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ADV Bikes2017 Suzuki V-Strom 650 First Ride Review

2017 Suzuki V-Strom 650 First Ride Review

 The wee-strom gets lighter, faster, slimmer, easier to ride and a new look.

Published on 06.09.2017
Riding the 2017 Suzuki V-Strom 650 Off-Road

Ever since the V-Strom 650 was first introduced in 2004, its been one of Suzuki’s best selling models – some years outselling the V-Strom 1000 three to one. So it’s no surprise Suzuki has continued to keep it fresh with updates and improvements, despite going through a financial recovery in recent years.

The V-Strom 650, affectionately known as the wee-strom, was revamped in 2012 with better performance, more comfort, ABS and modernized styling. Shortly after, the V-Strom 650XT was introduced with tubeless, wire-spoke wheels, crash bars, a touring windscreen and an adventure beak. Now for 2017, both 650 models get a completely new look, performance improvements, several electronics advancements and more.

Lake Arrowhead, California provided the backdrop for the U.S. press launch of the new V-Strom 650 and 1000 models. The mountainous terrain offered a variety of twisty alpine roads and even a short stretch of dirt to sample the characteristics of Suzuki’s updated adventure tourers. Having logged more than a few thousand miles reviewing the 2015 V-Strom 650XT, I was looking forward to testing the latest iteration to see how the model has evolved.

Difference between V-Strom 650 Standard and XT models.
The ‘Standard’ V-Strom 650 (right) comes with cast wheels, while the V-Strom 650XT (left) gets tubeless wire-spoked wheels, hand guards with larger bar-end weights and a protective lower engine cowl as standard equipment.

Here’s What’s New

New bodywork gives the V-Strom 650 a fresh look that closely resembles the V-Strom 1000 in design and also improves interchangeability of parts within the line. But there are more than just visual changes for 2017. One of the biggest is the addition of a traction control system that continuously monitors wheel speeds, throttle opening, engine rpm and selected gear when adjusting engine output. Three levels of intervention (high, low and OFF) are provided and the system can be switched on-the-fly.

V-Strom 650 Traction Control
The V-Strom 650 now comes with Three-Mode Traction Control (1, 2 and OFF). Changes can be made ON-THE-FLY, but will not take effect until the throttle closes fully after the new mode is selected.

Improvements to the 645cc, V-Twin engine include new low-friction pistons and dual spark heads, along with updates to the throttle bodies and fuel injectors. The result is a boost in low to mid-range torque and an additional 5 peak horsepower (now 69.73 HP @ 8,800 RPM). Achieving the new Euro4 standards has also made the engine cleaner and more fuel efficient than ever before.

V-Stom 650 V-Twin engine
The 2017 V-Strom 650 now produces 69.73 HP @ 8,800 RPM, up from 64.4 HP @ 8,800 RPM on the previous year model.

Additionally, an under-chassis exhaust system helps narrow the rear of the bike, allowing factory hard boxes to fit more snugly. The width of the bike, with factory boxes installed, is 8.5 inches narrower than before, making it even easier to split lanes or maneuver rock-lined trails. The shared tail section makes it compatible with existing accessory luggage systems designed for the V-Strom 1000 since 2014, so you won’t have to wait for aftermarket companies to catch up with the new model configuration.

V-Strom 650 Hard Luggage
The factory hard luggage is 8.5″ narrower than before and all of the luggage systems previously developed for the V-Strom 1000 are now interchangeable.
Readouts for traction control level, gear position, air temp, fuel consumption and fuel level are all included on the advanced LCD instrument panel. A dash-mounted 12V charging port is now standard also.

Suzuki’s ‘Easy Start’ system was also added this year, requiring only a split-second push of the starter button to get the engine fired up. Low RPM Assist is another new electronic aid that raises RPMs slightly when letting out the clutch to help avoid stalls and improve smoothness in slow-speed situations. The V-Strom 650 also gets a new 3-position height adjustable windscreen designed to further reduce buffeting, although it must be adjusted with tools.

Readouts for traction control level, gear position, air temp, fuel consumption and fuel level are all included on the advanced LCD instrument panel, and a dash-mounted 12-volt charging port is now standard. Despite all the changes, the V-Strom 650 didn’t gain any weight and actually lost 2.2 pounds during the process compared to the previous year model.

'91 Suzuki DR-Z 800 Rally Bike
The colors and styling of the new V-Strom 650XT are inspired by the ’91 DR-Z 800 ridden by raced by Belgian Gaston Rahier.

Ride Impressions

Looking down a long row of mixed 650cc and 1000cc V-Stroms, I scanned for a 650XT to start the day on. It took a minute to find the bike, now that the bodywork, headlight, dash, tail sections and windscreen designs look almost identical across the V-Strom line.

We tested both the 2017 V-Strom 650 and 2018 V-Strom 1000 models at the Suzuki press launch. More details to come on the V-Strom 1000. We took an V-Strom 1000XT home with us from the event for a more in-depth evaluation. Stay tuned!

After selecting a V-Strom 650XT from the bunch, we headed out to explore some of the fantastic backroads in the surrounding ski towns. The sport-oriented adventure tourer felt right at home on the tight twisty asphalt. Turn in is effortless and its compliant suspension helps it maintain stability when leaned over on bumpy mountain roads. It’s capable of a spirited pace in tight corners but the low foot pegs touch down a bit early if you ride aggressively.

The new bump in torque and horsepower was noticed right away, especially in the mid-range. The previous V-Strom 650 already had a more power than you’d expect from 650cc, and this new motor (shared with the SV650) is even better at fooling you into thinking you are riding a larger bike. The wee-strom is good-mannered though and won’t lift up the front wheel unless you get aggressive with the clutch. Fueling is quite good and the engine rarely needs to be shifted. Whenever you need it, there’s always a smooth rush of power on tap.

V-Strom 650 Cornering

Suzuki V-Strom 650 cornering in the twisties.
The V-Strom 650 has a light, sporty feel that makes for an enjoyable ride on tight twisty backroads.

The V-Strom 650’s new traction control system is constantly adjusting the engine output whenever wheel spin is detected but with a 650cc V-Twin ridden on asphalt, wheel spin isn’t usually a problem. Yet, it is a nice safety catch when you come across pebbles on the road or a wet patch. Riding with the traction control set on level 1 (low intervention) helps counteract any surprises or mistakes and it works well for casual off-road riding, allowing just a small amount of slip. Level 2 is the highest intervention and doesn’t tolerate any slip, making it a perfect setting for the rain. However, an ‘OFF’ setting is available for those who don’t want any intervention and settings can be changed on-the-fly with left handlebar controls.

Wind protection from the new windscreen is good enough to redirect most of the wind up to the top my head (at 6’2″). In comparison, the windscreen that came standard on the 2015 V-Strom 650XT, with its adjustable touring spoiler, was better at diverting wind over the top of my head. Although, the same style windscreen is available in the factory accessory catalog. Standard wrap-around hand guards also provide some extra protection from the elements, but look like they are made from thin plastic and won’t give much protection for hand levers in a fall.

V-Strom 650  windscreen
The new windscreen worked well but wasn’t as effective as the one we tested on the 2015 V-Strom 650XT with the adjustable touring spoiler attachment.

We only spent a short time riding in the dirt, but the V-Strom 650XT felt manageable on the trail and it was easy to get into a comfortable rhythm. A smooth throttle response and low seat height make it easier to ride than many of the big-bore adventure bikes, although, the street-oriented Bridgestone BATTLAX tires can get quickly overwhelmed in the sandy patches. You also have to ride with some caution because the XT’s standard lower cowl doesn’t offer much protection and no crash bars are installed. For those looking to take their V-Strom 650XT off-road, a variety of protective upgrades are available on the aftermarket to improve the range of terrain the bike can handle.

2017 Suzuki V-Strom 650XT Off-Road

Braking performance is good from the standard ABS system on the street, yet it does take a firm two-finger squeeze on the lever for aggressive stops. The ABS system is acceptable on mild dirt roads, but it can get confused on loose or rocky terrain and a strong pulsating of the ABS is noticeable at slower speeds. And with ABS on, you aren’t able to slide the rear tire to get the bike set up for a tight turn. Unfortunately, Suzuki still sees turning ABS OFF as a safety issue, so for those that want an ‘OFF’ option for off-road use, you’ll still need to resort to pulling the fuse.

After switching over to the standard V-Strom 650, I was able to test it on both asphalt and the street. The cast wheels are said to be about 1.5 pounds lighter each than the wire-spoked wheels of the XT, but I didn’t notice any improvement in maneuverability on asphalt. However in the dirt, I did notice the cast wheels had a slightly harsher ride. And there is always some concern about the durability of cast wheels when riding on a rocky trail.

2017 Suzuki V-Strom 650 Off-Road

The Bottom Line

The V-Strom 650 is still the same well-mannered, easy-to-ride, economical adventure tourer. Now with increased power and the addition of traction control, it’s more-refined and versatile. The smooth engine, bar end weights and cushy saddle give it all-day comfort for daily commutes or extended trips. And a low seat height, reasonable weight and advanced electronic aids make it more manageable for new riders, or those looking to downsize from big-bore ADV Bikes.

The standard model is primarily an asphalt adventure tourer that can handle the occasional smooth dirt road. While the XT, with its durable wire-spoke wheels and light off-road protection, is capable of more-adventurous terrain. Just be aware there are some limitations in suspension travel, ground clearance and protectors for more technical terrain. And without an OFF-switch or Off-Road Mode for the ABS, you can’t slide the rear wheel in the dirt for certain maneuvers.

Some of these off-road limitations can be addressed on the aftermarket but Suzuki could have gone a step further in differentiating the XT from the Standard model by adding a more-robust skid plate, more-aggressive rubber, crash bars and ABS OFF on the rear wheel. An extra inch of suspension travel front and rear would also be greatly appreciated. Suzuki did mention that they are beginning to focus their marketing efforts on the off-road capabilities of the V-Strom line for the first time, so hopefully that means we will see more off-road enhancements coming down the pipe soon.

2017 Suzuki V-Strom 650 off-road

The Standard V-Strom 650 comes in Pearl Glacier White with an MSRP of $8,799. The V-Strom 650XT is available in either Pearl Marble Black or Champion Yellow No. 2 and has an MSRP of $9,299. Both Standard and XT models are now available at Suzuki dealers. For more information visit Suzuki’s website.

2017 Suzuki V-Strom 650 Specifications

Engine Type:Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, DOHC V-Twin
Compression Ratio:12.2:1
Bore x Stroke:82 x 62.6 mm (Displacement 645cc)
Fuel System:Fuel injection with 39 mm throttle bodies
Horsepower (est):69.73 hp @ 8,800 rpm
Maximum Torque:49 ft.-lbs. of torque @ 6,500 rpm
Transmission:6 speed
Clutch:Wet, multi-plate type
Lubrication:wet sump
Starting System:Electric
Generator Max Output:390 Watts @ 5,000 rpm
Final Drive:Sealed chain
Front Brakes:Tokico 2-piston calipers, 310mm twin discs
Rear Brakes:Nissin, 1-piston, 260mm single disc
Front Suspension:43mm preload-adjustable telescopic fork, 5.9 in travel
Rear Suspension: Preload-adjustable link type shock, 6.3 in travel
Ground Clearance:6.7 in
Seat Height:32.9 in
Frame type:Twin-spar aluminum frame
Front Tire:110/80R-19M/C 59H, tubeless
Rear Tire:150/70R-17M/C 69H, tubeless
Fuel Capacity:5.3 gallons (20 litres)
Wet Weight:Standard 470 lbs (213 kg) / XT 473 lbs (216 kg)
Colors:Standard Pearl Glacier White / XT Pearl Marble Black or Champion Yellow No. 2
Price:Standard $8,799 / XT $9,299
Availability:Both Standard and XT models are now available at dealers.

 

GEAR WE USED

• Helmet: Scorpion EXO-AT950
• Jacket: Klim Badlands
• Pants: Klim Badlands
• Gloves: Racer Rally Glove
• Boots: REV’IT! Discovery Outdry
• Bluetooth Headset: Sena 3S-W

Photos Courtesy Enrico Pavia and Suzuki

Author: Rob Dabney

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4 thoughts on “2017 Suzuki V-Strom 650 First Ride Review

  1. Pingback: Ride Reviews....waiting - Page 2 - Stromtrooper Forum : Suzuki V-Strom Motorcycle Forums

  2. Great review. Would really like to see an off feature for ABS but nice to know Suzuki is putting more effort on off road capabilities.

  3. I’ve been waiting for Suzuki to make the V-strom more off-road oriented. Happy to hear they are going in that direction.

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