Home»2008 600cc Sportbike Comparison
2008 600cc Sportbike Comparison - Balancing Act
From the July, 2008 issue of Sport Rider
By Andrew Trevitt
Photography: Adam Campbell
It doesn't take much to upset the middleweight-class applecart-a minor update in one model year can vault a competitor from the back of the class to the front. Just as easily, a single, tiny glitch can punt last year's winner off the podium. Case in point: In our 2005 middleweight smackdown, Honda's then-new CBR600RR emerged from a veritable three-way tie-that had to be broken by rounding scores to two decimal points-for top honors. The following year the same CBR, unchanged but for a different brand of OEM tires, ended up in last place. This past year, coincidentally, our middleweight-of-the-year trophy ended up at Honda, as the new-for-2007 CBR600RR won the smackdown with a clean sweep of the street and track scores. Will history repeat itself?
The contenders this year include the aforementioned Honda CBR600RR and the Kawasaki ZX-6R, both of which are unchanged for 2008 following major revamps last year. Also making a return visit is the Triumph 675, now in its third year of production and identical to the version that debuted to major accolades the world over in 2006. New for 2008 are the Suzuki GSX-R600 and Yamaha YZF-R6, which both benefit from engines with stronger midrange power and chassis tweaks to match. Senior Editor Trevitt sampled both the new 600s over the winter, reporting from Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for the R6 ("Scream II," Mar. '08) and Misano World Circuit in Italy ("The Right Tool," June '08) for the GSX-R.
As per our usual modus operandi, we spent a day at Buttonwillow Raceway Park with this year's quintet of middleweights. Hired gun (and former staffer) Lance Holst and local club racer John Reeves performed the riding duties along with full-timers Kunitsugu, Trevitt and Siahaan. For the track sessions we fitted each bike with Continental's ContiRaceAttack Comp tires (see the sidebar on page 52 for more information about the new tires). Following the racetrack festivities we spent a day strafing canyons around Malibu with rising film star Jim O'Connor subbing for an at-his-real-job Reeves. Each rider rated each bike at each venue in the usual 10 categories, giving us a total of 50 ratings for each bike at the track and another 50 for the street ride. The averages of those scores are listed with each contender in the following text, with the overall scores-an average of 100 ratings for each-listed in the SR Ratings chart near the end of the story.
Time waits for no one, and that is especially true in the cutthroat middleweight class, where just one year of development can make a huge difference. Every other bike in this test has been updated since the 675 was introduced in 2006, and that progress leaves the Triumph at the bottom of our testers' track score sheets despite its logging the second-quickest lap time. That fast time is partly due to the Triumph's sultry-sounding three-cylinder engine, which generates far more torque and horsepower at lower rpm than the four-cylinder 600s, equating to speed on each corner exit. The other factor contributing to the 675's quick laps is the bike's light weight: Just 10 pounds heavier than the flyweight CBR600RR, the Triumph is a few pounds lighter than the R6 and 20 pounds lighter than the Kawasaki and Suzuki.
But good power and light weight alone don't make for a great overall package, and it's in the finer points that the 675 loses out in this group. "If you're only as strong as your weakest link, then the Triumph is in trouble because the rear shock is absolute junk," wrote Siahaan. With a too-stiff spring, very aggressive link and a bizarre rebound circuit that has the rear end rebounding too quickly at the bottom of its travel and too slowly at the top, we couldn't find settings to make anyone happy at the track. In contrast, the front suspension is much more easily sorted and soaks up big or small bumps equally well. While steering is quick and aided by the bike's light weight, some of our testers noted that the stinkbug seat height made transitioning from side to side difficult.
That great power is difficult to access at times, as the bike's short gearing and little overrev let you become well acquainted with the harsh rev limiter and get stuck between gears in places around Buttonwillow's layout, and this year's choice of tires, which affects gearing, plays to the 675's strengths in this regard. That shows on the timesheets. Kento described best the paradox of low scores coupled with quick lap times: "The Triumph has that nervous feel in that you may be railing along and turning good laps, but you always feel on edge, like the bike could get out of shape at any moment-not the environment conducive to maximum confidence."
Triumph Daytona 675
+ Great power and torque
+ Soul-stirring sound and style
- Rear shock needs to be trashed
- High seat makes handling and ergos awkward
x Desperately seeking an update
Suggested Suspension Settings
Front Spring preload: 5 lines showing; rebound damping: 4 clicks out from full stiff; compression damping: 10 clicks out from full stiff; ride height: 4mm fork tube showing above triple clamp
Rear Spring preload: 9mm thread showing; rebound damping: 2 clicks out from full stiff; compression damping: 22 clicks out from full stiff
"The Kawasaki has all the ingredients but is woefully lacking in motor," noted El Jefe after logging the slowest lap time on the ZX-6R. The Kawasaki-despite being the heaviest bike here-drew favorable comments from our testers for its handling and overall manners, but it notched the lowest scores for engine power and engine power delivery, leaving it well back of its Japanese rivals in overall track scores. "The Kawasaki just felt like my favorite pair of slippers, and I was immediately comfortable on it," noted Siahaan once we roused him from his afternoon nap. The ZX-6R's chassis is characterized by neutral, light steering, crisp, progressive brakes and stiff but compliant suspension, and everyone felt immediately comfortable on the green bike. Even with its stretched-out riding position it scored highest in the ergonomics category. Ironically the Kawasaki is the only bike here without a steering damper, yet stability over Buttonwillow's rough surface was very good.
Unfortunately that user-friendly chassis is more than let down by an uninspiring engine that has been neutered of its full potential (see the sidebar on page 62 for details on how simply connecting two wires in the Kawasaki's harness unleashes a full six more horsepower that lurks inside the ZX-6R's ECU). While the Kawasaki's rev ceiling is just as cathedral-ceiling high as the Honda's and Suzuki's, peak power occurs at just 12,000 rpm-about on par with the lower-revving 675 triple-leaving acres of mostly unusable overrev. What's really a shame is that the Kawasaki's power is perhaps the most easily accessible of this bunch: The excellent slipper clutch lets you run deep into corners without worrying about precise downshifting, and the off/on throttle transition from the dual-injector, dual-butterfly setup is buttery-smooth. This left our testers divided on scores and comments about the bike's performance, as some felt the forgiving chassis and usable engine deserved high marks while others noted that the low power dominated overall performance.
+ Agile yet stable on street or track
+ Well-sorted details make it fun to ride
- Way underpowered-and then some
- Heaviest bike in the class
x But for a short piece of wire...
Suggested Suspension Settings
Front Spring preload: 10 turns out from full stiff; rebound damping: 1.5 turns out from full stiff; compression damping: 2 turns out from full stiff; ride height: 13mm fork tube showing above triple clamp
Rear Spring preload: 8mm thread showing; rebound damping: 15 clicks out from full stiff; low-speed compression damping: 2 turns out from full stiff; high-speed compression damping: 2.5 turns out from full stiff
Posting middle-of-the-road scores across the board along with the third-quickest lap time, the new-for-2008 GSX-R600 earned third spot in the track rankings. Similar to the Kawasaki's situation, the Suzuki combines a great chassis with an engine that still lacks steam compared with the class leaders. The highlights of the GSX-R's chassis are its plush yet firm suspension and updated brakes, a significant improvement from the old model's fade-prone binders. Feedback from the chassis is outstanding, and the ergonomic package rated highly among our riders. "Still the ultimate chassis in terms of confidence-inspiring feedback and front-end feel. It's positively telepathic," raved Holst. While the potbellied-pig lover (that dash is crucial, no?) and other testers found little fault with the Suzuki's chassis, others were not so keen. "The Suzuki feels heavier and turns slower than the R6 no matter how much muscle you use," wrote glass-half-empty Trevitt.
Just three pounds lighter than the potbellied ZX-6R, the equally porky Suzuki is not helped by an engine as dull as Barry Manilow night on American Idol compared with the Honda's and Yamaha's spunky mills. While response from the dual-butterfly, dual-injector SDTV is smooth and the GSX-R pulls hard off the corners with much more midrange than its predecessor, top-end power is lacking in this company. This somewhat contradicts the dyno chart that shows the Suzuki posting the second-highest peak horsepower figure and a strong torque curve across the range, but the explanation may be found in the 600's tall gearing and its throttle setup. Past GSX-R models have had elliptical throttle-cable cams that give a disproportionate relationship between the throttle tube and butterflies. This relationship seems exaggerated on the new GSX-R600, with the last few degrees of rotation resulting in a huge jump in power-and it doesn't help that the long-turn throttle requires those with small hands to regrip on corner exits. It may seem like a simple and obvious oversight to not use full throttle, but you'd be surprised at the number of riders we observe on data traces doing just that on any of the GSX-R models.
+ More muscular engine
+ Fantastic chassis verges on magical
- Still down on steam
- Still overweight
x OEM tires make up for a lot
Suggested Suspension Settings
Front Spring preload: 8 turns out from full stiff; rebound damping: 1 turn out from full stiff; compression damping: 2 turns out from full stiff; ride height: 5mm fork tube showing above triple clamp
Rear Spring preload: 8mm thread showing; rebound damping: 2.5 turns out from full stiff; low-speed compression damping: 1.5 turns out from full stiff; high-speed compression damping: 3 turns out from full stiff
The little CBR could only muster the fourth-quickest lap time at Buttonwillow but drew praise-and high scores-by virtue of combining a light, user-friendly chassis with a potent engine. "It's difficult to find fault with the Honda," wrote Holst in his notes, which rival War and Peace for length. "It does nothing wrong. Everything about the bike feels immediately familiar and confidence-inspiring. It goes exactly where you point it, and the steering response is tight, linear and nicely weighted. You can't ask for more in a track bike at any price." The stable chassis may not be as precise as the R6's, but steering is just as quick, and that stellar chassis is coupled with forgiving suspension and the highest-rated brakes. Likewise, the engine may not have the top-end rush of the Yamaha or the midrange torque of the Triumph, but it has the best spread of linear, usable power and scored highest in the engine-power-delivery category. As a bonus the throttle response from the single-butterfly EFI is quite smooth, and the transmission rated highly with our testers.
There is little to complain about with the CBR, leading Reeves to comment simply, "This is a very nice motorcycle" after his first-ever ride on a Honda. The clip-ons are a bit high for track work, and when push comes to shove the CBR would definitely benefit from a slipper clutch. The Honda is less stable than the other bikes under heavy braking, and at Buttonwillow the finesse of a hand surgeon was required to ease it into the decreasing-radius sweeper turn smoothly. The Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha could all be fired in almost with abandon and little thought to downshifting.
More importantly, our testers all noted that the performance of our test unit at Buttonwillow was distinctly off compared with our test bike from last year. The engine didn't seem quite as crisp, the suspension didn't have quite the same combination of plushness and firmness, and the chassis was not quite as composed. Perhaps one year of production has taken the edge off the molds, or perhaps our test bike didn't benefit from the care and attention Honda typically bestows upon new-model test units. In any event, the discrepancy definitely showed in this year's scores and lap times and illustrates just how minor a change can make a huge difference in the class.
+ Light, user-friendly chassis
+ Strong, linear power is easily accessed
- No slipper clutch
- Busy engine, more so than last year
x Can we get last year's test bike back?
Suggested Suspension Settings
Front Spring preload: 10 turns out from full stiff; rebound damping: 2.5 turns out from full stiff; compression damping: 2 turns out from full stiff; ride height: 5mm fork tube showing above triple clamp
Rear Spring preload: position 4 from full soft; rebound damping: 2.5 turns out from full stiff; compression damping: 14 clicks out from full stiff
With the highest scores in five of 10 categories and the quickest lap time, the Yamaha was a unanimous favorite with our testers for track use. "I was most surprised by the improvements in the R6 that seem to fill in most of its shortcomings without dulling its traditional sharp points," wrote Holst. "It's still an intense, not particularly forgiving bike, but when you get it all right it feels like the fastest thing on the track." The tiny Yamaha's scalpel-sharp chassis rewards precision on the track and scored top marks in the chassis and handling as well as suspension categories. "The suspension feels stiff initially," noted the Boss. "But once you really get going it comes into its own and absorbs everything in its path. It's definitely track-oriented."
That brilliant chassis is mated to a screaming engine that benefits enormously from the additional midrange power Yamaha engineers have found. Along with the still-present top end (the Yamaha posted the highest peak-horsepower number) that was the old bike's strong point, the R6 now pulls hard from much lower in the rev range. You can feel-and hear-the intake stacks changing position, and while keeping the engine spinning into five digits pays dividends, the powerband is much more flexible and forgiving. Adding to the overall package are well-sorted details that allow the R6 pilot to make the best use of that power: The off/on throttle response is smooth (although not as buttery as the Kawasaki's), the slipper clutch allows for banzai corner entries (although again, not quite as banzai as on the Kawasaki) and the transmission is crisp and requires just a light touch on the shifter. The only fly in the ointment is the Yamaha's numb brakes, which, although providing good stopping power, require a he-man pull on the lever and give little feedback. Still, even carding the lowest score in the braking category couldn't derail the R6 train at Buttonwillow, and the Yamaha is a clear step ahead of the other bikes at the track.
+ Most powerful engine now has midrange
+ Scalpel-sharp chassis a joy on the track
- Not such a joy on the street
- Wooden brakes
x Most track-focused middleweight yet
Suggested Suspension Settings
Front Spring preload: 2 lines showing; rebound damping: 19 clicks out from full stiff; low-speed compression damping: 17 clicks out from full stiff; high-speed compression damping: 2.5 turns out from full stiff; ride height: 10mm fork tube showing above triple clamp
Rear Spring preload: position 3 from full soft; rebound damping: 10 clicks out from full stiff; low-speed compression damping: 22 clicks out from full stiff; high-speed compression damping: 3 turns out from full stiff
Just as it took a back seat to its Japanese rivals at the track, the Triumph scored low marks in six categories based on street performance and trails the pack by a wide margin. In the plus column, the 675's torquey mill-with its wide spread of usable torque-is ideally suited to street use and sounds fantastic to boot, eh? The abrupt rev limiter and abbreviated overrev are nonissues away from the racetrack, and the smooth-running three-cylinder, oversized engine gives the 675 a big advantage over the higher-revving fours. The light, narrow chassis is plenty nimble and transitions from side to side easily enough, and the bike benefits from the fitment of Pirelli's grippy Supercorsa Pros-a street/track tire as opposed to the other bikes' street-oriented rubber-as standard.
There are several niggling details that keep the Triumph rider from utilizing its engine, tires and light weight to their full potential down a twisty road. The rear suspension presents just as many setup problems on the street as it does at the track. The high seat quickly becomes uncomfortable as well as hot from the exhaust. And the transmission is very stiff, making it almost impossible to find neutral. There's more to fault, but the gist of it is that while the four-cylinder bikes have forged ahead since 2006, the 675 is showing its age in a class that demands steady progress.
While the improvements to the R6 made a big impression at the racetrack and are felt on the street, the bias of the Yamaha toward the closed-circuit arena is still clearly evident. "The Yamaha requires that you haul ass before it feels right," summed up a tired Kento at the end of the day, and the characteristics that helped the R6 post the quickest lap time make for a lot of work down a canyon run. The top-end-heavy powerband is definitely easier to utilize than before but still calls for judicious revs to keep pace on corner exits. "You still have to rev the engine," whined Trevitt. "And when you do it gets loud and busy, to the point that it's a distraction." The stock Dunlop Qualifiers offer excellent grip and enhance the R6's quick steering, but grip and feedback are not on par with the Bridgestones fitted to either the ZX-6R or GSX-R. The Yamaha tips in easily enough but requires some inside bar force to continue holding a line-until it falls into the turn near maximum lean.
More details conspire to put the R6 farther behind its peers on the road: The clip-ons, lowered for this year, put a lot of weight on your wrists. The high-effort brakes are more problematic on the street than on the track. And the stiff suspension may be bliss on the track or on a smooth road, but throw some bumps in the R6's path and it quickly becomes unglued and uncomfortable.
While the GSX-R600's scores tallied up to a third-place ranking on the street, we can't emphasize enough how close the results are. Boy Toy Troy picked the Suzuki as his favorite, noting that, "There may not be any one particular piece that's the best when compared with the other bikes, but as a sum of all the parts the GSX-R600 makes the best streetbike here." Holst likewise chose the Suzuki: "It's still the magic combination of feel and feedback that inspires the most confidence for me. The communication with the front contact patch is absolutely telepathic, and the brakes strike my ideal balance between power, feel and modulation." The engine's beefy midrange is even more apparent on the street than on the track, and the velvety throttle response makes it easy to access that smooth power. One big advantage the GSX-R has is the fitment of OEM variants of Bridgestone's new BT-016 tire. Simply put, the new tire is incredible, offering fantastic grip and feedback; the front especially displays uncannily neutral steering characteristics.
Others were not so enamored of the baby GSX-R, feeling that the tires in fact disguised some of the Suzuki's shortcomings and that its excessive heft was easily noticeable compared with the other bikes, causing it to wallow and feel loose when pushed hard. While the engine's newfound midrange is a welcome addition, top end is still lackluster and not helped by the long-turn throttle. And the drivetrain is clunky and buzzy at low rpm. Both Kunitsugu and Trevitt, killjoys that they are, were underwhelmed and rated the GSX-R accordingly, offsetting the others' rave reviews.
In a quite unexpected result, the ZX-6R scored well across the board and with all our testers to edge out the GSX-R in the street rankings. It's clearly the jewel of a chassis that bumped up the ZX in the rankings, as the engine is just as woefully anemic on the street as it is on the track. "Surprisingly good on the street," wrote Kento in his notes. "Much better than I expected after its drubbing on the track. The chassis works decently, with nice steering habits and stable handling. The suspension has a really nice balance between track-firm and street-compliant and absorbed the big hits well. The ergos aren't too bad for the street, and once you're riding aggressively in the canyons, the 6R's riding position feels natural."
The Kawasaki may have posted the lowest scores for power, but that power is easily accessible. The transparent slipper clutch, smooth off/on throttle response and snickety-snick transmission make it easy to slip into first gear for a tight corner, where the other bikes are gasping in second or their riders are struggling with the additional shifting. The Bridgestone BT-015 tires are clearly an iteration behind the 016s on the GSX-R, but they still offer plenty of grip and neutral, light steering. Aside from the poochy engine there's not much to complain about with the ZX-6R: Wind protection is severely lacking on the freeway, the low windscreen can block the instruments for taller riders and the riding position does get tiring after a time in the saddle.
With top scores in five categories, the Honda eked out a narrow win in the street rating, although in subjective terms it was the distinct favorite of just two of our testers. Essentially, the CBR is the Swiss Army Knife of middleweights and does everything well: Its light, neutral chassis is nicely complemented by an engine with a linear powerband and smooth response. "A very easy bike to ride well," commented Holst. "The ergonomics and control inputs are instantly familiar and it doesn't have any major flaws. Its power delivery is the most user-friendly down low and in the midrange, yet it climbs in the most satisfying way to an impressive top end." Other high points include strong, crisp brakes, a light transmission and the most upright riding position of this quintet.
All is not rosy with the Honda, however. The engine is buzzy compared with the silky-smooth Kawasaki and Triumph, and all of our testers again noted that the CBR was a very discernible step back from our test unit of last year in both the engine and chassis departments; this explains why the scores are closer this time. "The CBR just felt loose and not put together all that well compared to last year's bike," noted Kunitsugu.
Honda The Honda's cockpit...
Honda The Honda's cockpit features a clean gauge package, very good mirrors, adequate wind protection and high clip-ons, making longer rides not out of the question. The CBR is the only bike here with a fuel gauge and one of just two lacking a gear indicator.
Suzuki The Suzuki has the...
Suzuki The Suzuki has the highest-rated instruments and controls, with an easily read tach and large gear indicator. Wind protection is arguably the best in this group, mirrors perhaps the worst. "S-DMS on a 600? Come on, gimme a break," says Troy.
Yamaha Many of our testers...
Yamaha Many of our testers felt the R6's gauges sacrificed usability for style, and they were rated the lowest for street use. There is no gear indicator, and the buttons are difficult to reach with gloved hands. The tiny windscreen works to a certain extent, as do the mirrors.
Kawasaki Forward-set mirrors...
Kawasaki Forward-set mirrors on the Kawasaki provide a surprisingly OK view, and the white-faced tach is easily read. The bar-graph gear indicator takes some getting used to. The low, flat windscreen offers little wind protection and can obscure the gauges.
Triumph The Triumph's instrument...
Triumph The Triumph's instrument panel is somewhat deceiving, as the large LCD panel shows additional information while the speedometer is set low into the tach. The set of rev lights is easily seen, while the gear indicator is not. Mirrors and wind protection are barely adequate.
The only definitive point we can make about the total scores from this year's smackdown is that the Triumph is a distinct step behind its Japanese counterparts. Throw a mix of street and track riding into the equation, and picking a winner from the remaining foursome is virtually impossible: The Yamaha's less-than-stellar street performance offsets its incredible track prowess, while the remaining 600s are as adept on the street as they are on the track. For the editorial we, the numbers add up to the Honda scoring highest with strong showings at both venues. Despite our suspicions about our particular test unit, there's no denying that the CBR600RR is the most well-rounded middleweight and a deserving winner for the second year running. Note that on overall SR Ratings just 1.2 points (out of a possible 100) separate first through fourth place-practically a tie in the grand scheme of things. Read the SROs to see how each of our testers felt the results should shake out, and consider carefully how you intend to use whichever bike you decide upon.
Honda The Honda's Tokico...
Honda The Honda's Tokico brakes have a good combination of feel and power, and it helps that they have less weight to slow down. The Showa fork is a bit harsher than we remember last year's unit to be, but it still soaks up both large and small hits with equal ease.
Kawasaki Petal rotors and...
Kawasaki Petal rotors and Nissin calipers on the ZX-6R do a fantastic job, although some testers noted that the brake lever is a long reach even on its closest setting. All five bikes have four-piston radial-mount pads, but the ZX-6R has four pads per caliper, the others two.
Triumph The Daytona 675's...
Triumph The Daytona 675's Kayaba fork and Nissin brakes are on par with the other bikes' setups, and the Triumph benefits from the fitment of Pirelli Supercorsa Pro tires and stainless steel brake lines as standard equipment.
Suzuki New brakes for the...
Suzuki New brakes for the GSX-R have different piston sizes in both the master cylinder and the calipers and work great once they have some heat in them. The front fork and standard Bridgestone BT-016 front tire (not shown here) drew rave reviews from our riders.
Yamaha The combination of...
Yamaha The combination of Sumitomo mono-bloc calipers and Brembo master cylinder should give the R6 an edge in the braking department, but feel and feedback are well below par for this crowd. The front fork has both high-speed and low-speed compression damping.
|TOP SPEED |
|HONDA ||156.7 MPH |
|KAWASAKI ||154.4 MPH |
|SUZUKI ||157.5 MPH |
|TRIUMPH ||156.7 MPH |
|YAMAHA ||160.9 MPH |
|SR RATINGS ||HONDA |
|Fun to ride ||9.2 ||8.9 ||8.9 ||8.2 ||9.2 |
|Quality ||9.2 ||9.0 ||9.0 ||8.5 ||9.1 |
|Instruments and controls ||9.0 ||9.1 ||9.3 ||8.7 ||8.7 |
|Ergonomics ||9.0 ||9.3 ||9.0 ||8.4 ||8.8 |
|Chassis and handling ||9.1 ||9.0 ||9.1 ||8.0 ||9.3 |
|Suspension ||9.0 ||8.9 ||9.0 ||7.6 ||9.1 |
|Brakes ||9.3 ||9.0 ||9.1 ||8.8 ||8.4 |
|Transmission ||9.0 ||9.1 ||9.0 ||7.3 ||9.1 |
|Engine power ||9.1 ||8.0 ||8.4 ||9.2 ||9.3 |
|Engine-power delivery ||9.2 ||8.6 ||8.7 ||8.9 ||8.9 |
|Total ||91.1 ||88.9 ||89.5 ||83.6 ||89.9 |
The Triumph has a big advantage...
The Triumph has a big advantage in horsepower and torque that pays off on the street, but with little overrev and a harsh rev limiter that power is difficult to maximize on the track. The screaming Yamaha still lags in the midrange department, while the Kawasaki runs out of breath up top. The Suzuki's torque advantage from 5000 to 8000 rpm is easily noticeable on the street, but top-end power feels less than the dyno indicates.
The Yamaha's lower clip-ons...
The Yamaha's lower clip-ons for this year put noticeably more weight on the rider's wrists and show the R6's racetrack intentions. The Kawasaki with its low, roomy seat rated highest for racetrack ergos; the Honda-with higher clip-ons-scored highest for street use.
The thrust chart, which relates...
The thrust chart, which relates driving force to speed on the road, puts the dyno chart into perspective. The Suzuki's tall gearing (note the higher top speeds in each gear) puts effectively less power to the ground at any given speed, while the Kawasaki's close-ratio box makes up for a lot of its power deficiencies in the higher gears. The Yamaha has the most thrust at maximum speed in each gear, but the valleys in the curves show how important it is to keep the engine spinning near redline.
The Daytona 675 is the sixth-gear...
The Daytona 675 is the sixth-gear roll-on king, matching short gearing and stomping torque to make quick work of this test. The Yamaha is way below the meat of its powerband while the other four-cylinders crisscross in between those two extremes.
At HPCC the Honda and Triumph...
At HPCC the Honda and Triumph blasted through the quarter-mile equally quickly, combining smooth clutches and torquey engines with good top-end power. The Yamaha and Kawasaki are both difficult to launch; while the R6 can use its strong top end to make up for a poor start, the Kawasaki cannot. Launch rpm for the Yamaha run shown here was 14,000 rpm. Ouch.
If you've perused any of the...
If you've perused any of the Kawasaki forums, you've undoubtedly heard of the popular "jumper mod" that can be performed on the ZX-6R to unlock the European mapping inside the ECU. We made the modification-a simple matter of inserting a wire in a connector under the seat-while at the dyno, and the results are shown here: a stunning increase in peak power that puts the ZX-6R on about equal footing with the Suzuki and makes a huge difference in top-end performance. We slipped the wire in partway through our top-speed testing as well, and the Kawasaki leaped from the back of the pack (154.4 mph) to almost the front with an increase of more than 5 mph to 160.1 mph. We're not certain of the reliability, warranty or emissions ramifications of the upgrade, but if you ride your ZX-6R on the track regularly it's worth some investigation.
| ||HONDA CBR600RR ||KAWASAKI ZX-6R ||SUZUKI GSX-R600 |
|MSRP ||$9599–$9899 ||$9099–$9399 ||$9399 |
|Type ||Liquid-cooled, transverse, ||Liquid-cooled, transverse, ||Liquid-cooled, transverse, |
|Displacement ||4-stroke four ||4-stroke four ||4-stroke four |
|Bore x stroke ||599cc ||599cc ||599cc |
|Induction ||67.0 x 42.5mm ||67.0 x 42.5mm ||67.0 x 42.5mm |
| ||PGM-dsFi with 2 injectors/ ||EFI with oval subthrottles, ||SDTV EFI with subthrottles, |
| ||cyl., 40mm throttle ||2 injectors/cyl., 38mm ||2 injectors/cyl., |
| ||bodies ||throttle bodies ||40mm throttle bodies |
|Front suspension ||41mm inverted cartridge ||41mm inverted cartridge ||41mm inverted cartridge |
| ||fork, 4.7 in. travel ||fork, 4.7 in. travel ||fork, 4.7 in. travel |
|Rear suspension ||single shock absorber, ||single shock absorber, ||single shock absorber, 5.1 |
| ||5.1 in. travel ||5.2 in. travel ||in. travel |
|Front tire ||120/70Zr-17 dunlop ||120/70ZR-17 Bridgestone ||120/70ZR-17 Bridgestone |
| ||Qualifier pT g ||BT-015F J ||BT-016F M |
|Rear tire ||180/55ZR-17 dunlop ||180/55Zr-17 Bridgestone ||180/55ZR-17 Bridgestone |
| ||Qualifier pT g ||BT-015R J ||BT-015RM |
|Rake/trail ||23.7 deg./3.8 in. (98mm) ||25.0 deg./4.3 in. (110mm) ||23.5 deg./3.8 in. (97mm) |
|Wheelbase ||53.8 in. (1367mm) ||55.3 in. (1405mm) ||55.1 in. (1400mm) |
|Weight ||413 lb. (187kg) wet; 384 ||444 lb. (201kg) wet; 417 ||441 lb. (200kg) wet; 414 |
| ||lb. (174kg) dry ||lb. (189kg) dry ||lb. (188kg) dry |
|Fuel consumption ||38–40 mpg, 39 mpg avg. ||35–42 mpg, 39 mpg avg. ||38–40 mpg, 39 mpg avg. |
|TRIUMPH DAYTONA 675 ||YAMAHA YZF-R6|
|Type||Liquid-cooled, transverse,||Liquid-cooled, transverse,|
|Displacement||4-stroke triple||4-stroke four|
|Bore x stroke||675cc||599cc|
|Induction||74.0 x 52.3mm||67.0 x 42.5mm|
|EFI with single injector/||EFI with yCC-T, yCC-i,|
|cyl., 44mm throttle||2 injectors/cyl., 41mm|
|bodies ||throttle bodies |
|Front suspension||41mm inverted cartridge ||41mm inverted cartridge |
|fork, 4.7 in. travel ||fork, 4.7 in. travel |
|Rear suspension||single shock absorber, ||single shock absorber, |
|5.1 in. travel ||4.7 in. travel |
|Front tire||120/70ZR-17 pirelli ||120/70ZR-17 Dunlop |
|Supercorsa pro ||Qualifier PT M |
|Rear tire||180/55Zr-17 pirelli ||180/55ZR-17 Dunlop |
|Supercorsa pro ||Qualifier pT M |
|Rake/trail||23.5 deg./3.4 in. (87mm) ||24.0 deg./3.8 in. (97mm) |
|Wheelbase||54.8 in. (1392mm) ||54.3 in. (1380mm) |
|Weight||424 lb. (192kg) wet; 396 ||427 lb. (194kg) wet; 399 |
|lb. (180kg) dry ||lb. (181kg) dry |
|Fuel consumption||38–39 mpg, 39 mpg avg. ||38–39 mpg, 39 mpg avg. |
Content to roll around in the mud, just like Handsome
Today's 600s, with their screaming engines, compact dimensions and increasingly sophisticated chassis, are some of the most rewarding bikes available, no matter the price. What sets the best apart from the rest, however, is how they talk to you. The Honda's forgiving powerband and handling characteristics let you know that no matter what, it's there for you. Just ask back-to-back AMA Formula Xtreme champ Josh Hayes. While the Kawasaki is strangely down on power, it's surprisingly smooth and refined, making it arguably the best streetbike in the test. On the track, though, Yamaha's screamer is simply in a class by itself. No wonder Ben Bostrom and Mini-Me Josh Herrin dominated at Daytona. When it comes to chassis communication, the Suzuki and Triumph speak to me the clearest. The GSX-R600's sublimely telepathic front end inspires the most confidence and taunts me as if to say, "Is that all the entry speed you want?" Try to hustle the beautiful, brilliant yet flawed 675 Daytona into a bumpy corner, on the other hand, and it asks in a somewhat strained British accent, "Come, come, now, you want to do what, exactly?"
Jim O'connor (street only)
Still working for the, uh . . . alternative men's magazine
The three-way fight between the Honda, Kawasaki and Suzuki was exceptionally close this year, and each day when I started writing my SRO I came up with a different winner. So today, day four, is the tiebreaker, and the GSX-R600 eeks out top honors. Its engine is not as silky-smooth as the ZX-6R's, but I like a little attitude in my motorcycle. The GSX-R engine is definitely stronger in the midrange, and I found the extra power was a welcome asset on our street ride. While the Suzuki doesn't feel as rock-stable as the Honda, it does turn quicker and feel more nimble. The Suzuki chassis and suspension combine to make cornering effortless with just a little less front-end feedback than the CBR offers. I guess the only issue, if I can call it that, with the GSX-R is that the footpegs are higher than the other top scorers, which may have the legs of taller riders putting out help calls after a long day in the saddle. Still, tomorrow's another day and perhaps a different winner.
"Dear Mom: Please send my soother. Love, Troy."
My pick for the track is definitely the R6. Once you get that little engine screaming it just walks away from the others. On the street the Suzuki really impressed me. Its silky-smooth power delivery, awesome chassis and comfortable ergos are all I could ask for in a streetbike. From here it's a toss-up. I didn't expect much from the ZX-6R. I figured an unchanged bike wouldn't have much to offer. Boy, was I wrong. At the track and on the street the little Kwacker was an easy bike to ride quickly. The thing never stops leaning, the brakes are awesome and the power delivery is buttery-smooth . . . probably because there isn't much power to deliver. If Kawi can give the 6R a potent engine like it did with the 10R, then it would surely be a winner in my book. As for Honda's CBR600RR-it's still a great bike, but it didn't wow me like last year. I'm still scratching my head over that one. Then there's the 675. If this were a beauty contest it would be the winner hands down. But it's not. Cure the Trumpet's suspension woes and it could be a real contender. Shame. I was really rooting for them, too.
"What are you looking at? Huh, punk?"
We can use evaluation forms, lap times and data as much as possible to come up with an objective winner, but I just know this test is going to generate a load of complaints. How can we rate the Triumph so low when just two years ago it was so great? Is the Kawasaki really a fourth-place bike? The Yamaha posted the fastest lap time; why didn't it win? Three riders of five picked the Suzuki as their favorite streetbike; how can it end up in third? What we have here is a practical tie for first place between four bikes, as you can probably tell by the other SROs here. If we were to redo the test with different riders, or at a different track, -r on a different day of the week, we'd probably have a different outcome.In absolutely stock form the Honda is my overall favorite and a bike that I think redefines the class by combining track performance with real-world usability. But the bike that tempts me the most of these five is the Kawasaki. It's $300 cheaper than the Suzuki and $500 cheaper than the Honda or Yamaha; for that much money I could buy a set of the BT-016s that work so well on the Suzuki, and I think I could afford the piece of wire and 10 minutes of time it takes to unlock the extra horsepower.
"Geez, if we were a family we'd be on Dr. Phil or Oprah."
Whoa. This comparison test was a real toughie. While the racetrack evaluation was pretty easy (hard to argue with the R6's speed and handling), the street evaluation was far, far closer, and I really had a difficult time figuring out which bike I would rather spend my money on.
There was a marked difference in overall feel between last year's CBR and this year's test unit. This year's Honda just didn't have that fluid yet precise suspension action that wowed us last year, and the engine had a real thrashy feel up top as if it were almost working against itself at higher rpm. The new GSX-R600's added midrange steam has made it a much more enjoyable ride in the canyons, although the spring rates seemed a little soft for my taste. And although I like the Triumph's exhaust note and stout midrange, its overly stiff spring rates and lack of overrev keep damping my enthusiasm for the Daytona.I was surprised that the Kawasaki was such a joy to ride on the street, but I'm sure that's because it wasn't required to sail up into redline all the time like it is on the track (I'm also surprised that Kawasaki isn't giving U.S. owners the full monty up top-see the jumpered ECU dyno graph on page 62).
In the end I'd probably settle on the Yamaha, mostly because I know much of the dead midrange can be fixed with some exhaust/intake mods, and some suspension fiddling can solve its harsh ride.
Continental ContiRaceAttack Comp tires
For the track portion of our test, we equipped each bike with a set of Continental's new DOT race tire, the ContiRaceAttack Comp. Positioned as a full-on race tire, the new addition rounds out the company's range of sporting tires. The standard ContiRaceAttack is Continental's high-performance street/track tire, while the Comp version is available in three compounds suitable for racing. We matched soft-compound fronts with medium-compound, 180/55-sized rears.
The Continentals incorporate a 0-degree steel belt construction in both the front and rear tires, and the rear tire offers a continuous compound that differs significantly from other dual-compound tires currently available. Whereas the standard practice is to divide the tire into distinct zones with separate compounds, the Continentals have a single tread with a compound that graduates from hard in the center to soft at the edges with no abrupt transition. This is accomplished by modifying the tread during the vulcanization process via a chemical reaction, and the benefits claimed are better stability and more even wear, especially in the area where a traditional compound break would be positioned.
Grip from the ContiRaceAttack Comp tires was excellent, although not on par with the latest DOT race tires from Pirelli and Dunlop that we've recently sampled-especially in terms of edge grip. The tires did offer neutral steering characteristics along with good drive and braking traction, and wear over the course of the day was as expected for race tires. The Continentals are available in 120 front and 160/60, 180/55 and 190/55 rear sizes, with a choice of two compounds for front tires and three for the rears. Visit www.conti-online.com for more details.
Buttonwillow Raceway Park...
Buttonwillow Raceway Park
Racepak G2X Data Analysis
As we've been doing for the past couple of years, we piggybacked our g2X data acquisition system on each bike while kento was aboard at Buttonwillow. last year's test was also conducted at Buttonwillow, and the lap times and segment times (with the exception of the turn 2-3 segment) are comparable with that test-and, incidentally, this year's literbike comparison test ("Turn it up to 11", June '08).
|LAP TIMES |
|HONDA ||1:08.189 |
|KAWASAKI ||1:08.394 |
|SUZUKI ||1:07.924 |
|TRIUMPH ||1:07.793 |
|YAMAHA ||1:07.463 |
Less than one second separates the quickest and slowest lap time, an indication of how tightly matched the bikes are. Times are overall slightly slower than last year, perhaps due to conditions and perhaps due to the performance of the Continental control tires. The Honda and Kawasaki are each approximately a half-second slower than last year, the Triumph and Suzuki a couple of tenths off their last year's pace. The Yamaha's time is more than a half-second quicker than last year's.
|TURN 2-3 SEGMENT TIME |
|HONDA ||13.88 SEC. |
|KAWASAKI ||13.85 SEC. |
|SUZUKI || 13.68 SEC. |
|TRIUMPH ||13.70 SEC. |
|YAMAHA ||13.47 SEC. |
The R6 builds a commanding advantage through long, sweeping turn 2, which is highlighted by a severe dip in the early part of the turn. The R6 powers through easily, and although the Suzuki has trouble in the first portion of the turn it ends up faster than the Yamaha past the midpoint. All five bikes have roughly equal speed through the high-speed right-left transition into turn 3, with the powerful Triumph gaining more speed on the short chute between the two turns. The R6 exits the section with a couple of tenths in hand over the Suzuki and Triumph and more over the other 600s, a significant advantage for so early in the lap.
|TURN 4 SEGMENT TIME AND MINIMUM SPEED |
|HONDA ||6.38 SEC., 61.4 MPH |
|KAWASAKI ||6.42 SEC., 58.8 MPH |
|SUZUKI ||6.32 SEC., 62.9 MPH |
|TRIUMPH ||6.38 SEC., 61.2 MPH |
|YAMAHA ||6.33 SEC., 63.2 MPH |
The apex of turn 4 crests the one hill on the course, placing a premium on front-end feedback and stability down the far side of the rise. While Kento gets a good run up the hill and carries significantly more speed on the Kawasaki, that is more than offset by a slower apex speed over the crest. It's practically a wash for time here between the five bikes, although the Suzuki, with its superb front-end feedback, edges the others by as much as a tenth of a second.
|TURN 6 ENTRANCE SPEED, SEGMENT TIMEAND EXIT SPEED |
|HONDA ||82.5 MPH, 10.12 SEC., 78.3 MPH |
|KAWASAKI ||80.6 MPH, 10.14 SEC., 77.7 MPH |
|SUZUKI ||82.1 MPH, 10.19 SEC., 77.6 MPH |
|TRIUMPH ||82.4 MPH, 10.15 SEC., 77.8 MPH |
|YAMAHA ||78.4 MPH, 9.97 SEC., 77.8 MPH |
Turn 6 is a slightly decreasing-radius sweeper and calls for trail-braking well into the turn to make time. The Yamaha is quickest through this section by another sizable chunk, with a speed through the first part of the turn visibly higher on the graph. However, the Honda is the quickest of the rest of the bikes and has a higher exit speed. On the straight leading up to this turn the Triumph gains a big speed advantage and carries that speed the farthest, a common theme on the track's few straights. The Suzuki's weight is evident under heavy braking, and the GSX-R loses a large chunk of time here.
|CHICANE SEGMENT TIME AND EXIT SPEED |
|HONDA ||7.23 SEC., 106.6 MPH |
|KAWASAKI ||7.19 SEC., 110.4 MPH |
|SUZUKI ||7.27 SEC., 107.3 MPH |
|TRIUMPH ||7.09 SEC., 110.2 MPH |
|YAMAHA ||7.19 SEC., 100.0 MPH |
This series of switchbacks rewards quick steering and good power, and the Triumph makes the most of its light weight, potent engine and short gearing to post the quickest segment time and claw back some of the R6's lead. The Kawasaki and Triumph carry a huge speed advantage through the final right-left transition leading onto the straight, but the 675's lighter weight shows in its quicker segment time.
|TURN 8 SEGMENT TIME |
|HONDA || 4.95 SEC. |
|KAWASAKI. || 4.95 SEC |
|SUZUKI ||4.90 SEC. |
|TRIUMPH ||4.87 SEC. |
|YAMAHA ||4.90 SEC. |
Turn 8 is a slightly cambered 90-degree left-hander that usually gives an overall picture of each bike's basic braking, turning and acceleration characteristics, as it is relatively smooth and simple. This is another corner in which the Triumph excels by matching late braking with high corner speed and a strong exit, and it helps that there are no bumps to unsettle the 675's rear suspension. The Suzuki and Yamaha are on equal time and a tick behind.