2018 Suzuki SV650X Review
Motorcycle Test by Trevor Hedge
Suzuki pretty much invented the modern breed of twin-cylinder middleweight motorcycles when they first brought the SV650 to market two decades ago. They have continued to update and spin-off new versions of what has proven to be a popular and well selling staple for the brand. I recently tested the latest incarnation of the SV line, the SV650X, and came away fairly impressed.
Virtually all the competition around this capacity and price point have now gone the parallel twin route due to the packaging and production cost advantages that the parallel configuration brings compared to the vee architecture. Manufacturers have used all manner of engineering tricks in regard to crank phasings and the like to overcome the inherent blandness of the parallel twin layout. Some have done a great job of it, but it only took one twist of the throttle on the 90-degree V-Twin that powers the SV650X to underline the fact that the parallel alternatives will never really feel like a proper v-twin.
There are some other v-twin options in the market but they are much more expensive than the Suzuki. Ducati’s Scrambler and Moto Guzzi’s base V7 Stone both cost many thousands more. The Guzzi is not available in a learner legal variant while the LAMS Ducati Scrambler has only a modest 400cc to motivate it.
Suzuki offer the base SV650 from $8990 in both full power and LAMS versions. The more upmarket looking new SV650X Rally, featured here, retails for $9490, be that in either full power or learner legal variations.
The tuning of the LAMS variant this time around seems far better than the previous SV650 learner machines I have sampled. The 2016 model had the LAMS SV650 signing off at 4000rpm. It kept revving to beyond 8000rpm but didn’t really seem to be doing anything in the process and that really ruined the experience. I expressed these quite frustrated thoughts to Suzuki and believe they were passed on to one of the head engineers responsible for the model back in Japan, perhaps they listened…
In that models defence, it was punchy off the bottom and could best all other LAMS bikes when it came to upper gear roll-ons, but in any through the gears acceleration tests the competitors walked away from the 2016 LAMS SV650 quite easily. Any of the 500cc Honda range ate it for breakfast.
The new SV650X LAMS does not hit that same sort of virtual brick wall and thus it proved a great deal more enjoyable than the last LAMS eligible SV650 I rode. Suzuki rate the learner approved model with a peak of 47 hp at 8500rpm, while the impressive peak twist of 56.5 Nm of torque is registered at 4000rpm.
It’s not just the numbers though, the power delivery feels so much better thanks to a myriad of internal and engine management changes across both versions of the bike that really have improved the breed. The base model SV650 has also benefitted from all those changes for 2018. Other markets got the improved Euro4 spec’ engine in 2017 across the SV range but Australia missed out, and is only now reaping the benefits the updated package brings to market. If looking to buy any SV variant make sure you check closely to ensure you are getting the latest Euro4 spec’ engine.
I did spend the majority of my time on the full power bike. However, the machines had very few kilometres on them and felt very tight, thus I must admit it did not really feel like the test bikes were punching out 75 horsepower at the top end.
These engines are traditionally built to close tolerances and can take many thousands of kilometres to loosen up, so this was no great surprise. Suzuki is not prone to fiddling figures thus I have no doubt that down the track the machine would pull a lot harder up top. Claimed figures for the full power SV650X are 75 hp at 8500rpm with 64 Nm of torque.
Off the bottom the engine is punchy, a fact accentuated by the fact that Suzuki have not dumbed down the throttle response to infant level via fly-by-wire. When you twist the grip, the 39 mm throttle bodies and 645 cc engine responds as it should.
The frustrating delay so common now in fly-by-wire systems that s-l-o-w-l-y open the throttle butterflies after deeming that the speed of your inputs can’t be trusted, is not evident in this latest SV because it uses a throttle cable rather than an electronic nanny.
This above anything else, really helped endear the SV650X in to a favourable part of my consciousness. It’s smooth but also delivers a little dose of pugnacious spirit that’s missing from so many motorcycles these days. Hallelujah.
The 41 mm forks offer adjustable preload and proved fairly responsive through their 125 mm stroke. Preload is also adjustable at the rear and works well enough for this price point.
A pair of 290 mm discs are clamped by Tokico twin-piston calipers backed up by a contemporary Nissin built ABS system. They offer good bite and reasonable feel through the lever. No complaints.
The fuel tank has grown marginally to 14.5 litres while claimed fuel economy has improved to 3.9 litres per 100 kilometres thanks to the Euro4 engine changes.
The fan assisted radiator not only controls the coolant temperature but also supplies an oil cooler for the three-litre wet sump, ensuring the SV doesn’t get hot and bothered.
Instrumentation is by way of a fully featured LCD cluster complete with range to empty in addition to a fuel gauge and gear position indicator. It all works.
Aesthetically it is obvious that the the X, or Rally treatment is to present the SV650X more favourably to a younger demographic. Traditionally the SV650 has also been quite popular with women riders with up to 20 per cent of SV machines ending up between the legs of the fairer sex.
A tuckroll seat is more than just eye candy, cosseting the loins of all who straddle it quite well. And at 790mm that can happily include shorter folk as the reach to the clip-on bars is far from onerous, while a narrow fuel tank aids ingress.
The small headlight cowling is more form than function but is done quite well. The small vents break up the effect and I reckon Suzuki’s designers have largely hit the mark this time around.
The mix of metallic black and shades of grey add a touch of class and is a long way from some of the hideously gaudy colour schemes Suzuki have bestowed on earlier SV variants. Remember the purple framed Gladius? Shudder…
Even the 2-into-1 exhaust system is quite attractive on this model. A low slung side mounted muffler and reasonable run for the headers, rather than some fugly pre-muffler under the engine to ruin the lines of the bike is a big positive.
Some bar end mirrors and the optional frame side cover kit would complete the look.
The SV650X also represents Suzuki quality. It is made in Japan, not India, Thailand or China and it shows in many ways. The bike feels solid and really does somehow exude a real essence of thorough engineering to a level that is often absent in bikes of twice the price. Let alone in something that can be had for $10,690 ride-away. Add in to the value equation the extra peace of mind that you are being served and warrantied by a large and reputable dealer network that only a major brand like Suzuki can provide, and you have an all round package with much to offer, for not that much coin.
2018 Suzuki SV650X Specifications