When the original CBR600RR made its debut in '03, it initially appeared to have the all the ingredients for success. A completely new, more compact engine, a trick chassis with innovative rear suspension, underseat exhaust-the new CBR seemed ready for prime time.
Unfortunately, things didn't quite work out as planned. The competition was a lot tougher than Honda had expected, and while the CBR was up to par powerwise, it didn't hold any real advantage anywhere. But the Honda's biggest downfall was its weight; the original 600RR was almost 26 pounds heavier than its lightest competitors, a major shortcoming in a class where the power-to-weight ratio is hugely important due to all the entrants possessing similar power outputs.
The CBR saw some subtle but important changes in '05 that dropped a good portion of that excess heft. (In fact, for once a manufacturer fudged its advertised numbers in a good way, with the CBR actually dropping an impressive 16 pounds instead of the adspeak-stated eight pounds.) The engine also received a thorough massaging that resulted in a midrange power boost, in addition to minor chassis alterations that gave the Honda more-agile steering. It all added up to a narrow victory over the rest of the middleweight class in our '05 shootout ("Middleweight Smackdown," Apr. '05).
Standing still for even a moment in the hypercompetitive 600 category can be hazardous, however. Honda found out the hard way when the basically unchanged CBR fell off the top of the heap and hit the floor in the following year's middleweight comparison test ("The Gang's All Here," July '06). So for '07, Big Red reared back and launched the heavily revised version we got to sample at Alabama's Barber Motorsports Park last issue ("A New Dimension," Mar. '07). We covered all the technical details involved in Honda's extensive revamp of the new CBR600RR in that issue; the extent of those changes is pretty vast, so we won't rehash them here.
A Serious Diet
While blasting around the undulating layout of Barber's challenging circuit gave us a good idea of the CBR's performance at or near the limit, we were eager to bring the bike back to our offices and measure its performance in the less-rarified atmosphere of real-world street and canyon riding. After noting how light the new Honda felt at the track, we also wanted to put the 600RR on our own digital scales to see exactly how much weight was actually pared from the previous version, rather than rely on the stated numbers from our friends at American Honda (not that we don't trust them).
So first thing's first: Once we got the CBR back to our offices, we immediately filled the tank with gas, checked the oil and coolant levels and rolled the bike up onto our Intercomp digital scales. The result? An astounding 412 pounds wet, ready to ride. This puts the new Honda well below the previous class anorexic, the Triumph 675, which scaled in at 417 pounds topped off with fuel. It also represents an amazing 19-pound weight loss from the previous CBR, undercutting the 16-pound reduction listed in the Honda press kit, and even slicing just beneath the 18-pound claim American Honda stated back at the Barber intro.
This obviously is the result of a pretty substantial program of paring weight wherever possible on the machine, a fairly difficult endeavor when you're talking about today's sportbikes, which have already had years of R&D aimed at just that goal. And in the 600 class, where component designs are already shaved to the bare minimum, it's a major achievement.
Just where was all that weight shed? We listed many of the components that lost some mass in our First Ride story, but as you'd expect, it's the sum of a long parts list, with each part carrying small (and some seemingly minuscule) weight savings. We managed to get the list of parts and the weight savings for each from Honda R&D, and after the 3.7 pounds chopped from the engine and the 1.1-pound-lighter frame, the rest of the list reads as follows.
|'07 WEIGHT SAVINGS |
|Rear wheel ||0.2kg (7.05 oz.) |
|Rear sprocket ||0.06kg (2.12 oz.) |
|Rear axle collar ||0.08kg (2.82 oz.) |
|Rear tire ||0.41kg (14.46 oz.) |
|Rear brake caliper ||0.15kg (5.29 oz.) |
|Front axle ||0.02kg (.705 oz.) |
|Front axle collars ||0.27kg (9.52 oz.) |
|Front wheel ||0.05kg (1.76 oz.) |
|Front tire ||0.23kg (8.11 oz.) |
|Front brake rotors ||0.2kg (7.05 oz.) |
|Front wheel bearings ||0.06kg (2.12 oz.) |
|Front calipers ||0.32kg (11.29 oz.) |
|Front fork ||0.278kg (9.81 oz.) |
|Steering stem ||0.177kg (6.24 oz.) |
|Swingarm ||0.242kg (8.54 oz.) |
|Muffler ||0.47kg (1.04 lbs.) |
|Radiator ||0.234kg (8.25 oz.) |
|Fuel injection ||0.121kg (4.27 oz.) |
|Front fairing (upper) ||0.467kg (1.03 lbs.) |
|Front fairing bracket ||0.499kg (1.1 lbs.) |
|Fairing (mid-section) ||0.572kg (1.26 lbs.) |
|Fairing (bellypan) ||0.435kg (15.34 oz.) |
|Fuel tank cover ||0.384kg (13.55 oz.) |
|ECU ||0.122kg (4.3 oz.) |
That leaves a little less than a pound to be accounted for, which could easily be explained by some random pieces, such as a lighter tool kit or tire production tolerances.
Losing 19 pounds gains performance no matter how you slice it. And with the new CBR, it pays off handsomely.
Great Haste, Less Fiddling
As you'd expect from a Honda, the CBR fires right up in any weather and can be ridden away immediately on cold mornings if so desired, with nary a hiccup or stumble. Fueling is basically hitch-free at any rpm and throttle setting, with smooth yet crisp throttle response and an easy-effort clutch with linear feel making negotiation of tight traffic situations a breeze. Adding to this friendly character are responsive brakes that are consistent, from the first time you use them on a cold morning to the last corner of a hard canyon run. Transmission action is the best we've ever sampled on a Honda, with light, positive shifting the norm; Honda paid particular attention to reducing driveline lash in the new CBR, and the annoying clunk that used to occur in the first-to-second gear shift is all but gone.
Although Honda raised the final drive gearing with a one-tooth-smaller rear sprocket, the transmission ratios are definitely closer, with sixth gear being shorter than before. Cruising at 70 mph has the CBR singing along at around 6200 rpm; nonetheless, the new engine seems smoother, with less vibration at all rpm and lacking the thrashy feel of the old unit as the revs climb.
The dashboard layout is nice and easy to read at a glance, with the larger odd numbers on the tach easing quick recognition of rpm. We grew to like the LCD bar-graph fuel gauge; when the level gets down to reserve, the bottom bar flashes and the tripmeter readout changes to "RES," along with a mileage readout of distance traveled since going to reserve. Overall fuel consumption was about the same as that of the previous CBR, averaging right around 37 mpg.
Ergos are also basically the same, with the exception of the clip-on bars being positioned 10mm higher. We really didn't notice much of a difference, although perhaps it might be more evident during longer trips; American Honda claims that a surprisingly large percentage of CBR600RR owners take extended sport-touring sojourns. With the previous upholstered plank for a seat, we find that difficult to believe. But lo and behold, Honda seems to have finally heard our constant complaints: Although otherwise identical in shape and overall size, the new CBR's seat has thicker and much more supportive padding. It's a vast improvement over the old saddle and makes longer stints far more bearable. Quite frankly, we're baffled why it took this long to change it.
The biggest change you'll notice with the Honda during street riding, however, is just how good the engine is. Lower-end acceleration is worlds better than on the previous version (or almost any other 600, for that matter), allowing you to take off briskly from a stoplight and holeshot traffic without sounding like you're on the starting grid at the Daytona 200. That spunky low-end transcends nicely into a very stout midrange pull starting at 8000 rpm that is strong enough-dare we say it-to rival even the former 636cc Kawasaki ZX-6R. It's that strong. While we're certain the CBR's light weight plays a big role here, even that advantage only goes so far in the acceleration curve; after the initial jump, horsepower and torque take over, and the Honda continues to flex its considerable muscle well up into the rpm range.
In fact, that stronger and quicker acceleration maintains its pull deep into the higher reaches of the powerband. That advantage was amply demonstrated at Barber, where riding the '06 model against the '07 version proved to be a lesson in frustration; no matter how good a drive you made off a corner, the best you could do with the '06 model was hang in the draft of the '07 CBR. And if you made a mistake anywhere, forget it; the '07 would inexorably pull away.
The dyno chart reads that...
The dyno chart reads that the '07 600RR has much more and better power over the previous version.
The dyno chart we've published with this test is deceiving, because our regular SuperFlow dyno is still in the process of being moved and we've been forced to use alternate dynos that have different characteristics. Thus, the '07 CBR graph printed is actually slightly lower than it should be. But note that even with that caveat, the '07 still towers over the '06 graph by a considerable amount.
The same superb chassis that impressed us at Barber becomes even more of a sweetheart at the lower velocities of street riding. The agile steering of the new CBR is much more pronounced on public pavement, where there's less tarmac and more unforeseen hazards to deal with. With such a short wheelbase and steep rake angle, midcorner line changes become a mere thought process, and steering is sharp and precise. And yet there's none of the instability you'd think would accompany chassis agility like this. Over rough pavement at any lean angle, the 600RR tracks straight and true without breaking stride. Honda apparently has had enough time to play with the settings of the HESD so that it doesn't seem to affect high-speed steering, while keeping the front end from coming unglued.
Suspension action from the revised 41mm inverted fork and Unit Pro-Link shock was likewise practically fault-free. The slightly stiffer damping and spring rates are a welcome change, allowing a little more compromise between track and street without being forced to change settings. Traction feedback from the very grippy Dunlop Qualifiers was tactile and sharp, instilling boatloads of confidence in every situation we encountered. And braking from the slightly revised, radial- mount/four-piston Tokico calipers (now actuated by a radial master cylinder) was just as strong, progressive and feedback-rich as we remembered from Barber.
Can You Tell We Like It?
In case you haven't figured it out by now, we're pretty impressed with the new Honda CBR600RR. While the previous CBR was by no means a slug or wobbling backmarker, Honda seems to have taken all the complaints we had with the former model and not only fixed them, but ended up with a finished product that goes beyond what we would have expected of a middleweight redesign. The new CBR packs performance that is head and shoulders above the old model-high enough that we easily predict the Honda will at least be in the running for top honors in the 600 class.
How good is the new Honda CBR600RR? Let's just say that when we get everyone together for our '07 middleweight shootout, the other manufacturers had better bring their A-game. We can hardly wait.
Honda finally upgraded the...
Honda finally upgraded the CBR's saddle with thicker and more supportive padding, making longer trips much more bearable.
Spring preload on the front...
Spring preload on the front fork requires accurately counting the number of turns, as there are no indicator rings to show your exact preload position.
Dunlop Qualifier tires seems...
Dunlop Qualifier tires seems to have better wear rates and is substantially lighter than the off-the-rack Qualifier.
|HONDA CBR600RR |
|MSRP $9499 |
|Type ||Liquid-cooled, transverse, inline, 4-stroke fourValve arrangement: DOHC, 4 valves/cyl., shim-under-bucket adjustment |
|Displacement ||599cc |
|Bore x stroke ||67 x 42.5mm |
|Compression ratio ||12.2:1 |
|Induction ||Honda PGM-DSFI, 40mm throttle bodies |
|Transmission ||6-speed |
|Front suspension ||41mm inverted-cartridge fork, 4.7 in. travel; adjustments for spring preload, compression and rebound damping |
|Rear suspension ||Unit Pro-Link single shock absorber, 5.1 in. travel; adjustments for spring preload, compression and rebound damping |
|Front brake ||Two, four-piston calipers, 310mm discs |
|Rear brake ||Two-piston caliper, 220mm disc |
|Front wheel ||3.50 x 17 in.; cast alloy |
|Rear wheel ||5.50 x 17 in.; cast alloy |
|Front tire ||120/70ZR-17 Dunlop Qualifier PT |
|Rear tire ||180/55ZR-17 Dunlop Qualifier PT |
|Rake/trail ||23.7 deg./98mm (3.8 in.) |
|Wheelbase ||53.8 in. (1367mm) |
|Seat height ||32.3 in. (820mm) |
|Fuel capacity || 4.8 gal. (18L) |
|Weight ||12 lbs. (187kg) wet; 383 lbs. (174kg) dry |
|Instruments ||Analog tachometer, LCD panel display for digital speedometer, coolant temperature, fuel level, odometer/dual tripmeters/fuel tripmeter, clock; warning lights for neutral, high beam, turn signals, EFI problem, shift point |
|Roll-ons ||60-80mph/3.68 sec.; 80-100mph/3.42 sec. |
|Quarter-mile || 10.434 sec. @ 132.78 mph (corrected) |
|Top speed ||NA |
|Fuel consumption ||35 to 42 mpg, 37-mpg average |
KENT KUNITSUGU Bad hair...
KENT KUNITSUGUBad hair day
I really do think that Honda got caught with its pants down when it introduced the original CBR600RR back in '03. The CBR had a lot of flashy components, but it seemed as if Honda put a halfhearted effort into the first 600RR, as if the company thought the bike was just going to stomp the competition. Unfortunately, the first CBR was overweight, a little sluggish and just not as sharp as its rivals. Some updates to the '05 model helped considerably, but they were moderate revisions at best, and the CBR just barely squeaked by the competition that year in our 600 comparison. And with several strong models introduced by the competition last year, it was really no surprise to see the basically unchanged CBR punted toward the back of the pack in our '06 middleweight shootout.
Honda finally stood up and took notice, as the '07 CBR is a whole new ball game. Not only is it the lightest middleweight by a good margin, but its powerplant is easily the best 600cc unit we've tested to date, with an overall power spread that redefines the category. Don't let the similar looks fool you; the latest 600RR is head-and-shoulders above the previous model, and in my opinion will definitely be scrapping for top honors in our next middleweight comparison test. It has thankfully assuaged my fears of 600s turning into 18,000-rpm greyhounds that are a hassle to ride on the street. The new CBR shows what Honda can do when it puts a little effort into a design, and it just may have vaulted the 600RR back to the top of the heap. We'll see in a month or two.
ANDREW TREVITT Bad head...
ANDREW TREVITTBad head day
Given the recent trend of some manufacturers' models getting successively heavier with each redesign, it's a nice change to see that Honda has trimmed the CBR so much. In '04 it was the heaviest middleweight, scaling in at more than some of the literbikes at the time. Now it's the lightest of the bunch, and feels it-riding around town I found myself thinking it was more a toy than a motorcycle at times. What's even more impressive is that, given the other recent trend of 600s with top-end-heavy powerbands, the Honda has such a strong midrange. It's a potent combination for sure, one I doubt the other middleweights will match when it comes time to put them all together for a street ride.
It's interesting to contrast the Honda with the new ZX-6R, which typifies the trends I mentioned in that it's heavier than last year, according to the specifications, and has lost its midrange advantage along with the drop in displacement. I'm looking forward to seeing how it all shakes out at the racetrack. On the one hand I'm a big fan of light weight and good power, but on the other I know how quick the Kawasaki is in spite of the numbers. Am I splitting hairs? Probably, but that's what it will take to pick the best middleweight this year.