Bus buffed - new third-gen Suzuki Hayabusa
It has been a while coming, well over a decade, and for a time there were rumours that Suzuki would kill off its iconic Hayabusa, but no siree. The third generation will arrive here midyear, finessed rather than completely reimagined.
What is it with Japanese motorcycle makers’ obsession with birds? Er, speed mainly. For a while in the early 90s, Honda’s Blackbird (CBR1100XX) was the quickest thing on two wheels (named after the Lockheed SR-71, a bird of another type), hitting a top speed of almost 290km/h.
But then Suzuki came out with the GSX-1300R, or the Hayabusa (Japanese for ‘falcon’, world’s fastest bird). It is regarded as the original hypersport bike, or ultimate sports machine, designed aerodynamically to go hellish fast in a straight line. Its top speed was around 310km/h, until the ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ amongst Japanese bike makers saw top speed limited to a mere 299km/h.
It was first released in 1999, when it was labelled the world’s fastest motorcycle, and got an update in 2008. It has been selling for 13 years since without modification, until now. For 2021 the Hayabusa has undergone a total makeover, with over 500 parts changed out.
At least 115,000 of the original generation were sold, many gaining aftermarket turbos turning them from hellish quick to into stark-raving 500hp drag strip menaces.
In 2008 the engine was enlarged to 1340cc, and there was a bold new body design to accompany the update. Brake performance was boosted in 2013 when ABS was also added. Almost 75,000 further units were sold, but now it would appear that Suzuki has undertaken a total do-over, aiming for better control and comfort.
That said, this is essentially a rehash of the existing bike, the engine size and output the same (140kW/150Nm), and the frame tweaked only. Suspension and brakes are upgraded.
The company needed to make engine changes so the big four-potter would comply with Euro 5 emissions standards. This new machine they describe as the “Ultimate Sports Bike” with more accessible grunt at low and moderate everyday commuting revs.
Fuel use is down too, at a claimed 6.7L/100km overall, while 0-100 now takes a quoted 3.2sec, aided no doubt by the addition of launch control. That’s
down from 3.4sec (we managed 3.34sec last time we tested the Bus in 2008). The new ‘Busa also features an enhanced electronics and safety arsenal.
Its designers aimed for additional refinement, while the outline itself is minimally changed; there’s a new GSX-R look about the nose cone and upgraded LED lights front and rear. The mufflers remind of previous models but they’re evidently more tapered for better lean angles while the general elongated wind-cleaving outline remains identifiable. Also still present, the Japanese character adorning the sides of the fairing that looks vaguely like a samurai sword.
What’s new then? The Hayabusa has already been found to do a decent job as a long distance sports tourer, but now it comes with fully adjustable KYB suspension, stronger brakes and it’s a fully ride-by-wire machine with six-axis IMU. So figure on TC, wheelie, launch and engine brake control systems, cornering ABS braking and even a bidirectional quickshifter.
Because this is meant for distance riding there's cruise control, along with hill hold control, engine power modes, and a handy speed limiter (which you can override with a vigorous twist of the right wrist).
Brakes are now Brembo Stylemas, with discs out to 320mm diameter, and there’s a new combined brake system. Weight remains on the paunchy side at 264kg ready to riot.
Also new is a comprehensive TFT screen which displays lean angle, amongst other things. The riding position is said to be more comfortable too, with bars 12mm closer to the pilot.
While this is no longer the leader of the mega-fast hyperblaster pack - Kawasaki kind of went next level with its H2 - and it’s more expensive than it used to be, Hayabusa now has the electronic smarts that are a match for its power and speed, while it should perform better in its dual role of commuter and hypertourer.
Suzuki NZ expects it to dot down here midyear, likely priced around $5k more than currently, thanks to the electronic and hardware updates, so figure on a sticker price of at least $25k.