Better late than never, right? At least, that’s how Suzuki and Honda feel when it comes to the middleweight adventure category. For years, the twin-powered Yamaha Ténéré 700, KTM 790/890 Adventure, and Aprilia Tuareg 660 contended for segment supremacy. Big Red and the House of Hamamatsu may arrive fashionably late, but both join the brewing battle royale armed with brand-new powerplants.
In the yellow corner, the 2023 Suzuki V-Strom 800DE enters the ring with a DOHC, 779cc parallel twin. The bore measures 84mm while the stroke spans 70mm. With a 12.8:1 compression ratio and a 270-degree crankshaft, the mill musters 84.3 horsepower and 57.7 lb-ft of torque (EU model). Despite its parallel-twin configuration, the 800DE joins the long-running (20 years), V-twin-powered V-Strom family.
Wearing white, blue, and red, the Honda XL750 Transalp returns the nameplate to prominence. With the exception of its SOHC layout, Team Red’s new engine follows the same formula as its yellow-clad competitor. A 270-degree firing order imbues the practical parallel twin with character while liquid cooling optimizes performance. However, more bore (87mm) and shorter stroke (63.5mm) help the Transalp pump out 90 ponies and 55 lb-ft of torque.
By the looks of it, this mid-size matchup couldn’t get any closer. So, which newcomer will emerge as a top contender? Let’s dive into the spec sheets for some guidance.
|2023 Suzuki V-Strom 800DE||2023 Honda XL750 Transalp|
|Engine:||Liquid-cooled, DOHC, 776cc Parallel-Twin||Liquid-cooled, SOHC, 755cc Parallel-Twin|
|Bore and Stroke:||84mm x 70mm||87mm x 63.5mm|
|Performance:||84.3 hp/ 57.7 lb-ft||90 hp/ 55 lb-ft|
|Weight (Wet):||507 pounds||459 pounds|
By the Numbers
When it comes to adventure bikes, manufacturers have to design the chassis to handle both on- and off-road journeys. Oftentimes, models favor one end of the tarmac/trail spectrum. We must keep that duality in mind, as there are more ways than one to pound the pavement and tackle tough terrain. However, lightweight construction helps adventurers remain agile in both arenas.
That fact isn’t lost on Honda. The brand’s all-new steel-diamond frame weighs in at just 40.3 pounds. That figure even includes the unit’s integrated sub-frame. Conversely, Suzuki opts for a steel backbone frame mated to a removable steel sub-frame. While the V-Strom maximizes durability, those stout underpinnings contribute to the model’s 509-pound wet weight. The Transalp, on the other hand, tips the scales at 459 pounds, which aligns with the category’s mainstays.
Each chassis appropriately builds upon those foundations too. Both the Suzuki and Honda boast a Showa inverted front end and a linkage-assisted rear shock, but the 800DE’s 8.7 inches of travel (at both ends) overshadows the XL750’s 7.9 inches fore and 7.5 inches aft. The V-Strom's long legs lift the ground clearance to 8.8 inches and the seat height to 33.7 inches. The Transalp concedes the ground-clearance battle with just 8.3 inches but nets a narrow victory with its 33.5-inch seat height.
The two ADVs share a 21-inch, wire-spoke front wheel. Though, the V-Strom's rear hoop measures 17 inches while the Transalp sports an off-road-biased 18-incher. Honda customers can wrap those wheels in Metzeler Karoo Street or Dunlop Trailmax Mixtour tires. Suzuki doesn’t provide such options, however, only offering its adventurer in Dunlop Trailmax Mixtour rubber.
The braking systems are also practically identical. Twin two-piston calipers bite dual 310mm discs at the front of both models. Out back, a single-pot binder steadies the ride, but the XL750’s 260mm rotor barely outdoes the 800DE’s 256mm unit. Meeting the class standards, both bikes allow riders to switch off rear ABS for off-road explorations. Of course, that’s just the tip of the tech iceberg.
Suzuki Intelligent Ride System (SIRS) has highlighted everything from the V-Strom 1050 XT to the GSX-S1000 in recent years. Now, the V-Strom 800DE brings the electronic suite to the middleweight ranks. The system's three ride modes (Active, Basic, and Comfort) adjust the ADV’s attitude to the given conditions without overwhelming the rider with options.
Each mode automatically tweaks traction control settings to match its demeanor, while the model-exclusive Gravel traction control tailors the system’s intervention to off-road riding. A bi-directional quickshifter and low-rpm assist round out the rider aids. As expected, the V-Strom offers a full-color TFT display to help riders navigate the robust interface.
On the Transalp front, Honda loads the mighty middleweight with Selectable Torque Control and Integrated Wheelie Control. Five ride modes (Sport, Standard, Rain, Gravel, and Custom) adapt the XL750 to even more circumstances. Five-level traction control, three-setting engine compression braking, and two ABS options put full control in the rider’s hands.
The model also touts a full-color TFT, with five inches of screen real estate. Honda's Smartphone Voice Control System connectivity headlines the features, while Emergency Stop Signal tech enhances safety.
There’s no getting around it—Honda and Suzuki arrived late to the mid-sized, twin-powered party. Still, both Japanese marques present two capable entries. That extra competition should spice up the red-hot ADV category. In the end, though, only one can prevail.
The Suzuki jumps out to an early lead with its rugged and off-road-ready chassis, but the Honda’s lightweight construction satisfies segment norms. With one round apiece, the decision comes down to technology, and the Transalp ekes out a victory by the slightest margin. Unfortunately, neither Honda nor Suzuki have announced the MSRP for the XL750 Transalp or V-Strom 800DE. As always, the model-to-model price difference could ultimately determine the true class contender.