'01 Suzuki GSX-R/4 Concept: An Automotive Crossbreed
Suzuki is not a brand that is often associated with performance cars. Other than brief spells in the WRC and Junior WRC, as well as the continually beloved Swift Sport, there haven’t been that many performance-oriented Suzuki cars. This is in stark contrast to their motorcycles, where the company has had a strong motorsport presence for a considerable amount of time. Combined with their high-performance road bike offerings, the bike and car arms of Suzuki would struggle to be more different in their approach. In the early 2000s however, Suzuki tried to improve their somewhat dull economy car image by bringing the two sections of the company together to create a concept car: the GSX-R/4.
Debuting at the 2001 Frankfurt Motor Show, the Suzuki GSX-R/4 was a truly state-of-the-art concept car. Built upon a lightweight aluminium spaceframe chassis, the GSX-R/4 had very clear motorcycle influences throughout its design. The name itself was a reference to Suzuki’s GSX-R line of bikes, implying the GSX-R/4 was essentially a four-wheeled version. The ties to the GSX-R bikes continued with many of the mechanical elements of the car. The engine, lifted from the GSX1300R (or Hayabusa), was a mid-mounted 1.3 litre 4 cylinder that produced 173HP at 9800rpm, reaching a redline of 11000rpm. This was mated to a 6-speed sequential manual gearbox, with power sent to the rear wheels. The GSX-R/4 was displayed alongside the Formula Hayabusa; a single seater formula car intended to be raced in Japan, and powered by the same engine.
While the power output doesn’t sound particularly incredible in car terms, the GSX-R/4 was incredibly light. Weighing in at only 640kg (around 1400lbs), it was well over 100kg lighter than a contemporary Lotus Elise. This allowed for a power-to-weight ratio that could trouble many premium sports cars of the era. To achieve this weight, Suzuki sacrificed any real practicality the car might’ve had: there wasn’t much in the way of bodywork, no roof, and no proper windscreen; you had to make do with a couple of small wind deflectors. The limited bodywork that was in place was made of recycled materials, to further add to the quirkiness of the car.
Aesthetically the GSX-R/4 was certainly distinctive, both on the exterior and interior. The most interesting element of the exterior was the exposed suspension. Utilising a push-rod setup, Suzuki cut out areas of bodywork for the suspension to sit in both in the front and rear, which added to the hardcore track car image of the GSX-R/4. The interior was heavily inspired by the motorcycle origins of the car and was mostly simple and driver-focused, other than the screen attached to the middle of the dashboard. This was intended to provide a high-end satellite navigation system, which for 2001 was quite advanced, and also allowed the driver to tweak engine setting preferences.
Unfortunately, the GSX-R/4 was never intended to reach production, which while sad is not exactly surprising. It would go on to be displayed again at the 2002 Los Angeles Auto Show, but other than continuing to appear in video games for a while would largely be forgotten about. The GSX-R/4 did serve its primary purpose however, which was to demonstrate that Suzuki could build high performance cars, not just bikes. The GSX-R/4 was, in many ways, ahead of its time. In recent years serious track-focused cars have grown significantly in popularity, and a car like the GSX-R/4 would likely be able to find an audience. While highly unlikely, it would be interesting to see Suzuki revisit the idea one day.