Last November, Suzuki introduced a new 776cc parallel-twin engine and two motorcycles that it would initially power—an ADV bike and an upright semi-naked sportbike. We tested the 2023 Suzuki V-Strom 800DE adventure motorcycle in February, and now it’s time to go riding on the 2023 Suzuki GSX-8S sportbike.
- The 2023 Suzuki GSX-8S is an absolutely all-new motorcycle. Suzuki slipped the liquid-cooled DOHC twin into a fresh chassis that uses a steel trellis frame and an aluminum swingarm. KYB handles suspension duties, and Dunlop Sportmax Roadsport 2 tires handle the motorcycle/road interface.
- Suzuki cleverly positioned the new 8S in a virtually unused slot between common categories. With a list price of $8849, the 8S is more expensive than the Japanese 650/700 offerings, yet noticeably lower-priced than Japan’s triple/inline-four 900 class options. This reflects the displacement of the 8S, which also slides effortlessly into the gap. As we’ll explain, the 8S carves out a legitimate niche between those two popular classes, expanding the choices of motorcycle-buying customers. The only bike close in intention is the 2023 KTM 790 Duke—also a parallel twin—which returns to the US this year at a price $350 higher than the 2023 Suzuki GSX-8S.
- Suzuki imbued the GSX-8S with standard ergonomics accented toward sporting responsibilities. The flat-bend handlebar is low-rise and comfortably wide, with the footpegs centrally mounted and high enough to allow plenty of cornering clearance. There’s definitely a substantial feel to the 8S that you don’t get in the 650/700 class. According to Suzuki insiders, the 8S is equally functional for urban/suburban transport and weekend canyon carving. That claim made us anxious to see how it takes care of both jobs, and how effectively.
- Regardless of where you ride the 2023 Suzuki GSX-8S, the motor is the star of the show. Featuring a 270-degree firing order tempered by a highly effective new patented counterbalancing scheme, the DOHC twin produces impressive power from idle to its redline at 9750 rpm. The low-rpm muscle powers self-assuredly through the midrange. If you resist the temptation to make a midrange shift to stick with the meaty low-rpm torque, the motor gets a second wind that makes the upper half of the rev range a gift to more aggressive sport riders and those getting up to speed on a freeway onramp. We liked the motor in the V-Strom 800DE; however, the mill truly shines in the 62 pounds lighter 8S.
- Riding around town is effortless and fun on the 8S. The riding position is comfortable for all-day urban exploration, and the smoothness of the motor, particularly in the low end of the rev range, means you don’t get tired from riding it. Riders coming up from the 650/700 (or smaller) class will find the 8S to feel a bit stodgy when weaving through traffic, though riders of larger bikes dropping down will find it a relatively agile ride.
- Three power modes give distinctive options for city riding. Suzuki goes with three modes—A (Active), B (Basic), and C (Comfort). The A mode is the most aggressive, with a snappy throttle response. If you aren’t disciplined with your wrist, prepare to tolerate a jerky ride. Selecting the B mode via the left handlebar’s switch gear and easily read TFT display balances smooth throttle response while retaining satisfying acceleration. Unless you’re a new rider, save the C mode for the rain, or if you unexpectedly find yourself on an unpaved road. There are also three levels of traction control available, plus off, though there aren’t stark differences between them. Note that at full throttle, all three modes behave identically—the distinctions are at partial throttle settings.
- Despite sporting an assist function, the clutch requires some grip strength, which can become noticeable when stuck in traffic for a while. Once underway, you can ignore the clutch lever for the most part, as the transmission boasts a standard quickshifter. While quickshifters can work great for sport riding, they aren’t as smooth at urban speeds. Plus, they are typically clunkier on twins than multis, especially on downshifts. Still, pulling away from traffic and snicking up through the gearbox sans clutch is a repeatable joy.
- The KYB suspension is plush on all but the biggest potholes and dips. The 8S never fully loses its composure on the rough roads that you get when transportation funds are misdirected by the city fathers. A light spring rate and moderate damping make for a smooth ride, at least until multiple bumps start to pack the suspension down a bit. Bigger bumps get muted, though nowhere near masked. The lighter you are, the more you’ll like the springs and damping settings from the factory. There are no damping adjustments at either end, though spring-preload changes are available for the shock when carrying a passenger.
- With 776cc on tap, the 2023 Suzuki GSX-8S is more than ready to take on freeways in the city limits. The motor will spin the bike up to 100 mph without much effort, making this a fantastic suburban commuter motorcycle. The smooth liquid-cooled powerplant shuttles you between work and home without fatigue-inducing vibration, and the chassis is impressively stable on rain-grooved freeways. The Dunlops make short work of rain grooves.
- Having taken care of the responsibilities of its owner earning a living, the 2023 Suzuki GSX-8S also endeavors to earn its keep by providing weekend entertainment. Rather than catering to the most aggressive riders—there are plenty of motorcycles for that demographic—the 8S is about a comfortable ride that can also be exhilarating.
- The motor is what makes the 8S happen in the twisties. The ability to twist the throttle and get things happening at any rpm makes the engine enticingly engaging. You either get a strong pull at low rpm, or a nice spin up in the upper reaches of the rev range. Unlike some twins, the 8S pulls to the redline, refusing to flatten out.
- Picking your correct power mode on the 8S won’t take long. It will come down to your throttle-twisting style and what sort of ride you want. Unintuitively, our hot shoe testers found the A mode to be a bit notchy and preferred the B mode for their aggressive throttle strategies. Less committed riders liked the responsiveness of the A mode and generally picked it over the slowed reaction of the B mode at partial throttle openings. That’s not to say B mode is slow, and if you get on the throttle hard, the 8S moves along insistently in B. However, if you’re less than hard on the throttle and don’t keep the revs up, B feels like there’s a rubber band connecting to the throttle body, rather than a cable. The 8S makes this all easy—switching between modes is simple, and the differences are clearly detectable.
- The 2023 Suzuki GSX-8S’s soft KYB suspension offers a reassuring ride, as long as you don’t push too hard. While the soft springs restrict wheel movement less, the damping prevents unsettling wallowing. Bumps aren’t too upsetting, as long as they aren’t repetitive. Heavier, faster riders could move through the shock’s entire stroke on hard acceleration and on g-outs. Lighter and less demanding riders simply enjoyed the confidence the softer ride and stable inverted fork provided.
- While not everyone was satisfied with the suspension settings—they rarely are—the S8’s stable geometry gave all test riders the confidence to push it within their boundaries. Average riders will enjoy testing the edge grip of the Dunlop Sportmax Roadsport 2 tires, and maybe dreaming about an upgrade if they ride in the twisties frequently. At no time does the 8S behave in a manner that causes concern. Again, Suzuki’s engineers decided that they wanted lesser riders to feel welcome to probe their limits, and acted accordingly.
- The GSX-8S is a fun motorcycle to ride fast, and doesn’t do anything untoward along the way. Suzuki shaded the 8S toward stability, which is about right for a bike not aimed at the hardest-core sport rider. The 180mm rear tire slows down direction changes, as does the conservative geometry that asserts 25 degrees of rake and 4.1 inches of trail. Direction changes through esses require effort by the rider, though the S8 follows the instructions to the letter. Top speed is around 125 mph, and the GSX-8S feels solid as you test the performance limits of the motor.
- The brakes and quickshifter do their parts to accommodate acceleration and deceleration. A pair of 310mm discs and radially mounted four-piston Nissin calipers will slow things down when needed. The brakes have a light initial touch, preventing unsettling the bike on engagement, and working great when you’re back in town. Pull hard on the lever, and they respond as expected, with the front Dunlop delivering the braking power to the pavement. A tap on the rear brake can help when you really need to drop anchor, with the 180mm Dunlop assisting the slowing process. Predictably, ABS will bail you out if you make an error. When winding the parallel twin up, the quickshifter is excellent, though downshifts aren’t quite so refined even with the slipper clutch.
- The Suzuki GSX-S1000 is quite jealous of the GSX-8S’s TFT display. The GSX-S1000 is stuck with an aging LCD dash that few like, while the 8S has a nice bright and colorful screen. The only adjustments are for the power mode and traction control, so that keeps things simple. When not making rider aid changes, you can scroll through different info, including range and fuel consumption.
Suzuki was crafty when it came to positioning the new GSX-8S. Pricing it between the 650/700 and 900 classes and splitting the difference in gravitas means the 2023 Suzuki GSX-8S has little native competition. Engineers also didn’t cave to the temptation to go all-out with performance; instead, they tempered the 8S with usability. The result is a versatile semi-naked upright sportbike that will be a tempting upgrade for those graduating from the 300/400 class, while also making 650/700 owners more than a little envious—existing 900 riders likely won’t be desirous. Modern styling with stacked LED headlights only adds to the appeal.