Kawasaki ZX-6R vs. Yamaha YZF-R6
While primarily testing the R6, we just happened to have a '10 Kawasaki ZX-6R, the current 600cc champion according to last year's 600 shootout, in our stable of bikes. Wanting to gauge the pretender against the king of the mountain in this little test, we decided to bring the Kawasaki along for the ride. Immediately, the first thing that makes itself known is the power coming from between the rider's legs. There's just more of it...everywhere. According to the dyno the R6 does have a slight advantage momentarily at the very low end of the rpm range, but in real-world applications the ZX-6R pulls away from the R6. This is something easily noticed by all our testers, especially at the track where the butt dyno didn't need any confirmation from the actual dyno. The extra peak horsepower (109.8 vs. 102.8) bests even the '08 R6-our most powerful model to date.
Surprisingly, our testers favored the chassis of the four-year-old R6 over the younger Kawasaki. We're splitting hairs, but the Team Green machine didn't provide as much feedback and wasn't as telepathic as the Yamaha. Fully adjustable Showa suspension all around, including the 41mm Big Piston Fork, provides ample feedback, but still feels less refined than the Yamaha. But only just.
Whatever setbacks we had with the chassis were largely insignificant as El Jefe was able to consistently lap over a second quicker around the tight and technical Streets of Willow on the ZX-6R compared to the R6. That engine being able to overcome any handling niggles.
The braking category is a wash as again our testers were mixed about the ZX-6R's stopping ability. Ironically, the main complaint was the same-lack of feel at the limit. Though some noticed a stronger initial bite and a much more progressive braking action.
All told, the R6 is a definite step up from previous versions, but the ZX-6R is still the cream of the crop in the class. As a total package it's hard to beat. It's so good we'll be stacking it up with its counterparts in the literbike class for our Bike of the Year shootout later this year. The R6 meanwhile is close, but no cigar.