Road Test

Suzuki Suzuki's GSX-R: the full history

A look at the most revolutionary sportsbike, in all its forms...

Details
Manufacturer:
Suzuki
Category:
Sportsbikes
Price:
£ 8800
Overall
Not rated

OUR MASSIVE GSX-R history - now it's the 21st Century Gixxers, from the 2000 GSX-R750 to today's GSX-R1000R

2000 GSX-R750

If the SRAD was a return to form for the GSX-R750, the 2000 bike was a yet another leap forward. By now, 900cc-1000cc machines like the Fireblade, ZX-9R and Yamaha R1 were the hot ticket, and Suzuki would be jumping on that bandwagon soon, but the 2000 GSX-R750 proved there was still life in the smaller superbike class. Weighing just 166kg dry and making 141hp, it’s a GSX-R750 with numbers that still wouldn’t look out of place today, 18 years later.

2001 GSX-R600

In 2001, a year after the GSX-R750 was completely revamped, the GSX-R600 got the same updates, albeit with the usual formula of cheaper suspension (conventional, not inverted forks, for instance). Power was pegged at 115hp – more than the GSX-R750 had been making a few years earlier.

2001 GSX-R1000

These days 1000cc superbikes are very much the standard bearers for manufacturers, but back at the turn of the millennium they were still something extra, over and above the ‘normal’ 750cc machines. Hence the pioneers of the class – the FireBlade and the Yamaha R1 in particular – were actually developed using earlier 750cc machines as their bases. And the same applies to the first generation GSX-R1000.

You only need to look at the 2001 bike to see that it’s a virtual clone of the same era’s GSX-R750 and GSX-R600. Sure, the frame was beefed up a bit, but the engine was effectively a bored and stroked 750 and even the bodywork was largely similar. 

It didn’t matter, though. The GSX-R1000 was an instant hit, with 160hp in a 170kg machine (dry), it blew away both the R1 and the Blade, not to mention the ZX-9R.

2003 GSX-R1000

Two years used to be about as long a life as any generation of top-line sports bike had, so by 2003 the GSX-R1000 was due for a revamp. With it, the machine started to move away from the GSX-R600 and 750, gaining a more distinctly different frame, even if the styling would be aped by the following year’s 600 and 750. Power rose to 162hp, weight dropped to 168kg...

2004 GSX-R750/GSX-R600

In K4 form the GSX-R got another new chassis, cutting weight even further to a scant 163kg (dry) and power rose again – this time hitting a claimed 145hp. As was now usual, it shared its chassis and styling with the smaller GSX-R600 and was again a motorcycling sweet spot for those who were persuaded to move away from the 1000cc herd.

The smaller 600cc version saw power rise to 125hp and gained upside-down forks and radial brake calipers. 

2005 GSX-R1000

People still talk in hushed tones of the legendary ‘K5’ GSX-R1000, and even Suzuki likes to make reference to the bike in saying its current GSX-S models are derived from the same engine. It was huge step forward and one of the best superbikes ever made, with no caveats. A new engine – now 999cc rather than the original version’s odd 988cc capacity – saw power up to 170hp, while dry weight took another dip to 166kg. For the first time, the hp figure was bigger than the kg one.

2006 GSX-R750/GSX-R600

Another new frame, new styling and a new engine hitting the magic 150hp mark came to the GSX-R750 in 2006. The exhaust, almost completely hidden in the bellypan, helps make this generation another styling high point for the series. Its on-paper figures mightn’t look much different to its predecessor – at 163kg it weighed the same – but the 2006 bike was a completely new machine. In many ways, it’s the one that still lives on to this day, albeit with upgrades in most areas.

The GSX-R600 again mirrored the changes of the GSX-R750, but remained at 125hp while weighing 161kg.

2007 GSX-R1000

By now Suzuki was settling into a rhythm; the GSX-R1000 was updated on odd-numbered years, the 750 on even-numbers, so there was always a new Suzuki superbike to talk about. But the 2007 GSX-R1000 update had a tough job to surpass the achievements of the 2005 version. Pesky emissions rules meant a larger exhaust, increasing weight to 172kg. Suzuki hit back with more power – a claimed 185hp – and clever electronics, debuting the idea of selectable riding modes that’s become so normal these days. The K7 still doesn’t get the retrospective love of the K5, though.

2008 GSX-R750/GSX-R600

Largely the same as its predecessor in mechanical terms, the 2008 GSX-R750 was restyled again and responded to tightening emissions rules with a larger exhaust. Business as usual with the smaller GSX-R600, too, taking on the same updates.

2009 GSX-R1000

Another odd-numbered year, another new GSX-R1000. The 2009 version was a completely new one, though – with clean-sheet designs for the engine, frame and bodywork. We finally got a modern, ‘stacked’ gearbox layout, allowing the whole bike to be shorter, and the engine was a shorter-stroke, higher-revving design, although peak power didn’t increase over its predecessor.

By now, though, the competition was hotter than ever and the K9 GSX-R1000, while not the dog its designation might suggest, couldn’t match the latest Blade, ZX-10R or R1. Oh, and BMW and Aprilia were both getting in on the 1000cc four-cylinder market, too…

2011 GSX-R750/GSX-R600

Still sticking to the same basic engine design introduced in the 2006 model, the 2011 machine still managed to move the game forward in a market where all its rivals had long since left the 750cc superbike class. At 148hp, Suzuki didn’t boost the bike’s power, but the firm did manage to lose even more weight. The bike came in at just 156kg dry, with a more compact chassis and shorter wheelbase. Electronics is increasingly the focus, with selectable rider modes making an appearance. Since 2011 Suzuki has rather ignored the GSX-R750, although another new model is rumoured for 2019.

Again, the GSX-R600 has been all but identical in most respects to the 750 ever since 2011, apart from its engine size, of course.

2012 GSX-R1000

Slowing sales and the tough economy meant that the old two-yearly update schedule was out of the window by the time the 2012 GSX-R1000 emerged. And even then it was really more of a mild work-over of the previous generation, which had appeared in 2009. Tweaks to the suspension and engine improved it, no question, but by this stage the GSX-R1000 was starting to carve a niche as the cheapest of the 1000cc superbikes, rather than the best.

2017 GSX-R125

Suzuki came oh-so-close to launching a learner-legal GSX-R125 in around 2009 – to the point that there are design images of the bike floating around on the internet – but it didn’t actually happen until 2017’s machine was shown. The little water-cooled, DOHC, four-valve single pushes out around 15hp and, allied to a wet weight of just 134kg, makes for about the sportiest, fastest learner-legal 125 on the market these days. A twin-cylinder 250-300cc GSX-R is widely expected to make its debut within a few months.

2017 GSX-R1000

Finally, some eight years after the previous model made its debut, Suzuki got around to developing a new GSX-R1000 for 2017. For the first time, it’s offered in two forms – the basic machine or the ‘R’ version – and both feature the clever, all-mechanical variable valve timing system that Suzuki pioneered on its MotoGP GSX-RR. Power is up to 199hp, weight is now more realistically quoted ‘wet’ at 201kg, giving a real-world performance that’s far better than any previous GSX-R1000. Finally, the bike’s electronics are up to snuff, too, with all the latest in traction control and ABS kit. The GSX-R1000R gets better Showa suspension and Brembo brakes, too.

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