I finally got the chance to throw the leg over the new V-Strom 800 and it is both what I expected, and yet not what I expected…
All in all, it’s a solid entrant into the increasingly competitive mid-size Adventure-Touring category, and a worthy holder of the V-Strom badge.
Let’s start with what I expected. That driveline, the same one shared with its sister bike – the GSX-8S I tested a few months back – is just as good in this format. Maybe even better.
Suzuki’s new 776 cc parallel twin is an absolute peach and punches out a healthy 83 hp. Arguably a step up in every regard than the much venerated 650 V-Twin that has powered V-Strom and SV models for millennia.
It’s obviously up in volume and that means noticeably more torque and power, but it also has better physical packaging overall which allows for neater frame and chassis options. Seeing the old 650 side by side to the 800 puts this into perspective.
But the way the bike dishes out the grunt that impresses, not just the numbers. It’s beautifully fuelled in all modes, has gobs of available torque down low (as much just off idle at a smidge under 80 Nm as the 650 has at peak…), and is brilliantly smooth and usable. Smooth is the keyword here.
Combined with the excellent quick-shifter, it is a silky thing to slip along. Very quiet though… I’d love a little more presence from the exhaust bark. That quick-shifter is like teflon on the upshifts, though I did find myself using a dab of clutch on the downshifts at my normal speed.
Coasting along it was fine down-shifting without clutch – likewise if I was having a bit of a go, but somehow at my ‘normal’ ~70% speed it felt better with a little assistance. No biggie. The slipper-assist clutch is a nice thing and a pleasure to use. Actually, it has a really nice feel when pulling away from a stand-still now that I think about it.
Suspension-wise as well, the word smooth is again pretty apt. Really nice bump control. Both ends are adjustable for pre-load and damping, with the rear getting a nice, glove-friendly remote pre-load adjuster that you can dial up if you throw some luggage behind you.
On the road the 220 mm of travel soaks up everything the shire in question throws at you. Potholes, surface changes, tram tracks, bumps and corrugations are all sneered at while you get to carry on in comfort. The bike is in its happy place both out on the open road as well as commuting in amongst city traffic.
That’s the other word I’d use to describe the overall impression with the V-strom. It’s a comfortable thing. Moreso than I expected.
Super comfortable seat with a height of 855 mm. And on the whole the ergos – it’s a roomier feeling bike than I had expected, without being too big. A great base for extended trips I’d say, with plenty of room for luggage of both the equipment and human kind.
The obvious comparisons to the Transalp can’t be ignored for too long. They’re both new to market and relatively obvious direct competitors – especially when it comes to pricing. Physically the Suzuki seems a larger feeling bike – it’s also both torquier, and heavier.
On the road, while the Transalp is certainly not uncomfortable – I’d say the V-Strom is the roomier, more accommodating thing. And possibly a smoother, plusher ride too. I expected the V-Strom to not be as sharp as the Transalp on the road, but it’s no slouch either. The bike turns naturally and with that slick shifter there is plenty of fun to be had.
The bigger surprise for me was off-road. Gravel roads are no problem as you’d expect, with very good manners and plenty of suspension travel to soak up whatever our backroads throw our way. But I did notice the extra weight of the V-Strom in the really choppy stuff on my test loop.
The V-Strom 800DE has 70-30 tyres fitted and suspension that, while offering a good level of adjustment, is probably more spec’d for comfort and compliance than “big-hit’ performance. That combination had me bouncing off repeated whoops rather than skipping through them.
The bike did feel a little big and heavy and out of its depth when pushing with any serious enthusiasm. Which was exacerbated further by the fact that the plastic side panels between your knees are actually pretty slippery and didn’t offer me much purchase to grip the bike with.
Not the narrowest of bikes between the knees either. My feet came off the pegs more than once over really rough stuff (which gives you an idea of how rough I’m talking – we’re talking two-foot high whoops). Some stomp grip pads would be a good investment if you wanted to go charging hard.
But I don’t think that’s what V-Strom owners are necessarily looking for from the bike. Undoubtedly the most dirt-capable V-Strom yet, I reckon it’s still more a bike that’s aimed at getting you somewhere enjoyably and doing so comfortably, rather than getting rowdy in the scrub.
Which will be just fine for 95% of riders. If you want to be a bit more extreme, there are better options for charging hard off-road (*cough – Tuareg, 890 AR and Tenere), but as an all-rounder this is a bloody good proposition and one, that if anything like other V-Stroms, will provide year after year of reliable smiles.
It does share some quirks with the Transalp in that neither offer a cruise control, which I just can’t understand. And the dash modes aren’t super intuitive either, but the switch-gear is nice and simple here. One big plus – the V-Strom does remember your TC settings, which gets it a massive tick over the Honda.
To be fair, I reckon most owners will find a setting they like and leave it there on the Zook. For me it was full power, TC off and rear ABS off in the dirt. The engine delivery is smooth and progressive enough to leave it there in all conditions without any drama at all. Set and forget. Nice big and clear TFT screen too.
Good fuel range. A big 20-litre tank makes sure you’ll get well past 400 km before needing a top-up ,which again reflects the type of all-road Adventure-Touring that I think this bike shines in. I think that’s the better frame of reference for the 800, rather than an out-and-out off-road belter.
This is not going to replace someone’s DR650 for example – which is 80 kilos lighter and far more off-road capable. But it would make a perfect step up from a V-Strom 650, or a step across from plenty of other brand’s options.
And I did notice in the accessories options a few things that I’d suggest most buyers might opt for. The high-screen option in particular looked nice. Not that I had any major issues with the OEM screen, but it’s non-adjustable and I know a lot of folks like those higher screens, so it’s good to know the factory option is there.
And it’s seriously well-priced. 18.5k ride-away gets you a lot of bang for your buck. That’s a full six-grand under the 1050. Most folks would be better off on the 800 I’d suggest.
Oh, that price? It’s about three-grand under an 850 GS Adventure too, which for me is the other obvious comparison… The 850 GS makes about the same power and carries an extra 15 odd kilos… and you know I get hung up about about heavier than necessary bikes…
I like the V-Strom 800DE because:
Such a sweet engine and slick-shifting box. Lovely.
Really plush suspension soaks up anything our roads will throw at you.
The bike remembers your TC settings!!!
I’d like the V-Strom 800DE more if:
The plastic panel between your knees could be grippier.
I’d have to liberate some presence with the muffler too.
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