2017 Suzuki V-Strom 650 / V-Strom 650XT
Adventure bikes are definitely a thing, and aren’t showing any sign of going away anytime soon, and Suzuki’s V-Strom (Deutsch for stream) is definitely one of the major players advancing the cause, as it were. A couple of years ago, Suzuki made the decision to drop the V-Strom 650 Adventure, and focus its energies on the base model 650 and 650XT. The result is palpable with a number of improvements for the 2017 model year that will likely endear these rides to their fans even more. This year we have more power, plus a traction control system to help manage said power as well as some nifty aesthetic tweaks and more, so join me while I take a look at what the factory has in store for us.
Continue reading for my review of the Suzuki V-Strom 650 and V-Strom 650XT.
2017 Suzuki V-Strom 650 / V-Strom 650XT
Right off the bat I’m a fan of the new fairing and headlight arrangement. That’s right, I said it. I prefer the slight bird’s beak to the blunt entry used on the previous versions. The over-under headlight setup is a nice bonus too, and not as sophomoric-looking as the previous side-by-side, robot-eye arrangement.
Gone is the boring old windshield with a high-tech looking screen to take its place. The new screen comes vented to reduce head buffeting at speed and sports a three-position height adjustment to accommodate a variety of body types. A molded plastic front fender rides over the top of the front wheel with built-in guards to protect the inner fork tubes and seals from grit and debris.
The front blinkers ride on short standoffs, and represent one of the few negatives that come to mind, ’cause it’s too easy to go ahead run all-in-one front turn signal mirrors. Aft from there we have the usual high fuel-tank bump, but this year sees a narrowing at the tank’s rear to produce a slimmer waist for easier ground access.
A moderately scooped, slip-resistant saddle contains the rider’s butt during hard acceleration, and the p-pad and grab rail is sufficient for passenger comfort. Also new for this year is the lightweight luggage rack and quick-connect hardpoints that allow for rapid reconfiguration when it’s time to slap on some carrying capacity for a bona fide adventure, or perhaps just a grocery-getting mission.
Most riders will find the rider triangle to encourage a bit of a forward-leaning posture, but the foot controls are mounted low and in-line with the rider’s hips for a natural feel in the standing riding position — just what you need for rough roads and light off-road terrain.
Suzuki retained its twin-spar aluminum frame to keep things light and rigid, though I feel like I have to point out it doesn’t look half as cool as a nice exposed Trellis. All the same, it does the job and uses the engine as a stressed member to complete the assembly. Naturally, this leaves the mill in a bit of an exposed position, and while the XT comes with a stock skid plate to protect the vulnerable mill, buyers of the base model will have to go to the accessories catalog if they want that extra bit of protection.
Both models sport 19-inch front and 17-inch rear Bridgestone BATTLAX hoops, but while the base model comes with 10-spoke cast rims, the XT shows a more off-road-tastic bent with laced rims in either black or gold.
The aluminum swingarm works with the link-type rear shock that sports a spring preload adjuster, but the 43 mm, rwu front forks come with fixed parameters and nothing in the way of adjustments. Not surprising, but still a tad disappointing.
A pair of 310 mm front discs and dual-pot, Tokico calipers slow the front wheel with a single-pot Nissin caliper to bite the 260 mm disc on the rear and ABS protection all around.
Suzuki tweaked and updated the 645 cc mill for the ’17 model year, boasting a more robust bottom-end and mid-range torque delivery. I haven’t had a chance to throw a new V-Strom on the dynamometer yet, but if last year’s numbers are any indication, we’re looking at right around 66 ponies and 43 pounds of grunt.
Among the new features and components are low-friction pistons that benefit from the Suzuki Composite Electrochemical Material process. The 39 mm throttle bodies boast ten-hole injectors as well as the Suzuki Dual Throttle Valve that allows the Engine Control Module to strike a balance between demand at the wrist and what the engine can smoothly deliver.
This in turn enables the Throttle-body Integrated Idle Speed Control as well as the Low RPM Assist. The latter increases rpm slightly when in gear with the clutch pulled in — a measure taken to provide stall-free takeoffs — but I look at it as another crutch that replaces skill with technology. ’Course, the same could be said of the two-channel traction control system, but I find that less obtrusive and more desirable regardless of skill level, and it can be turned off altogether for off-road work where a certain amount of slip can be desirable.
The water-cooled, 90-degree V-twin uses dual overhead cams to time the valvetrain with dual-spark heads for positive flame-front propagation. Oversquare, the bore measures out at 81 mm with a 62.6 mm stroke and is moderately spicy with an 11.2-to-1 compression ratio.
To help keep the rider cool, the radiator shroud boasts deflectors that direct the heated air away from the rider’s legs. A standard, non-slipper clutch makes the connection between engine power and the six-speed transmission, and the top-gear ratio is rather tall to keep rpm down on the interstate. The final connection to the rear wheel comes courtesy of the tough, O-ring chain drive.
Priced to move, the base-model V-Strom 650 rolls for a mere $8,799, while the XT trim package boosts that up a bit to $9,299. This price includes the 12-month limited warranty, with extended plans available for a bit more coin.
One has to look no further than the 2017 Kawasaki lineup to find a worthy competitor in the Versys 650. These companies follow similar, but not identical, design philosophies, so let’s see how they stack up, shall we?
First off, the Versys has a side-by-side headlight arrangement similar to the previous V-Strom look, and you can go ahead and pencil me in as not a fan. The over-under setup on the V-Strom looks better, and allows for a slimmer, trimmer front fairing. Kawi maintains those typical, adventure-bike flylines across the tank and saddle, but lack the luggage rack and quick-connect bag hardware that gives the V-Strom a certain flexibility and convenience.
The Versys sports an asymmetrical, gull-wing swingarm with an offset, coil-over monoshock, and I really like the looks of that but have to concede it doesn’t actually perform any better than the central-mount shock and straight-yoke swingarm favored by Suzuki. As always, looks are subjective to taste, but I’m liking the looks of the V-Strom a heck of a lot more than the Versys.
Kawi scores with the suspension though. The 41 mm front forks may be a bit smaller than the 43 mm V-Strom stems, but not only are the Versys forks of the inverted style, they also come with adjustable rebound and preload for some ride control you just don’t get from the V-Strom. Both sport ABS protection with dual front calipers for plenty of safe braking power.
I gotta say that overall, the Versys is a little disappointing in the tech department. It’s got no traction control, takeoff assist or any of the fandanglery the V-Strom brings to the table, and comes off looking rather vanilla. In fact, other than the shining star in the adjustable front suspension, the only thing the Versys has going for it is its $8,099 price tag, but I submit to you that the electronic engine wizardry on the V-Strom more than makes up for the extra seven bills you’ll have to unass. In short, Suzuki just shoved Kawi into the locker and broke out the shaving cream. Bigtime.
“Suzuki’s V-Strom line is really maturing, and while this technically isn’t a third generation model, the changes this year almost qualify it as such. Without a doubt, this is now my fave ADV in the 650 cc bracket, even if there’s room for improvement in the suspension adjustments.”
My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, "I looked at the V-Strom 650 last year and I liked it well enough, but wasn’t really drawn in. This year with the improvements Suzuki made, the V-Strom 650 is looking a bit better in my eyes and seems to be a contender for that adventure/commuter market that is so popular now."
|Engine:||645cc, 4-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC 90 degree V-Twin|
|Bore x Stroke:||81.0 x 62.6 mm (3.2 x 2.5 in.)|
|Compression Ratio:||11.2: 1|
|Fuel System:||Suzuki Fuel Injection, SDTV-equipped|
|Transmission:||6-speed, constant mesh|
|Clutch:||Wet, multi-plate type|
|Suspension Front:||Telescopic, coil spring, oil damped|
|Suspension Rear:||Link type, single shock, coil spring, oil damped|
|Brakes Front:||Tokico 2-piston calipers, Disc, twin|
|Brakes Rear:||Nissin, 1-piston, Disc single|
|Tire Front:||Bridgestone BATTLAX, 110/80R19 M/C (59V) tubeless|
|Tire Rear:||Bridgestone BATTLAX, 150/70R17 M/C (69), tubeless|
|Wheels:||Ten-spoke cast wheels (650XT: Spoke-style wheels)|
|Hand Guards:||Optional Accessory (650XT: Standard)|
|Lower Engine Cowl:||Optional Accessory (650XT: Standard)|
|Fuel Tank Capacity:||20.0 L (5.3 US gallons)|
|Ignition:||Electronic ignition (Transistorized)|
|Headlight||:12V 65W (H9 high-beam) & 12V 55W (H7 low-beam)|
|Overall Length:||2275 mm (89.6 in.)|
|Overall Width:||839 mm (32.9 in.) (650XT: 910 mm (35.8 in.))|
|Wheelbase:||1560 mm (61.4 in.)|
|Ground Clearance:||170 mm (6.7 in.)|
|Seat Height:||830 mm (32.7 in.)|
|Curb Weight:||213 kg (470 lbs.) (650XT: 216 kg (476 lbs.))|
|Warranty:||12-month, unlimited mileage, limited warranty|
|Extensions:||Coverage extension and additional benefits are available|
|Colors:||White (650XT: Black, Yellow)|