After taking some time to digest the ride (and make a pot pie - from scratch, yes) here are my impressions of the bike. Note that these aren't arrived at via any sort of left-brained metrics, they're all right-brained impressions. Your mileage may vary, void where prohibited, do not remove tag under penalty of law.
The GoodThere's a lot going for this bike. That's what attracted me to it in the first place, duh.
SizeThis is an intermediate size between what I have (Honda Rebel 250) and a big cruising bike like a Harley or a Goldwing (or a Yamaha Boulevard, which looks pretty interesting). Quite frankly the reason I wanted my first bike to be pretty small was because the size factor was less intimidating. While more intimidating (perhaps the wrong word, there, but you get my drift) than a Rebel, it's no where near what a big old Hog would be.
This bike will do long distance touring, with plenty of attach points for baggage carriers. It will do sport rides, like Tail Of The Dragon (that's why they call it a "Sport Touring Bike"). It will do commutes in stop and go traffic (ask me how I know). It will (I'm told) do some off-road as well, although I'd think you'd want some different tires. Basically, it's a what-do-you-want-to-do-today sort of bike: hit the Interstate to the beach, head to the hills for the twisties, maybe seek out some places the Harleys can't follow.
Easy handlingMy little Rebel will go on the highway, and I've even had it up to 70 MPH. But the wind blast is pretty harsh, and will wear you out if you do it for a long time. The V-Strom has a much more highway friendly design, and the one I rode only had a sort of mini-faring. Put a bigger front faring and a bigger windscreen, and the miles will melt away.
Great MileageToday's ride took me from Roswell GA to Marietta via surface highways, up Interstate 575 to Jasper, across the foothill twisty roads to Interstate 75, back south I-75 to Marietta to the downtown square (circle until you find a parking space because the Marietta Town Fathers don't seem to believe in Motorcycle parking). Lots of different types of driving including stop and go, 170 miles in all. I used 3 gallons of gas, so I was getting north of 55 MPG. On something that cruises happily at 80 MPH.
The Not So GoodEvery design is a compromise, and this bike is no different.
Lordy, this is a tall bikeI'm taller than average at a hair over 6 feet, but this bike was a challenge for me. Even in my Tony Lamas (which are actually pretty sweet riding boots) with their 1 1/2" heels I was on tip toes when the bike was stopped. It was quite uncomfortable (not to mention intimidating considering the weight - that will be next). I'm told that you can have the suspension lowered, but this would need to be dropped by a minimum of two inches - and that's for someone two inches taller than average. I actually think that this is the biggest knock against the bike.
Lordy, this is a heavy bikeThe Rebel's dry weight is 300 lbs, which makes it pretty hard to drop. Two guys could pretty easily lift it completely off the ground. The V-Strom 650 clocks in at a cool 900 (!) pounds. Add luggage and a passenger and you're looking at 1200. And this is a mid sized bike.
Quite honestly, I can't say that this is a knock against the bike, it's likely a knock against me - at least until I have some more riding under my belt. But remember the bike's height conspires to make things wobbly, and with 900 lbs if it leans over it's going down.
UPDATE: See the end of the post.
The riding position is uncomfortableThis is very subjective, but the seating is straight up in the saddle, just like you were on a horse. In a way that was comfortable - my back has been hurting for a few days but the upright posture felt pretty good. What didn't feel good was all my weight pushing straight down on my, err, loins. Four hours after I turned the bike back in, "The Boys" are still mad at me, if you catch my drift. No doubt a different seat would fix this, but would also almost certainly add more to the height problem.
The Bottom LineI'm not going to get one. I may try a cruiser style - the local Harley dealer has "Demo Day" tomorrow. While I don't want to go up to an even heavier bike, if it's lower to the ground (i.e. both feet flat on the ground) then that may be more comfortable.
The search continues, the game's afoot. Onward!
UPDATE 12 October 2013 22:32: Both Chris Byrne and Sevesteen in the comments point out that my weight numbers are whack. What caused the confusion is that I read the GVW off of the motorcycle side plate. I think (on retrospect) that this is the total *loaded* weight that the bike is set to handle. IOW, using Chris Bytne's stated 480 lbs dry weight, you have another 430 or so lbs of rider plus luggage.
That said, this is WAY heavier than my Honda, which was my point. If it weren't so tall, that might not me a problem. Chris says that you can lower the bike by around 2" (after market seat and suspension adjustment), which might address the issue. But remember, I'm 2" taller than average (and Chris is even bigger than I am). Suzuki clearly did not design this for the mass market. Or they did, and they missed this point.