Review: 2024 Suzuki GSX-8R

Review: 2024 Suzuki GSX-8R

Introducing the V-Strom 800DE in early 2023 was a giant step in the right direction for Suzuki. Most notably, it was the model chosen to unveil the company’s new 776cc parallel-twin DOHC engine with a 270-degree crankshaft configuration and Suzuki’s Cross Balancer technology. The follow-up, GSX-8S, increased the momentum of the new parallel-twin platform later that year. Now, the fully-faired GSX-8R is accelerating Suzuki to full stride with a sportbike that’s fun, affordable, quick, and comfortable.

At $9,439, the 8R carries only a $440 premium over its naked stablemate, the 8S. The two share most components, but it’s more than just plastic the extra Benjamins buy you. Suspension is a key difference between the two models, with the 8R touting a non-adjustable inverted Showa SFF-BP fork and a Showa shock with preload adjustment, compared to the 8S’s non-adjustable inverted KYB fork and shock, also with preload adjustment. In addition to more plastic and different suspension, the 8R’s riding position is slightly more aggressive than the 8S’s, thanks to its individual handlebars versus the 8S’s one-piece handlebar.

The 2024 Suzuki GSX-8R is as capable on the track as it is comfortable on the street.

Street and Track

The GSX-R remains at the top of the pyramid in Suzuki’s performance pecking order, so it was surprising the company chose a two-day press launch, consisting of a first-day street ride followed by a day at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway. However, the decision proved appropriate because the street ride in the mountains above Palm Springs, CA, was tempered by fog, cold, and wet roads, while the perfect high desert winter weather revealed the 8R to be a much more capable track-day bike than I would have guessed.

I came away from the experience feeling nostalgic for my old Honda CBR600F2, a bike I could pack lightly and ride comfortably to Laguna Seca for a weekend of camping and World Superbike racing, before taking it to another track for a day of my own tarmac strafing. Curb weights of the two motorcycles being equal, the larger-displacement parallel-twin engine of the Suzuki produces approximately 16 fewer claimed rear-wheel horsepower than my 30-year-old CBR did. That said, the peak output of the Suzuki twin arrives 3,500 rpm earlier, while producing approximately 10 lb-ft more torque much lower in the rev range.

The $9,439 MSRP of the GSX-8R includes all the modern technologies you’d expect, such as a bi-directional quickshifter, cruise control, traction control, and ABS.

I’ll take the easier-to-ride nature of the modern Suzuki twin over the vintage Honda in-line four any day. I’ve admired Suzuki’s parallel-twin since its introduction more than a year ago in the V-Strom. On the street, the engine delivers usable mid-range performance when you want it most, while on the track, the combination of little power and traction control lets you fearlessly apply more power mid-corner. In either scenario, the rider-friendly nature of the engine is a good companion.

Finding the Balance

The rider triangle variance between the 8S and 8R comes down to the 8S’ single-piece handlebar and the 8R’s clip-ons that result in more forward lean. The change increases the 8R’s front weight and improves control, especially on the racetrack. Yet, the difference is minimal enough to not infringe on rider comfort on the street.

A firm, yet comfortable seat for the rider and more pillion for the passenger than on some sportbikes.

The amount of legroom remains the same on the 8R as it is on the 8S. Yes, the footpegs will touch down when on the track, but I managed to ride to my limit without the pegs impeding my fun. With Suzuki’s announcement that the GSX-8R will be competing in the 2024 MotoAmerica Twins Cup Championship, there’s a plethora of aftermarket go-fast components already in development.

The more important chassis difference between the two models is the suspension. While the Showa fork on the 8R remains nonadjustable, its performance is a notable upgrade over the KYB unit on the 8S. When reviewing the 8S, I noted that although the KYB fork and shock maintain the bike’s composure in most city and freeway environments, they were overwhelmed when navigating a particularly bumpy backroad.

The model with the Metallic Matte Sword Silver color scheme is the only one to come with striking red wheels.

I didn’t experience any comparable issues with the 8R’s suspension—but the racetrack is a smooth environment and I didn’t get to push the 8R as hard as I would have if conditions were better on the street ride day. What I know for sure is that the 8R’s stock suspension components come well-damped from the factory and manage a good balance between comfort and control, especially at race track speeds.

A good indicator of handling performance is how fast I’m able to get up to speed on an unfamiliar motorcycle. Chuckwalla is a track I visit often, and the familiarity allowed me to pay more attention to the motorcycle. Aboard the GSX-8R, I was going full-tilt before the end of the first session, and I was smiling ear-to-ear when I pitted for the first time. The 8R won’t blow you away with power or any one thing it does well—the motorcycle simply delivers a very well-rounded, cooperative, and forgiving riding experience at either track or street speeds. Kudos also to the Dunlop Sportmax Q5S tires my 8R was wearing for the track test. The grippier Dunlop rubber, compared to the stock Dunlop RoadSport 2s, allowed me to better explore the 8R’s handling abilities.

Suzuki’s electronic rider aids include three ride modes and the easy-start and low-RPM assist systems.

Bytes and Pieces

Highlights of the Suzuki Intelligent Ride System (SIRS) include its three ride modes. The damp street ride provided a great opportunity to test them in real-world conditions. Riding out in the C mode, with the softest throttle response and torque delivery and traction control in its highest setting (mode 3), allowed me to hunker down behind the 8R’s fairing and think warm thoughts rather than focus all my attention on throttle input in the slippery conditions.

As the day wore on and the conditions improved, I switched to ride mode B and traction control 2, both of which are best for most all-around road conditions. As I descended the far side of the mountain with sunny skies and dry pavement, ride mode A and TC 1 increased the bike’s aggressive eagerness noticeably. While neither of these technologies is new, it’s a rare chance to get to test them in the conditions for which they were developed.

Twin radial-mounted Nissin four-piston brake calipers grip 310mm front brake rotors for excellent stopping performance.

Other electronic niceties include Suzuki’s Easy Start system, which eschews holding down the start button in favor of a single quick tap that automatically engages and disengages the starter via the engine control module (ECM). The Low RPM Assist system automatically increases engine speed to provide smooth power delivery when initiating a standing start or navigating at low speeds. ABS comes standard, as does the bi-directional quickshifter.

Transmission operation begins with a very light pull of the clutch lever, thanks to Suzuki’s Clutch Assist System. Next comes the aforementioned quickshifter—a track performance advantage and a useful feature during spirited street rides. The two technologies make rowing the GSX-8R’s six-speed gearbox an effortless affair.

The user-friendly power delivery from Suzuki’s 776cc parallel-twin makes passing slower cars on the street and riders on the track easy work.

Braking components on the 8R remain the same as on the 8S, comprising dual Nissin radially mounted four-piston calipers squeezing 310mm discs up front, and a single Nissin caliper and a 240mm disc in the rear. Stopping performance is notably strong, with a good feel at the lever resulting in easy brake pressure manipulation.

As I noted earlier, the good weather protection the 8R’s fairing provides was a welcome benefit. A touring windscreen is already available from Suzuki’s accessory catalog, as are heated grips, a USB power socket, a ring lock tank bag, and soft side cases.

The GSX-8R provides an all-day rider triangle, with its footpeg placement balancing comfort and cornering clearance.

The end result is a very capable motorcycle that should appeal to a wide variety of riders, but none more so than the person who only has room in the garage for one motorcycle. The GSX-8R is a bike capable of wearing many hats, including a sportbike, track bike, sport-tourer, and commuter. What it lacks in outright horsepower it makes up for in mid-range acceleration and overall rider-friendly handling. The GSX-8R makes it three for three in successful new model introductions for Suzuki. I wonder where the company’s parallel-twin will pop up next.

Technical Specs

+ love the engine, does nothing egregiously wrong, surprisingly fun track bike a few more horsepower would be nice,
– cruise control would enhance its street cred, could weigh less

Distributor: Suzuki
MSRP: $9,439
Engine: 4-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC parallel-twin
Displacement: 776cc
Power: 81.8hp @8,500rpm; 57.5lb-ft @6,800rpm
Transmission: 6-speed constant mesh, wet multi-plate clutch, O-ring chain final drive
Rake/Trail: 25.0°/4.1in
Weight (Wet): 452lbs (claimed)
Seat Height: 31.9in
Fuel Capacity: 3.7gal
Colors: Metallic Triton Blue, Metallic Matte Sword Silver, Pearl Ignite Yellow