When we tested the original Yamaha FZ-09 introduced for the 2014 model year, like most journalists we were impressed with its engine performance, light weight and bargain price. For less than $8,000 U.S MSRP, buyers received a high performance triple with loads of character, coupled with an extremely light chassis and upright ergonomics.
The 2014 FZ-09, despite its surprising price/performance ratio, had its flaws. Notably, an overly snatchy throttle response pointing to a need for further fuel injection tuning by Yamaha, as well as suspension that was simply too soft for riders of any significant skill level.
Nevertheless, the FZ-09 sold well, and it deserved to. Now, for the 2017 model year, Yamaha has made significant changes to the bike that greatly improve its functionality. It has also changed styling significantly.
On the function side of things, the FZ-09 receives several changes that make a real difference this year. A new traction control system has 3 different settings (including Off), ABS brakes are standard, the ECU includes new fuel injection settings to make throttle response smoother, and a fully-adjustable front fork is included for the first time. An “Assist and Slipper” clutch debuts on this model. Finally, another functional change is a flatter, slightly taller seat.
If the traction control system came into play during our ride, we were not aware of it. We left the TCS in the default Mode 1, and it was essentially invisible. When we get a long-term test unit, we should have more thoughts on this new system. Likewise, the ABS braking system never made its presence known during our ride, which could mean one of two things. Either it never came into play because we never came close to locking the front or rear wheels, or it was doing its job so invisibly we didn’t notice.
Other changes were noticeable, and uniformly improved the performance of the FZ-09. The fuel injection tuning is certainly improved, and the standard engine map, which is the default setting, is less snatchy when opening a fully-closed throttle. Engine response remains extremely quick, however, so if you are in the mood to cruise, or commute, you might prefer the “B” setting, which substantially softens throttle response while still providing plenty of power to the rear wheel. The “A” setting is the sport mode, and it quickens throttle response even compared to the standard setting.
The new front fork is a massive improvement. The shock settings, as well, seemed improved from the 2014 model, but the fork is a revelation. Frankly, in 2014 it was difficult for even a moderately skilled rider to push a stock FZ-09 hard, or aggressively, on the street or the track. The suspension was simply too soft, and lacked damping, both compression and rebound. During our tests, we were able to ride the 2017 model aggressively through twisty roads in and around Malibu, California. We never touched the fork settings offered us by Yamaha at the start of the ride, but did add a bit of additional rebound damping to the rear shock.
We always felt that we could not pass final judgment on the quality of the chassis offered by the original 2014 FZ-09, primarily because of the poor suspension action. Now we know just how good the chassis, and overall handling, of the FZ-09 is! The current iteration absolutely shreds canyon roads, finally living up to its potential, and the pedigree hinted at by the tremendous engine performance. Offering both stability and quick changes of direction, together with good ground clearance and excellent feedback from the tires, the FZ-09 provided tremendous confidence while navigating the beautiful roads near Malibu.
The strong points of the original FZ-09 carry forward, including that tremendous 847cc three-cylinder engine that offers high peak horsepower, a very broad spread of torque, and that character (je ne sais quoi) seemingly only found in inline triples. The brakes, particularly the four-piston front brake, seem very close to state-of-the-art sport bike standards … with huge power and good feel. The extraordinarily light weight of the machine (a claimed 425 pounds with a full 3.7 gallon fuel tank) certainly contributes to the ability to bring this bike to a quick stop.
The riding experience is enhanced by the new clutch with its noticeably lighter pull, and the flatter seat that no longer pushes the rider into the fuel tank. The new seat, in particular, is a big improvement with good support and a large space for the rider to move fore and aft.
The styling changes are significant, as well. Influenced by the new FZ-10, the FZ-09 now features four LED headlights, including two low beams and a high-beam mode where four separate LED lights are illuminated at the same time (we are interested to see how bright this is at night). Other detail changes up front are coupled with a completely designed rear end that includes a shorter tail cowl, integrated LED brake and tail lights and a single-sided license plate holder/fender.
The 2017 FZ-09 has seen a price increase to offset the new standard features, and now retails for $8,999. Three color options are available at that price, including Intensity White, Candy Red, and Matte Silver with Neon Yellow. Take a look at Yamaha’s web site for additional details and specifications, and to look at the very many accessories available for the new FZ-09.