Refined, Not Redone
While the other manufacturers have managed to keep their bikes' performance relatively level despite these new regulations, Yamaha seemed to be the only one to suffer in the 600 class. Our '09 Yamaha R6 was down six horsepower from the '08 version, a significant decrease in the middleweight category where even two or three horsepower can make a huge difference in overall performance. Because the '09 R6 seemingly only had software changes to meet the stricter emission regulations, the new R6 has updated ECU software and a 100mm-longer muffler for "increased performance," according to the company adspeak. What we were really hoping was that it would bring back the peak horsepower bite we've been missing since '08.
Unfortunately we're left scratching our heads as to where this performance gain is. Though peak torque has actually dropped compared to last year (42.4 vs. 44.3 ft-lb) midrange power throughout the powerband has benefitted-an advantage noticed both on the dyno chart and in our real-world testing-but the top end power still felt flaccid and our dyno runs confirmed our suspicions. Starting at around 11,000 rpm the R6 encounters a flat spot lasting for another 1500 rpm. After that power picks up again slightly until its peak horsepower of 102.8 is made at 13,500, after which the engine promptly loses steam. Given the marginal eight-tenths power gain, it's still a far cry from the 108.3 we had in the '08 edition.
Looks Can Be Deceiving
Compared to last year the...
Compared to last year the '10 has a noticeable gain in midrange starting at 8000 rpm-right where riders (both on the street and the track) will need it most. Past 10,000rpm and the new model is more gradual in its power output with less dips, but notice at 11,000 the flat spot that lasts just before redline. This is felt on the motorcycle and kills drive. This no doubt isn't accidental and is Yamaha's way of pleasing the EPA. Note also that peak torque is actually down from last year, but greater in the important rev ranges. Smoother, too.
Not wanting to be deterred by the numbers, we went into our combined street and track testing with an open mind hoping real world application would count for more than the dyno charts. In both the street and track arenas the midrange punch over last year's model is evident. Grunt during corner exits is noticeably stronger, which makes for less manipulation of the clutch lever; something we complained about with the '09 model.
Once the revs soar past the 10,000 rpm mark, one can't help but overlay the dyno graph with what the right hand is doing on the throttle. There's a noticeable lull in the upper portions of the powerband right where one expects significant pull. Not too long after and the engine is at the limiter and it's time to shift. The stricter EPA/DOT emissions standards and testing methods have forced the manufacturers to lean out their fueling maps in order to pass, and Yamaha is one that apparently hasn't been able to find an easy solution. This surely accounts for the R6's sudden lack of power up top since the '08 model, and the '10 version's inability to recover it.
We've had mixed feelings about...
We've had mixed feelings about the R6 brakes in the past and this year is no different. Stopping power has never been a question, but the feeling back at the lever when braking at the limit leaves some to be desired...depending who you ask on staff. The R6 is also the only bike in its class to offer high-and low-speed compression damping both front and rear.
On the bright side, the Yamaha's chassis is still one of the best in the 600 class, providing quick and nimble handling characteristics with excellent corner stability. Showa provides the 41mm inverted fork that's fully adjustable for high- and low-speed compression, rebound and preload. We found the bike needed just minimal adjustments to appease our testers. The shock is a Soqi unit with full adjustability, including high- and low-speed compression damping. Again, not much was needed to make it handle to our liking.
Bringing the R6 to a stop are the same 310mm discs and four-piston, radial-mounted calipers that have divided the Sport Rider camp for the past four years. Braking power is sharp and progressive, but some testers have complained about a lack of feel at the limit while others absolutely rave about its predictability.