There is a lot happening in the adventure motorcycle segment in India. Till about a month ago, there was just the Kawasaki Versys 650 as the only option when looking for an ADV having a displacement less than 800 cc. Now there's the SWM SuperDual T and the Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT ABS as well. The Suzuki V-Strom 650 is one of the highest selling 650 cc adventure touring motorcycles across the globe and is now on sale in India. We get a taste of what the motorcycle is all about.
Looks and design
The V-Strom 650 XT uses the same design as its elder brother, the V-Strom 1000. The front end is characterised by an oval-shaped headlamp along with the typical 'beak' which seems to be typical of adventure bike design. The fat fuel tank is followed by the scooped seat which end in a standard luggage mount rack at the tail. The V-Strom 650 XT, especially in the yellow, looks good, be it standing still or on the move. The instrument panel is a simple part digital, part analogue console with big markings; it's not exactly hi-tech but makes reading on the go easier. Being an adventure bike, it does get a bash plate, but it's hard plastic, and should come in handy protecting the underbelly from minor scrapes over rough terrain.
The engine on the V-Strom 650 XT is a 645 cc V-twin that makes 70 bhp at 8,800 rpm and 62 Nm of peak torque at 6,500 rpm. The engine is paired to a slick 6-speed gearbox. Now, Suzuki says that it has updated the engine on the 2017 V-Strom 650 (Yes, this is a year old model, coming to India only now) with new resin coated pistons and exhaust cam-shafts from the globally popular Suzuki SV650 (which is still not sold in India). Over 60 components in the engine have been updated in order to meet Euro IV emission norms and have been carried over to the India-spec model as well. The down-type exhaust system is all-new as well. The other important feature on the V-Strom 650 is the Suzuki low-RPM assist. It basically increases the idling speed of the engine when engaging the clutch or when you ride at low RPMs, making it easy not to stall the engine, whether crawling through traffic or manoeuvring broken roads and the like.
Riding the Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT ABS for a few hours, the first thought that crossed my mind was the refinement of the engine. It is butter-smooth and bereft of vibrations at any given RPMs. Adding to the refinement, is the tractability. 70 bhp and 62 Nm might not seem like much, but what impressed us is how the power and torque is delivered. It is very user-friendly and will not intimidate riders who are upgrading from, say 250-300 cc bikes to the V-Strom 650 XT. There is plenty of pulling power available from as low as 2,500 rpm and even when in high gears, one need not shift down while overtaking, simply opening up the throttle will do! The 6-speed gearbox too is precise and has smooth shifts. The Suzuki V-Strom might not have what you could call 'grin-inducing' performance but it sure does have a likeable motor. The performance at least, will appeal to a wide range of motorcycling audiences. The V-Strom 650 XT will happily cruise at triple digit speeds without stressing itself or the rider out. We took the bike for almost a 300 km spin and never did it feel lacking, at least in terms of performance.
Ride and handling
The first thing that crosses your mind when you plant yourself on the V-Strom 650 is the comfortable perch. You sit high and comfortable, getting a good view of the road and the moment you start moving, you will find that it is easier to move it around than a regular 800 cc + adventure bikes thanks to a kerb weight of 216 kg. The bike responds instantly to handling inputs and is eager when it comes to quick direction changes. Throw it into a corner and it will happily lean over and exit without any drama. There is enough grip from the Bridgestone Battlax tyres for all tarmac related activities.
Sure, the suspension can be set up to individual preferences, but we found the V-Strom to have a comfortable ride even in the default setup that it was given to us in. Suspension is handled by 41 mm telescopic forks up front and a monoshock at the rear (which is fully adjustable for preload and rebound). Braking is handled by two 310 mm discs up front and a 260 mm disc at the rear. Dual-channel ABS and a 2-step traction control system are offered as standard. The traction control can be turned off completely as well, but the ABS cannot be switched off.
In essence, the V-Strom 650 XT is a touring machine and not exactly an off-roader. But the motorcycle is more than happy to tackle bad roads or the occasional off-road patch you throw at it. The bike has a ground clearance of 170 mm which is sufficient to tackle broken roads or big bumps. But in case you are looking for something more hard-core, you might want to look up one of the bigger adventure motorcycles, with more off-road oriented equipment.
Suzuki also pegs the V-Strom 650 XT as more of a touring motorcycle than an off-roader. It does get hand guards and a plastic bashplate which felt rather flimsy to us. We don't think it will offer decent protection against big rocks or other obstacles that you might find on a trail. At present, Suzuki is not offering a metal bashplate even as an accessory but could do so in the near future. Should you want to stand up and ride, you will feel that the handlebars are slightly set low for the rider to be comfortable.
Price and verdict
The Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT ABS is priced at ₹ 7.46 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) and goes up against the Kawasaki Versys 650 and the SWM SuperDual T. At present, these are the only three ADV motorcycles that one could buy in the 500 cc - 800 cc segment. The V-Strom 650 XT ABS in particular, is a balanced package. For the price, it offers good performance, good quality fit and finish and most importantly, it will sit very well for those who are looking to buy a smaller displacement, more affordable adventure touring motorcycle. It gets the basic features that a motorcycle at this price point should have and will be more than happy to double up as a daily ride along with being the occasional mile-muncher.