The OEM Bridgestone BT-016 tires, replacing the old bike's BT-014s, provide flypaper grip even in what could almost be considered a light drizzle. The new rear tire has two compounds-harder in the center for wear and softer on the edges for grip-while the front tire is a single, grippy compound (check out this issue's Late Braking for more information about the new Bridgestones). Oddly enough, the GSX-R's steering felt awkward at low speeds when the tires were new but was fine once the tires were scrubbed in. If anything the GSX-R steered almost too lightly with the provided settings, falling into turns at close to full lean. Certainly this could be changed with suspension adjustments, but we'll have to wait until we have our own test bike to experiment.
Our biggest complaint with the old bike, especially in the company of the midrange-potent CBR600RR and Daytona 675, was unspectacular power, and Suzuki engineers have nicely addressed this with an impressive boost of midrange steam. Decent power starts at approximately 8000 rpm, and the motor pulls hard and seamlessly until power peaks at about 15,000 rpm. As is typical of the GSX-R series, the engine has good overrev until the limiter cuts in just before 16,500 rpm-redline is unchanged at 16,000 rpm. The added midrange has the GSX-R exiting turns with more authority and, combined with the unchanged but well-spaced tranny ratios, makes gear selection less crucial than on the old bike. Unfortunately that increased power seems to be at the expense of throttle response. We've come to expect a silky-smooth off/on throttle transition from Suzuki's SDTV setup, and the 600 is noticeably more abrupt than previously in this respect, making it difficult to keep midcorner speed up.
It will be interesting to see how the GSX-R stacks up in our upcoming middleweight comparison test. Both it and the Yamaha R6 have benefited from more midrange power for 2008, exactly what they need to compete with Honda's potent CBR600RR. We've ridden all the contenders independently now and can only say that the Suzuki is definitely not lacking in any way. Calling an advantage is too difficult without riding all the bikes under the same conditions, however. We're deep in the planning stages of this year's middleweight smackdown now, and you can expect to see the results in our next issue.
Even with the minor drawback of a slightly abrupt throttle, the combination of the 600's solid chassis and newfound power made it a joy to ride at Misano-the GSX-R is the perfect tool for learning a new track in tricky conditions. We usually smirk at press-speak terms like "refined" and "user-friendly," but in this case those terms apply perfectly: The '08 GSX-R600 does exactly what you tell it to, no more, no less. And you can't ask for much better than that.
'08 Suzuki GSX-R600
Type: Liquid-cooled, DOHC, transverse-four, 4 valves/cyl.
Bore x stroke: 67 x 42.5mm
Compression ratio: 12.8:1
Induction: SDTV, 40mm throttle bodies, 2 injectors/cyl.
Front tire: 120/70ZR-17 Bridgestone BT-016F M
Rear tire: 180/55ZR-17 Bridgestone BT-016R M
Rake/trail: 23.5 deg./3.8 in. (97mm)
Wheelbase: 55.1 in. (1400mm)
Seat height: 31.9 in. (810mm)
Fuel capacity: 4.5 gal. (17L)
Claimed dry weight: 359 lb. (163kg)