As we've stated before, there's no way to overlook the ZX-10R's monster engine. With a prodigious power output on tap literally anytime, anywhere, the Kawasaki is almost as user-friendly as the Honda-but on a much higher level. Throttle response is crisp yet measured, allowing you to dial in the exact amount of acceleration desired without feeling like the velocity will get out of control as the bike wails toward the top-end. Of course, pinning the throttle for any period of time results in warp speed that will get your attention, but thankfully the 10R's brakes are easily up to the task, offering up excellent power, progressiveness and feel.
|Test Notes Suzuki GSX-R1000|
|Absolutely unbelievable engine|
Superbly agile yet stable chassis
Compact feel, excellent suspension/brakes
|Low-rpm fueling a bit fluffy|
Less legroom than before
Mirrors worse than before
|Just watch the race results|
The Kawasaki's chassis is nearly as nimble as the R1's, allowing precise corner placement, but the ZX-10R required quite a bit of muscle to pick up the bike from full lean and flick through switchbacks at speed. We feel the bar angle may be responsible for part of this, as a slightly more pulled-back style would help gain leverage in these situations. The big Kawi's suspension was also rather stiff, which, while controlling weight transfer under acceleration/braking well, also fed big bumps back into the chassis; spring rates and high-speed compression damping were a bit too firm for our tastes. Those minor gripes didn't prevent the ZX-10R from scorching to a 1:08.25 lap time, however.
Which leaves the new GSX-R. By retaining nearly the same bore/stroke configuration (the bore was enlarged only by 0.4mm), Suzuki engineers have succeeded in producing a much more powerful engine that keeps the previous version's excellent torque characteristics. The new GSX-R has all the midrange stomp of the Kawasaki (even if the fueling doesn't feel as crisp), but with a stronger top-end charge that just keeps pulling all the way to redline. While the ZX-10R may come off the corner just as well, the Suzuki continues to pull inexorably down the straight, whereas the Kawasaki's acceleration tends to taper off somewhat on top. Even the GSX-R's partial-throttle acceleration is astounding.
|Suggested Suspension Settings|
|FRONT: Preload: 4 lines showing. Rebound damping: 1 click out from full stiff. Compression damping: 13 clicks out from full stiff. Ride height: 8mm fork tube showing above triple clamp|
|REAR: Preload: 14mm thread showing. Rebound damping: 8 clicks out from full stiff. Compression damping: 13 clicks out from full stiff.|
Sweetening the deal is a chassis offering a compact, agile yet planted feel whether charging through a corner or hurtling down a straight. The new GSX-R can scythe through bends like the Yamaha, but with none of the front-end jitters; its front-end feedback is superb, promoting higher corner speeds to accompany the added straight-line speed. The Suzuki's radial-mount brakes-while not quite possessing the R1's impressive feel-are easily a match with regards to power and progressiveness. Suspension rates and overall action are excellent, with the Suzuki handling Buttonwillow's bumpy sections much better than the others, translating into higher overall speeds everywhere on the track. And it showed, with the GSX-R posting a 1:07.98 lap time. All our testers agreed the new Suzuki would be their choice for track-day sojourns or racing.
It's pretty obvious that today's latest generation of literbikes offers a performance envelope whose outer reaches are unattainable by the vast majority of riders. Yet in all the areas below that top 10 percent of performance, each of these bikes provide a solid platform that anyone would be happy with. We know it's an overused clich these days, but it actually rings true: You simply can't go wrong with any of these literbikes.
But we're not here to dither around praising all of them as a group, are we? There has to be a winner. And when all the data was tallied up, there simply was no denying the Suzuki GSX-R's incredible abilities when the pace seriously heats up. In an era where the performance bar continues to be raised, Suzuki has basically reared back and booted it out of the stadium.