Sweet handling, a silky smooth engine, stylish design and stunning value. We review the Suzuki SV650X. Test: Jeff Ware
We recently spent a few weeks with the full power version of the SV650X, a cafe racer styled SV that arrived last year. We still only have this, the 2018 version, here in Australia, so for us it is a current model. The 2019 (20 for us) has had some upgrades to brakes and styling, however, the 2018 is a fantastic motorcycle. Check out our video review here.
I have to admit I really wasn’t too excited about the SV650X on paper or in the press releases in 2018. It just didn’t look right and the spec sheet was an underwhelming read. But after a few weeks living with the SV X, I really just didn’t want to hand the keys back to Suzuki. Talk about a surprise package…
That same old SV650 motor that first arrived in 1999 in carby version has been refined and re-refined over the years to become a stunning powerplant. It was always good but now it is really good thanks to revisions over the three major generations of SV650 (1999-2002, 2003-2012, 2016-present – check out our 2017 SV650 LAMS review here).
As with the engine, the chassis was always good and small developments over the years have sweetened the ride up – none more so than in the case of the SV650X… despite the move to a heavier steel trellis frame from the previous pressed alloy beam frame.
Like just about any model that was around in the late 1990s or early 2000s the bike is heavier (10kg) these days but also more powerful (10hp in this case) and with modern rubber and sweet geometry, the SV650X is a super capable package and one of those basic bikes that puts a big grin on your face… plus it looks a hell of a lot better in the flesh than it does in the press kits.
Doing the walk around, my eyes are drawn to the stunning Glass Sparkle Black/Metallic Grey paint that only wakes up in the direct sunlight. The black frame and wheels look tops as does the headlight and the bikini fairing. The taillights look cool, in fact the entire rear end does including the seat. The bike would be great with a fender eliminator on it. The small dash looks horn.
Looking further down, the liquid-cooled, 90-degree 645cc V-twin engine hangs from the black steel trellis frame and isn’t what I would call showcased. There is a lot going on with the cooling system plumbing, cables, wiring and so forth so it all looks a bit of a mess and could do with neatening up, something that would be a good customising project for an owner. The two-into-one exhaust system isn’t exactly pretty either but really, for this price, it seems rude to complain!
Sitting on the narrow SV650X I feel right at home. It’s a compact front feel, with a really natural reach to the low set ‘bars, which are not super low clip-ons but still low. In fact, the front feels almost like a GSX-R600/750. The clip-on style ‘bars are not too wide or radically angled at all. The top triple-clamp looks cool as does the streetfighter (more than cafe racer) styled dash. The reach to the ‘bars is natural and comfy and the cafe racer styled sculpted seat sits you in the bike more than on it. The ‘peg to seat distance is roomy enough and the ‘pegs are not set back that far. Overall it is a fairly conservative head down bum up type seating position. During the test it was only the rock hard seat that limited my saddle time…
The suspension is preload adjustable only so I didn’t check any settings before I set off for the day. First job though, was to get the photoshoot out of the way, so my initial ride on the SV650X was to get the main cornering shots. In all honesty, within a few runs past the camera I felt like I’d been riding the SV X for a year, it’s that easy to ride…
There’s a lot of grip available and impressive feel from the front-end. It’s one of those bikes that goes where you look and gives such a confidence-inspiring level of feedback that you can’t help but enjoy the ride. The bike likes a fast entry and to carry corner speed through the turn, with the only limitation being ground clearance, but that is a fair way over before the sparks fly… The OEM tyres a fantastic and I rode from stone cold on a cool day and I had full trust in the tyres from the get go. When pushing on the smooth, fast sweepers, the forks feel well sprung and damped, while the back is well sprung and control is good enough for the job. Likewise over the rough stuff during the course of my test and conditions I found the basic set-up to be a great compromise for overall versatility and I didn’t touch the preload settings. Very impressive suspension set-up by Suzuki.
The bike feels light and flickeable at speed and at the speed limit. U-turns and low speed riding is a little trickier, the front feels a bit heavy and awkward at times in stop start traffic and very tight turns but that is a trade off for the styling of the ‘bar mounted fairing and light/dash plus the clip-ons. Once on the move it’s all forgotten.
The SV650X response well to spirited riding and hanging off in a sportsbike style and is rewarding and fun when punting hard, however, if you want to take a more classic and relaxed approach the SV is equally happy with a rider sitting in the centre of the seat and flowing through the turns. Both styles are fun but in the bumpy areas hanging off is a must of course. It has quite a steep steering angle and initially I thought it may need a steering damper but after the bumps I hit and the speeds I hit them at didn’t cause even the slightest wobble, I’m convinced it doesn’t need a steering damper.
I mentioned that the SV650X likes to be rushed into turns. It carries good corner speed and the silky smooth gearbox and clutch action allow for fast and efficient downshifts. The bike can be flicked into a corner with confidence and precision but only if you judge the braking well. This brings me to my only real gripe about the bike – it is severely underbraked. The two-piston calipers and 290mm rotors are just not good enough to stop the bike effectively. They fade eventually, with the lever coming back excessively after a run of hard braking. The stopping power is not there but a good set of sintered pads, braided brake lines and Dot 5 fluid would definitely help no end. For 2020 (for us) improvements are on the way…
The engine is a sweetheart. It is super smooth, delightfully revvy and ultra tractable. The gearbox is one of the nicest shifting I’ve experienced and the ratios are spot on for the street, the final gearing a tad tall though. The clutch is smooth and light, the fuelling good and the the powercurve of the V-twin is brilliant. It is no stump puller, it likes to rev, and when you keep it on song it is really rewarding. It has a fun top-end, but also useable mid-range. Intake and exhaust sound is a bit on the flat side, so if you are thinking about an SV650X, stash a bit of cash away for a slip-on to take advantage of that ‘twin engine note…
Cooling is efficient and it didn’t get overly hot at all. On the open highway at 110-120km/h the 650 is silky smooth and vibe free at just over 5000rpm. In fact, it is smooth throughout the range, with the mirrors remaining clear at all times. They are small and I needed to lift my elbows to see behind but they are effective, although I did find myself knocking them loose with my arms a few times when parking and also around the garage I would bump them (could have been the dozen beers). I ended up carrying a spanner with me on rides.
The dash is refreshingly basic, with only the things you need, which is hardly anything! The headlight is acceptable at night and although they are a bit chunky, the indicators definitely get the signal across! As mentioned, the taillight, in my opinion, looks horn. Speaking of which, the horn is loud enough to scare school kids and grannies.
The SV650X is a rare full power true middleweight nakedbike. At 75hp you need your full licence (it is available in a LAMS version) so is for the fully licenced rider that wants a commuter, everyday ride, weekend blaster, track day bike and blank canvas potential custom all in one. At $10,690 Ride Away with 12,000km service intervals it is hard to argue with the value…
The SV650X still uses the same 645cc 90º V-twin but has seen a massive overhaul back in 2016 with 60 updated or redesigned components. These include FEM designed pistons, resin coated piston skirts, tinned sliding parts for better durability and less friction, SCEM plated cylinders and 10-hole long nose fuel injectors on each 39mm throttle-body which include a Throttle-body Integrated Idle Speed Control. Plus a Low RPM Assist function, redesigned air cleaner, and staggered airbox funnel lengths for better mid-range torque.
The cylinder head also using dual spark technology for combustion efficiency and fuel economy, with the SV650 Euro 4 compliant, or in other words complying to the latest strict European standards.
Suzuki’s Dual Throttle Valve technology is also employed, with the 39mm throttle-bodies, while secondary throttle valves are controlled by servo motor. An O2 feedback system and intake pressure sensor also allow the system to maintain peak efficiency.
Suzuki’s Throttle-body Integrated Idle Speed Control (TI-ISC) assists with starting and running stability, while air flow while idling is regulated by the secondary butterfly valve system.
The Low RPM Assist feature is another addition that takes information from the gear position sensor, TPS, engine rpm sensor and clutch switch and communicates with the ECM (Engine Control Management/ECU) and effectively autoblips the throttle as the clutch is released to counteract the natural reduction in revs as that normally happens. This effectively makes it harder to stall and ensures smoother transitions while releasing the clutch.
The exhaust is also a lighter system and does without the lower chamber allowing for a much cleaner look along the belly of the bike, while still including a catalyser. The engine cases are also updated for a sportier look, with a new high efficiency radiator fitted for better cooling.
The oil filter is also located on the front of the engine allowing for easy changes, Suzuki Australia explaining the new SV650 is considerably easier to service and work upon, offering even greater savings in upkeep and running costs, including for valve clearance checks at 24,000km.
Suzuki didn’t just overhaul the SV650 engine back then, with the chassis benefiting from 70 new or improved components, including a newly designed trellis frame constructed of lightweight steel material.
Changes to the chassis include decreasing the width of the bike across the tank, and at the seat, with the fuel tank width reduced by 64.5mm at its widest as well as the seat by 30mm, with a seat height of 790mm. The fuel tank holds 14.5L.
Forks are preload adjustable 41mm items with 125mm of travel, while the rear Link-type shock offers seven-way adjustable pre-load for different rider weights. Dual 290mm rotors on the front are matched to Tokico dual-piston calipers, with a new lighter Nissin ABS unit helping keep weight down. On the rear a 240mm rotor is joined by a single-piston caliper and also benefits from the ABS system.
Wheels are five-spoke cast aluminium light weight offerings with a sporty appearance, and Dunlop radial tyres are fitted as standard. The SV650’s wheels are 3.50 x 17in and 5.00 x 17in, taking 120/70 – 17 and 160/60 – 17 tyres.
2018/19 Suzuki SV650X Specifications
Price: $10,690 Ride-Away
Warranty: Two-year, unlimited kilometre
Colours: Glass Sparkle Black/Metallic Grey
Claimed power: 56kW(75hp)@8500rpm
Claimed torque: 64Nm@8100rpm
Wet weight: 198kg
Fuel capacity: 14.5L
Engine: Liquid-cooled, four-stroke, DOHC, V-twin, 81 x 62.6mm bore x stroke, 645cc, 11.2:1 compression, SDTV dual 39mm throttle-body, two-into-one exhaust system, Low RPM Assist, Suzuki Easy Start, TI-ISC
Gearbox: Six-speed, constant mesh
Clutch: Wet, multi-plate
Frame: Steel trellis
Chassis: Rake: 25°, Trail: 106mm
Suspension: 41mm forks, preload adjustable, 125mm travel, Link-type rear shock, 7-way preload adjustable
Brakes: Nissin ABS, dual 290mm front rotors, two-piston Tokico calipers, single 240mm rear rotor, single-piston caliper
Wheels & Tyres: Five-spoke lightweight cast aluminium wheels, 3.50 x 17in, 5.00 x 17in, 120/70 – 17, 160/60 – 17, Dunlop Sportmax Qualifier
Seat height: 790mm
Overall height: 1090mm
Overall width: 730mm
Instruments: Multi-function LCD display
2018/19 Suzuki SV650X Gallery
The Verdict | Review: 2019 Suzuki SV650X ‘Cafe Racer’
We recently spent a few weeks with the full power version of the SV650X, a cafe racer styled SV that arrived last year. We still only have this, the 2018 version, here in Australia, so for us it is a current model. The 2019 has had some upgrades to brakes and styling, however, the 2018 is a fantastic motorcycle.