Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT Review: A couple of years ago, when Adventure tourers were just entering the Indian market, I had ridden the V-Strom 1000 alongside the Versys 1000 and the Triumph Tiger 800. The full-size V-Strom was the torquiest of the three, quite frankly scared the pants off me. It was wild, it would wheelie in the dirt while sliding its tail, and accelerating like a full-size superbike. In fairness, it was formidable in the right hands, but my throttle-happy ham hand wasn’t doing me any favours. It simply wasn’t accessible to an average rider like me. I wished for something smaller at the time, that had just enough power could to go and have a bit of fun on the dirt and still be a good high-way mile muncher. Now almost 3 years later, Suzuki has answered my prayers in the form of the Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT ABS. Boy! Did they get the formula right with this one!
Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT Design
Now, the V-Strom 650 has been available in international markets since 2003. In fact, it is their best selling ADV without a shadow of a doubt. The third generation bike that has now debuted in India doesn’t really have a long list of changes from its predecessor, but because those changes have been concentrated in the right places it looks significantly different. For one, new V-Strom now gets the vertical stack headlamps and the beaky front mud-guard from the full-size V-Strom 1000. The new manually adjustable windscreen also filters down from the V-Strom 1000, it doesn’t just look a lot better than the one that it replaces but also add functionality. This might be more of a personal choice in most cases, but, I am quite a fan of the way the V-Strom 650 XT looks. The tank is slimmer which is not really noticeable visually but really helps the rider feel a lot more dialled in on the motorcycle. For a bike that tips the scales at 213 kilos, feeling dialled in can make all the difference between nervous throttle dabs and easy riding.
The seat slots in at comfortable 835 mm, which should be more than comfortable for all riders north of 5 foot 5 in. The scooped out slip-resistant seat, really does feel snug and does a good job of holding your butt in place when you accelerate. Suzuki will also offer a slightly thinner pad that will bring the seat height down to 820 mm, as an optional extra. But we don’t think this would be required unless you are under 5 foot 3 inches. Comfort wise there's enough padding to keep the saddle sore away and it feels like the Suzuki could be ridden for days without really adding to rider fatigue.
Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT ABS Chassis and Dynamics
The Chassis plays a large part in ensuring that the V-Strom is more accessible, with the twin-spar aluminium frame from the previous version keeping the V-Strom light and perfectly rigid. The lightweight architecture demands that the engine is used as a stressed member to complete the assembly, leaving the 90-degree V-twin a bit exposed, especially for use off-road. To counter this, the XT gets a pretty comprehensive engine guard/skid plate that should do the job of keeping the motor safe. Our test bike came with a bit more protection in the form of crash guards on the side. They will go a long way to protect the precious fairings, but as an optional extra, they will also add a bit to your floor price of the V-Strom.
The V-Strom 650 XT gets the more off-road oriented spoke wheels, 19-inch in the front and 17’s in the rear. The rims come in black and gold, although personally, the gold powder coat does add a bit of flair to the V-Strom appeal. Contact comes through Bridgestone BATTALAX A/T tyres that do a great job even on surfaces like sand and loose gravel. Although more offroad oriented options do exist in the market for those who feel that AT are just not enough. For everyone else, the BATTALAX tyres are more than enough for both on and off-road situations. The suspension comes of an adjustable link-type rear shocker that is adjustable for spring preload. The 43 mm rwu forks, however, are fixed entities, understandably to keep cost low.
The brakes are a bit of an issue if I were to nitpick. The 310 mm front discs with dual pot Tokico callipers paired with the 260 mm disc on the rear lack the bite to reign in the 213 kilos V-Strom. Although not dangerously so, they just need a tad more bite. Dual channel ABS works well even on mixed surfaces so that helps to detract from the loss of braking confidence.
Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT ABS Engine & Performance
Fair warning, I’m slightly biased towards twins. The 645 cc powerplant on the V-Strom 650 makes about 71 hp and 62 Nm of torque, it is in the sweet spot in terms of power, but what set this particular motor apart is the way that power is delivered. In this generation, Suzuki has thoroughly reworked the V-Strom, adding more power and torque, yes, but also add oodles of refinement. I can safely contend that this is one of the most refined V-twins that I have ever had the privilege of swinging a leg over. The 39 mm throttle body comes with 10-hole injectors in tandem with Suzuki Dual Throttle Valve allow for a unique balance between the power you need and how much the engine can send to road smoothly. Matched with the LRA or Low RPM Assist, that adjusts the idling speed in places where you would need a bit more torque to give you the right amount of twist to effortlessly pull away. While exact acceleration figures are not available yet, the V-Strom is far from slow and will go all the way up to 185 kmph without much hassle. At highway speed, 6th gear at 5500 rpm will allow for almost silent cruising at 120 kmph with no noticeable vibrations. This is nothing short of amazing considering that it is a twin. This works well in city traffic where the bike will roll with you just easing off the clutch in first and second gear, stalling is not something this bike does, and that’s something you just can’t put a price on in a 213 kg Adventure tourer.
Best of all, the water-cooled twin has radiator shrouds with deflectors that ensure that thighs aren’t cooked in heavy traffic situations. They are quite effective although it takes a lot to make this motor overheat. Overall, its a very capable motor with a wide range of capabilities that has more than enough power to thrill, but just shy of scaring the ba-Jesus out of you.
Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT ABS Verdict
Right off, the bat I’m sold on the Suzuki V-Strom middle-weight, personally speaking. The refined-twin, forgiving nature of the motorcycle and its wide range of capabilities are just unavoidable. It will be just as easy to commute on, as it would be off-road and perhaps importantly mile-munching on the highway. It's easily quick enough to keep up with most middle-weight bikes on the straights and isn’t afraid to splice corners either. In fairness, at Rs 7.42 lakh (ex-showroom) it is almost a lakh more expensive than the Versys 650 that it competes with.
The fact that Suzuki has added an unlimited kilometre 2-year warranty does make up for the extra moolah that you will be springing for the Suzuki. We are yet to get our hands on the Versys so I won’t compare it in terms of performance, but Kawasaki has been notorious in terms of service expenses which are likely to pay off for the Suzuki in terms of long-term ownership. In our opinion, if you have been looking for an accessible do-it-all adventure tourer, and are in a position to shell out almost 8 lakh on road for the pleasure, look no further than the Suzuki V-Strom.
Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT Video Review >>>>>
PHOTOGRAPHY: JATIN KAKKAR