2017 Suzuki V-Strom 650 ABS | First Ride Review

2017 Suzuki V-Strom 650 ABS. Photos by Primož Bric/Adriatic Moto Tours.
2017 Suzuki V-Strom 650 ABS.

There are times when a manufacturer gets a motorcycle just right, when price, style and mechanics come together with all of the intangibles to create exactly what the rider wants. The V-Strom 650 (or “Wee-Strom,” as it’s affectionately known) is one of those bikes.

We had a hint that Suzuki would be updating the popular Wee-Strom when it released the new SV650 in spring 2016, and last October our suspicions were confirmed when Suzuki officially announced the 2017 V-Strom 650 ABS and V-Strom 1000 ABS. But then…crickets. We journalists are impatient types; once we get release information, the actual launch of the bike never seems to happen fast enough. Here at Rider that’s been especially true for the V-Strom, where we’ve been watching our inboxes for our press launch invite like anxious high school students awaiting their college admission letters.

That invite still hasn’t arrived.

2017 Suzuki V-Strom 650
The new “Wee-Strom” was restyled to look more like its bigger brother, the V-Strom 1000, with a stacked headlight, adventure-style “beak” and smaller, adjustable windscreen. Adriatic Moto Tours had also outfitted mine with optional hand guards. Photos by Primož Bric/Adriatic Moto Tours.

So we decided that we couldn’t wait. We flew to Slovenia, where the new 2017 V-Strom 650 ABS is already available, and rode it on a weeklong tour of Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina with Adriatic Moto Tours (which you can read about in the August 2017 issue of Rider). OK, maybe that’s not entirely true…but when we discovered that the new V-Strom was one of the bikes available on this tour, which we’d already planned to take, it seemed like fate. The motorcycling gods were smiling upon us.

As a result, this isn’t your usual First Ride Review. You won’t find any flashy, peg-scraping photography, and the ride wasn’t a one-day trip carefully curated by the manufacturer. This was a weeklong, real-world ride on unfamiliar roads that ranged from a barely-paved goat trail in Bosnia to narrow city streets to fast, sweeping curves of perfect pavement along the coast in Croatia. We spent 6-7 hours in the saddle every day, riding the Wee-Strom the way you’re likely to: touring.

2017 Suzuki V-Strom 650
The V-Strom 650 turned out to be the ideal touring companion for the roads in Slovenia, Bosnia and Croatia. Sometimes wide open and fast, sometimes technical and twisty, sometimes rough and gravelly…the V-Strom handled it all with comfort and confidence.

While the 2017 V-Strom 650 looks quite different from the 2016 model, climbing aboard it actually feels rather familiar. The 32.7-inch seat is only 0.2-inch lower than before, although Suzuki redesigned the fuel tank to make it slimmer in the back for an easier reach to the ground, while maintaining the same 5.3-gallon capacity. The dished seat is wide at the back and as comfortable as ever, and as far as I could tell the riding position and ergonomics are unchanged.

Some of the new styling is mostly for looks (the 10-spoke cast aluminum wheels, LED taillight, and V-Strom 1000-style “beak” and vertically stacked headlight, for example), while other changes are surprisingly functional: the lowered exhaust allows the optional side luggage—previously only available on the V-Strom 1000—to be mounted closer to the bike, a 12V outlet is now standard and a new 3-position adjustable windscreen is physically smaller but allows for greater control over wind flow. A new multi-function analog/LCD instrument panel displays tons of useful information, such as fuel level, range, temperature and time, in addition to speed and engine rpm.

2017 Suzuki V-Strom 650
The DL1000-style multi-function instrument panel is new this year. While packed with info, it was easy to read at a glance. My biggest challenge was doing the math to convert kilometers per hour to miles per hour! (Since we were riding in Europe.)

Thumbing the starter and dropping into gear, it’s apparent the new V-Strom is even more user-friendly. Suzuki has equipped it with the Easy Start System and Low RPM Assist, so maneuvering along the narrow, cobblestoned streets of the numerous villages we explored was a breeze. The new Euro4-compliant engine is the same as that used in the new SV650, and it proved to be smooth and powerful enough to keep a sporting pace when the roads opened into endless sweeping curves along the coast. Since there were no Suzuki representatives on hand to question, exact details about the engine will have to wait until the official U.S. press launch, but from what we know so far the new V-Strom uses the same resin-coated pistons and exhaust camshaft as the SV650, but it gets its own intake port and camshaft design for the powerful feel of the SV650 with the easygoing nature of the V-Strom.

One of the major changes to the new V-Strom 650 is the addition of the traction control system previously only available on the V-Strom 1000. There are three settings: 1, 2 and off. The first setting is for normal riding conditions, and allows a small amount of rear wheel spin for sporty rides or when riding on a dirt road, while the second setting increases intervention for slippery or rainy conditions.

2017 Suzuki V-Strom 650
It’s a good thing the V-Strom is so easy to ride, as it left me free to enjoy the scenery along the Croatian coast. My bike was outfitted with a Givi top case, but new for this year, it can also be outfitted with Suzuki’s optional three-piece luggage system, previously only available on the DL1000.

So what was it like to live with the new Wee-Strom for a week? In a word, great. The revamped 645cc 90-degree V-twin, with its increase in low- to mid-range power and torque, is better than ever, and everything else about the bike is comfortable and well thought-out. For one-up touring, it’s darn near perfect, and on the (relatively frequent) occasions that we encountered rough pavement, gravelly construction zones and off-camber, 90-degree-plus first gear turns on slippery cobblestones, it was easy to handle. I opted to stand up through many of the gravel sections, finding it easier to ride that way, and the handlebars were high enough that I wasn’t bent over.

The suspension and brakes, including the Bosch ABS, are unchanged from the previous model. On a particularly rough, single lane rollercoaster of a road through scrubby hills in Bosnia, the V-Strom soaked up the bumps confidently, yet when I was pushing hard on technical twisties and fast sweepers to keep up with our guide, who was riding a new BMW R 1200 GS, the Wee-Strom never felt out of sorts.

2017 Suzuki V-Strom 650
The 2017 V-Strom is more user-friendly than ever, with the addition of traction control, Low RPM Assist and the Easy Start System. After a week on the road, I’m convinced this is the best V-Strom 650 yet.

My bike was equipped with a Givi top case, Suzuki hand guards and Oxford heated grips. With temperatures ranging from near freezing on the first morning, to near 80 degrees as we neared the coast, I was able to adjust the windscreen and heated grips to stay comfortable. Despite being smaller overall than before, the windscreen is actually 9mm taller and provided ample protection with little buffeting, although it was a bit noisy.

You can expect to see more details on the 2017 V-Strom 650 when it launches here in the U.S., and it’s likely we’ll pick one up for more thorough testing, including a run on the Jett Tuning dyno. But if this weeklong “First Ride” was any indication, the new Wee-Strom looks to be the best one yet, and at $8,799 it’s still a bargain.

2017 Suzuki V-Strom 650
Pausing at the side of the road on the Croatian island of Hvar. The wide seat is as comfortable as ever, while the gas tank has been redesigned to be slimmer at the rear, making it easier to reach the ground at stops. Fuel capacity is unchanged, at 5.3 gallons. (Photo by the author)

2017 Suzuki V-Strom 650 ABS Specs
Base Price: $8,799
Website: suzukicycles.com
Engine Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse V-twin, DOHC, 4 valves per cyl.
Displacement: 645cc
Bore x Stroke: 81.0 x 62.6mm
Transmission: 6-speed, wet constant mesh clutch
Final Drive: O-ring chain
Wheelbase: 61.4 in.
Rake/Trail: 26.0 degrees/4.3 in.
Seat Height: 32.7 in.
Claimed Wet Weight: 470 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 5.3 gals.
MPG: NA

11 COMMENTS

  1. “So we decided that we couldn’t wait so we flew to Slovenia . . . “. Yep, let’s guess the number of V-Strom owners that have ever uttered that sentence. Well, at least not by me! The Wee is a very good bike (I’ve owned three) but I have to wonder if it’s evolving into greatness or wondering towards extinction. While the engine is an indisputable jewel, to say that the “suspension and brakes are unchanged from the previous model” is either glossing over the weak link in the bike’s chain of development, or condemning with faint praise. So, here’s my wish: Allow consumers factory direct access to upgrades. Don’t make me buy a bike like this and force me to toss perfectly good (but not great) brakes and suspension in the bin. Allow me to either the upgrade via model choice or by adding options at the point of manufacture. Never know, by saving a few bucks I may get the Wee I wanna ride and get to Slovenia!

  2. be nice if they offered ergo changes so that old guys who cannot bend their knees , could ride this beast. have a Honda CTX with the perfect sit, prefer to be foot forward (like the Brits). understand a competitor is offering ergo change packages. good idea…

  3. Improve the front suspension take out the brake dive, please!! Increase the final drive overdrive 8% and drop low 10%, lower it 3/4″, lower the CG, bring the bars back 1.5″ and it is getting to be a pretty good deal. Like my ’14 have done some of the above., but get a new seat ie; like the one I got from Terry in Tennessee (?) .

  4. Why are they putting beaks on the front of all the ADV bikes? Does it have a function? Unless you are jousting it’s ugly as sin. I do not know anyone who can comfortably put their feet flat at a stop, looks like that stays the same. I own a 2015 model, if you are forced to stop traversing an incline it sucks and you are generally left in a precarious position. Other than that it looks like they did a nice job. I hope they lower the seat height by about an inch some day.

    • You can get a 1″ lower seat, but for me (6’1″) I can flat foot with the stock seat and would opt for the 1″ taller seat.

  5. I’ve got a 2012 VStrom 1000.
    I had to upgrade every thing to get a decent bike out of it.
    Upgrade front brakes, front springs, rear shock, handlebar risers, mirror extenders, Ect. $2000 later it’s a great bike.
    But I just don’t have it in me to buy a new one and have to upgrade/rebuild the new bike, just to get a decent motorcycle.
    Motorcycle companies are selling us the best $5 shocks that money can buy. That goes for everything else I have to replace on a new bike.
    I just tired of it.

  6. Wow, if you guys hate your bikes so much, why not just sell it. Budget ADV bikes are a compromise, there’s no such thing as the perfect bike. So live with the idiosyncrasies…or belt up.

  7. I think Walter has a good point and one that addresses Harold’s comments. I’ve spent a ton of money on my Wee and it’s now what I need. In these supposed days of mass customization and flexible manufacturing surely Suzuki could steal a march by offering customers what they want ‘out of the crate’? It would, of course, have implications for the accessory industry!

    Just about to do a 4000 mile ‘Pan-European’ tour on mine. Love the bike even though it’s not a Ducati Multistrada!

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