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2012 Suzuki V-Strom 650A ABS Review


by Pascal Bastien ,

The Suzuki V-Strom has built a rock-solid reputation in a market segment defined by compromises -- road vs. trail, ride vs. handling, freedom vs. protection, etc. While it doesn't meet every expectation, like most of its competitors, the smallest member of the V-Strom family has won over many adventurers with exceptional versatility.

2012 Suzuki V-Storm 650A ABS

Despite a thin margin of error, and a scope statement that would discourage most engineers, the Suzuki V-Strom 650A returns with smart upgrades for 2012. It borrows some of its sleeker lines from the Gladius, but alas, not the ultra-compact frame that would have improved off-road riding. Still, the V-Strom frame is now 3 kg lighter than the old one; plus it gains a more ergonomic fuel tank and a much more comfortable rider's seat.

The redesigned instrument panel (derived from the European-spec GSR750), handlebars with integrated controls, tapered front and restyled tail sections give the 2012 Suzuki V-Strom 650A ABS a more modern and much sharper look.

Improved powerplant
Similar to the Gladius, the new V-Strom 650A uses the latest evolution of the 90-degree V-twin from the SV 650. This venerable engine, which dates back to 2002, gets new camshafts and valve springs, as well as specific injection maps to increase flexibility at medium revs, throttle response across a wider range, combustion efficiency, and fuel economy. The Suzuki Dual Throttle Valve (SDTV) has been slightly revised along with the exhaust system. The latter now incorporates a catalytic converter to meet Europe's new emissions standards.

Bore and stroke remain unchanged; however, rounded crankcases accommodate the new bushings that help reduce engine noise. What's more, the 2012 Suzuki V-Strom 650A ABS gets a new patented technology called Throttle-body Integrated Idle Speed Control (TI-ISC). The 6-speed transmission delivers more precise shifts and is a real treat to work with.

2012 Suzuki V-Storm 650A ABS  engine
The new V-Strom 650A uses the latest evolution of the 90-degree V-twin from the SV 650. (Photo: France Ouellet)

Lovely character
The riding position feels quite relaxed, with the arms not too extended and the legs at a comfortable angle. The instrumentation is extremely user-friendly; in fact, you can switch between the various LCD readouts using the handlebar-mounted switch.

The 2012 Suzuki V-Strom 650A ABS starts with a hushed sound so typical of V-twin engines, while the clutch is just as easy to modulate as the throttle for smooth takeoffs.

The new model completes daily commutes with the same effortless manoeuvrability and slightly better handling. Mind you, the riding position is once again more suited for riding on the road than off the road. Weight transfers from front to back feel less natural as a result. At the same time, the tires lack grip when venturing off the beaten paths. For sure, though, the riding position on the 2012 Suzuki V-Strom 650A ABS provides ample comfort and allows great two-up riding.

Stable and comfortable
The wind protection from the half-fairing and 3-position, height-adjustable windscreen is one of the segment's best. And despite the big, boxy side cases available, this bike does a satisfying job of sticking to its line.

When not carrying any luggage, the 2012 Suzuki V-Strom 650A ABS turns into a sporty two-wheeler regardless of road conditions. Wet pavement or some loose gravel in a corner doesn't seem to affect its poise and stability -- control is always easy to maintain. Likewise, the machine changes directions in predictable fashion and doesn't wince excessively when you need to brake a little through a corner.

No matter the type of riding, every adventure with the 2012 Suzuki V-Strom 650A ABS is like smooth sailing courtesy of a trail-oriented suspension with generous travel. The seat is remarkably softer and more comfortable than the previous model's, and even on par with some far pricier motorcycles.

Winning combination
True, you'll find dual-purpose bikes with a more exhilarating engine, a more rugged chassis or sharper dynamics, but only a select few offer such a great combination of comfort, protection, functionality, and convenience.

The redesigned 2012 Suzuki V-Strom 650A ABS is more attractive, more comfortable and friendlier as a whole. It also has a lovely, fuel-efficient engine and a very competitive price.

Sleek design
Great engine
Good value
Enhanced comfort

Riding position more suited for riding on the road than off