Forget any preconceived ideas you might ever have had about the Suzuki Burgman 650 Executive being an ‘old mans bike’ the new 2013 machine is the daddy of the maxi scooter and will surprise even the most hardened biker.
Launched in 2002 the Burgman was the largest capacity maxi scooter and quickly defined this new category. Since then over 83,000 units have been exported from Japan…although not many of those have found their way to the UK. Over here we’re quite set in our ways, we don’t like change and scooters are considered slightly effeminate. They’ve got a reputation dating back to the 1960’s and ‘proper’ bikers won’t swing a leg over one, just in case they get spotted by a friend and ridiculed. Sadly our nation is missing out on what the Europeans love, they’re missing one of the most useful classes ever to grace our roads, the maxi scooter rocks.
So what’s all the fuss about then? What you’re getting with the Burgman 650 Executive is premium class machine with all the toys and features an executive or savvy rider would appreciate, it’s all wrapped up in an easy to use package with a stylish looking shell. You’ve got a 638cc fuel injected, twin cylinder liquid cooled DOHC engine which produces 54bhp and around 46lb.ft of torque. That engine runs an SECVT system, or Suzuki Electronically-controlled Continuously Variable Transmission, which gives riders the chance to operate the scooter in three different modes using toggles on the left bar. You can swap between two fully automatic modes (Drive and Power), Power mode lets the scooter hold on to the revs for longer and increases engine braking, whilst drive is slightly more relaxed, gives better fuel economy and isn’t as harsh in town. The thing with the Burgman auto system is that rather than giving linear power at a twist of the wrist, you actually feel like the scooter is changing down a gear when you give it a handful. This results in a more rewarding experience and gives the engine a bit of character, as does the engines sound which is more bike like than most large capacity maxi scooters. If you can’t cope with the thought of never changing gear again you have the option to flick it into manual mode, which allows you to go up and down the six-speed box at the flick of a button, albeit without a clutch, it’s like a quick shift on a race bike. In reality not many riders will bother with manual mode, that’s because auto is just so easy and gives instant power.
So what’s new for 2013?
On the face of it the changes are quite subtle but most of the changes are customer led and help to make the Burgman look sleeker and make it easier to use. It’s got a reduced silhouette, uses more black plastics to give the impression that it’s smaller, has a larger headlight, new taillight and LED front running lamps to help give it an instant presence on the road, there’s an improved screen, a colour coded glovebox, black wheels and an upswept silencer. Practical improvements mean the handbrake has been moved to the left hand side next to your leg, it’s integrated into the bodywork as well. The old Burgman was a pain when you wanted to check the coolant/oil level so an access panel has been incorporated into the floor. You’re also getting the features Burgman owners have been used to for years, heated front and rear seats, heated grips (although we had a problem with these on the day, it will be sorted by the time they reach the shops later this month), electrically adjustable screen to keep wind noise and the rain at bay, it’s also got mirrors that fold in at the flick of a switch (great for filtering). You’re also getting plenty of built in storage, 50 litres under the seat, which is roomy enough for two full faced helmets but is actually six litres less space than on the old model. There’s also a decent sized lockable glovebox (5.2 litre) and a couple of 1.3 litre cubbyholes. There’s a 12v socket inside the glovebox, which has been recessed further on the 2013 machine to make it easier to plug in your accessory plug. It’s a welcome revamp without detracting too much from what was already a fairly well sorted machine.
Although the engine hasn’t increased in power, not that it really needs to, it has been fettled to increase fuel efficiency by a claimed 15%, that’s done by changing the ECM and ignition timing, the piston rings and valve springs have also been improved to reduce tension force. The SECVT has been refined to make it smoother in traffic, the exhaust has also been replaced, has a reduced pipe size and more efficient catalytic converter. The clutch has been improved to reduce transmission drag, Burgman owners complained that the old machine was difficult to move around, there’s 35% less clutch drag on this one and it certainly wasn’t hard to wheel about. The instruments are new, they now have two stylish analogue clocks (speedo/tacho) and a central digital dash with all the useful info you’d expect, including an ‘Eco’ light which illuminates when you’re riding in an eco friendly fashion, there’s ambient temp, ice warning, two trips, MPG, time, fuel etc. Other changes include a stopper on the floorboards to stop the mat from slipping under braking (a complaint with the old model), those floorboards also retain the sculptured rear cut out which means even the shortest riders can put their feet flat to the floor very easily, a great attribute which makes a huge difference with a heavy machine, this weighs in at 277kg which sounds a lot on paper but in reality the Burgman carries it’s weight very well. The chassis has also been altered to save weight by removing the rear subframe and its steel bracket and making the seat rail 25mm narrower. The pillion footboards have been moved 10mm higher to make them easier to reach and increase passenger comfort, to be honest there’s not a lot for a passenger to whinge about, heated seat, backrest, comfortable seat and good weather protection, what more do they need?
On the road
If you’ve never ridden a maxi scooter before then you really need to give one a go, they honestly will surprise you. They’re fast, agile, practical, give great weather protection and best of all they’re enjoyable. Our test route covered 220 miles of the finest roads I’ve ever had the pleasure to ride on, it was wet for most of them but the scenery was out of this world…and literally on our doorstep. The Scottish Highlands are absolutely stunning, I urge you to buy yourself a Suzuki Burgman 650 Executive and head north, you won’t be disappointed and I found myself thinking to myself ‘What could possibly be better to ride around here than this.’
The Burgman surprises you from the moment you swing a leg over it, in auto mode you simply twist and go, just like any auto scooter. The weight of the scooter quickly becomes irrelevant, it’s low seat height and scooped out rear footboards means you can paddle it around easily, obviously you still need to think where you’re parking it so that you’re not trying to turn it around uphill when you get back on it but once you’re moving it glides along effortlessly. The engine produces plenty of power, in drive mode the power is progressive but give it a handful and it accelerates very quickly, this is no old mans bike. It’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing and it may not look as sporty as a T-Max for instance but it can hustle around the twisties like the best of them. Our ride was pretty wet but the Bridgestone Battlax tyres gripped enough to give us the confidence to press on quite hastily! Obviously the scooter has ABS (it’ s a refined system on the new scooter and weighs 55% less than the old one) and I did feel the familiar pulsing through the lever on a few occasions during the day, which wasn’t surprising really. It’s not the most advanced system out there but it certainly does the job. The brakes are fantastic (new floating discs on the 2013 model) and give plenty of bite when you need it, they’re not linked either which is a good point as far as I’m concerned and makes a sporty ride even better. To be honest the Burgman feels like a sports scooter when you’re on it, it’ll change direction very quickly, it’s agile, handles fantastically well and the engine is superb. You can start to feel like it’s getting slightly out of shape when you’re pressing on a bit, especially if it’s windy but in reality it’s not until you’re hitting three figure speeds that you’ll have any concerns at all. Talking of speed, you can expect to see a top speed of around 110mph, which is more than enough for you to enjoy yourself. Most of my ride was spent in Power mode and the MPG figure dropped from 49mpg, down to 42mpg by the end of the day. Ride at a more sedate pace in Drive and that could easily be into the 50’s but when you’re having this much fun saving fuel doesn’t really figure into the equation. Power mode is great when you’re blasting through the countryside, you want the extra engine braking to help you when you roll off the throttle but if you come into traffic and want to go steady it is a bit snatchy so it’s better to flick it into Drive. I had a bit of a play with manual but it’s not really of much benefit unless you want to hold a gear as long as possible when you’re in a hurry, or if you simply want to feel like you’re in control. In reality most owners will just use the two auto modes, which give a much more relaxed riding experience but don’t detract from your enjoyment whatsoever.
The 2013 Burgman is a fantastic scooter, it does everything a premium class, or executive scooter should do. I had one of the best days riding I’ve ever had, the stunning scenery and perfect roads helped immensely but it wouldn’t have been half as special without such a well sorted, exciting scooter beneath me. Get down to your nearest Suzuki dealer and ask for a demo ride, many dealers have got a Burgman demonstrator. £8799 may seem like a lot of money to pay for ‘just a scooter’ but they are just so useable. You’ll find yourself using a decent capacity scooter more than you ever would a bike. Forget any misguided illusions you may ever have had about scooters just get out there and enjoy one.