Tanshanomi's Snap Judgments

Suzuki XN85 Turbo

Wed, January 13th, 2010

Click here for a front 3/4 view.

1983-86 Suzuki XN85 Turbo
The bike's 85 crank horsepower and low-12-second 1/4 mile ET sounded more desirable than they were in the real world. While better behaved than contemporary factory turbos, the 673cc mill still had enough lag to be uninspiring. And with well over 500 lbs. to haul around, it was not all that remarkable even for the time.
More sporting than other turbos, the XN featured the first production 16-inch front wheel and Suzuki's first 'Full-Floater' progressive monoshock for the street. Handling was lauded at the time, then quickly eclipsed by more conventional bikes. Brakes were strong, but lacked feel due to gimmicky anti-dive feature.
The best execution of Suzuki's Hans-Muth-inspired design language. The XN85 bridged the gap between the subdued GS1100 and the too-radical Katana 1000S and wound up looking better than either. It also remains superior to the similar but less artfully sculpted GS750ES that followed. Perhaps the sexiest bodywork of the '80s, and still way more interesting than modern sportbikes' candy-coated shells.
The air cooled GS line defined bulletproof, but the turbo and related plumbing are frighteningly complex additions that few have worked on. The long-term durability of circuit boards from the dawn of motorcycle fuel injection would also worry me.
A much less practical way to get the power (and weight) of a 750cc UJM. With only 1153 made, and no more than a few hundred in North America, parts and service will be problematic. Nice sporting ergonomics, but too rare to risk tossing down the road. What could you possibly use it for today?
Very pretty, very rare, historically significant. But in the end, 16-inch wheels and the whole turbo thing were dead ends.
The most refined of the factory turbos (although that's not saying much). More importantly one of my favorite bikes to look at. What a shame it didn't have a normally-aspirated 850cc engine instead.