I’ve owned my Honda XR650L for a while now and have been looking for something similar that is maybe a bit less intimidating. The Suzuki DRZ400S immediately came to mind, so I did some research.
The Honda XR650L, with its 62% bigger air-cooled 644 cc engine, is 29 lbs (10%) heavier and 12% more powerful than the Suzuki DRZ400S with its liquid-cooled 398 cc motor. The XR650L is also 10% higher off the ground with a similar seat height than the DRZ400S. Both bikes cost just shy of $7 000.
I expected the specifications of the Honda XR650L and the Suzuki DR-Z400S to differ more, especially since the Honda has a much bigger engine. The video below compares the more important specifications.
In the US in 2021, the XR650L currently sells for $6 999 and the Suzuki DR-Z400S retails for $6 899. With only a $100 dollar difference, one would expect the decision between these two bikes to be a tough one.
Power and Torque
The Honda XR650L has a 644 cc DOHC air-cooled engine that produces 43.6 HP at 6 000 rpm. That is only 12% more than the little 398 cc liquid-cooled Suzuki DR-Z400S which produces 39 HP. The Honda is 32% more torquey, developing a healthy 51.9 Nm at 5 000 rpm (in a wide range, actually), which is 32% more than the DRZ’s 39.4 Nm.
Considering the 62% larger engine of the XR650L, the DRZ400S’s power and torque is quite impressive. This is no doubt in part as a result of a much higher compression ratio of 11.3 : 1 compared to the primitive old motor of the XR which has less compression than a good burp (at 8.3 : 1).
At 317 lbs (144 kg) the Suzuki DRZ400S weights 10% lighter than the Honda XR650L that tips the scales at 346 lbs (157 kg).
That is one the main reasons I am considering a switch over to the DRZ. The big question is, will shedding 29 lbs (13 kg) make that bike a difference in the real life? I’ve heard of riders losing 40 lbs by removing the Honda’s smog pump, adding a lighter exhaust and swapping the lead-acid battery to a small lithium battery.
From comments on the DRZ400 Facebook group, anecdotal evidence at least suggest that the weight difference between the DRZ and the XRL is noticeable. Riders that have owned both report that the DRZ400 is easier to throw around in the dirt and that you can feel the weight difference.
When it comes to the weight of a motorcycle, the issue is not how heavy it feels while riding it, but rather when standing still. Or when you drop it and have to pick it back up again. The XR650L is not the heaviest 650 by far, but it is the tallest. And that is part of the problem for me (at 6″ tall).
The Honda XR650L has a seat height of 37 inches which is only 0.2 inches taller than the Suzuki DRZ400S with a seat height of 36.8 inches. The difference on paper is negligible, but the weight of the rider and the suspension sag may cause the difference to change either way.
With the stock factory settings on the suspension, I need to tip toe to keep my Honda XR650L upright. This is part of the reason why I’ve dropped it so often, usually when I am getting tired. Every pounds of weight saved will be welcomed, especially if it is saved higher up on the bike.
The Honda XR650L has 13 inches of ground clearance. That is 10% more than the ground clearance of the Suzuki DRZ400S at 11.8 inches and more than almost any other dual sport bike. The XR is tall enough for me to crawl right under it without touching the frame (I know, because I’ve done it multiple times in my YouTube videos).
While the DRZ may be lower to the ground than an XR, it is still much higher than the Suzuki DR650SE (at 10.4 inches) or the KLR650 at a belly scraping 8.4 inches off the ground.
Fuel Tank Capacity
While I mostly play around close to home, I do want to have the ability to tour and do some moto-camping as well. The Honda XR650L and Suzuki DRZ400 have similar small tanks holding 2.8 and 2.6 gallon respectively. The DRZ400S’s reported fuel consumption (from forum posts I’ve read) will more than make up in range compared to the Honda XR650L. I recently did a fuel economy test on my XR650L to see the effect of gearing at an indicated 65 mph, and I am fairly disappointed with the results. Read more on the XR650L fuel efficiency test here.
Riding off road, suspension travel is quite important. More travel allows for more ground clearance and the ability to soak up bumps when the going gets tough. Interestingly, the Honda XR650L has 2.4% more travel in the front, while the Suzuki DRZ400S has 5.4% more in the rear. At between 280 mm and 295 mm at either end, both these bikes beat most other thumpers in this class.
With the longer travel suspension, by XR does feel a bit wobbly in the front when I ride it hard. This is where the DRZ400S reportedly better suspension may take the win in this duel.
The Honda XR650L is air-cooled, whereas the Suzuki DRZ400S is liquid cooled. This means that the XR has less parts that can leave you stranded (e.g. leaking water pump and hoses) or get damaged in a tumble (e.g. radiator and fan). It does mean that you need to keep an eye on the valve clearance, carb jetting (not too lean!) and oil condition.
One big advantage over the XR650L (for me anyways) is the fact that the valve clearance is set with screw adjusters instead of shims, as on the DRZ. Shims are fine, but can be difficult to come by and is a more involved (and time-consuming) job. I’ve set my Honda XR’s valve clearance in under 30 minutes the first time.
These are both great bikes and you can’t go wrong with either. If you plan on more fast gravel and highway, the XR’s extra poke will be welcomed. But if it’s forest trails and single track, the DRZ might have the edge. For now, I am keeping my XR.