Kawasaki The revised dash...
The revised dash of the new ZX-6R was felt to be much easier to read at a glance by most of the testers, although the fancy numbering on the tach doesn't help. Mirrors offer one of the best rear views, and despite its low profile, the windscreen provides decent wind protection.
While last year's street portion of the 600 comparison was a very tight contest that required splitting gnat's hairs, this year's street competition was basically a runaway. The new ZX-6R dominated five categories on its way to a clear-cut victory (even though two testers picked a different machine if the decision had to be based on street performance alone). As with the track portion of the test, the Kawasaki's stupendous engine made short work of any task put before it, and some even preferred it over the seemingly more suitable Triumph triple. "It may not have the bottom-end of the Triumph or the CBR," said Kunitsugu, "but the ZX-6R's upper midrange punch more than makes up for it. Once it hits 8000 rpm, it's gone." Throttle response was crisp yet smooth, allowing you to get on the gas sooner and more aggressively for superior drives off the corners.
The Kawasaki scored top marks for overall handling, suspension action, and braking as well. Despite weighing more than the Honda, the ZX-6R felt light on its feet, with an agile yet stable and planted chassis feel that inspired ever-higher corner speeds. Surely contributing to the superb steering traits are the OE fitment Bridgestone BT-016 tires, which combine superior grip and sure-footed handling with excellent feedback and a fairly compliant yet firm ride. As on the track, the Showa BPF and rear shock with high/low-speed compression damping adjustability performed beautifully, tackling bumps in any type of cornering situation without breaking a sweat, and the radial-mount/four-pad Nissin calipers provide superb stopping power. Even the slightly revised dash layout and mirrors garnered praise from our testers. What a difference a year can make.
The Kawasaki's Showa BPF (Big...
The Kawasaki's Showa BPF (Big Piston Fork) performs superbly, offering a sure-footed feel on the most aggressive corner entries that was previously only available with aftermarket products. Radial-mount/four-pad Nissin calipers and 300mm petal rotors provide outstanding braking power.
With past middleweight comparison tests being close enough to require a microscope to pick a winner, it was somewhat refreshing to see a clear-cut winner emerge this time—especially in both street and track arenas. Kawasaki engineers were justifiably proud of the latest ZX-6R when we first rode it in Japan, and we knew even after riding it back then that the competition might be in trouble. To vault itself from back of the pack to top of the box in one short year is quite an accomplishment, even more so when you consider how competitive the middleweight class is. But the Kawasaki ZX-6R's performance is just that incredible, and truly deserves to be Sport Rider's top middleweight for 2009…until next year, that is.