Suzuki DR-Z400S looks like an off-road machine and it is - with all the unmatched performance capabilities you’d expect from a Suzuki. But look a little more carefully and you’ll see you get a bonus: it’s 100-percent street legal.
The exceptional off-road performance of the DR-Z400S comes as no surprise. After all, it uses the same advanced suspension as the renowned DR-Z400E. Also featuring lightweight, compact design that helps it offer crisp handling everywhere from tight, technical trails to wide-open fire roads, making it a real thrill to ride.
In the 1970s, emission regulations virtually vanished gas-and-oil burners from American streets and the two-stroke dominated dual-purpose class needed a step further which was made by Honda XL250 in 1972. By the end of the ‘70s, specialization had transformed dual-purpose motorcycles from everyman machines to something of a cult item as their single cylinder engines were considered underpowered on the highway, and yet their four-stroke cycles were also viewed as too cumbersome for serious dirt excursions.
Dual purpose bike were an inadvertent victim of encroaching specialization.
In 1990, Suzuki worked to change that perception with its introduction of the DR350S. Now called “dual sport” bikes, the DR was lighter, better suspended and delivered superior handling compared to its predecessors. Of course, the Europeans were offering competitive machines, but their bikes were relatively crude for street use. Ten years later, Suzuki again redefined the dual sport paradigm with the DR-Z400S, a liquid-cooled, DOHC machine that enjoyed generous functional commonality and established new standards in the class.
In its first year of production it was named “2000 Bike of the Year” and it featured a kick start. Colors available were blue, yellow and black.
2002 brings ignition upgrades as the manufacturer decided that the dual purpose toy must feature an electric starter instead of a kick start and it did.
Future years didn’t bring any technical upgrades and I can understand why: if a product sales and produces joy, why change it? Maybe you’ll get the recipe wrong (we all know that this is not the case). Only visual changes were made so the blue Suzuki featured different decals each year continuing the beautiful story.
Suzuki has developed many dual sport models which have virtually no competition as Suzuki makes sure that dual sport motorcycles really make a statement and maintain a certain line but street legality also. In fact this is what makes a dual sport what it is: the fact that it has a headlight, mirrors, indicators, and with the given cylinder capacity, no other manufacturer met the requests of the market in order to compete with the Suzuki at the given cylinder capacity.
When designing the DR-Z400S Suzuki decided to maintain the lines and overall look of the bike’s little brother, the DR200SE. In fact, the subject of this review looks like a DR200SE on steroids and it suits him very good. Suzuki is basing that the image which first attracted a rider as a starter will follow him on the next level marked by the much stronger DR-Z400S so the actual bike features a high front fender covering the front wheel which, like the rear wheel, features great looking spokes creating a cool look in contrast with the colors available for 2008: black or blue. Headlight and mirrors have the purpose of completing the bike’s look but the main goal is street legality.
My first joy on the new Suzuki RM-ZS was the electric start which gets the show going much easier than swinging out a kick start lever and performing the well known balance while bringing the engine to life. Once started, the 400cc transmits a minimal amount of vibration to the frame holding it. Being a four-stroke, single cylinder, dry-sump engine with dual overhead cams, 4 valves and liquid cooling, the revvy strong motor which can also be found on Suzuki’s quadsport performs excellent in any given conditions. So even if you are admiring the view while slowly riding in the first gear or climbing a steep hill, the motor will perform its task spotless.
The slick shifting 5-speed transmission provides the flexibility needed by such a motorcycle. Short, precise throws slot the next higher or lower gear with little importance or effort. Use of the clutch is largely optional, but should you decide to use it, engagement is wide and no matter how you may abuse it, you will hear no complains.
Once moving and going through the gears, the bike’s lightness will become very obvious. Although not as light as its dirt only sibling, the DR-Z400S makes a sacrifice for street legality and has a claimed dry weight of 291lb. As I started to quickly steer at tight corners, I noticed that although handling is no problem, stability is an advantage two. The oil reservoir which is known as the frame at Suzuki RM-Z400S is made of chromoly-steel, a light but strong material which really adds a plus to the bike’s maneuverability.
Another charming element of the chassis is the plush suspension which can handle any type of terrain and riding style problems excluded. But if you are an exacting kind of guy you can adjust the preload between dirt and street riding as you please.
Stopping doesn’t involve any kind of trouble at all as the disc brakes, one up front and one out back do their magic and the engine’s power seems to fade away when hitting the brake controls.
But for great grip in the process of braking, good quality tires are needed and Suzuki provided. Both front and rear end kept steady while powerful braking out on the streets and that is mostly due to tire quality which obviously Suzuki features. Am I talking about slick tires? No way! The tires mounted on the RM-ZS are perfect off the road two and this is what is so great about this motorcycle: the ability of going anywhere at any given moment and do whatever you please on a perfectly adaptable motorcycle.
Your second step in trail riding can be easily marked by the Suzuki RM-Z400, a versatile off-road machine with great on road abilities. Being offered for a MSRP of $5,599, it is also affordable and ready to carry you deeper into the forests.
Off-road or on the street, the DR-Z400S provides strong torque across the powerband and amazing throttle response. By featuring remarkably smooth performance, complemented by conveniences such as electric starting and a compact, easy-to-read instrument cluster, the 2008 Suzuki DR-Z400S is a tough package to beat on the trail or cross town.
Engine and Transmission
Type: four-stroke, single cylinder, DOHC, 4-valve, liquid cooled
Bore x Stroke: 90 x 62.6mm
Compression Ratio: 11.3:1
Fuel System: MikuniT BSR36
Lubrication: Dry sump
Final Drive: #520 chain
Chassis and Dimensions
Suspension Front: Telescopic, oil damped, adjustable compression and rebound damping
Suspension Rear: Link-type, fully adjustable spring preload, adjustable compression and rebound damping
Brakes Front: Single hydraulic disc
Brakes Rear: Single hydraulic disc
Tires Front: 80/100-21
Tires Rear: 120/90-18
Overall Length: 2310mm (90.9 in.)
Overall Width: 875mm (34.4 in.)
Overall Height: 1230mm (48.4 in.)
Seat Height: 935mm (36.8 in.)
Ground Clearance: 300mm (11.8 in.)
Wheelbase: 1485mm (58.5 in.)
Dry Weight: 132 kg (291 lbs.)
Fuel Tank Capacity: 10 liter (2.64 gal.)
Color: Black, Blue
-Suzuki’s industry-leading Dual Sport model that combines the best on and off-road features in a lightweight package
-Smooth throttle response with a MikuniT BSR36 CV-type carburetor fed by 6-liter airbox. The left side cover has quick-release fasteners for easy access to the air filter
Thermostatically-controlled cooling fan mounted to the left radiator helps maintain consistent operating temperature in traffic
398cc, DOHC, liquid-cooled, dry-sump engine produces strong low-rpm power
Electric start with lightweight starter motor and a compact 6.5 amp maintenance-free battery
Compact 4-valve cylinder head with 36mm intake valves, 29mm exhaust valves, narrow 28 degree included valve angle and shim-under-bucket valve adjustment system
Automatic decompression system for quick/easy engine starts
SCEM-plated cylinder (nickel-silicon-phosphorous) is lighter and more durable than an iron liner with excellent heat transfer properties
Forged aluminum piston is 10% lighter than a cast piston and receives additional oil-cooling to the piston crown through a crankcase oil jet
Compact 5-speed transmission utilizes a cable-operated clutch with separate outer cover for simplified clutch maintenance
-Compact digital instrument cluster with speedometer, odometer, twin-trip meters with addition/subtraction capability, clock, timer and stopwatch functions
On-road legal lighting with bright 60/55 watt halogen headlight, compact tail/stoplight, lightweight, rubber-mounted turn signals and horn
Narrow profile with smooth transitions between the tank, seat and bodywork
Chrome-moly steel frame is torsion-strong with minimal weigh. The backbone tube, front down tube, and steering head gussets from the dry-sump engine oil tank
A bolt-on aluminum subframe helps reduce weight and simplify maintenance
Long travel, 49mm cartridge-style forks feature adjustable compression/rebound damping and adjustable spring preload for all types of on/off-road terrain
A fully-adjustable rear shock absorber with high/low speed compression damping adjuster and aluminum swingarm for precise rear wheel control
Sure stopping power is supplied by a 250mm front disc brake with dual-piston caliper, and a 220mm rear disc brake with a single-piston caliper
Chrome-moly steel footpegs, aluminum rims/hubs, plus engine guard and rear disc guard