Fans of the old SV650 got a lot to smile about when Suzuki released its 2017 model. Ditching the SFV650 Gladius design for a look more in keeping with the bike people actually loved was a great move. Additionally, overhauling the loveable 645cc liquid-cooled V-Twin and 2-into-1 exhaust, dropping some weight, adding niceties like Low RPM Assist and Easy Start, all contribute to a bike that pleases the senses more than ever before.

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The Star of the Show

I’ve been fortunate enough to put a few thousand miles on this SV over the past few weeks, and I’m impressed with its range, full stop. Commuting, backroads, interstate hauls, the bike is proficient at them all.

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The 645 V-Twin offers a pleasing spread of power. ACP photo.

Granted, spending a few hours at highway speeds gets a little tiresome without wind protection. But not enough for me to swear it off outright. Not by a long shot.

That’s due in large part to the fact that the 645cc, liquid-cooled 90-degree V-Twin is a gem. If you’re toeing the line and holding it to 65 mph in sixth gear, you’re barely over 4500 rpm. With the tach in that position I barely feel the engine running beneath me. Noticeable vibrations set in at around 7000 rpm, but you’d have to drop it down to fourth to get close to that at the speed limit. With a 10,000 rpm redline and responsive mid-range, you’ve definitely got some room to play.

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You can leave the SV in third gear and rip corners all day. Shanda Hurst photo.

The bottom end isn’t anything to shake a stick at either. Third-gear is the name of the game in the twisties if you’re not looking to touch the clutch. The engine can wind down to almost nothing and still provide some giddy-up when you give the throttle a twist—a clear advantage of the V-Twin design. It’ll keep pulling up to law-suspending speeds as well, no shifts necessary. Take offs in second and third gear are no problem, if you miss a beat or just plain feel lazy.

Things get even more stimulating when you blip the throttle down and access the meat of the bike’s torque output around 7500 rpm. With the SV fully woke you find a machine that pulls eagerly and responds instantly.

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The classic, round headlight fits well with the overall aesthetic of the bike. Byron Wilson photo.

As for the stop-light to stop-light stuff, the SV strikes a nice balance. It’s not abrupt or too aggressive off the line, which will be a nice feature for less experienced riders, but still gathers momentum quickly enough that I never felt like it was sluggish.

Throttle response is crisp throughout the range, and power delivery is smooth. Fueling from Suzuki’s Dual Throttle Valve set-up with 10-hole injectors is similarly dialed.

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It’s easy to log lots of miles on the SV650. Shanda Hurst photo.

All told, the package, as far as putting power to the ground, is exemplary in terms of the scope of its appeal. It’s playful without being touchy and capable of skillfully navigating a variety of riding circumstances. If ever there were a balance to be found between an engine that’s too mellow and too aggressive, I’d say it would look a lot like this mid-size Twin.

One final note on the powerplant. I am just coming off a stint aboard the V-Strom 650, which carries the same engine with a slightly different tune, aimed to provide more punch down low. I prefer the configuration on the SV for the fact that it feels like there’s a better spread of power throughout the range. The 36-pound weight savings on the SV (434 pounds compared to the V-Strom’s 470) and compact design contributes to the sportier feel of the platform overall.

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The stripped down styling of the SV650 is really appealing. ACP photo.

Supporting Cast

The six-speed transmission is quite smooth. Lever operation is precise and reliable, the clutch tends to the light side and engagement is progressive. The Low RPM Assist feature adds to the refined feel of the transmission off the start, raising rpms slightly as you begin to roll away. It’s a handy feature if you’re starting off on an incline, too.

The 41mm fork and rear shock are adequate, but can be a little tight over road imperfections at slower speeds. In smooth turns on even asphalt the bike is steady and reliable and mid-corner adjustments are instantaneous. The rear does have seven-way preload adjustability if you’re looking to refine feel a bit, or need a bit of extra carrying capacity.

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The dual disc brakes could be a bit more refined. Byron Wilson photo.

Handling is one of the SV’s strong points though when you’re rolling through bends at a spirited pace. A slight bit of body language one side to the other and minimal effort at the bars has the bike on its side before you know it. Upgrade the Dunlop Sportmax Qualifiers that come stock with a set of Sportmax Q3+ tires and you’d have a machine ready for high pace canyon or track duty, no problem.

The dual disc front brake set-up with Tokico calipers features ABS and does an admirable job. Sure they’re not the latest and greatest radial-mount setup but they work just fine. Feel is slightly soft at the start but there’s decent feel through the pull. The ABS system works as advertised, too. I gave it a test during an unexpected emergency stop at one point, grabbing a handful until the pulses set in. Thankfully, the bike stayed upright and came to a rest just past the white line at the stoplight.

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A bit of body language is all it takes to get the SV through the corners. Shanda Hurst photo.

At the Helm

Ride position is comfortable enough, though a little cramped for my six-foot build. That’s largely due to the cant and feel of the seat. There’s a slight tankward angle to the seat, and it narrows considerably at the front. When I push back, my body can stretch out a bit and the seat feels more supportive, but over long stretches on the bike I find myself having to constantly reposition. Pair that with a perch that could be softer, and backside fatigue sets in after a while.

However, the angle and position of the bars and the low 30.9 inch seat height give you a sense of being in the bike and not on top of it, and the pegs are situated in a natural, comfortable position. If I owned the bike I would swap the seat for something more comfortable and be content.

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This is a bike I would put my money down to own. Shanda Hurst photo.

The dash is well sorted and easy to read, with a lot of information packed into the compact package. Fuel range information, gear position, a speedo and tach, time and trip meters are all included.

As far as fuel range is concerned, I averaged just over 50 mpg. I spent most of the time using the bike as a commuter and did a few longer trips on the interstate, so wasn’t as aggressive on the throttle as during our time exploring mountain roads. On more spirited rides, mileage was closer to 40 mpg while a few hours on I5 in a comfortable, cruising sixth gear yielded over 60 mpg. With 3.8 gallons capacity (3.6 in CA), you get a range between fill-ups of 198 miles.

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Nothing sweeter. Shanda Hurst photo.

I was also pleased to find that my set of Cortech Super 2.0 saddlebags fit perfectly on the rear of the SV, making it possible to spend a few weekends away on the bike.

Take a Bow

It took an afternoon of riding the SV650 for me to start thinking about my credit score and keeping closer tabs on my savings account, counting the days until I’d be in a position to purchase one of my own. That feeling hasn’t waned since. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the bike, whether it was during the five-mile jaunt to work or 400-mile round trip expedition up to central Oregon and back. From power delivery to handling to it’s moderately aggressive stance, the SV is a bike that begs to be ridden. And I have been more than happy to oblige.

2017 Suzuki SV650 Highs & Lows

    This bike is pure fun
    Smooth and spirited power delivery
    More versatile than you might think
    Seat could be more comfy
    Radial-mount front brakes would be nice
    Adjustable suspension would take this bike to another level

2017 Suzuki SV650 Specifications

Engine: 645cc liquid-cooled, DOHC, 90-degree V-Twin
Bore and Stroke: 81 x 62.6mm
Compression Ratio: 11.2:1
Fuel Delivery: Fuel Injection
Transmission: Six-speed
Final Drive: Chain
Frame: Steel trellis
Front Suspension: Telescopic fork, 4.9 inches travel
Rear Suspension: Link-type shock, seven-way adjustable preload
Front Brake: 290mm discs with twin-piston caliper, ABS
Rear Brake: 240mm disc with single-piston caliper
Wheels: Five spoke cast aluminum, 17 in. front and rear
Tires: Dunlop Sportmax Qualifier, 120/70 ZR17 front, 160/60 ZR17 rear
Curb Weight: 434.4 pounds ABS model, 429.9 pounds non-ABS
Wheelbase: 56.9 in.
Seat Height: 30.9 in.
Fuel Capacity: 3.8 gallon (3.6 CA model)
MSRP: $7499 ABS, $6999 base
Warranty: 12-month unlimited mileage limited warranty