Alex is out in Antibes, France, to ride the Route Napoleon on the 2023 Suzuki GSX-8S. Could this be the naked motorcycle worth checking out?
The mid-capacity A2-friendly segment gets that bit hotter with the launch of the 2023 Suzuki GSX-8S. With a brand new 776cc parallel-twin engine with 82 bhp, a new frame, and fresh ideas, could this be a streetfighter worth considering over the many alternatives and rivals?
It was a Côte d’Azur launch in Antibes for the GSX-8S, with 200 km of mountainous roads with stunning vistas to enjoy, and having ridden the Suzuki V-Strom 800DE with the same motor within, Alex was flying out to get his hands on the latest motorcycle from the Hamamatsu marque.
It’s a motorcycle that Suzuki is immensely proud of, and having had previous success with the popular GSX-S1000 and GSX-S1000GT, it was the turn of the A2-licence compliant segment for what could be a great contender for the likes of the Honda CB750 Hornet, Yamaha MT-07, Triumph Trident 660… the list goes on, it’s a crowded market!
2023 Suzuki GSX-8S Price & Availability
Due for a late April/early May launch in the UK, the Suzuki GSX-8S is listed at £7,999 on the Suzuki website. Whack on a few of the customary on-the-road fees, and you’re looking at just over £8,000. In comparison, directly so, the new Honda CB750 Hornet is £6,999.
Finance deals (from the Suzuki website) indicate that it could be yours for £113 a month (over 37 months) if you put a grand down, and ride 3000 miles a year.
Colour options are Blue (a new-look blue to appeal to a younger crowd, apparently), White, or Black – the blue is particularly eye-popping bright, yet the black variant does look mean. Though perhaps that’s due to it masking the plastic panels.
A note on style. Subjectively, I like it, it’s sharper than the Honda Hornet and a bit of a head-turner. Even the underslung exhaust appeals.
The overall look & build quality is good, the stacked headlights and general style nodding towards its siblings in the GSX-S1000 & GSX-S750 – though this new 2023 parallel-twin edition does have a slight plastic ‘toy’ look to it in the blue, which may appeal to some, but does hamper the looks in my eyes. One rider was blessed with the metallic all-black option, and it was seriously stunning.
The exposed colour-matched subframe looks nice, it’s a compact package, and the underslung exhaust both looks & sounds naughty. Again, subjectively – others on social media have said it looks a bit ‘samey’. A tail-tidy is desperately in order, yet the rear brake light is nowhere to be seen on the rear cowl – an interesting omission stylistically.
Lastly, should you want to bolster the 8S, you can pick from practical and styling accessories from the catalogue – luggage, cowls, ‘carbon’ fuel caps & anodised levers. Even practical bits like a USB socket, GPS mount, and mirror extenders. Oh, and heated grips for us in the UK!
2023 Suzuki GSX-8S Engine
Powering the 2023 Suzuki GSX-8S is a 776cc parallel-twin, liquid-cooled and DOHC, with a 270º crank. Bore and stroke is 84 mm x 70 mm, and it’s quite simply a beautiful bit of kit to work with. It’s also the exact same motor as found in the new Suzuki V-Strom 800DE, something I reviewed at the two-day launch in Sardinia at the end of February.
There’s plenty of torque on offer at the low to mid rev range (reaching redline at around 9750 rpm), to the tune of 78 Nm of torque, with an assist-and-slipper clutch making town work a breeze, and paired to a 6-speed gearbox with bi-directional quickshifter as standard to aid you when pushing on.
The 8S is a motorcycle that seriously enjoys being pushed to the limit and ridden aggressively, so much so that it feels like it really starts to wake up and return you with more when giving it a good twist. You could easily hammer out your favourite local route and be eager to turn back and hit it again, it’s just quite simply joyous fun to push on atop this.
Luckily our route originated in the centre of Antibes by the beach, headed through the busy town and pointed towards the stunning mountainous area of Gréolières, and twisting around to enjoy the famous Route Napoleon. Not only was it a stunning experience, it really gave the bike the chance to shine and express its positive points in a range of environments.
Peak power is 82 BHP, and though I never felt like I was running out of power, towards redline the motor seemed to peter out a tad – quickly remedied by shifting up a gear to find a fresh set of torque waiting for you.
A key point on this motor is the newly patented Cross Balancer system, which sits a pair of balancers at 90º to the crankshaft, removing primary and secondary vibrations. It’s a noticeably calm bike to ride, and vibrations really are kept to a minimum when riding calmly – but it doesn’t eliminate all of the vibes, but it really does do a good job at enabling smooth riding.
Riders looking at an A2-friendly & ‘intermediate’ motorcycle would do well here, and as far as parallel-twins go, this is a seriously good one. Particularly as it is also so well-applied in the V-Strom 800DE.
2023 Suzuki GSX-8S Electronics
Suzuki has also decked out the 8S with the Suzuki Intelligent Ride System. 3 rider modes (A, B, C) with A being noticeably aggressive, and C being a gentle application of power through the ride-by-wire throttle. B mode is a good balance, but the most fun is (naturally) found in A mode.
You’ll also find 4 traction control modes, (Off, 1, 2, 3) which will handily remain in place when turning off the bike. The higher the number, the more intervention to limit wheel spin. I rode around in mode 1 for the most part, though the rear did get a tad squirmy on the cold damp roads in the mountains, but not enough to get my heart in my mouth.
Navigating the rider modes is simple, with a dedicated up/down switch and mode button, allowing you to change settings on the fly with a closed throttle. The 5-inch TFT display is also really well laid out, with optical bonding to ensure no glare at all, with an auto day/night mode toggled by the ambient light (or select your preference annually). You have all the usual suspects here, gear indicator, revs, odo, time, fuel gauge, etc. It really is a top display!
2023 Suzuki GSX-8S Frame, Suspension & Brakes
An all-new frame built with steel tubes, and an exposed rear subframe, does a great job of keeping the bike stable at speed, and agile in the corners. The total kerb weight is 202kg, and it feels really light on its feet – with a wheelbase which actually extends past the GSX-S 1000: at 1465 mm vs 1460 mm.
A seat height of 810 mm makes it accessible for the majority of riders, including lanky riders like me at 6’3”. I was one of (if not the) tallest on this ride, some of the Suzuki engineers even wanted a photo of me next to the bike, and a word on how comfy I found it. They even said some staff took the saddle into the office to sit at their desk on it during work days, to ensure it was comfy for long days.
I did find it surprisingly comfortable, finishing the ride with no aches and pains, though I’ve certainly sat on roomier machines. Naked motorcycles do tend to be compact, and the pegs were positioned under the seat, enabling a slight lean forward to the tapered wide bar for a slightly aggressive stance – but a comfy place to be.
Upside-down 41mm forks have a 130mm stroke, and are not adjustable. They were quite firm, and gave plenty of feedback on bumpier roads, on some occasions giving me a bit of a bounce mid-corner. It wasn’t horrendous, but on particularly rough roads (plenty of those in the UK) you’ll want to tread carefully.
The rear shock can be adjusted for preload and was a bit firm as well. Adjusting the preload can’t really be done on the fly, you’ll have to dive in there with a spanner to adjust it properly.
Finally, 17-inch front and rear hoops are given a twin floating 310 mm Nissin disc setup, with a single 240 mm rear disc. The braking power was superb, and if going in a little hot on a surprising tightening bend, they do a good job at scrubbing off speed. The span adjustable lever has a soft initial application, and the rear brake comes in nicely – though the ABS did come on quite quickly if wanting to stop yourself rapidly.
Dunlop Roadsport 2 tyres are the rubber of choice at the dealership, here, and when warm they’re alright, but when cold they were a bit suspect. I’d change them out to something else, personally. The rear is a big 180/55, too, which is always nice!
2023 Suzuki GSX-8S – The Naked Commuter
For those of you who may be considering the 8S as a daily commuting tool, here are a few spec bits to whet your whistle. A 14-litre tank will supposedly give you a 208-mile range – I was unable to test this on the 200 km route, as Suzuki sneakily filled up the bikes at lunch – but it was around 100 or so kilometres in, and the fuel gauge was half full (or half empty, depending on your take).
Accessory options include side cases and tank bags, but no top box option. On that point, the rear brake light is mounted to the licence plate holder, which extends far out from the tail of the bike, meaning a tail tidy would need to incorporate a brake light. It gives the bike a streetfighter feel, but in my opinion, it’s an odd choice not to have the brake light actually on the tail.
I’d say this bike is well positioned as a street commuter, it’s easy to ride in busy towns with nimble character, a really light clutch with good gearing, and comfy enough to ride for long stints. Interestingly, as this motor is shared with the V-Strom 800DE, I’d actually opt for the GSX-8S out of the two. The V-Strom was great fun to ride, and makes more sense as a touring commuter, but the 8S just has that little bit more charm, for me.
Seeing as it’s a ride-by-wire throttle, no cruise control is an odd omission, just as it was missed in the V-Strom 800DE.
2023 Suzuki GSX-8S | What we Like & Dislike
- Engine is brilliant, and in this streetfighter application, it’s superbly easy fun.
- In metallic black, the style is spot on.
- Loves being ridden hard!
- Firm suspension can shake you about.
- Dunlop RoadSport 2 hoops aren’t great (especially when cold).
- Not too keen on the colour range
2023 Suzuki GSX-8S Verdict & Conclusion
By all accounts, Suzuki seems to position this GSX-8S as its front-running prodigy. Having been on the well-attended launch of the V-Strom 800DE, it was clear that this upper-to-mid-capacity addition is a huge one for Suzuki’s future – the further insistence from the marketing blurbs would indicate their complete insistence that this new ‘streetfighter’ will be one to contend with the upper echelon’s of naked machinery.
If the new Honda Hornet is being repeatedly praised for its power, lighter weight, and overall simplicity (for a grand cheaper), Suzuki will hope this GSX-8S instantly inserts itself at the top, dethroning the eternal favourite MT-07 (along with all of the other popular naked bikes in the segment). From this initial first ride, that doesn’t seem all too far off the cards – it was simply great fun to ride.
It would be interesting to get these all together on a group test to have a direct comparison, but until then – the new Suzuki GSX-8S is a seriously fun motorcycle, interesting and quirky enough to attract attention, approachable enough to pootle about and commute on, yet just about crazy enough to keep the hairs on your arms on end after a weekend scratch – the first, fourth and 99th time.
Riding the stunning Route Napoleon, the jaw-dropping Gréolières area and coastal roads of the Côte d’Azur was a tremendous setting for the top-notch GSX-8S to show off its sharp qualities. It’s well worth a look,
Big thanks to Suzuki for having us on the launch, head to their website to find out more.