Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT Review: Storming the ADV space
Suvil Susvirkar, Motoring journalist from Mumbai currently handling the motorcycle section for Indian Autos Blog.
Being a borderline introvert, I've had an inclination towards adventure motorcycles. It is the perfect getaway tool to move away from civilisation and crowd to find solace in nature. So naturally, I get excited every time an invite to test ride an adventure tourer lands in my inbox. The latest invite came from Suzuki Motorcycles to test ride their new offering in the middleweight, adventure tourer segment of the Indian market, the V-Strom 650 XT.
Currently, the V-Strom sits comfortably away from any direct competition in the Indian market. The Kawasaki Versys 650 is a road-biased motorcycle that is aimed to munch miles on tarmac and isn't very off-road friendly. The Triumph Tiger 800XC, on the other hand, sits a segment above in terms of pricing. The Ducati Multistrada 950, too, occupies the space in the premium segment and the optional Enduro pack pushes the prices further northwards.
Yes, there’s the new SWM Superdual T Base and T that arrived in India at an ex-showroom price tag of INR 6.80 lakh and INR 7.30 lakh respectively while Benelli plans to introduce the TRK502 to the sub-continent. However, Suzuki has a massive advantage concerning sales and service network that gives it an edge over its rivals. The real threat will arrive in the form of KTM 790 Adventure, but that’s still nowhere in the picture for the Indian market.
Is the V-Strom 650 XT the perfect recipe for success? We test rode the motorcycle in the picturesque backdrop of Rajasthan and here’s what we learnt.
The Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT is built around the aluminium twin-spar frame and draws styling cues from the litre-class V-Strom. The XT badge brings some off-roading prowess to the standard V-Strom 650. Thus, the motorcycle comes with more rugged wire-spoke wheels instead of alloys on the standard motorcycle. These are not just any wire-spoke wheels. The spoke-wheel design enables Suzuki to install tubeless tyres, thus ensuring easy repairs in case of a puncture. Some of the more premium adventure tourers in the Indian market do not get this feature.
The middleweight tourer comes with a beak design that sits below a vertically stacked headlight. Above the light is a three-way adjustable windscreen. The Ducati’s pinch-and-slide windscreen mechanism is the most convenient that I have used so far. The V-Strom 650 XT, however, needs more than just your hands to adjust the windscreen. You have to unscrew the windscreen to make it higher or lower. We will speak more about the windblast protection from the windscreen and the semi-fairing in the ride quality segment of the review.
Behind the windscreen is a minimalist instrument console with an analogue tachometer and a digital display. The digital console displays odometer, dual trip meters, gear position, coolant and air temperatures, battery voltage, the range on remaining fuel, average fuel consumption, instantaneous fuel consumption, traction control mode, a fuel gauge and clock. LED indicators in the cockpit include for freeze (starts to blink when the ambient temperature falls below 3°C), turn signals, high beam, neutral, fuel-injection, ABS, TC, and water temperature.
The daytime visibility of the instrument console is remarkable, and we could easily read all the data during the warm and sunny October morning in Rajasthan. The information on the display could be toggled using the switch on the left side of the handlebar.
Being an adventure tourer, you would be riding the motorcycle away from civilisation for hours, or even days. To make sure your devices do not run out of juice, Suzuki has installed a 12V DC outlet as standard on the V-Strom.
Then there is the fuel tank that can hold up to 20 litres of fuel. With a light hand on the throttle, you could squeeze out a fuel economy of 20-25 kmpl (official figures not disclosed) that should give you a range of over 400 km between fuel stops. The fuel tank has recesses to lock in your knees comfortably. It’s leaner towards the rider seat to offer proper grip while standing on the footpegs during off-roading.
Following the fuel tank is a single-piece, step up saddle that is plush to say the least. The padding and the width are sufficient to give your bottom maximum comfort without being too wide for a motorcycle that is occasionally supposed to go off-roading. The 835mm seat height gives a commanding position in traffic without being too high for vertically unblessed. At 5’9”, I could conveniently plant my legs on the ground which was confidence inspiring. The saddle is large enough to accommodate two adults comfortably.
The pillion rider gets a proper grab rail at the back. The grab rail further extends to provide the mounting point for the optional top box. The rear is finished with LED tail light and conventional blinkers with clear covers.
Sides reveal the conventionally mounted exhaust. For reference, the previous generation V-Strom 650 came with a tall-mounted unit. The standard under-cowl and knuckle guards further enhance the off-road look of the XT model. Another noteworthy element is the front fender that has a carbon-fibre texture.
The media motorcycles were fitted with optional accessories that included aluminium chain guard, 55-litre top case, crash bars, and the centre stand. An 835mm tall seat comes installed from the factory, but buyers can also opt for the optional 815mm saddle.
Would I want to change something on the motorcycle? The square-ish rear view mirrors are not the prettiest. Smartphone integration via Bluetooth for navigation, music, and call controls would have been a neat addition too. Lastly, I would replace those stock blinkers for LEDs (not available via Suzuki, yet).
I am nitpicking here. Overall, it is a well-thought and executed package, and Suzuki deserves full marks for the efforts. In a world of horizontally stacked dual headlights on the adventure motorcycles, the Suzuki gives a variety with its vertically mounted illuminators. The build quality is at par with the segment, and you get a sturdy motorcycle for your money.
Does the engine complement the design?
Performance and Braking
A 645cc 90-degree V-Twin, liquid-cooled DOHC motor powers this middleweight adventure tourer. The maximum power of 70 PS at 8,800 rpm and 62 Nm of peak torque at 6,500 rpm are put down to the ground via a six-speed gearbox. In comparison, the V-Strom 650 XT’s closest rivals – the Kawasaki Versys 650 and the SWM Superdual T – make 69 PS and 54 PS of maximum power respectively.
Push the start button (comes with Suzuki Easy Start System) and the environment is filled with the 90-degree V-Twin’s eargasmic sound. The power delivery is linear, and the motorcycle will chug along anywhere north of 2,500 revs without any protest in the form of engine knocking. There is a noticeable step up in the delivery as the motor crosses the 6,000 rpm and the V-Strom 650 XT starts to pull more cleanly.
For the city, Suzuki’s Low RPM assist ensures that the motor does not stall in stop-and-go traffic. The system automatically raises the idle speed when engaging the clutch or when riding at low rpm.
The speed of 100 kph comes at around 4,500 rpm in sixth gear. Add another 1,000 revs to the tachometer and the speedometer would display 120 kmph mark and that is a sweet spot to cruise on the highways. The engine feels stress-free and is at the cusp of its peak torque delivery for quick overtakes. The motor redlines at 10,000 rpm.
Despite the grunt from that V-twin engine, the motorcycle feels refined. There are absolutely no vibrations until 6,000-6,500 revs, beyond which you can feel a minor, tingling sensation through the footpegs.
Suzuki has not skimped on rider aids. Apart from dual-channel ABS, the V-Strom 650 XT now also gets three-level traction control – Level 1, Level 2 (wet or cold conditions) and Off. The traction control system has been tried and tested on the V-Strom 1000.
Braking department includes twin 310mm diameter discs with 2pod pin-sliding callipers at the front while at the rear is a 260mm single disk with a single pod pin-sliding calliper. Safety net includes a Bosch ABS. The feedback is linear, and the brakes slow down the 216 kg of mass from three digits to a standstill with remarkable efficiency. Sadly though, the ABS cannot be disengaged which is bad news for anyone who likes to slide the rear of the motorcycle.
New riders will find the motorcycle welcoming, and seasoned riders will appreciate the overall package. Nowhere during 200 km ride through highways, cities or off-roading did I feel a lack of power.
How was the comfort level on the 200 km test ride?
Ride and Handling
Being an adventure tourer, the V-Strom XT 650 offers upright right stance. The tall set handlebar and relatively forward set footpegs deliver comfortable ergonomics for the highway. The rear view mirrors are positioned neatly and they do not come in the way of your arm movement, offering a good amount of room to move around on the motorcycle during off-roading.
The ride quality is quite plush, and the suspension setup soaks most of the bumps efficiently without feeling too soft. At the front is a conventional telescopic front fork while at the rear is a monoshock unit. The front forks cannot be tuned for rider preference, but the rear is pre-load adjustable.
The semi-fairing and the windscreen further enhance long distance ride comfort and offer excellent protection from the windblasts. The only downside here is the adjustability factor that requires tools to reposition the windscreen.
Does it heat up a lot? Surprisingly, heat levels from the engine were not discomforting, both on the highway and in the city. That said, the climate was delightful and the roads free of too much traffic. We would want to ride the motorcycle for a longer duration in a Metropolitan city like Mumbai to get a clearer picture.
Now, despite the wire spoke wheels and a few accessories that give it an adventure motorcycle look, the V-Storm 650 XT is aimed to strike a balance between on-road and off-road riding. Thus, the motorcycle comes with a 19/17 front and rear combination. Up front is a 110/80-19 tyre while at the rear is a 150/70-17 rubber – BATTLAX ADVENTURE A40 sourced from Bridgestone.
The on-road handling is neutral and predictable. Off-road, the motorcycle would cross over most of the obstacles but not as efficiently as something that comes with a 21-inch front wheel. The tyres do a neat job in dry conditions. With monsoons already passed, we could not test the wet grip from those tyres.
Would I want a bigger front wheel on the V-Strom 650? No. The 19/17-inch wheel combination gives it the best of both worlds (on- and off-road), and it feels just right. Hardcore off-road motorcycling enthusiasts would probably want a bigger front but it is not available on the V-Strom 650 XT, and they would have to knock on the door of another Japanese two-wheeler brand.
The Suzuki V-Strom 650 XT is a near perfect package that gives all the things that you would ever need on a motorcycle. The build quality is at par, if not better, than its rivals in the country. Features like switchable traction control and tubeless wire-spoke wheels make the case stronger for the middleweight V-Strom. That said, switchable ABS would have made the deal very sweet.
The pricing is slightly on the premium side as compared it its rivals like the Kawasaki Versys 650 that retails for INR 6.69 lakh (ex-showroom). The V-Strom 650 XT, on the other hand, is available at an ex-showroom Delhi price tag of INR 7.46 lakh. For that premium, you get a more off-road ready motorcycle that will be a tempting deal for anyone who enjoys finding new roads on the maps.
It's available in two colour options - Champion Yellow and Pearl Glacier White. Both look equally tempting, and we could not choose a favourite.