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2017 Suzuki V-Strom 650 and 650XT: MD First Ride

The Suzuki V-Strom 650, affectionately known as the “Wee-Strom”, was introduced to the press for the 2004 model year, and we were there to test it. It took the same formula used by its big brother, the V-Strom 1000, that went into production a couple of years earlier. That is, generous room and overall comfort for the rider together with surprisingly good handling and long-distance capability … not to mention a 90° v-twin engine with good power and lots of character.

The V-Strom 650 became a big hit for Suzuki and achieved cult-like status among both hard-core adventure riders and even commuters/tourers. It wasn’t until the 2012 model year that substantial changes were made, which we tested in 2013. In 2015, Suzuki added the 650XT featuring tubeless wheels with steel spokes.

For 2017, Suzuki has made significant changes, once again, to the V-Strom 650 (including both the Standard model and the XT). These include a re-tuned engine with increased performance and lower emissions, together with several other modifications, both cosmetic and functional.

The engine incorporates many of the changes found in the 2017 SV650, including new cams, pistons and cylinder coatings. Additionally, new fuel injectors and a low rpm assist feature that helps prevent stalling. The V-Strom 650 also gets the “Easy Start” system, which allows a quick touch of the start button (no need to hold it down) to bring the bike to life.

A new exhaust system reduces weight and centralizes mass, as well as makes room for the new optional luggage system. Three-position traction control (low intervention, high intervention and off) is another new feature this year.

A new look comes from a redesign of the fairing, together with vertically stacked headlights. The new windscreen is height adjustable (three positions).

On the dash you will find a new instrument panel with a nice big analog tach and countless other, legible features (including gear position and fuel consumption).

Also standard this year is a dash-mounted 12 volt power outlet (previously an option). The standard V-Strom 650 gets new, lighter cast aluminum wheels (19″ front and 17″ rear), while the XT continues with similarly-sized steel spoke wheels (also tubeless). Both bikes feature the same Bridgestone Battlax Adventure A40 tires.

Both models have a redesigned sub-frame and cargo rack. Now able to share accessories with the V-Strom 1000, the bikes can mount Suzuki luggage for a more integrated and narrow look. The 650 XT, in addition to the different wheels, comes standard with hand guards and a lower engine cowl.

We rode both bikes relatively briefly at a press launch that included the redesigned V-Strom 1000 models (you can see our report on those here).

 

The 2017 V-Strom 650 models feel much the same … which is a good thing. Comfortable, maneuverable and with surprising engine performance from just 650 cc (courtesy of the excellent v-twin), we are immediately reminded why Suzuki has sold so many of these bikes.

We tried to focus on the changes for 2017. Although you can draw your own conclusions about the new styling, we immediately felt an improvement in wind protection, together with a reduction in buffeting, from the “wind-tunnel designed” adjustable wind screen. Less back pressure, we presume, results from allowing air underneath the screen. Overall, once you get the screen height correct, wind protection is much improved from past V-Stroms.

It was difficult to detect changes in engine performance without riding the bikes back-to-back with earlier models. Suffice it to say that power is still surprisingly ample throughout the rev range with the bike pulling well just above idle with a decent amount of rip near redline. As you might expect, Suzuki has pretty much perfected fuel injection mapping for these models, so opening the throttle never results in anything unexpected.

Handling on twisty roads is easy and confident. The upright seating position with wide bars helps here, and the tall, 19″ front wheel offers just a touch better bump absorption, even on tarmac. Transmission and brakes do their job admirably, although the 650s lack the outright power and feel found in the sportbike-level binders on the V-Strom 1000 models.

 

Handling is virtually identical between the Standard model and the XT (as noted, same tire sizes and brand), although the XT does appear to offer a bit more bump absorption as a result of the steel spokes. The XT also adds that extra bit of wind protection from the standard hand guards.

We found the new instrument panel legible and informative … greatly appreciating the big, analog tachometer. We only noticed the traction control system during a brief excursion off road, where it prevented wheel spin even when we tried to induce it.

Altogether, Suzuki has made some useful changes to the new V-Strom 650 and 650 XT that increase the desirability of these already successful models. The Standard model is priced at an U.S. MSRP of $8,799, while the 650 XT retails at $9,299.  Take a look at Suzuki’s web site for additional details and specifications.


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49 Comments

  1. Harold Klassen says:

    I just got an ’09 wee and it is lightyears better than the ’07 thou I had. Better everything! And I routinely get mileage in the high 50’s. Getting used to the engine reving higher but plenty of power runs like a top with over 34k and going strong!

  2. Andrus Chesley says:

    Hmmmmmm Had an ’07 DL1000 and wonder if I would of got the DL650 if I may still have it. Coming off 130K mile of traveling about the country on BMW R11**GS s , I missed the low end so traded the 1000 off on a left over Bandit 1250S. Still like the Wee Storm but really waiting to see what Yamaha is going to do the the 700 platform. But, so far, the 84K mile ’07 Bandit and 49K mile ’00 KLR 650
    stays.

  3. Alex says:

    Money no object though, I can’t choose between the 2017 650 and 2018 1000. The 650 is beloved by all and is arguably the best 650cc twin engine out there. The 1000 has significantly better suspension and brakes, isn’t much heavier, and now has lean-angle ABS. Sadly, while the 1000 twin has tons of low-mid grunt, after about 6000rpm it has nothing left. The 650 has always enjoyed its 10k rpm redline (maybe 9k now?) and may be more enjoyable than short shifting on a wave of torque. Considering I often have a pillion I guess the 1000 is the obvious choice, but I still want the 650 equally.

    • todd says:

      Of my experience with similarly powered bikes and the SV650, the Wee Strom should have plenty of poop for two-up highway travel with good reserves. The 650 is more popular for a reason. You get more than enough of everything for less money than the 1000. The common consensus is that there’s not enough added benefit in the 1000 to justify paying the extra amount.

      • Alex says:

        That was true of the old pig of a Vstrom 1000, but with the 2014+ models I’m not sure if that is true anymore. That said, I’m sure I would not be disappointed with the 650 at all.

      • Stuki Moi says:

        Two up, uphill at altitude in the Rockies and Sierras, you have ro work the 650 a lot harder. At lower altitude, and/or on flats, the 650 is “enough.” The new 1000s suspension also feels more plush on b umpy roads, while still doing a better job of keeping the wheels in contact with the tarmac. For my 6’1″, 185lbs, the 1000 is just enough taller and heavier to cross the “a bit awkward for urban use” line, while the 650 does not. Pushing the bike backward is noticeably more work, etc…

        So at my size, the 650 is a better allrounder, but the 1000 the better touring bike. To which most will likely say: Duh!!

        Both are good at both (In fact probably the best out there), and if you are significantly shorter or taller, that will likely sway you in one direction or another.

    • Buckwheat says:

      I can attest that the 2014 DL1000A’s engine seems to start breaking-in & pulling stronger and quicker past the 8500 mile mark. A great front end also with those forks & brakes. The 2018 wind screen is a worthy upgrade too.

  4. BJ says:

    I have the previous gen Wee Strom (’12-’16) with 40K miles on it. I added Cogent Dynamics suspension, Madstad ADV windscreen, a Russell Day-Long seat, and other farkles. It’s the best overall bike I’ve owned in 44 years of riding. I almost traded it in on a Honda AT last year, but I came to my senses. Instead I bought a 40 year old BMW airhead to park next to the Wee Strom. Great combination for this stage in my life!

  5. Gman says:

    Side note – the base cast wheel model comes with Bridgestone Trailwings as tires, the XT get the better Bridgestone A40 mounted.

    • Alex says:

      Good info! I see no reason to not go for the XT. Price difference is minimal, less than the cost of aftermarket tubeless steel spoked wheels. I see one in my future.

    • todd says:

      Some people go through a set of tires in a couple months. Deciding which model you want based on which tires it currently has fitted seems a little short sighted.

  6. Norm G. says:

    re: “the XT does appear to offer a bit more bump absorption as a result of the steel spokes”

    see, “nothing rides like steel”. (literally AND figuratively)

  7. WSHart says:

    This looks to be an excellent bike with its only problem being no electronic cruise control. In this day and age, that is just ridiculous. Any bike with touring aspirations should come standard with ABS, traction and cruise control.

    And a BIG fuel tank.

    For those of you that say something like, “first world problems”, I say, this bike is made to take you to those fifth world countries and back. That’s a lot of road work and cruise control would be nice to have. So would a bigger tank, but this one will do nicely. It was originally something along the lines of 5.8 gallons and was later reduced to 5.3 or so gallons(?). It (the tank) is still far bigger than many bikes out there and should deliver decent mpg and range with the current tank.

    Even if you never go further than the USA, Europe or Mexico, electronic cruise control will be more than welcome after a few hours in the saddle. Suzuki has been delivering with the two models of V-Strom for quite some time now and electronics have come a long way since this bikes inception.

    Time for them to take another step toward the 21st century. Otherwise, it is still a great bike that many will enjoy and who can blame them?

    • Jason says:

      I guess I just don’t ride enough straight boring roads to care about cruise control. My current bike has cruise control and I very rarely use it. I might turn it on for a minute or so every hour to stretch my throttle hand. Prior to having cruise control I just switched hands and held the throttle with my left hand when I wanted to give my right a break.

      • dale says:

        “…held the throttle with my left hand…”. Are you working in a circus? Your left arm must be few inches longer than your right arm. Hehehe.

      • sbashir says:

        Just remember which way to turn the handlebar.

    • Randy D. says:

      I’ve travelled many times across country on MCs and use a Throttle Rocker($11) for a poor man’s cruise control if needed. In fact I can transfer it from 1 bike to another. It’s not a true cruise control but so what? It serves the same purpose and can be rotated out of the way for the twisties.

  8. Randy D. says:

    This model bike first came out in `99 and I rode 1 @ Daytona Bike Week then. Are they really that much different now? Are these newer 1s 4 valve? At the time I had a VX800(4 valve) and wasn’t impressed with the SV650. Still have the VX but I could use a lower seat and less weight now.

    • MikeG says:

      Randy D….all the SV’s and V-stroms have 4-valve heads, no matter the year.

    • Cyclemotorist says:

      It’s hard to overcome the perceived torque advantage an 800 has over a 650. In casual riding the VX800 probably felt much stronger. All the acceleration tests have the SV nipping the 800 in 1/4 mile, however

    • Randy in Ridgecrest says:

      I’ve ridden both – not much comparison between the VX800 and the Wee, the VX is considerably stouter feeling engine wise.

      I test rode several first gen Wees as they kept coming by used at great prices. I just couldn’t get past the feeling the engine was just a little small for the weight and frontal area. I have test ridden the 2nd gen and think it’s “OK”.

  9. Brian says:

    “Easy Start” system. Heh. I thought they called that “fuel injection.”

    • Larry Kahn says:

      It’s about only needing to touch the button and release and the starter keeps going until the engine starts.

  10. redbirds says:

    My wife is on her second Wee, a 2012 her first being an ’07. The motor is a pure gem with adequate power to take you most anywhere while returning outstanding fuel mileage. A lot of bike for the money.

  11. My2cents says:

    I have an 07 with something above 85,000 miles and it’s still as solid as ever. I wasn’t a fan on the Gen 2 but this one is the cats. The repairs I have had done are as follows:

    Right switch block twice for water contamination.

    The rest are regular wear items,

    Forks seals
    Tires
    one chain and sprocket set
    plugs
    air filters
    oil, filter, coolant

    Still on the original,
    Battery
    bulbs
    fuel filter

    Longest single day ride 780 miles stock seat…ouch

    A truly fantastic motorcycle that really is a jack of all trades

  12. Dave says:

    So, +$500 for spoked wheels, hand guards and a belly tray/guard on the XT? Seems like the standard is the better buy.

    Admins: please move the “report post” button. It doesn’t work right with touch screen/mobile, which I bet is the majority interface most of your readers use.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “Seems like the standard is the better buy…”

      …right up to that moment you bend one (or both) of those cast rims outside of warranty.

      • Dave says:

        And then what? You’re buying new wheels, just as you would after bending the ‘spokers hitting the same pothole.

  13. Don E. says:

    I just did 4 consecutive 600 mile days on my 2011 V-Strom 650 and loved the ride. The wind management has been kept in check by a GIVI airflow shield. But the bike is very prone to sail in cross winds, I hope the new model fixes some of the sideways wind stability.

    • PatrickD says:

      So you put a tall screen on and then complain about the bike’s behaviour in a crosswind.
      Erm…..

  14. Fred says:

    Hi Dirck,
    Does the DL650 generate the same level of lovely intake sound from the air box like the SV650 motor?
    A Mate who has the earlier version said his is very quiet.

  15. Tommy See says:

    Dealer says a noticeable increase in power. I have owned 3 and love the handling and fuel economy. All day in the saddle. A great machine for the money. Thumbs up Suzuki.

  16. Sam says:

    I have a 2016 DL650 ABS and like it much more than my 2006 DL1000 that I had. The 650 does just about everything better than the bigger DL but accelerate as quickly. It gets lots better fuel mileage too. That XT does look good though.

  17. Moto-Kafe says:

    I would like to have this new model, over my 2008………except, I don’t “need” it right now. My older model still does everything I want….at the moment. I have already spent too much time and $$$ on farkles setting mine up for a some-day Alaska Ride…..I would hate to start over!!! I added a GIVI windscreen and never had an issue with “wind buffeting”. I would like to have a gear indicator (many say it’s not needed if one knows his/her bike well enough) and a gas milage computer……and alittle increase in power never hurts (unless……it effects gas milage)……and less overall weight. I’m glad to see Suzuki still in the ADV fray, even tho the DL models may not be in the top five.
    Thankyou Suzuki…….
    (P.S. have a 2017 DL650 at Bike Week for a DEMO Ride and might make mores sales. That’s what convinced me to sell my KLR and go with the Strom)

    • sbashir says:

      Added a Healtech GIpro gear indicator to my Suzuki Bandit 1250S and love it. It also eliminates the timing retard in the lower gears, increasing power. Available at Holeshot Performance.

  18. motogrin says:

    Vstroms were never beauty queens (I’ve owned two) and neither is this one. Too bad they ditched the side-by-side headlights. I always felt those provided a nice wide light foot-print for the cars to see you. And why didn’t they go to LEDs like Yamaha did for their middle weights? The enhanced wind protection claim is dubious. They said the same about the 1st to 2nd gen transition and it was not so. Glad they kept the best parts relatively unchanged: adequate power, good handling and long-distance-compatible riding position. Oh, and a high performance beak! And why not make a centerstand standard–most of us add the darn things anyway.

    • Rhinestone Kawboy says:

      Well, this one looks better than most if not all the previous Suzie 650’s in my eye.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “Too bad they ditched the side-by-side headlights.”

      BEAKS…!!!

      haven’t you heard…? it’s what all the “cool kids” are doing.

  19. austin zzr 1200 says:

    Not enough of an upgrade to trade in my ’08 wee

    • Ken says:

      It really is a much better bike. Had an 06 and put 100k on an 07. Now riding a 15 XT. And even the 15 feels like a different bike than the 07.
      Other than the name and being 650s they are a different machine.