Willow Springs' 2500-foot altitude tends to rob power, but you wouldn't know it from twisting the throttle on the K9 model GSX-R1000. Although we didn't have a 2008 model on hand for direct comparison, there's no doubt whatsoever that the new K9's top-end has plenty to spare over its predecessor. Grabbing a handful anywhere above 9000 rpm results in literal teleportation to the next corner, and yet the power is very manageable, with no jumps or dips in the powerband. Exploiting that impressive power is made easier by the smooth off/on throttle response that permits earlier and faster corner exit drives no matter what rpm or speed you begin them at. Midrange acceleration seems on par with the previous generation even with the more oversquare engine, although some of that can probably be credited to the shorter primary drive gear ratio (the six gear ratios themselves are identical, however).
Thankfully slowing all that speed are much improved brakes. While we wouldn't exactly term the previous Suzuki binders as terrible in any way, they were a bit lacking in progressiveness and feel compared to the ever-improving competition. The new monoblock Tokicos have swiftly solved that issue, with a nice balance of responsiveness, power, feel, and progressiveness that made bleeding off the tremendous speed generated by the new K9 much easier to handle, especially into Willow's Turn One where the bike needs to be hauled down from 170 mph down to 70 mph as quickly as possible.
The instrument panel has been...
The instrument panel has been slightly restyled, with a pixilated grey background on the tachometer, and a new four-light shift indicator that can be programmed to light up sequentially at different rpm or all at once.
The new GSX-R receives the...
The new GSX-R receives the latest Showa Big Piston Fork for improved front end performance. As with the ’09 Kawasaki ZX-6R’s BPF, the damping adjustments are now on top with the spring preload adjustment on the bottom.
The Suzuki Drive Mode Selector...
The Suzuki Drive Mode Selector has been moved to the left handlebar, and can now be toggled via thumb or forefinger buttons for easier operation.
The GSX-R's overall steering and handling characteristics haven't really changed, with the same friendly combination of stability and precision that quickly builds confidence through the most challenging corners. Even Willow's 135-mph Turn Eight failed to faze the new chassis, which tracked straight and true through the nastiest bumps it could find. About the only gripe we could find with the GSX-R would be in steering effort; although a smidge lighter than its predecessor, the K9 still requires some serious muscle to make major transitions, an area that its competition has made considerable progress in.
We've praised the action of the Showa Big Piston Fork on the '09 Kawasaki ZX-6R, and the unit on the new GSX-R is no different. Although its comparatively firm initial feel takes some getting used to, once the acclimation has been made, the BPF's superb feedback and control allows you to get more aggressive on corner entries; you really have a better idea of what's happening at the tire contact patch, and that permits you to expand your performance envelope comfortably. We had no complaints with the rear suspension either, although we did have to add a 3mm spacer to increase rear ride height for Willow Springs' unique cornering demands.
Does It Have The Goods?
Make no mistake, the GSX-R1000 K9 is up against some seriously capable competition this year. While the new model's performance would probably have comfortably put it on top six years ago, that's not the case with a class of '09 that includes the new crossplane-crank Yamaha R1, the stronger and faster Ducati 1198, and the winner and runner-up of our literbike comparison last year, the Kawasaki ZX-10R and Honda CBR1000RR. There's no doubt that the '09 GSX-R will be very competitive, but will it be able to eke out a victory in what is surely the most competitive literbike class in years? Stay tuned.
'09 SUZUKI GSX-R1000 K9
Type: Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, DOHC inline four-cylinder
Bore x stroke: 74.5 x 57.3mm
Compression ratio: 12.8:1
Induction: SDTV, two injectors/cyl., 44mm throttle bodies
Front tire: 120/70ZR-17 Bridgestone BT-016F
Rear tire: 190/50ZR-17 Bridgestone BT-016R
Rake/trail: 23.8 deg./3.9 in. (98.3mm)
Wheelbase: 55.3 in. (1405mm)
Seat height: 31.9 in. (810mm)
Fuel capacity: 4.6 gal. (17.5L)
Claimed wet weight: 452 lb. (203kg)