I’m the kind of shopper who likes to have it all in one package if I can. I love a bike that excels in its category, but for the day-to-day, you can’t beat a motorcycle that ticks all the boxes without feeling like any of those boxes are being compromised. The new Suzuki GSX-8S middleweight streetfighter comes pretty darn close to checking all the right boxes for me. It’s a harmonic blend of power, price, stability, comfort, and fun.
At the Suzuki GSX-8S press launch in Antibes, France, I got to test this new model out on both the city streets and the mountainous, curvy roads through the Maritime Alps. Before getting into my review of the 8S, I’d like to give southern France two enthusiastic thumbs up. It was the perfect location for a first ride of the 8S and provided a full day of exquisite roads and sights. Don’t even get me started on the seafood.
The GSX-8S is a new model for Suzuki, with an all-new 776cc 4-stroke DOHC parallel-Twin engine and a new chassis. The engine can also be found in the V-Strom 800DE, which is also new for 2023.
Suzuki says the new engine performs similarly to the V-Twin in the SV650 models but provides more power for riders looking for a little more excitement. It features Suzuki’s patented Cross Balancer system, which allows the engine to be slimmer and more compact while reducing vibrations. Bore and stroke are 84mm and 70mm. The new engine makes a claimed 82 hp peaking at 8,500 rpm and a claimed 57.5 lb-ft of torque at 6,800 rpm.
Starting out from the hotel in Antibes and navigating the busy city streets on our way toward the mountains, what I noticed almost immediately was how much grunt was available at low revs. Power delivery was immediate and became very smooth once I switched into the gentler “B” ride mode. I could put this bike in 2nd gear and roll through the stop-and-go, then give it a twist when the traffic opened up, all without really needing to change gears. That low-to-mid range torque, coupled with the smooth throttle response, made this bike stress-free to ride through the city streets.
Once we were out of the city and picking up speed, I noticed that the engine didn’t have the same get-up-and-go at higher rpms. However, that initial pull after bumping up a gear was pure pleasure, and it made passing slower-moving traffic a breeze.
The 2023 Suzuki GSX-8S Bits
Along with the new engine, the 8S also features a new chassis with a compact design. It has a steel frame, an aluminum swingarm, a 3.7-gal. fuel tank, and a wide, tapered aluminum handlebar. The KYB inverted fork and monoshock KYB rear suspension both have 5.1 inches of travel, and the shock is preload-adjustable with a tool.
The seat was comfortable and provided plenty of room to move around, and it was slim enough that a light hug with my knees kept me securely in place. The wide handlebar offered plenty of leverage, and the upright seating position kept me comfortable for a whole day of riding without feeling fatigued at the end of the day.
- Helmet: HJC RPHA 91
- Jacket: Joe Rocket Turbulent Women’s Jacket
- Gloves: Joe Rocket Ballistic Ultra Women’s Gloves
- Pants: Alpinestars Daisy V2 Women’s Riding Jeans
- Boots: Joe Rocket Trixie Women’s Boots
The 31.9-inch seat height of the 8S was a stretch for my 5-foot-1-inch frame. I could graze the pavement with the tips of my toes when the bike was completely upright, but I needed to lean it over to get enough contact between pavement and boot to support myself when stopped.
This leads me to one of my favorite aspects of the 8S: its balance. Even when rolling through very slow traffic, I rarely needed to put a foot down at all, and when I did, the bike’s weight is carried low enough that it was easy to hold up at a lean. Its curb weight of 445 lb was manageable in both slow riding in the city and out on the twisty mountain roads.
The 8S comes equipped with ABS brakes, and stopping power comes from dual Nissin radial-mounted 4-piston calipers and floating rotors in the front and a 1-piston caliper and a single disc in the rear. I never braked hard enough to engage the ABS during our test ride, but it was nice to know it was there if I needed it.
If I could make one change to the 8S, it would be the tires. The Dunlop RoadSport 2 radial tires on the 8S were alright but not awe-inspiring by any means. I didn’t feel much feedback from the tires, making it unclear to me if I still had enough grip for greater lean angles or not. For everyday commuting, the RoadSports are fine, but if you want to experience all what the 8S has to offer, a grippier set of tires might provide more confidence.
Ready to Roll
“We did not aim for the highest powered or lightest weight motorcycle,” said the 8S’ chief designer during the technical presentation the night before our test ride. “We aimed to satisfy all riders.” The other designers and engineers present also drove home the point that they listened to customers’ needs and requests when building the 8S to create an all-around motorcycle that satisfies a wide range of riders.
They demonstrated that desire to please all riders during our test ride as well. Any time we stopped for a coffee break or lunch, the Suzuki designers and engineers were eager to listen to our feedback and ask questions about our first impressions. Several of them came to me directly, saying they were interested in the perspective of a younger, smaller woman. I appreciated that level of dedication to their product and the desire to continue to improve and meet riders’ needs.
To that end, the GSX-8S includes a full suite of rider aids as standard. Along with ABS, it comes with a 5-inch TFT display with day/night modes, an up/down quickshifter, three ride modes, and four traction-control settings.
I enjoyed the layout of the TFT display. It was easy to see, and it showed all the information I needed without making any of it difficult to find. Another consideration that made the bike user-friendly is how easy it is to switch ride modes and the TC levels and that both modes are always visible on the display. The ride mode switch on the left side of the handlebar has obvious buttons and a simple design.
The three ride modes really did contribute to a different style of riding. The throttle response in Ride Mode A was a bit too aggressive for me, especially in town. Ride Mode B smoothed out that jumpiness without compromising the low-rpm torque that I enjoyed so much. I didn’t spend much time in Ride Mode C because B hit the spot so well for me.
I had the traction control set to level 3 for most of the ride. Perhaps with grippier tires, I would’ve felt more confident with less TC, but since I was in a new environment, on a new bike, and with less experience than the other journalists along for the ride, I appreciated the extra help.
With my preferred settings dialed in, even on a new bike on alpine roads that were much tighter and steeper than what I’m used to back home in Tennessee, I really started to enjoy the 8S and the beautiful scenery and roads. The 8S offered enough to keep things exciting for the more experienced riders, but it was also tamable for someone like me who couldn’t push the bike to its limits in the same way.
One for All
Suzuki wanted the 8S to be a well-rounded bike that pleases both experienced and beginner riders. If I were a couple inches taller, I’d agree completely. Riding taller bikes is something I’m still trying to get comfortable with, and a tall seat height is a factor that can add some intimidation and apprehension for shorter riders.
Suzuki offers a range of useful and stylish accessories for the 8S, such as soft side cases, a flyscreen, cowls for the passenger seat and lower engine, billet brake and clutch levers, lever guards, frame sliders, fuel tank protectors, and a USB socket, but it missed an opportunity to make the 8S more accessible by not offering a lower seat. Aside from having a longer reach to the pavement than I’d like, the 8S’s balance, maneuverability, and fun factor truly do make it an approachable ride.
After a full day of riding the 8S through the city and the mountains of Southern France, I have a couple of pieces of advice to impart: 1) If you’re looking for a bike that is greater than the sum of its parts and performs well for a wide range of situations and riding levels, the new Suzuki GSX-8S should be one of the bikes on your list. 2) If you find yourself in Antibes with an empty belly, you’re doing something wrong.
2023 Suzuki GSX-8S Specs
- Base Price: $8,849
- Website: SuzukiCycles.com
- Warranty: 1 yr., unltd. miles
- Engine Type: Liquid-cooled parallel-Twin, DOHC w/ 4 valves per cyl.
- Displacement: 776cc
- Bore x Stroke: 84.0 x 70.0mm
- Horsepower: 82.0 @ 8,500 rpm (factory claim)
- Torque: 57.5 lb-ft @ 6,800 rpm (factory claim)
- Transmission: 6-speed, cable-actuated slip/assist wet clutch
- Final Drive: Chain
- Wheelbase: 57.7 in.
- Rake/Trail: 25.0 degrees/4.1 in.
- Seat Height: 31.9 in.
- Wet Weight: 445 lb (factory claim)
- Fuel Capacity: 3.7 gal.