2011 Suzuki Gladius SFV650
Continuing the sword theme launched by Suzuki in 1979 with the Katana, the 2011 Gladius SFV650 carries the name of the legendary Roman blade. Until Suzuki renames the M109 as the Claymore and the GZ250 as the Kirpan, this next generation SV650 may not be the sharpest tool in the Suzi shed but it certainly is a fine little naked which manages to be both sporty and practical.
On the attractive two tone model the triangular inset shape of the tank with the proud S symbol harkens back a bit to the 1967 T500 and is a nice nostalgic touch, but the rest of the Gladius SFV650 is 21st century all the way from the Ducati-ish trellis steel frame to the massive triple discs.
The Jay Leno Jutting Chin Headlight may be an acquired taste, but the waspy pinch-waisted leading edge of the saddle is simply unjustifiable. Unless you're an anorexic NBA small forward with White Castle buns you'll have to sit so way back on the saddle that your face will be snogging the tach and your unfortunate passenger will be getting up close and proctologic with the rear grab bar. When you plunk down seven large on a Gladius SFV650, you shouldn't have to plunk your derriere down on a Schwinn Gel Seat.
The huge tach is extremely readable and the oversized gear LCD indicator is both welcome and necessary due to the tight upper gear ratios. Unfortunately bright direct sun tends to wash out the speedo, and the local highway patrol is not going to let you off the hook with an excuse that lame.
The massively oversquare 81.0mm x 62.6mm bore-stroke ratio allows for mammoth valves and you certainly have to tip your hat to the Hamamatsu engineers for managing to avoid detonation due to prolonged flame front slow burn even at the highest revs. The old chestnut that oversquares don't crank out torque has been adequately addressed this year by bumping up the crankshaft inertia by 10%.
2011 has seen the clutch release cam type mechanism be jettisoned for a ball-screw type and the change has not only improved actuating pressure, but overall feel as well: the clutch no longer acts like a toggle switch.
The almost invisible micro radiator and featherweight liquid to liquid oil cooler do a surprisingly effective job keeping the Gladius SFV650 chillin'. It's the perfect bike if you want to idle through Death Valley in August.
The asymmetrical exhaust outlets are too reminiscent of a shoeshine footrest, but the swept up chromed heatshields work well to minimize the visual bulk of the matte black muffler. The sound emanating from these pipes is more Singer sewing machine than Singin' V-Twin but it doesn't rattle your eardrums or the neighbors'.
This Gladius SFV650 descendant of Suzuki's venerable SV650 may bear an uncomfortably Russell Crowe moniker but it is nonetheless well equipped to "unleash hell" on the competition.
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2011 Suzuki Gladius SFV650 At A Glance
Base MSRP: $9,399
Engine Displacement: 645 cc
Engine Type: Water cooled 4 stroke DOHC v-twin
Bore & Stroke: 81 mm x 62.6 mm
Ignition Type: Electronic
Compression Ratio: 11.5:1
Transmission Type: Six-speed, constant mesh
Final Drive Type: Chain
Front Tire: 120/70ZR17M/C, tubeless
Rear Tire: 160/60ZR17M/C, tubeless
Wheelbase: 1,445 mm
Saddle Height: 785 mm
Curb Dry Weight: 202 kg
Fuel Capacity (US): 3.19 gal
* Specs/pix apply to 2010 model, updates as released