By Alan Dowds
THE Old Lady is what fans call Juventus – the most famous of the two football teams in Turin. It’s a term of endearment for one of the oldest teams in the country, and the most successful Italian team in terms of trophies won.
But it’s another Old Lady we’re here in Turin today to meet – Suzuki’s Burgman 400 is the original super-scooter, launched almost 20 years ago now, in 1998. It transformed the modern scooter sector from a purely urban transport tool, into a much more capable performer, that could take on motorways and dual carriageways, giving a comfy, capacious and clean commuting option.
Back then, the biggest scoots were the rather niche 250s – Yamaha’s Majesty and Honda’s Foresight – which didn’t offer a lot more performance than the smaller machines. The 400 had a very welcome extra wad of torque and power over the 250s, with enough top-end for motorway cruising. It was very much a luxury mega-scoot though, with plenty of bodywork- and a tendency to feel a bit lardy at times. An update on 2006 gave the medium Burgman more power and kit, but she was still very much a ‘big-boned’ beastie, closer to the top guns in the sector like Honda’s Silver Wing and the 650 Burgman than the smaller 300-class machines.
But now, Suzuki’s given the 400 scoot a slimming makeover. Engineers have shaved away the bodywork, giving a sleeker rear end and narrower frontal aspect, and they’ve also trimmed the weight by a chunky seven kilos to 215kg. On the chassis front, the frame is a new, stiffer setup, and the front wheel goes up from a 14-inch rim to a 15-incher, for improved stability and a more ‘motorbike’ feel. A new dash, and revised storage spaces complete the picture of a sportier bike, and that’s confirmed by a more involved riding position, angled a little more forward than the laid-back stance on the old bike.
The changes to the engine are a bit ‘curate’s egg’ – good in parts. An overhaul was needed to meet the stiff Euro-4 emissions regs of course, so the new lump is fully compliant. It’s good to see an increase in the low-down torque; Suzuki has moved the peak figure down 200rpm, and added a couple of foot-pounds. But the downside is at the top end, where there’s been a horsepower or two lopped off. Fuel consumption is down as well though, so there’s an extra 20 miles or so in claimed maximum range, which might save you a fuel stop or two each week.
Presentation over, and we’re ready to ride. Turin is a typical Italian city – packed with beautiful architecture, great food and lovely women, but a disaster in terms of traffic most of the time. We’ve struck lucky today though: it’s a Sunday, and the first week of the Italian August break, so the place is gently bustling rather than totally bonkers. The first impressions as I chase the Suzuki test rider past old Roman facades are good – that extra dollop of low-down torque is very welcome away from the lights, and I can keep up with the V-Strom 650 ahead quite easily. The brakes are good, especially at the back, and the ABS is a welcome safety net on the ancient polished cobblestones in the old city. The Dunlop Scootsmart rubber is good, with decent feel from the front end, but there is the odd skip and slide from the back if you catch a bump or slippy patch when on the gas. Nothing horrendous, but it did make me wonder if Suzuki considered even a basic traction control setup. Yamaha was proud of the one on its X-MAX 300 launched earlier this year, and it seems like an attractive selling point for less-experienced riders, particularly for riding in wet conditions.
CLICK NEXT TO READ PAGE TWO OF OUR 2017 SUZUKI BURGMAN 400 REVIEW.