Writing about bikes for 20 years. Published in dozens of titles on five continents. Mildly obsessed with discovering how things work.
Suzuki didn’t have much to crow about during the big bike shows of 2017 but its lack of new models for the 2018 range only means that its launches during this year are likely to be spectacular.
The fact is that a large number of Suzuki’s most famous machines are living on borrowed time. That’s not just a figure of speech; the firm obtained special ‘end-of-series’ permission to sell models that don’t comply with the latest European type-approval and emissions rules, but that permission expires at the end of this year and there’s no way of extending it any more.
Officially, all motorcycles sold in Europe should have been meeting the latest rules since 1st January 2017. These rules are often referred to as ‘Euro4’, although that emissions limit is actually just a portion of EU Regulation 168/2013, which also covers a range of other aspects of the design and construction of bikes. However, the end-of-series rules allow limited numbers of non-compliant machines to be sold for up to two years, if their makers apply for such an extension. That two year period of grace comes to an end on 31st December 2018.
And of all the major manufacturers, Suzuki has taken the greatest advantage of the end-of-series extensions, applying them to a trio of its most famous and popular models; the GSX-R600, GSX-R750 and GSX1300R Hayabusa.
All three machines now face a crossroads; Suzuki must discontinue them, replace them or redevelop them enough to meet the European regulations. And we understand that all three will be revamped before the year is out to ensure there’s an unbroken supply.
According to our sources, the Hayabusa is in line for the most extensive revisions. While we understand that wild rumours of a turbocharged Busa replacement are wide of the mark, the revisions to the 2019 model will be extensive enough to virtually make it an all-new machine.
Suzuki has already dropped some big hints about it, not least in the form of the Concept GSX that it showed in Tokyo back in 2015. That concept might have been little more than a papier-mâché mock-up, but our Japanese sources say that it was close to the final look of the next-generation Hayabusa.
The computer-generated images you see here come from influential Japanese magazine Auto-By, which has a strong history of getting it right when it comes to new bike predictions. They show how the Concept GSX styling is likely to be carried over to the next-generation Hayuabusa.
Under the new skin will sit a heavily redesigned version of the existing four-cylinder engine. Capacity is expected to rise from the current 1340cc to around 1440cc, matching a name-change to ‘GSX1400R’. That will put its engine size on a par with the 1441cc Kawasaki ZZR1400. The frame is also expected to be new, and Suzuki is sure to shovel on a layer of addition technological trickery to bring the Busa up to the mark as it enters its third decade of production. Semi-active suspension is a strong possibility, while the traction control and ABS are in line to be heavily updated to add more functions and capabilities.
The fact that 2019 marks the 20th anniversary of the Busa may well be Suzuki’s reason for holding back the new model rather than launching it as a 2018 machine. The original bike first appeared in late 1998 as a 1999 model, so it’s fitting that the third generation should be launched to coincide with that anniversary.
The question remains over exactly how Suzuki will position the new Hayabusa. Two decades ago it slotted into a burgeoning segment – pioneered by the ZZ-R1100 and Honda Super Blackbird – for insanely rapid, comfy sports-tourers.
These days a combination of a voluntary 186mph top speed limit and the fact that 1000cc superbikes are now breaching the 200hp barrier means there’s less room for big, heavy missiles like the Busa. Without those top speed or brute power laurels to lie on, it needs to refocus.
As any owner will know, though, Hayabusas do offer a fantastic combination of performance and long-distance comfort that no cramped 1000cc superbike can match. As a high speed GT bike, they still make sense, and there’s where Suzuki is likely to push the new one even further.
So what of Suzuki’s other two end-of-series bikes? The GSX-R600 and GSX-R750 are sitting on the same Euro4 death row as the Hayabusa, but we understand that they too will be reprieved.
At the moment, information is limited but we hear that the next-gen smaller GSX-R twins will be given milder revamps than the Hayabusa.
The focus will be getting the bikes to meet Euro4 emissions rules and adding now-mandatory kit like ABS. We can be sure that the changes will involve tweaks to the exhausts and electronics, cleaning up the emissions and introducing a suite of technology including traction control. The two already share most of their components, and we’re expecting the main building blocks of the frames and engines to go unaltered into 2019. The bodywork is likely to get reworked, though; a facelift to bring the smaller GSX-Rs into line with the design of the GSX-R1000 would make a lot of sense, particularly since Euro4 means they’re likely to get a similarly large exhaust end can anyway.
As with the Hayabusa, the smaller GSX-Rs are going to have to be replaced before the end of 2018 if there’s to be an uninterrupted supply of them in dealers, so we might well see them unveiled sooner than the traditional November show dates. Watch this space.
Photo credit: Auto-By