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|12-17-2015, 06:30 PM||#1|
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Suzuki GSX-S750 vs. Yamaha FZ-09 | Budget Blasters
It’s pretty obvious that Yamaha has had a sales hit on its hands with the FZ-09 since the bike’s 2014 debut. The all-new crossplane-crank three-cylinder-powered naked bike offers excellent performance, but what really sealed the deal back then was its unbelievable $7,990 sticker price. Consumers snapped up FZ-09s before they ever saw the light of a showroom floor, and Yamaha reportedly had a difficult time keeping up with the demand. And even with the price going up to $8,190 for 2015 (and it stays the same for 2016), the 847cc triple continues to be the company’s best-selling motorcycle.
That success certainly hasn’t been lost on Yamaha’s rival manufacturers. The only problem is the FZ-09’s price advantage. We’ve been told that senior management from one of those competitors has been flummoxed in its efforts to figure out how Yamaha can produce the FZ-09 for such a low price.
Suzuki has been the first to challenge Yamaha’s midsize standard bike supremacy with its “new” GSX-S750 for 2015 (“new” being a relative term, as the bike is basically the GSR750 that has been on sale in other world markets since 2011). With it selling for almost the exact same price—$7,999—as the 2014 FZ-09, we had the opportunity to sample Hamamatsu’s latest challenger (“Suzuki’s New Standard,” June/July ’14), though rain at the press launch washed out any chance of really putting the bike through its paces.
So once we had the chance to get our hands on a GSX-S750 for a full test, we didn’t hesitate to pit it against the current king of the midsize budget standards.
“New” Old School
The GSX-S and FZ have some distinct differences in ergonomics, even though their overall look appears the same. And there are advantages and disadvantages to each.
The Yamaha’s handlebar is set higher and is wider than the Suzuki’s comparatively narrow handlebar (not to mention a difference in build: The FZ’s handlebar is a nice tapered aluminum unit, while the GSX-S’s handlebar appears to be a standard steel piece), and the reach to the Suzuki’s bar is longer, putting the GSX-S rider’s torso forward a bit more. Conversely, there’s more legroom with the Yamaha, in addition to more room fore and aft on the seat compared to the Suzuki’s two-piece rider/passenger setup. The Suzuki’s seat has more padding and is slightly comfier than the FZ’s comparative plank, though the Yamaha’s much narrower midsection enhances the FZ’s lithe feel and allows you to plant your feet easier at a stop.
Suzuki definitely raided an older parts bins to get the Tokico two-piston slide-pin calipers for the GSX-S750. Despite only having adjustable preload, the fork worked well with dialed-in damping and spring rates.
Taking off from a stop, the FZ’s far superior torque output, nice clutch, and quick-revving engine mean you can holeshot traffic with ease, and while the Suzuki’s retuned GSX-R engine provides decent low-end and midrange power that doesn’t require any clutch-slipping antics, it needs more revs to get the same immediate acceleration of the Yamaha from lower speeds. Out on the highway, the inline-four of the GSX-S generates some vibration around 5,000 rpm; the FZ does too, but its three-cylinder vibes are more easily tolerated.
The Yamaha’s more upright seating position combined with the lack of wind protection will have you tiring of being a windsail after about 30 minutes on the highway. Granted, long highway stints aren’t exactly in the FZ’s repertoire, not with its 3.7-gallon fuel tank; the Suzuki’s slightly more aggressive riding position makes the wind blast a little more bearable, and you’ll get farther on its 4.6-gallon tank.
The Yamaha’s four-piston Advics calipers and 298mm discs provide good stopping power and decent feel. Flaccid damping and spring rates unfortunately remain in the suspension.
The first section of twisty pavement is where we quickly found out that Yamaha has thankfully banished the majority of the abrupt throttle response that plagued the original FZ-09. Now you can run the FZ in Standard or even A mode without requiring the deftness of a brain surgeon when getting on the gas. “Every once in a while I get greedy and am ever-so-slightly reminded of this bike’s quirky throttle, but those moments are few and far between,” Associate Editor Bradley says of the Yamaha’s newfound smoothness. There’s still a hint of abruptness in A mode, but for the most part you’re freed from the specter of throttle-induced chassis instability in the middle of a corner, letting you truly enjoy the responsive and robust character of the FZ’s crossplane-crank triple.
Staying true to its GSX-R lineage, there’s no such throttle response issues with the Suzuki. It doesn’t matter where or how aggressive you are with the throttle; the GSX-S’s 749cc inline-four simply delivers power when you ask without any added drama.
The GSX-S750’s two-piece rider/passenger seat setup is more comfortable than the FZ-09’s one-piece seat, but it also restricts the amount of fore/aft room for the rider.
But you could say that lack of drama is one of the Suzuki engine’s letdowns. Compared to the lively power and acceleration of the Yamaha, the GSX-S’s powerplant revs slower and lacks the responsive torque of the FZ’s three-cylinder, making the Suzuki feel almost lazy by comparison. And instead of getting better as the rpm rises like you’d expect with a GSX-R, the GSX-S just continues building power in a steady and linear manner—which is not a bad thing, mind you. It’s just that it’s not as enthralling to ride as the Yamaha. Also not helping in the acceleration department is the Suzuki’s added heft; the GSX-S scales in almost 50 pounds heavier than the FZ, the Suzuki weighing in at 466 pounds wet.
Steering characteristics between the two bikes mirror the engine differences in a way. The Yamaha is agile, light on its feet, and seemingly makes mid-corner line changes with the effort of a bicycle. The Suzuki requires a firmer input at the handlebar to initiate a turn, and while the steering effort tends to give an air of stability, it comes at the cost of needing much more effort to tighten up a cornering line or flick the bike through a fast transition. Some of the Suzuki’s comparatively sluggish steering characteristics are likely due to its narrower handlebar, as well as the choice of OEM rubber; the OEM-spec Bridgestone BT-016 EE tires fitted to the GSX-S don’t have nearly the same quick-steering habits of their off-the-shelf BT-016 brethren.
It’s not all wine and roses in the Yamaha camp though. While the original FZ’s throttle response issues were sufficiently addressed, apparently the first contract for OEM suspension bits isn’t over yet because the same overly soft spring and damping rates from the original model haven’t changed for 2015. Even with rebound damping cranked in to maximum at both ends, the instant you begin to get aggressive with the controls or your pace in the turns, the Yamaha begins pitching and wallowing on its suspension, forcing you to back off and wait for things to settle down.
And yet, when you hit sharp bumps or nasty pavement on the FZ, a lot of the initial impact gets transmitted into the chassis. We’d say it’s pretty easy to see where Yamaha saved some money in the bike’s construction…
By contrast, the Suzuki’s suspension (adjustable for spring preload only) has damping and spring rates that are dialed in much better for overall street and canyon work. Aggressive riding doesn’t get the GSX-S all flustered like the FZ, with the chassis, suspension, and tires all working together to provide a nice, planted feel in the corners. There’s good control throughout the suspension travel, and front-end feedback is surprisingly decent.
Although the Suzuki’s instrument panel with analog tachometer and LCD info panel is clean and easy to read, it looks rather dated and could use a refresh.
But all this canyon competence doesn’t come at the expense of the ride over highway superslab or imperfect urban pavement either. Despite suspension rates being decidedly firmer overall than the FZ, the Suzuki doesn’t punish you over sharp bumps in the city or frost heaves on the highway.
Braking from the Yamaha’s dual four-piston Advics calipers/298mm discs combination is much stronger, with better initial bite and overall feel than the GSX-S’s old parts-bin-refugee Tokico two-piston slide-pin calipers clamping on 310mm discs. The Suzuki’s brakes require a lot more lever effort to get strong stopping power, and feedback is pretty numb compared to the FZ’s setup, though we surprisingly noticed a little bit of fade in the Yamaha’s brakes during more spirited canyon sorties. Interestingly, neither bike is equipped with ABS, another cost-cutting measure we’re sure.
The wider and higher-set bar of the FZ-09 provides good comfort and steering leverage but also puts you right in the windblast. We’re still not fans of the tiny LCD instrument panel, but it does get style points.
A Tough Act To Follow
Despite its still-lingering soft suspension issues, the Yamaha FZ-09 continues to prove that its combination of great performance, quality build, and astonishingly low sticker price is very hard to beat. If the FZ never existed, we’d be looking at the Suzuki GSX-S750 in an entirely different light, especially with its low $7,999 MSRP. But when paired up next to the Yamaha triple, the Suzuki’s cost-cutting construction is readily apparent—and the majority of those parts affect its performance when compared to the FZ.
It looks like some upper management brass at the other OEMs are going to be pulling some more hair out trying to figure out how to build a bike for around $8,000 that will beat the Yamaha FZ-09. Good luck with that.
2015 Suzuki GSX-S750
Test Notes: Suzuki GSX-S750
+ Good chassis, suspension
+ Low sticker price
+ Smooth throttle response
– Engine kind of boring
– Needs to lose weight
– Needs better brakes, different tires
= If the FZ-09 didn’t exist, the GSX-S would look a whole lot better
2015 Yamaha FZ-09
Test Notes: Yamaha FZ-09
+ Abrupt throttle response gone
+ Revvy, torquey engine
+ Agile handling
– Suspension still flaccid
– Small fuel tank
– Seat needs better padding
= Still the best bang for the buck in motorcycling
Bike Suzuki GSX-S750 Yamaha FZ-09Fun to ride 8 9Quality 7.5 9Instruments & controls 8.5 8Ergonomics 8.5 8Chassis & handling 8.5 9Suspension 8 7Brakes 8 8.5Transmission 9 9.5Engine power 8 9Engine power delivery 8 9Ratings total 82 86 The Yamaha’s higher bars and lower pegs mean more room and a more upright position for the rider.
I must say that I’ve been impressed with Yamaha lately. These past few years the company has been coming out with new models that have basically created a lot of excitement in the marketplace, something it badly needed. And the buzz wasn’t just because those new models were priced far below the competition; it was also because they had superb performance. The FZ-09 was the first of these new-generation models, and it’s no surprise the bike continues to sell so well. The fueling update just makes it that much better. Suzuki should have known that it needed to have its ducks in a row with the GSX-S750 if it were ever going to have a chance against the Yamaha. Unfortunately, renaming a four-year-old European model just for its low price isn’t going to cut it.
The more time I spend on the FZ-09, and the more bikes I ride that are meant to “compete” with it, the more I’m amazed by what Yamaha has done. A bike costing around $8,000 should not look or work this well. I give credit to Suzuki for recognizing what Yamaha had done and wanting to challenge its position in the category, but just looking and sitting on the bike you can see where Suzuki missed the mark. The GSX-S is noticeably heavier as you balance it between your legs, and fit and finish is just not what it is on the Yamaha, with Suzuki very clearly relying on cost-effective components almost throughout. Sure, the suspension is better, but that hardly makes up for what the Yamaha offers in terms of steering quickness, styling, and, most importantly, fun factor.
The FZ-09’s engine simply towers over the Suzuki’s older-generation powerplant, and it also revs quicker to boot.
Bike Suzuki GSX-S750 Yamaha FZ-09MSRP $7,999 $8,190Engine Type Liquid-cooled, transverse, DOHC inline-four, 4 valves/cyl. Liquid-cooled, transverse, DOHC inline-three, 4 valves/cyl.Displacement 749cc 847ccBore x stroke 72.0 x 46.0mm 78.0 x 59.1mmCompression ratio 12.3:1 11.5:1Induction SDTV, 32mm throttle bodies, single injector/cyl. Mikuni EFI, 41mm throttle bodies, single injector/cyl.Chassis Front suspension KYB 43mm inverted fork, adjustment for spring preload, 4.7-in. travel KYB 41mm inverted fork, adjustments for spring preload, rebound damping, 5.4-in. travelRear suspension KYB shock, adjustment for spring preload, 5.3-in. travel KYB shock, adjustments for spring preload, rebound damping, 5.1-in. travelFront tire 120/70ZR-17 Bridgestone BT-016F EE 120/70ZR-17 Dunlop Sportmax D214 FRear tire 180/55ZR-17 Bridgestone BT-016R EE 180/55ZR-17 Dunlop Sportmax D214Rake/trail 25°/104mm (4.1 in.) 25°/103mm (4.1 in.)Wheelbase 57.1 in. (1450mm) 56.7 in. (1440mm)Seat height 32.1 in. (815mm) 32.1 in. (815mm)Fuel capacity 4.6 gal. (17.5L) 3.7 gal. (14L)Weight 466 lb. (211kg) wet; 438 lb. (199kg) dry 418 lb. (190kg) wet; 396 lb. (180kg) dryFuel consumption 40–49 mpg, 45 mpg avg. | 38–49 mpg, 43 mpg avg.Performance Quarter-mile 11.52 sec. @ 119.83 mph 11.29 sec. @ 123.71 mphRoll-ons 60–80 mph/3.57 sec.; 80–100 mph/4.12 sec. 60–80 mph/3.22 sec.; 80–100 mph/3.57 sec.
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