You might not think a scooter would make a fun back-roads bikes, but that’s because you haven’t ridden the 2013 Suzuki Burgman 650 ABS yet.

For the first time since its debut 10 years ago, the bike that helped launch the maxi-scooter trend, the Burgman 650, finally got its long-awaited freshening up for the 2013 model year. The Burgman 650 ABS features a new look and improved conveniences.

Since its introduction, the big luxurious Burgman has been a gigantic hit for Suzuki, even with its hefty, five-digit price tag. More than 83,000 units have been sold worldwide and is one of the top-selling scooters in Europe, where scooters are pretty much a way of life. In the U.S., scooters are slowly gaining acceptance among the two-wheel crowd, and a lot of this has to do with high-tech and just plain good scooters like the Burgman.

Previously, Suzuki offered the Burgman 650 in two variants – standard and Executive, which offered electronically-controlled mirrors and windscreen, and a passenger backrest. For 2013, Suzuki basically dropped the standard model and will offer only the Executive model but without the Executive moniker. It’s simply the Burgman 650 ABS now with all of the previous Executive add-ons. In Europe, however, Suzuki still offers an Executive model with heated grips and seat, which are offered as accessories in the U.S.

Viewed from the front, you’d be fooled into thinking the Burg’ is a full-size motorcycle.

Suzuki made many changes to the 2013 Burgman 650 ABS but focused on a certain areas that previous Burgman owners have been squawking about for a while. One of which is styling, which hasn’t changed much since its birth.

The 2013 Burgman 650 has a more modern look. It’s not a dramatic difference, but when you compare the previous Burgman to the new Burg’, side by side, the differences become obvious. The new Burg’ has sleeker lines, more angles, and a narrower profile, especially when viewed from behind. The seat is also narrower, as well as a little taller. Headlights are sportier looking, as is the tail section.

Even the cockpit has a more modern appearance. The “dashboard” has been reworked, utilizing a mix of analog (tach and speedometer) and digital (everything else) readouts. There is plenty of information to be had, including a fuel consumption meter and a permanently displayed clock (no longer do you have to toggle around to see what time it is).

You’ll also notice a brand new readout – an eco drive indicator. It glows when you’re getting the best fuel consumption when certain throttle, rpm and speed settings are achieved.

The Burgman actually makes city-riding fun.

The number-one complaint previous owners had with their Burgman 650s was just pushing them around - there was too much resistance. Suzuki responded by redesigning the clutch and reducing drag by 35%, so the Burgman is far easier to maneuver in the garage or in the parking lot. And we can vouch for that. This clutch redesign had other advantages as well. Combined with other refinements to the Suzuki Electronically-controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (SECVT), and a reduction in mechanical loss, contribute to what Suzuki claims is a 15% boost in fuel economy.

Other notable improvements include the Burg’s braking system. The entire ABS system has been upgraded and is now 55% lighter, and there is a new triangular section muffler, which also give the Burgman a more modern look.

Suzuki recently held its U.S. press launch, which was made up of a two-day ride covering mostly open highways with some back-roads adventuring and, of course, a good mix of city touring, all things that the Burgman, we found out, does extremely well.

Although Suzuki claims no power gains over the outgoing Burg’, the 638cc DOHC parallel-twin motor is plenty strong. It doesn’t sound like much at idle but twist the throttle and it goes – like now. Beating cars across the intersection is not even a challenge on the Burgman but is always a kick in the pants. The Suzuki’s SECVT transmission changes gear seamlessly, but if you want a bit more snap, with just a tap of a button on the left handlebar, you can switch the transmission into “power” mode, which alters shift points and lets each gear stretch out a little longer. This is good for when you want things to happen a little quicker, like while you’re moving in and out of traffic and want quicker response, which is what you’ll get since the motor is now running at a higher rpm. But you’ll get better fuel economy in the standard Drive mode.

Manual-mode shifting is offered again, via a mode push switch and two thumb buttons on the left handlebar. We didn’t go there much. After all, there didn’t seem to be any real advantages in manual shifting, plus and we’d rather have a trigger switch for upshifting. As it is, it’s kind of easy to confuse the two thumb buttons, since they’re so close to each other, without looking at them.

The Burgman is extremely comfortable but maybe a little tight for taller, six-foot-plus riders. Even then, there is plenty of area to re-adjust your legs on the floor-panels from time to time. The seat is plenty comfy for the long hauls, and the electronically adjustable windscreen is a nice touch. We would, however, like to see more travel in the up position. The electronically folding mirrors are also a nice feature, but if you really have to retract them in order to squeeze through traffic, you’re probably cutting it too close. But it is nice having them out of the way while the bike is parked in the garage.

Many changes make the new Burgman 650 ABS easier to live with.

The Burgman feels solid and safe at highway speeds. Even with its smaller wheels, it feels very stable at 80-plus mph and has no problems holding those speeds for any length of time. The ride is also very smooth in general, but the suspension, front and rear, could be a little plusher in our opinion.

But what really makes the Burgman stand out so far for us is commuting. It’s a fantastic get-there-and-back bike for many reasons. It gets excellent fuel economy (right around 50 mpg), it’s easy to climb on and off, there’s no shifting, it’s ultra easy to ride, has good weather protection, and it has excellent storage under the seat. There’re also two smaller and easy-to-reach compartments in the fairing. Unfortunately, Suzuki chose not to fit the Burgman with heated grips or cruise control, which would have really rounded things off nicely. Dang. Evidently, Suzuki felt the demand for cruise control and heated grips just weren’t there to warrant the added expense for a scooter that already sells for a fairly hefty $10,999.

Yes, the Burgman isn’t cheap, but you do get a lot for your money if you’re looking for a great and practical all-around ride, even if that ride is a scooter.

Sometimes it’s not all about image.

Kit Palmer | Off-Road Editor

Kit Palmer started his career at Cycle News in 1984 and he’s been testing dirt and streetbikes every since – plus covering any event that uses some form of a knobby tire. He’s also our resident motorcycle mileage man with a commute of 120 miles a day.

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