The all-new Suzuki GSX-8S middleweight streetfighter brings modern tech at a competitive $14,190 rideaway. We belted the living suitcase out of one through the Sunshine Coast and on the iconic Lakeside Raceway layout to answer one question. Is it up to the job? Watch our road and track video review here.
What we like:
- Bold styling
- Smart tech
- Value for money
Room for improvement:
- Rear shock pushed in hard going
- Cruise control please
I’ve loved the street fighter category since it aggressively burst on to the bike scene in the mid-nineties. Tough, encouraging individuality, just bloody different. Who doesn’t like that in this cookie-cutter, don’t-say-that world? So, indeed, I welcomed the GSX-8S as a concept.
Yes, the bike offers a degree of brave styling and a minimal, yet modern, approach at a reasonable price. It was with these scenes playing across this muddled mind as I boarded the big white bird to leave Melbourne’s hateable winter to land in the T-shirted, low-stress atmosphere of Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. All to bung Suzi’s newest through its paces at the Aussie launch. Wonderful.
Some specs to get this thing situated.
The bike cops the new, compact 776cc parallel twin engine used in the V-Strom 800DE. It employs a 270-degree firing order to give it a bit of lump and character, allowing for torque maximisation, and is equipped with Suzuki’s exclusive Cross Balancer system which uses two balancer shafts rather than the traditional one. One weight is in the usual spot, just in front of the crankshaft, while the other sits below the crankshaft. This irons out vibes nicely.
There’s Suzuki’s fancy name for a slipper clutch, the Suzuki Clutch Assist System (SCAS) and you get an up/down quickshifter system at standard.
Suspension is from the house of KYB and Nissin radial-mounted four-piston brake calipers with dual 310mm rotors at the front.
Brakes are grouse. Just perfect for this style of bike. I used them pretty hard on the spirited run into Kenilworth and felt in complete command of braking, even taking into account the sad fact that Australia’s back roads are absolutely rooted.
On that. It became apparent that Suzuki designers would be pushed to their limits to come up with a rear shock that could deal with our flood ravaged, potholed shambles when it comes to road quality. As such the item fitted to the bike struggled to deal with the constant chop, change and bucking bronco surfaces the launch threw in its direction. I reckon a good aftermarket shock would be on my shopping list here.
The GSX-8S uses the Suzuki Intelligent Ride System (S.I.R.S.) with a three-mode Suzuki Drive Mode Selector and the four-mode Advanced Traction Control System plus the popular Easy Start & Low RPM Assist systems. Fancy terminology and acronyms, but in the real world this adds up to three-stage engine mapping and four-stage traction control. That’s a lot of tech for not much money and there was a time not so long ago that would see a buyer paying a big fat premium for that sort of electronic suite. Good stuff and value to the smart purchaser is definitely a hallmark for the GSX-8S.
The GSX-8S uses a 5.0-inch, colour TFT screen with all sorts of info brightly and intelligently displayed. TFT screens can come off as a badly designed pinball display in certain instances and this one is dead simple to understand. Suits me just fine. Give me convenience or give me death.
I love the bike’s styling. Sit in the cockpit and look forward and the aggressive pointed radiator shrouds are remarkably reminiscent of bull horns in shape. I commend the Suzuki folk for going out on a bit of a limb here. It really is different in look in a bit of a market marked by sameness. Top marks there.
While the fast run through the Sunny Coast hinterland delivered me of the opinion that the bike handles quick scratching in comfort, with reasonable grunt on hand, with rear suspension stretched as far as it would ever be, it was time to hit the track. When the flag drops, the bullshit stops. Fun!
Cue Aussie Crawl’s iconic song from the band’s 1981 Sirocco album (ask your parents junior) Lakeside.
Lakeside Raceway… That racetrack represents a wonderful institution that has managed to survive the scourge of urban sprawl and a place I’ve grown to love. I’ve cut so many laps here over the years that they blur into one. One very enjoyable, technical, grippy, demanding wonderful lap. It’s a grouse place.
Explaining the famed ‘Hungry Corner’ to some of the track newbies on the launch was fun. ‘Why do they call it that Snaggy?’. I have to admit to a touch of delight as I held their gaze, just a little longer than needed and said, “because it eats people”. Bad Snag.
Tossing the 8S at it was brave in my opinion from Suzuki. Was it going to be able to cut the mustard in the demands of a tricky, tight and technical race circuit?
With James Reyne ringing through that chorus, we set out to find out…
The quickshifter comes into its own on the track, when really pushing on. Suzuki has always been the leader when it comes to slick changing, hot-knife-through-butter action at the gear lever for mine and the 8S only serves to continue the tradition. Smack-bang perfect.
I was pleasantly surprised that the top-end power delivery coped with rev-limiter crunching types of usage. I expected it to run out of puff a little at the outer edge, but it gives right up until redline. Impressive from a parallel twin, and all the power you would need to cope with Lakeside is there.
Handling is easy. Lakeside’s famed ‘Bus Stop’ demands a very quick side-to-side transition and the front end of the 8S handles this nicely. Planted at the front and easy ergos make the track section of the launch joyful indeed. A track lap is a joy indeed. Long live Lakeside.
This is a bike for the masses who want to be just a little different and that’s a masterstroke from Suzuki. It may just be at the cutting edge here – creating a niche, and I applaud that. The bike is competent, grouse to look at and priced right. What’s not to love?
Light, very flickable and enough power to set a smile on this craggy old face at Lakeside as well. Now, if I could just get James Reyne’s voice out of my head…
The Suzuki GSX-8S enters a well-occupied space in the middleweight naked bike category in Australia, but will no doubt face its closest competition from the recently launched Honda CB750 Hornet.
While the Hornet undercuts the GSX-8S with its pricetag of $13,474, it does not get a quickshifter as standard but is otherwise evenly matched with its own new 755cc parallel-twin.
Honda’s powerplant generates 67kW and 75Nm, which is up 6kW compared to the Suzuki but down 3Nm in the torque department.
Snag’s career in motoring journalism spans 29 years with stints at major bike mags Australian Road Rider, Motorcycle Trader and AMCN along with contributions to just about every other outlet worth a hill of beans. He was editor of Unique Cars magazine and hosts his legendary podcast ‘Snag Says’ when he gets off his date.