Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT: First Ride Review
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A true-blue adventure tourer under Rs 10 lakh, is the Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT too good to be true?
The versatility and appropriateness of adventure bikes for India has big-bike enthusiasts properly excited. There is plenty of buzz around the Triumph Tiger and BMW R1200 GS at the upper echelons of the price range and the Royal Enfield Himalayan and BMW G310 GS at the other. The zone in-between has been quite dormant with just the road-focussed Kawasaki Versys 650 on offer.
However, the Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT is here to heat things up with a 650cc V-twin heart and the right rugged-looking bits. What's more, you can buy one for less than Rs 10 lakh on-road. The Suzuki V-Strom 650 looks quite good on paper, so let’s get under its skin to know a bit more about it.
The Suzuki V-Strom 650 inherits its design from the larger V-Strom 1000. Like most ADV bikes, it's a functional design with minimalist body cladding. This third-generation V-Strom uses the category-trademarks like protruding beak and tall windscreen. The vertically stacked headlamp that nestles in between lacks any type of LED ornamentation, and as a result the less than pretty design feels a bit dated. While the headlamp sticks to halogen bulbs for lighting, the tail lamps are LED units.
The V-Strom we get in India is the XT variant that is more capable off-road thanks to its spoked wheels, on-off-road tyres and protective body cladding in the form of knuckle guards and a belly pan. There are two colours on offer: white and yellow. Of this, the yellow one looks more premium thanks to its gold anodised wheels. The white one comes with black anodised spoke wheels. Sure, it won't win any beauty pageants, but the V-Strom 650 commands attention and won’t look any less impressive standing next to more expensive competition.
This generation has several design changes to make it better suited for its role. For instance, the pillion seat and rear luggage rack are on the same level, for you to carry larger boxes with ease, and the exhaust is fitted lower than the previous model, for the panniers to fit flush into the bodywork. Panel quality is fantastic with tight panel gaps though we did notice a small rattle inside the front fairing every time we went over bad roads.
Features & accessories:
The instrument console gets an analogue tachometer with two digital displays. The one on top shows the speed and gear position while the bottom one is larger and quite comprehensive. It includes the fuel gauge, range, instantaneous average, engine temperature, ambient air temperature, two tripmeters, odometer and traction control modes. Thats a lot of information crammed into the display, and while it is legible on the move, we would have liked larger fonts. You also get a 12 volt charging socket on the left of the instrument console. The switchgear menu is easy to navigate via the four buttons on the left side of the handlebar.
Suzuki offers five accessories for the V-Strom 650 XT. These consist of an engine crash bar, main stand, chain guard, low seat and a 55-litre top box that can hold two full size helmets with ease. If bought separately, these accessories with the exception of the low seat costs Rs 89,000. Suzuki is offering these four accessories together as a pack for Rs 77,000.
Engine and performance:
In a crowd of midsize ADVs with parallel twin motors, the V-Strom 650 with its V-twin motor stands out. Its 645cc liquid-cooled mill gets updates that make it equally at home in the city and on the highway. This is a tractable motor and you can easily cruise in fifth gear at speeds as low as 35kmph. It also gets Suzuki’s Low RPM Assist that allows you to accelerate smoothly from lower revs. The light clutch and superb gearbox will make the task of shifting easier still. On the highway at 100kmph in 6th gear results in the engine spinning at a comfortable 4500rpm. The motor feels smooth and revs freely, some buzz can be felt via the footpegs and the seat after 8000rpm, which really isn’t an issue as you don’t need to rev that engine that high on most occasions. If you choose to you can rev it, as it will sprint from 2500rpm to the 10,300rpm limiter in one clean lunge. Power output stands at 71PS at 8800rpm while peak torque figure stands at 62Nm at 6500rpm.
Electronics include a 3-stage traction control (2 modes plus off) that is accessible on the move. Level one is the least intrusive and is suitable for fair weather riding, while level two is suited for rain and other slippery riding conditions. We, though, preferred to switch the traction control off as it cuts off power quite abruptly and isn't quite refined. Even with TC off, the motor is docile enough to be ridden at low city speeds.
Ride and handling:
Munching miles on the V-Strom 650 will be a pleasure. The upright seating position, the commanding view and the supple suspension make it a very willing companion for the long run.
The suspension setup includes non-adjustable telescopic forks and a linked monoshock at the rear. A handy preload adjustment knob makes dialing the rear suspension for heavier loads - like luggage and pillion - a breezy affair. The rear also gets adjustment for rebound damping.
On the road, the steering feels light and neutral, so the V-Strom 650 is easy to weave through traffic. The short turning radius is a boon be it navigating narrow city bylanes or a small trail. It feels stable at highway speeds though the addition of a top box does affect high speed aerodynamics and cause the bike to weave at speeds post 100kmph. Suzuki recommend a speed limit of 130kph when using the top box. The windscreen is now 9mm taller than the previous version and is adjustable to 3 levels. It however requires a tool for adjustment, so that’s a sore point. Also, we would have loved more height adjustability from the screen as there is a bit of buffeting on the top of the helmet at high speeds.
Riders of average height can place both feet on the ground despite it having a tall 835mm seat. Shorter riders can opt of the low seat option that at 815mm, lops 20mm off the seat height. The seat is wide and was quite comfortable on the 200-plus kilometres we spent on the bike.
If you wander off-road we would suggest some amount of restraint. While the front suspension’s 150mm travel can be considered decent, it is simply not in the league of other hardcore ADVs. Even the Royal Enfield Himalayan gets a front suspension travel of 220mm. Despite this the V-Strom 650 soaks up road undulations well and the ride gets better with speeds. It doesn’t bottom out easily and when it does, it doesn’t feel harsh.
The specially designed 19-inch front and 17-inch rear spoke wheels are designed to accommodate tubeless tyres which improves the safety factor and sense of confidence. They come shod with Bridgestone Battlax Adventure A40 tubeless tyres that perform well on the road and brilliantly off it. The 19-inch front setup also makes it easier to climb over small obstacles off the road. You do have to factor in the bike’s 216kg kerb weight, especially off-road. Once you get used to the weight, you can easily stand and ride the bike over trails thanks to the slim bodywork, though we would have liked serrated off-road footpegs and a taller and wider handlebar for more control.
Braking is via twin 310mm discs clamped with two-piston Tokico calipers and a large 260mm rear disc with a single-piston caliper. It gets ABS that can’t be switched off. While the brakes offer strong bite, we feel the ABS is over intrusive and cuts in early under hard braking.
As far as proper adventure tourers go, the V-Storm 650 is quite capable. At Rs 7.46 lakh, it is Rs 77,000 dearer than the Kawasaki Versys 650 that retails for Rs 6.69 lakh (ex-Delhi). The V-Strom 650 does miss out on the Kawasaki’s sophisticated Showa suspension setup but for the extra price, it gets spoked wheels with off-road oriented tubeless tyres and traction control. Of the two, the V-Strom 650 is definitely a more versatile and more characterful overlander. The next capable overlander, the Triumph Tiger XCx, costs Rs 6 lakh more. So, if you were looking for a proper adventure tourer the V-Strom 650 XT deserves to given a very close look.
Photography by Vikrant Date
*Ex-showroom Price in Delhi