2013 Suzuki Burgman 650 ABS

First Ride Review

Introduced to the world in 2002 and brought to the U.S. for 2003, the Suzuki Burgman 650 maxi-scooter has been a consistent bestseller, with over 83,000 sold. The Burgman hasn’t changed much over the years, and its main competition has been the long-in-the-tooth Honda Silver Wing 600. With the recent introduction of the BMW C 650 GT and Kymco MyRoad 700i, the time had come for an update.

Rather than give it a complete overhaul, Suzuki focused on improvements that Burgman owners have asked for most: new styling, better low-speed handling and less effort when pushing the scooter around with the engine off. New bodywork is more sleek and compact, the muffler has a different shape and angle, and there are new taillights, LED position lights and black wheels.

The 638cc liquid-cooled, DOHC, counterbalanced parallel twin, good for a claimed 54 horsepower and 45.7 lb-ft of torque at the crank, is largely the same. Changes to the valve springs, piston rings, final-drive gear bearings and transmission settings have reduced frictional losses, which Suzuki says upped fuel economy by 15 percent. Our real-world fuel economy figures were 43.9 mpg during our 2011 Burgman 650 test (Rider, October 2011 and HERE) and 49.1 mpg on the new model, a 12-percent increase.

Refinements to the Suzuki Electronically-controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (SECVT) have lowered engine rpm at low speeds in Drive mode for less on/off throttle abruptness. And a new fork bracket has tightened up the steering geometry and shortened the wheelbase for lighter low-speed handling. The twist-and-go Burgman accelerates briskly from a stop, has good throttle response and is easy to maneuver around a parking lot. New contact surfaces on the clutch plates make them easier to separate, reducing drag friction by 35 percent, and the difference is noticeable when pushing the scooter around the garage.

Pulling away from Suzuki’s U.S. headquarters in Brea, California, during the press launch, the Burgman felt as smooth and comfortable as ever. In 2011 we tested a Burgman 650 Executive, a higher-spec model that included ABS, an electric windscreen, electrically retractable mirrors, a passenger backrest and chrome on the bar ends and muffler cover. The “Executive” name has been dropped in the U.S. (it still exists in Europe for models equipped with heated grips and seat, which are available as pre-wired accessories here), but all of the additional features are now standard on the only U.S. model, the Burgman 650 ABS. Our dozen-strong congo line of Pearl Bracing White Burgmans (the only color available) split lanes through bumper-to-bumper traffic on Interstate 10. Pushing a button on the left switchgear folded back the mirrors, which saves about an inch of width on either side and is an undeniably cool feature.

At the western terminus of I-10, the Pacific Coast Highway begins. After some stop-and-go traffic, we turned onto Topanga Canyon Road and soon climbed a tight, narrow road up into the Santa Monica Mountains. With 15-inch front and 14-inch rear wheels and a wide handlebar, the Burgman 650 steers easily through challenging curves and has good cornering clearance, yet it also feels stable at high speeds. The SECVT has two automatic modes, Drive and Power, which optimize engine rpm for fuel efficiency and acceleration, respectively, as well as a manual mode with six pre-selected gear ratios. Being able to select and hold a lower gear is a plus in hilly terrain or for loaded two-up touring.

Triple-disc brakes, which now use floating rather than solid rotors up front, provide good stopping power with decent feel at the hand levers. To save weight, the ABS unit is now smaller and lighter, and the parking brake lever was moved from under the dash to under the rider’s left leg, making it easier to reach. The non-adjustable fork and preload-adjustable dual rear shocks, with 4.3/3.9 inches of front/rear travel, provide a plush ride but can feel harsh over rough pavement.

Suzuki has replaced the previous all-digital instrument panel with a pair of analog gauges and a bright, easy-to-read central LCD display. A new angle for the lens cover reduces glare, a new Eco indicator lights up when the throttle is used judiciously, and a wiring harness under the instrument panel makes it easy to install a GPS. The cockpit looks clean and modern, and it has three storage compartments: two 1.3-liter, non-lockable storage compartments on each side of the dash, and a lockable compartment under the dash that holds 5.2 liters (two 500ml water bottles will fit). The inside has been reshaped so items stay put when the door is open, and the 12V socket has been relocated to fit more types of chargers.

Suzuki says no space has been lost in the 50-liter underseat compartment even though the seat rail is narrower and the steel subframe and brackets have been replaced by lighter plastic components. Under the seat you’ll find a light, a toolkit and a cable helmet lock, as well as a lever that unlocks the rider backrest so it can be moved fore/aft by 2 inches. The rider floorboards have been cut out for an easier reach to the ground, and the passenger floorboards have been raised 10mm for more comfort. Holes were added to the lower edge of windscreen to reduce turbulence, but the screen flutters at high speeds.

The Burgman 650’s smoothness, comfort and ease of use have made it popular among tens of thousands of owners around the world. Like most middleweight motorcycles, it strikes a balance between power and fuel efficiency, yet it offers wind protection and luggage capacity that are usually found only on large, expensive sport tourers. The 2013 model has lots of minor improvements that add up to a much better Burgman.