm via progressive linkage and is adjustable for preload using a seven-position ramp style adjuster. Brakes are similarly budget-conscious with a pair of two-piston sliding-pin calipers clasping on to 290mm floating rotors.
I guess there’s no accounting for taste in style, as evidenced by all the grumbling in the Motorcycle.com forums about the looks of the Gladius, but I have to say that this is one very attractive looking machine when viewed in person. The obvious mpg-friendliness of the SV-based mill in the Gladius wasn’t played up as much as its stylish European look was. It seemed clear to me Suzuki’s unspoken goal was to tap into the growth of the female segment. From the Gladius’ sales brochure to the video that played during the bike’s introduction, most seen on this slick scoot were women riders, there scarves and golden manes flowing in the wind as they whizzed stylishly through European-looking backdrops.
This new kin to the SV is being aimed at those urbanites looking to move beyond the Vespa trend and onto something more commanding, both in presence and performance. Bring me a latte, and croissant; hand me my V-neck sweater and leather driving gloves then if that’s what it’ll take. I wanna ride one!
The Gladius will be available in February/March of 2009 with a U.S. retail of $6,499 in your choice of Metallic Triton Blue/Glass Splash White, Candy Ruby Magenta/Pearl Mirage White, Pearl Nebular Black/Metallic Lush Green and Pearl Nebular Black.
Shocker of the show was a motorcycle no one could have anticipated, that is unless you’re hyper-aware of the cost of a gallon of gas here in the U.S. The TU250X is Suzuki’s stab at riding the retro wave without having to come up with a whole new bike.
The TU250X is, in essence, a restyled GZ250. The GZ is a newbie’s dream with its simple Single 249cc air-cooled engine puttering riders around in cruiser style. The TU plays on the heart strings of those riders that grew up on UJMs. It’s powered by the very same Single as the GZ, but (hold to your keyboards…) is fuel-injected! Yes, you read right, a fuel-injected air-cooled 250. Be ye beginner or stingy with your spending on fuel, the tiny and simple standard might be your path to two-wheeled giggles.
And again, I dare say Suzuki is thinking of the ladies with this one. Seat height is only 30.3 inches, a mere 2.5 inches higher than the already low saddle height of its cruiser mate.
Additionally, the muffler carries a cat with an O2 sensor for cleaner exhaust. The little Standard loses about half a gallon of fuel capacity (3.17 vs. 3.4), but it appears to best the GZ’s “curb weight” by roughly three pounds (328 vs. 331 lbs).
I’d like to tell you what it was like to sit on, but it was kind of the star of the show as well as the show stealer. The thing was continually surround by a crowd of curious dealers. Reaction to the budget bike was mixed, as a number of dealers lamented the low-spec kit. I’ll venture a guess, though, that if the current state of economics in the U.S persists, Suzuki may have another high-demand model on their hands, and this time the dealers will know better than to not have enough of this bike on hand. The people will vote with their dollars. Cheng Shin tire-shod or not, the TU250X looks like a deal maker! Just not in California, yet…
The TU250X will be available in March at an MSRP of $3,499.
2009 VZ1500 M90
Suzuki’s double-digit cruiser line grows by one in 2009 with the addition of the M90. The sleek, minimalist cruiser is powered by a 54-degree V-Twin with a bore and stroke of 96 x 101mm for a “true” 90ci, or 1,462mm powerplant. The M90 is slotted in right behind the M109 range of muscle bikes. It rolls on a chubby 200mm tire out back, has a 5-speed tranny and looks every bit the part of the badass power cruisers that make up the Boulevard M line.
So what makes Suzuki so proud of the M90 in a world gone mad with cruisers? Probably the fact that it’s competitively priced at $9,999. Consider Honda’s VTX1300 at $9,599, Kawasaki’s Vulcan 1500 Classic at $9,699 or Star’s V Star 1300 at $10,290.
The powerhouse middleweight will be available October/November of this year and will come in your choice of Pearl Nebular Black, Metallic Triton Blue and Candy Sonoma Red.
Attitudes and atmosphere
The opportunity to chat with dealers didn’t present itself; viewing time on this first night was somewhat abbreviated and I was getting out of Dodge by sunrise the next day. It was hard to gauge the true feeling of crowd, but I couldn’t help but notice was generally a tempered response from the dealers during the meeting. And I did overhear one seemingly frustrated Suzuki dealer who is also a Kawi dealer vent a little frustration with Suzuki for not coming out with a bike comparable to the Ninja 250, another bike the dealer can’t keep in stock or get more of.
Hopefully for Suzuki’s sake the offering in the Gladius, and possibly even in the TU250X, will give dealers, and ultimately consumers, more practical two-wheeled choices in the coming year. Choices that for all of us are, in the end, fun.