With a nod to the past and an eye on the future, Suzuki’s newest 1000cc, four-cylinder roadie is cutting edge.
Katana is a Japanese samurai-warrior sword. During the early 1980s Suzuki released a bike it called the KATANA, and it got a lot of attention during a golden time for motorcyclists. The word ‘superbike’ was being thrown around a fair bit at the time, and while all the big Japanese brands had examples, the KATANA was such a wild proposition it polarised opinions at the time. Riders either thought it looked futuristic and hated it, or they thought it looked like the future and loved it. The bike did well – in fact it became an iconic model for Suzuki – and the model run finished in the early part of this century.
Now Suzuki has released a new KATANA. The silver model has grey-headed old leathernecks – like WTW’s editor – sobbing with memories of their golden years and generally boring everyone to death with unlikely stories of how fast they used to be and the amazing things they’d done.
The black version though…now there’s a whole new approach. It looks wild and sexy, and although all the sword-slash design cues are still there, and the shape of the bike is clearly respectful to the original model, it’s a stealthy, grunty street fighter that will make any young throttle jockey the centre of attention.
Just this Side of Wild
Suzuki’s hard-edged performance bikes are the GSX-Rs. Right now, the hardest-edged of them all is the GSX-R1000. Naturally, the KATANA shares considerable design and engineering traits with its track-ready stablemate, but despite being a 999cc, fuel-injected, four-cylinder powerhouse, the motor has been tuned to deliver an amazing spread of power, especially at low revs and in the mid-range. Where the sports bikes thrive on being near the redline, the new KATANA will cope with everything from around-town commuting through to high-speed, colon-clenching cornering with a minimum of input from the rider. There’s no need to work up and down the gearbox to keep the drive in the sweet spot. Just put it in sixth and twist the throttle.
Another sensible design feature for street riding is a fairly upright seating position. There’s no need to scrunch up and crouch over. Just rest the firm, manly – or pert – bum cheeks on the seat then reach forward and grab the ’bars. That’s it for the day. The comfort level for the rider is very high, and as we cruised the backroads behind Queensland’s Gold Coast and into northern NSW we were blissed out. The motor was tractable and easy to use, fast or slow, and the bike so comfortable, we kept forgetting we were dealing with about 150 horsepower… until a couple of the faster riders jetted past at almost supersonic speed and near punted us off the road.
It was glorious.
While there’s no question in our minds about the new KATANA’s performance pedigree, the look of the bike, right back into last century, has always been a big part of its persona. And as far as we’re concerned, the black KATANA looks absolutely the cat’s miaow. It’s damn sexy. It seems all understated and ‘stealth’ if you know what we mean, and cracking open the throttle lets it growl with a pants-melting combination of controlled roar from the muffler and an incredible, throaty induction snarl. Nobody could ignore that sound, and when they look up and see the bike, jaws drop. Normally we grind our teeth and can’t wait to get away from towns and cities when we’re on a bike, but watching people’s surprise turn to envy was one of our favourite things about the KATANA.
It’s one superb-looking and beautiful-sounding bike, and it made us feel we were superb-looking and beautiful-sounding, too… which is a pretty big achievement, because we’re totally not.
What You Want
As Suzuki led us from coffee shop to coffee shop, encouraging us to test the bike’s outer limits or inner soul as we felt inclined, the sheer refinement of the new KATANA became more and more obvious. It’s equally at home sightseeing in the hills above Murwillumbah or getting feisty through the winding roads of the Currumbin Valley.
With the motor giving out an understated roar there’s still time to look around and see the beautiful attention to detail on the Suzuki. The shape of the front is a clear link to the old bike, and turning the key fires up the dash to show a graphic of a sword slashing through the KATANA symbol. As we mentioned earlier there are subtle, stylised ‘sword cuts’ here and there around the bike and the gloss-black finish screams, ‘Ninja! Beware!’.
Well. It Did to Us Anyway.
The silver bike looks just as impressive in its own way, but the visual link to the old bike is so overwhelming it’s hard to get past.
At the end of it all, whether we felt like screaming along a tight country road at insane speeds, tooling along a dam wall and admiring the view, or just feeling like we looked pretty bloody impressive rolling along the beachfront and waving at the girls (or boys, depending on your gender) the KATANA made us feel like we were doing it better, faster and with more head-turning cred than anyone.
And that’s a powerful feeling on a sunny day, on a great bike, in a fantastic place.
You want that feeling too?
Get a KATANA and hit the street…it doesn’t matter what type of street. The KATANA will set your heart racing.