Moto Review: Suzuki GSX-8S


For many years, the biggest criticism Suzuki received from their fans, journalists and pretty much all other riders was that the brand did not bring anything new. Granted, the model lineup has always been solid and reliable, it was just uninspiring to look at. 2023 has been a very important year for Suzuki, as we finally have new models, new platforms, and completely new drivetrains to keep up with the competition. The GSX-8S is the latest addition in the middleweight naked segment that technically overlaps with the good old SV650 in many ways, but it is a lot different from every angle.

The Looks & Features

The biggest and the most obvious difference is the overall styling. It does not have the retro styling of the SV650, in fact, it has a lot of sharp angles and much sportier design language. It comes with a 2-piece LED headlight design along with daytime running lights placed on the front fascia separately. The LED indicators are located higher for better visibility, and the inverted front forks give it a more premium look in general.

The sharp angles and bold body lines continue on the side of the bike, and unlike the SV650, the exhaust is one-piece, and located under the engine and swingarm for a lower center of gravity. In typical Suzuki fashion, the GSX-8S has quite a narrow profile, which makes it a better choice for beginners. From the design perspective, the only gripe I had was the ugly license plate holder and the integrated halogen tail lights. Thankfully, it can be replaced easily with an aftermarket unit.

Just as expected from a traditional naked bike, the ergonomics is very nice and relaxed. At 6’1″, I was very comfortable and the bike did not feel cramped at all. On the other hand, the 810mm seat height is still decent for shorter adults. The handlebar is not that far from the rider but still makes you lean slightly forward. The footpegs are not too aggressive, but not placed too low as well. It is slightly on the sportier side in general, but still comfortable as a daily rider.

There are important changes not just the looks, but also tech and features. GSX-8S gets the latest 5-inch colour TFT LCD instrument panel that shows a lot of information. Yes, the screen is not the biggest, but that’s what you expect from this price point. The impressive part is how easily you interact with it, Suzuki kept things very simple and intuitive. You literally need less than 30 seconds to understand the layout, modes can easily be changed on the fly.

Although there is no 6-axis advanced IMU system or fancy cornering ABS, you still get the adjustable traction control which is plenty enough in this segment. Suzuki included what’s necessary, but the most nice-to-have feature is the bi-directional Quick Shifter. None of the other entries in this segment comes with a standard Quick Shifter from the factory, and it is a huge pro for the GSX-8S.

The Drivetrain & Specs

Just like the V-Strom 800DE we reviewed earlier this summer, the GSX-8S comes with the same new parallel-twin 776cc engine that generates around 82 horsepower and 57.5 lb-ft of torque. The bike is not the lightest at 202 kg, but the bike hides its weight exceptionally well. If you are comparing the spec sheets, the GSX-8S sits in a unique spot between the traditional 900cc, and 650cc naked bikes. Yamaha started the “higher displacement” trend when they brought the MT-07 (FZ-07 back then) with the 700cc engine to the middleweight segment, now it’s Suzuki’s turn.

It’s a big shift for the brand. Suzuki has been using the old V-Twin engine for almost three decades with minimal upgrades. The V-Twin engine proved itself to be one of the most reliable platforms available for both adventure riders, and track day enthusiasts, but it was the right time to come up with a more competitive product. The new parallel-twin engine does not just offer more horsepower and torque, but it is a more compact package, easier to work on, and it is significantly lighter than the older platform.

The new engine offers a 270-degree crankshaft configuration which means the power delivery, sound and overall feeling feel similar to the 90-degree V-Twin engine. Suzuki also added dual counterbalancers to eliminate the buzzy feeling of the parallel-twin engine layout. I wish it could run with 87 octane happily like the other engines in this segment, unfortunately, you have to get premium gas every time you ride it – which can be a problem if you are riding it daily.

In typical Suzuki fashion, the shifter feels crisp and super easy to find the neutral. Thanks to the short gear ratios, the bike goes through each gear quickly. The Quick Shifter operates very smoothly especially when you upshift, however, I have found the downshifts are a little bit clunky, so for the most time, I have found myself using the old school rev-matching method more than using it. I still think it’s a great addition to the bike especially for beginners that can’t do rev-matching comfortably.

The Ride & Experience

Just like most entries in this segment, the GSX-8S is a very easy and accessible motorcycle to ride every day. You still get the same beginner-friendly features like low RPM assist, easy start system, or a slipper clutch that you would find in other Suzuki models. For more experienced riders, having traction control and the Quick Shifter can be very helpful especially when you are riding in a spirited fashion, and having all the features in a budget-oriented bike makes it very appealing to different types of riders. The GSX-8S might be slightly more expensive than the competition, but it brings extra features and feels more special in general.

The “special” part is the chassis, braking and handling, three main pillars that make motorcycling fun and unique. The GSX-8S comes with KYB suspension components and overall suspension tuning feels much more premium than the Yamaha MT-07, which is the biggest competitor considered as a threshold for so many years. The suspension is non-adjustable but tuned correctly at the factory, so unlike the MT-07, you don’t feel that you need to upgrade it right off the dealer lot, as it feels firmer and much more confidence-inspiring at the limit.

The front end is not bouncy when you push the limits, the rear shocks can actually handle the weight, and the chassis always gives accurate feedback to the rider. The end result is, that you can carry the speed much better, and lean with more confidence. On the corner exits and straight lines, the bike has a very usable, and predictable powerband that can be quite fast and fun at higher RPMs. It always wants to be ridden in a spirited fashion to reveal its potential, and when you do – it is a rewarding experience with no unnecessary drama.

The firmer suspension setup also helps during high-speed braking. The GSX-8S has minimal front-end diving at the limit, but it is in a much controllable fashion and gives a lot of confidence to the rider. The brake lever provides great feedback and smooth modulation even at the limit. The 4-piston dual Nissin calipers along with dual 310mm discs offer adequate stopping power and it performs exactly the same even at repetitive hard braking.

The Verdict

It’s still unclear if the GSX-8S will be the new “SV”, and it also makes me question the future of the SV650. Either way, the new GSX-8S is a huge step forward for the brand and it is one of my favorite choices of 2023. Suzuki has studied the competition exceptionally well. They created a faster, more fun and more well-rounded alternative to the Yamaha MT-07, with much better handling character and braking performance. Instead of bringing an updated SV650, they developed the GSX-8S from the ground up to satisfy a wider range of audience, and I think that was the right move.

Engine776cc, liquid-cooled, transverse parallel-twin, DOHC
Max Power83 hp @ 8,500 rpm
Max Torque57.5 lb-ft @ 6,800 rpm
Front BrakesDual four-piston Nissin calipers with 310mm discs
Rear BrakesSingle two-piston Nissin caliper with 260mm disc
Weight445 lbs – 202 kg
Fuel Capacity3.7 gallons – 14 L
Seat Height31.9 in – 810 mm
Base Price (2023)$10,749 (CAD)

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