2018 Suzuki GSX-S1000Z long-term review

As a lifelong supporter of the underdog and a proponent of keeping things cheap and stupid simple, I was a big fan of the Suzuki GSX-S1000 right from the start. Basically, we’re talking 2005 GSX-R1000 with much improved ergonomics, more supple suspension, EFI, and other conveniences of modern life that make deploying 144 screaming inline-Four horsepower a kinder, gentler and more comfortable experience every time you leave the house.

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Even though it beat up the Kawasaki Z1000 and the Honda CB1000R in a 2016 shootout – losing out only to Euro nakeds that cost substantially more – the GSX-S did not escape without criticisms: The on/off throttle transition can be jerky, the engine’s a bit flat in the midrange, and some felt too much engine vibration through the grips.

Our $10,999 all-black “Z” version goes for $200 more than the blue job, but gets you a blacked-out exhaust, fork tubes, and other tidbits. Suitable for formal occasions.

With the 2018 model, Suzuki’s addressed a couple of those complaints. A refining of the bike’s EFI mapping is supposed to result in smoother throttle operation, and it does. Those who complained about the old model’s snatchy response (Evans Brasfield, et al) like it much better now, though there still may be concerns re: steady-state fuelling midcorner. For me, she’s fine, since my spastic sport mode means I’m usually either slamming on the brakes or whacking the throttle open. For whacking, the GSX retains its four-way (including off) traction control. For braking, we’ve now got ABS (even if it’s not the latest cornering-sensitive type). Nobody complained about the brakes, but we get beautiful and powerful new Brembo calipers like the ones on the latest GSX-R, squeezing 310mm discs, and fed by uprated hoses.

I tested these on Socal’s 57 freeway, coming home in the evening after a day in the mountains. Checking my 8 o’clock as I attempted to move into a lefter lane where the 57 meets the 60, I checked it again a half-second too long to see if a truck was moving over into the spot I wanted from the other side… it was. And when I looked back ahead the car in front of me was almost stopped. Dang, I am going to run into the back of that car; this won’t be pretty. My brain had given up but my braking fingers had not – eek eek eek the Suzuki stopped crazy hard but true, 3mm from the new Civic’s bumper. Everybody went on about their business. ABS is worth every penny.

Also for 2018, the bike’s gained a back-torque-limiting slipper clutch, which makes it easier to keep the engine singing along in its higher registers when you’re tearing along backroads, and no, this bike wouldn’t be at all out of place on a closed road circuit now and then.

2018 Suzuki GSX-S1000Z vs 2016 Suzuki GSX-S1000

Whatever retuning of the ECU took place did positively affect throttle response, but it didn’t do much to punch up the GSX-S’s 4000-7000 rpm flattish spot. Or its top end.

Suzuki also claimed more power due to reduced pumping losses via new crankcase ventilation holes in the engine block, but our dyno’s not feeling it.

Elsewhere, to mix things up, the the color of the foot rests, shift lever, rear brake lever and hand control levers is changed from silver to black – and our Z model gets a black exhaust too. Brent J loves the knurled footpegs.

In cruising around town mode, the GSX-S is the same light, maneuverable, revvy no-frills happy place it’s always been, with an aluminum Renthal Fatbar that gives plenty of leverage while being narrow enough to zot through the narrowest traffic escapes. Any complaints about the midrange power can be negated instantly with a flick downard of the left toe and a rotation of the throttle.

There’s still a minimal amount of four-cylinder buzz felt through the grips, which only becomes noticeable when you’re spinning the engine up a bit, and over 90 mph in sixth – about 6200 rpm. When you’re riding along in the mountains trying to make time, all the GSX-S’s pieces come together so well you can barely tell you’re riding a Suzuki that ends in “S” instead of “R” – except that the S’s higher, wider handlebar makes it easier to control on tight roads. The Dunlop D214s provide enough traction to get themselves feathered to the edges, front and rear, whilst barely skimming the long footpeg feelers. The knurled and angled-at-the-ends footpegs give great grip for your feet and enhanced control. And I for one feel confident leaving TC in 1 and grabbing injudicious fistfulls of throttle out of every corner.

We may not have the most sophisticated bump absorption, but we do have suspension front and rear that keeps everything on track and under control, which feeds back steering feel and precision that’s light and plenty quick. The new brakes are feely and powerful.

In short, this one sporty motorcycle does it all – and if you wanted to sport-tour, there’s even a GSX-S1000F ABS for not much more money.

If you’d prefer a little wind protection, the GSX-S1000F ABS is just $11,299.

The 2018 Suzuki GSX-S1000’s only problem, really, is that it’s 2018. The 2016 version, for $9,999, was a great deal and the only place you could get 144 horsepower for under $10k. Now that the price is up to $10,999, for $2k more you might find yourself aboard a new Yamaha MT-10 (nee FZ), a more modern bike with everything the Suzuki’s got, but also electronic cruise control, a crossplane crank that gives a delectable exhaust note, better suspension, greater comfort and, ahhh, isn’t that enough? Then too, for substantially less money, there’s the new Kawasaki Z900, which gives up very little to the Suzuki except for about 20 horsepower. In fact, between you and me, I think for the money I could be every bit as happy on little brother GSX-S750S – which does everything the 1000 does but more smoothly, nimbly and revvily – for just $8,299.

In any case, I’ve managed to put a couple thousand miles on this stealthy sweetheart over the last couple of months. Suzuki’s instant-start deal has her firing up instantly without fail with just one quick poke of the button. There’ve been exactly zero issues with anything, fuel mileage is always between 39 and 42 mpg, the oil sight glass is never low, the Dunlops have plenty of tread left. And I could live happily ever after with this one but I probably won’t because time marches on and we’re never satisfied are we? No.

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