Suzuki Burgman 650 Executive Review: The Superbike of Scooters

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Suzuki Burgman 650
Photo © Basem Wasef
Think of it as a power scooter or a step-through on steroids... but whatever you do, don't call it a motorcycle. With its massive powerplant and hefty curb weight, the Suzuki Burgman 650 Executive is unlike any other 'scoot you've seen, a genre-busting ride that flies in the face of conventional two-wheeled wisdom.

Priced at $9,899 (for the 2012 model), the Suzuki Burgman 650 Executive is pricier than many middleweight motorcycles... but after you see its laundry list of bells and whistles, you'll understand why this Japanese überscooter commands such a premium.

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The Goods: More Gizmos Than a Best Buy

Suzuki Burgman 650
Suzuki Burgman 650 Executive. Photo © Basem Wasef
What does the Suzuki Burgman 650 Executive offer for its $9,899 asking price? Where to begin...

Let's start with drivetrain. The Burgman is powered by a liquid-cooled, dual overhead cam 638cc parallel twin powerplant equipped with dual balance shafts for smoother running. The mill is mated to an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (CVT), which allows shiftless operation, or a simulated clutchless 6-speed gearbox using "Up" or "Down" toggle buttons on the left handgrip. A "Power" button offers gutsier transmission programming, while a button on the right handgrip raises or lowers the rather tall windscreen. Up ahead, an automotive style instrument cluster offers an LCD bar graph of engine revs, speed, gear position (if selected), and various other tidbits of information.

Storage area abounds on this generously sized scooter. Not only does an illuminated underseat compartment swallow two full-face helmets, a front glovebox features a DC outlet to power accessories, while two additional compartments enable storage of smaller items.

Beneath its expansive skin, the Burgman's frame consists of a tubular steel frame, an aluminum swingarm with dual preload adjustable shocks which enable the engine to be forward-mounted for better balance, and 41mm telescopic front forks which offer 4.3 inches of travel.

When its 4 gallon tank is loaded up with fuel, the Burgman 650 weighs in at 613 pounds. Wow.

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Swing a Leg Over and Step Through... Sort Of

Suzuki Burgman 650 Executive Scooter Review
Suzuki Burgman 650 Executive. Photo © Basem Wasef

Scooters are characterized by their step-through design, and the Burgman adds a twist with a hump positioned between your legs. There are narrow, upward tilting floorboards for your boots, but it's not as generous in size as you'll find on most other scooters.

With your feet up on the boards, the Burgman offers a comfortable, chair-like seating position and an adjustable seat rest that slides fore or aft to hold you in place during acceleration. A larger, paddle-type backrest offers lumbar support for the passenger, who also gains the benefit of a grab rail for added security.

Wide side mirrors are positioned beneath the handgrips, and use electric motors to fold inward for a more compact parking footprint. A rather bulky handlebar partially encloses fluid reservoirs, while other design oddities include a parking brake lever just ahead of the right knee, and an electrically operated windscreen you'd be hard pressed to find on many sport touring motorcycles.

But enough physical descriptions; let's fire up the Burgman and ride!

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On the Road: Thrust, Stability, And Other Unexpected Stuff For a Scooter

Suzuki Burgman 650 Executive Scooter Review
Suzuki Burgman 650 Executive. Photo © Basem Wasef
Nothing quite prepares you for the first time you twist the throttle on a big bore scooter: the continuously variable transmission routes power seamlessly to the rear wheel, and the push of acceleration is enough to press you against that small butt rest as the bike pulls ahead.

The Burgman feels even quicker in "Power" mode, and though the thumbshift function is endearing in a cute, video game sort of way, it's easier and faster to let the belt operated transmission do the decision making.

Highway speeds arrive surprisingly quickly, and merging onto freeways is a piece of cake (and a disarming site for keen-eyed motorcyclists, who often glance over with a double take at this quickly moving 'scoot, which feels as comfortable cruising at 100 mph as it does at 60.) I didn't have much luck with extending the windscreen to taller positions, as the resulting wind flow created turbulence at my helmet level. But folks who are shorter than my five foot, eleven inch height might experience better coverage with the fully extended windscreen.

Canyon roads don't quite offer the same thrill as you'd have on a sporty motorcycle, due to the Burgman's relatively low ground clearance, cushy suspension and long wheelbase. But the Suzuki's laid back posture and stable road presence makes tackling the twisties more fun than you might expect; there's something inherently enjoyable about cranking the throttle mid-corner and knowing your line through a turn is secure, even if you're leaned over.

Similarly reassuring is the Burgman's ABS-equipped brake setup, which uses twin pistons at both ends to efficiently bring the bike to a stop.

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Bottom Line: A Scooter Unlike Any Other

Suzuki Burgman 650 Executive Review
Photo © Basem Wasef
If you're not a scooter enthusiast, spending time in the saddle of the Suzuki Burgman 650 Executive can be a transformative experience: the power is addictive, the creature comforts surprising, and the image-- well, it's a real test of character if you're a tried and true motorcyclist.

Plenty of traditional riders are migrating to big-engined scooters, whether they're looking for something easier to ride than the typical heavyweight motorcycle, or simply looking for a Honda Gold Wing mini-me that can handle long distance trips. So-called power scooters may not be everybody's style (and they're still sure to polarize plenty of enthusiasts), but for those unafraid of being seen aboard a controversial machine, scoots like the Suzuki Burgman 650 Executive offer a treasure trove of amenities and a shockingly satisfying riding experience.

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Specifications, Who Should Buy the Suzuki Burgman 650 Executive?

Suzuki Burgman 650 Executive Scooter Review
Photo © Basem Wasef
  • Price: $9,899 (2012 model; 2009 model seen here)
  • Engine: Liquid-cooled 638cc, DOHC parallel twin-cylinder
  • Fuel Capacity: 4 gallons
  • Transmission: Electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (CVT); automatic or clutchless (simulated) manual modes
  • Final Drive: Gear
  • Seat Height: 29.5 inches
  • Curb Weight: 613 pounds
  • Brakes: ABS-equipped twin-piston dual disc front, single disc rear
  • Chassis: Tubular steel frame, aluminum swingarm
  • Front Suspension: 41mm telescopic forks, 4.3 inches of travel
  • Rear Suspension: Twin preload-adjustable shock absorbers, 3.9 inches of travel
Who Should Buy the Suzuki Burgman 650 Executive?
Buyers seeking quick, plush, two-wheeled transportation who are secure enough to cope with the inevitable stigma of riding a big-bore scooter.