Suzuki Hayabusa Still Brings Speed to the Masses

A modern automotive icon has returned in the shape of the fabulous Suzuki Hayabusa famed for offering 200mph potential to the mass market.

Back in 1999, the ‘Busa’ became an instantaneous sensation thanks to a top speed that, in the right circumstances, reached the heady realms usually only the preserve of the super-rich and their hypercars. On a launch test session in the UK, I saw the bike’s speedometer register over 220mph, however, the calibrated timing equipment recorded that I had only managed a measly 199.8mph, thanks mainly to the old leathers I was wearing being less than optimally aerodynamic and flapping around like a T-shirt.

Yet, the bike’s low and long chassis coped with the high speeds with arrow straight stability even in spite of the lumps and bumps of the airstrip proving ground at Bruntingthorpe Aerodrome in Leicestershire. However, despite its impressive capabilities, some class-conscious newspapers professed shock that such a missile should be available to the hoi-polloi of the working class while simultaneously singing the praises of the even faster Jaguar XJ220 whose price tag placed it firmly out of reach for all but their wealthy benefactors.

So, Suzuki bowed to the pressure and limited the bike’s speed to a still potentially fatal 186mph for the European market. Now the beast is back and, in its third generation, still sports its trademark styling and chuckles to the running joke that its name, taken from the Japanese for Peregrine falcon which feeds on blackbirds, cocked-a-snook at Honda’s super-sport tourer, the Blackbird.

Sadly, the motorcycle manufacturer is persisting with electronically limiting the machine’s top speed, albeit a healthy backstreet industry is well established in liberating the engine’s full potential once again. Its 1,340cc, inline-four cylinder engine has undergone extensive reworking, with the aim of boosting performance and improving power and torque in the low and mid-range revs. Suzuki claims the result, when allied to new performance-enhancing electronics, is the fastest-launching Hayabusa yet with improved everyday road manners and better reliability and durability. as well as a more rideable and flexible engine for everyday use, plus added durability and reliability, also.

It uses lighter pistons, more rigid and lighter conrods, a new camshaft with revised profiles to reduce valve lift overlap, new cam chain tensioner, revised crankshaft and crankcases, new gearshift stopper, cam, and cam plate, and gears with revised bearing widths to improve shift feeling, new slipper clutch assembly and a new magneto.

Changes to the combustion chamber promotes faster and more efficient burning of the fuel-air mixture. Further machining on the combustion chamber around the intake valve expands the valve curtain area and improves the flow coefficient by 5% as the valve begins to open and reaches 5mm in lift height. The combustion is further improved with a secondary injector at an angle on the side of the intake funnel. Its spray strikes a reflecting plate in the funnel and creates a fine mist that enters the combustion chamber. The result is again an increase in power and torque output at lower engine speeds.

There’s a new ride-by-wire electronic throttle system works with a variety of electronic control systems. In conjunction with the introduction of this new throttle system, the size of the tapered throttle bodies has changed from 44mm to 43mm, but the overall intake pipe length, (including the intake pipe, throttle body, and funnel), is extended by 12mm over the previous intake system. This is said to enhance power output at low and mid-range engine speeds.

Engine designer Naoki Mizoguchi, said: “We considered a variety of engine configurations before arriving at the final design. Experimentation included building prototypes with larger displacement engines, turbocharged versions and others with six cylinders. In the end we came to the conclusion that the original engine package achieved the best overall balance. We also came to the conclusion that not changing the basic layout was key to retaining the Hayabusa’s distinct identity. So we applied the best of its proven qualities when we sat down to set the latest engine design. Our goal was to create a better engine while building on the same proven layout.” The new Hayabusa arrives in European showrooms by the end of March priced at £16,499 ($22,464) including taxes.

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in London. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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