The Suzuki V-Strom platform first appeared in 2002 and since then Suzuki has sold well over 400,000 of them around the World, a success story of note! Its versatile nature, conquering everything from touring to off-road excursions was the attraction, and still is. It’s 2024 and we still have Suzuki's DL650 (born in 2004), the new version of the DL1050 and, of course, ‘our’ 2023 Bike of the Year, the superb R59k V-Strom DS250 SX. But now there’s a new one sitting right in the middle, the all-new DL800 DE.
However, after enjoying this new bike over the festive period, especially while venturing off-road, I think the name should be changed to a ‘DR800 DE’. A more off-road focused range from the past, like the SA favourite DRz400 and ,of course, the mighty DR800 S Big (Dr Big), with its huge 780cc single-cylinder engine, from the 1990s. All designed for more focused off-road action and the new DL800 DE is right up that alley, or mountain pass to be more precise.
Sure it’s an Adventure bike from one end to the other but its off-road prowess shines through more than any other V-Strom to date, something Suzuki wanted to achieve to offer the new bike to a more, err, adventurous rider. Don’t get me wrong, the new Suzuki DL800 has exemplary comfort levels for long distance touring, a trait where ’some’ in this category seem to have missed and chosen to swap thick foam for balsa wood to caress your rump. Comfort levels aside the DL800 DE has much more hidden inside its new chassis!
The heart of the matter is the new 776cc, DOHC, parallel-twin with its long-stroke configuration (84mmx70mm). We’ve already mentioned this unit in the previous GSX-8S review and came away highly impressed. It’s one of the smoothest engines we’ve come across with its unique, and patented, 90-degree twin balancer shafts. The twin 42mm throttle bodies are fed by 10-hole, long-nose injectors, producing a claimed 84hp@8,500rpm and 78Nm@ 6,800rpm. This extra-slim power plant also has a 270-degree crankshaft and offset firing order giving it a sweet and throaty sound, a bit like a v-twin, which helps with low down torque delivery, ideal for off-road antics.
So the new engine is a peach and to complement it is the usual vast array of electronic gadgetry. The Suzuki Intelligent Ride System opens up a wealth of functions, including Suzuki Drive Mode Selector (S-DMS), with three power modes (A,B,C), which basically soften throttle response for varying conditions from sporty riding, comfort, or wet and horrid conditions. Traction Control has three levels with the addition of the new Gravel Mode, and ABS now has the option (again for off-road aid), to turn off the ABS function acting upon the rear wheel, which can be adjusted on the fly. All of these functions are seen on the new TFT LCD display, with either a black or white background light (or leave in auto function where it chooses itself), which is refreshingly clear to see at all times and in all conditions. These functions are selected using the very simple and easy to operate buttons on the left hand side switchgear. It’s a very quick operation to change parameters on the DL800 DE, compared to the new Transalp for example, where’s it’s a bit ‘fiddly’ and slightly irritating. There’s also a USB port, and a bracket above the instrument display, to add GPS units and the like.
All good then in the electronic department but what about, to myself, the most important component on any big adventure bike, the suspension? Well to put it simply it’s absolutely superb, from the Japanese specialists, Showa. In fact the front forks are some of the best I’ve felt in my many years of riding on ‘ANY’ motorcycle, yes, they really are that good! With outstanding damping characteristics and pre-load, compression and rebound damping facilitations, I doubt any rider will ever need more, so there. The rear shock felt a little soft at first but a couple of twists on the easy to access hydraulic pre-load knob soon sorted that out for my 92kg mass. The rear Showa unit also has compression and rebound damping adjustment, where ‘others’ in this class most certainly don’t have all three attributes. Quite simply the new DL800 DE deserves the off-road biased DR moniker for the suspension alone, and then some.
These springy parts lift the ground clearance to a commendable 223mm because of its lengthy 220mm, both front and rear, suspension travel. Yes, ideal for off–road as I said, but they’re also delightful on the road as they make any long distance ride a smooth and relaxing experience as they glide and absorb rough and bumpy tarmac surfaces. Are these new Showa components the perfect compromise for both conditions? Well nothing will ever be ‘that’ perfect, but they’re pretty damn close, well done to the Suzuki (Showa), engineers!
It is a tall bike though with a seat height of 855mm and with its 20-litre tank full it tips the scales at a ‘not-so-light’ 230kg, but again due to the new chassis layout (with a detachable sub-frame), it is extremely agile on the road and a lot of fun to throw around, and the 310mm Nissin brakes work well if needed. The gearbox is Suzuki smooth, predictably, and with the addition of the Bi-Directional quick-shifter (no giggling on that quirky name please), is a pleasure to operate.
The DL800 DE will cruise forever at 160km/h in comfort and it’ll waft past 200km/h if you’re wondering about top speed. I did see the on-board computer showing 28-30km/litre when cruising, not too bad at all for an ‘800’, giving the DL a healthy range as well. It could do with a higher screen though as the manually adjustable (by 30mm), didn’t really do much unless you get low on the tank. Suzuki do make and offer a higher option and I’d certainly advise you to fit one if you become a new owner, there’re also other parts like panniers, crash bars, etc, and more…
As you can gather I liked this new DL800 DE a lot, and the more I rode it the better it became. Off-road that new Gravel mode gave me confidence I’ve rarely felt as I’m not such a fan of the dirty stuff and it made me ride further down dirt lanes than I’d usually attempt to do, enough said. You just open the throttle and it drives forward, weird to explain, lovely to experience.
Is there anything I didn’t like you ask? Well, the small screen wasn’t my favourite and the silencer looks a bit bland and boring, which most people will change anyway, and that’s about it. For R195,000 the DL800 DE offers so much for the price, of which you’ve just read about…still think it should be classed as DR800 DE though, and it does have the ‘Beak’ from the era. In fact Suzuki SA are currently experimenting with a ‘Rally’ option covered in more tough apparatus, higher screen and chunky off-road knobbly tyres, to name just a few rocky aimed components, sounds interesting!
Go to www.suzukimotorcycle.co.za to book at highly recommended test ride and for more technical information.