This means that the ZX-6R's pilot has a much wider spread of power to work with, making gear selection far less critical in maintaining speed and cutting down on the number of gearchanges per lap. Peak power arrives at approximately 13,500 rpm, but there's a substantial amount of overrev to 15,500 rpm before acceleration begins to tail off well in advance of the indicated 16,500 rpm redline, allowing you to carry a gear instead of upshifting in many situations. Throttle response was excellent, with a crispness that never bordered on abrupt no matter what rpm we picked up the throttle at. Combine that newfound power with the near-23-pound weight drop and you have the makings of a serious contender for 600 class honors.
Thankfully the ZX-6R's brakes are easily up to the task of slowing the Kawasaki's increased speed. Power, progressiveness, and feel were superb, with very little degradation in performance even after numerous laps on the very demanding confines of the Autopolis circuit. Complementing the impressive brakes is the 6R's very efficient ramp-type slipper clutch that permits downshifts without throttle blipping during very aggressive braking, allowing the rider to more accurately and consistently apply pressure to the brake lever.
We Have A Contendah
After a few years of fiddling with limited production racing homologation special 600s and oversize-displacement middleweights, Kawasaki has returned to its roots-remember, it was the company that really started the 600 class when it debuted the original Ninja 600R in 1985-with a cutting-edge, take-no-prisoners 600. The new ZX-6R addresses all of the previous generation's weaknesses in full (and then some), resulting in a middleweight that will surely be vying for top honors in our next 600-class comparison. With most of the competition only undergoing very minor alterations, this should make for a very interesting shootout. Stay tuned.
'09 Kawasaki ZX-6R
MSRP: $9799/$9999 (Monster Energy edition)
Type: Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, DOHC inline four-cylinder
Bore x stroke: 67.0 x 42.5mm
Compression ratio: 13.3:1
Induction: Keihin EFI, 38mm throttle bodies, dual injectors/cyl.
Front tire: 120/70ZR-17 Bridgestone BT-016F
Rear tire: 180/55ZR-17 Bridgestone BT-016R
Rake/trail: 24 deg./4.0 inches (103mm)
Wheelbase: 55.1 inches (1400mm)
Seat height: 32.0 inches (815mm)
Fuel capacity: 4.5 gal. (17L)
Claimed wet weight: 421 lb. (191kg)