The search for answers began in early '04, with R&D teams from the U.S. and Japan conducting loads of market research in the States to determine what styling and design elements were likely to be embraced by customers who'd fallen so hard for the original Hayabusa. "What we found over and over," design manager Koji Yoshiura told me during my weeklong trip to Suzuki Japan's Hamamatsu test center in March, "is that people loved the look of the old bike. So we knew right away we had to keep and strengthen the [original] look."
Suzuki Japan then commissioned several sketches by its styling team to get a feel for what such an aesthetic "strengthening" might look like on paper. Many sketches were drawn, with all sorts of aesthetic approaches, with three being settled on, cleaned up and shown to several Suzuki dealers in late '04. The sketch that generated the most excitement was one with a beautiful blend of curvy shapes and ripped-bicep strength; this was improved upon and then taken to a dealership with a heavy 'Busa clientele for some focus-group confirmation-which it received in spades. "It was very well received," styling group member Yoshinori Kohinata told me. "We aimed for a powerful, sexy look," added color/graphics chief Shinsuke Furuhashi, "along with a strong family resemblance [to the current bike]."
With the new bike's basic look largely settled, the styling crew began spending more time with the engineering folks to hammer out the myriad details of melding all the pieces together. While the early sketch work was being done months earlier, R&D brass had made a key decision regarding the new bike-to carry over the majority of the first-generation Hayabusa's engine and frame assemblies to the new bike, with a handful of key upgrades, of course. This would allow styling and engineering to work from a common mechanical platform and streamline the process of reskinning the bike for its debut.
The reasons for the old-to-new carryover were many. For one, the current 'Busa's inline-four already made plenty of power and had proven nearly bulletproof, and Suzuki's engine development team said it was capable of even more oomph in noise- and emission-restricted production guise without affecting reliability. Also, the economics of using the same base engine were huge; Suzuki would save money, as very little new tooling would need to be developed, purchased and amortized. Engines are, after all, the most expensive part of a motorcycle to design and build. Another reason is that because the first-gen 'Busa had proven to be a highly capable handler, and because the new bike's category positioning and general concept-"Ultimate Sport" or Suzuki's "maximum two-wheeled statement"-was remaining in place for the new bike, there was no good reason to develop and fund an entirely new frame. This wasn't going to be a big GSX-R1000, of course.
Finally, there was this: If the old bike was this popular even after years of production, thoroughly massaging the frame and engine already in place was a far safer and more logical move than starting from scratch and reinventing the wheel. If it's not broke, don't fix it.
And so by early '05, Suzuki had pretty much settled on the look and makeup of its new 'Busa: a comprehensive redo of the current bike in place of a new-from-the-ground-up machine. Numerous engine and chassis upgrades would allow the bike to keep pace with the competition and utilize any new-think technology that had become standard issue since the original 'Busa debuted-items such as lighter engine and chassis parts via more advanced materials (such as titanium), and components such as radially mounted brake calipers, once found only on MotoGP machinery.