2008 Supersport Shootout: CBR600RR vs Daytona 675 vs ZX-6R vs R6 vs GSX-R600
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Once again, I found myself dissenting from the majority. For me, the GSX-R offered something that allowed me to get comfortable and go as fast as I felt right out of the gate. The Suzuki 600, with its 55.1-inch wheelbase, 23.8 degrees of rake and 96.5mm of trail, falls somewhere between the CBR and 675 dimensionally. It also has the lowest seat height at 31.9 inches, is narrow-wasted, has clip-ons that are set close to one another and has an electronically-controlled steering damper. This added up to a great package in my opinion. With the latest supersport tire from Bridgestone, the BT016, the GSX-R600 was the only bike that I felt like I could go out and start racing right away.
Unfortunately, for the R6, the Handling category was one in which it failed our testers considerably. Though it has very similar figures (54.3” wheelbase, 24° rake, 96.5mm trail) to the GSX-R and doesn’t¬ have a steering damper, the Yamaha managed to make all of us feel that it was the heaviest-steering. Once over on the tire’s edge, the effort required to get it there was rewarded with very good front-end stability and feel.
(power, modulation, initial bite, feedback)
Here we have the Ninja leaving no question that it stops substantially better than any of the five. It usually never took more than the first ride for any of us to climb out of the seat of the Ninja before we started praising the superb sensitivity and abundant power coming from the radial-mount four-piston four-pad Nissin calipers that clamp down on 300mm petal-type rotors. The 6R has close competition in the CBR that offered a “vicious initial bite” in Gardiner’s opinion. No matter how good the Honda’s brakes are, they still came second to the Ninja’s best binders.
The Suzuki and Triumph share equal scores here and most certainly aren’t bad by any means, just not as great as the Kawi. Most of us felt like the initial bit of the GSX-R's brakes was soft, or “mushy” to quote Alex, yet they were progressive in power and offered sufficient feel as the lever was pulled farther in. The 675’s Nissin binders were somewhere between the very good braking of the Honda and Suzuki: not the best, but plenty capable. The 675’s braking scores were held back by excessive lever travel before biting.
Though all bikes in the test have radial-pump brake master cylinders and radial-mount calipers, only the Yamaha has something of a proprietary model with its Sumitomo calipers and Brembo master cylinder; the other four are either Tokico or Nissin. Not that this is an issue in and of itself, but for all the updates Yamaha gave the R6 this year, they needed to consider updating the brakes, too. All except one of us thought the blue bike’s brakes were lacking in sensitivity to the point of feeling wooden. Eventually they would develop enough power, but not before you started to question their effectiveness. Additionally, where the other bikes had simple dial-type adjusters with clearly marked numbers to denote adjustment points on the brake levers, the R6 has an inconvenient screw-type adjuster that proved difficult to operate.
(legibility, features, attractiveness)
This is where we start toeing the waters of subjectivity. Though there are some things that most people would consider an obvious plus, like the Kawi’s white-faced tachometer, a lot of instrumentation comes down to personal tastes.
The GSX-R came out on top with what the tester’s deemed the best package. Though not fully white like the Ninja’s, the Gixxer tach is prominent and has a ring of white on the face right where the numbers sit. Gear position and the A, B or C of S-DMS are displayed in a small LCD in the tach. To the right is the main LCD that has speedo, dual tripmeters, coolant temp, lap timer, shift light and a reserve fuel mileage counter; all the other bikes offer a variation on this basic theme. The Yamaha keeps its attractive display narrow and long, but like many here, its tach has a black face that makes reading it at race-track speeds a bit difficult. We really dug the “the progressive series of blue LED shift lights” on the 675 dash, but resetting the tripmeter is overly complicated and took us a while to figure out that two buttons need to be pushed simultaneously to do it.
Unless you’ll be stripping one of these dynamos down for race and/or track use only, not having a fuel gauge on a street bike in this day and age just seems silly. The Honda won points for being the only bike that offers a fuel gauge, although it comes in lieu of a gear-position indicator that is thoughtfully provided on the Daytona, ZX and Gixxer. If you sit far enough forward in the Kawi saddle, the top edge of the windscreen can obscure the view of the top of the tach. This is nit-picking, but I also didn’t like the way the Ninja’s tripmeter would disappear to be replaced by a flashing FUEL symbol when petrol was low.
Our first tie in the test sees the Suzuki and Honda sharing numero uno. Mark was clear about his thoughts on the CBR’s rider triangle, noting it felt the “raciest” as it allowed him to “make firm inputs,” but was still a cozy environment. Kevin chimed in on the Honda, remarking that its “seat is tolerable for 60 miles,” yet the windscreen offered minimal protection in his seasoned opinion. Indeed, the CBR600RR very much has a compact, GP-like stance and ergo package but it’s still quite tolerable on the street.
The Suzuki has the shortest seat height, and as Mark observed, creates a “sitting in rather than on” sensation. Alex and I were of one mind about the Gixxer’s rider layout. “For me the best seating position; it feels really comfortable in twisties, on the track, and for commuting,” says our fast female. With the only set of clip-ons that didn’t have my wrists or hands aching, and the only set of adjustable rearsets in the collection, the GSX-R600 offered the best blend of real-world comfort without sacrificing performance. The Ninja ranked pretty well here as just about everyone thought it offered the roomiest rider triangle; everyone, that is, ‘cept for me. I just couldn’t help but feel the seat-to-bar relation was a bit too short. Perhaps this was the reason that Kevin felt the ZX offered “great wind protection with the screen close to the rider.” He also observed that “the flat, wide seat is supportive but thinly padded.”
I mentioned earlier that the 675’s overall narrow shape helped make for a good handling bike when transitioning corner to corner. It’s very similar to the CBR’s racy ergo package, yet the reach to the bars proved to be a little too much, even for Steve who’s a tad taller than most of us. He commutes daily on his personal 675 through L.A. rush-hour traffic and usually calls the bike a “torture rack.” This stretch isn’t as noticeable on the track; however, the Daytona scored third place, or fourth, depending how you consider the Honda/Suzuki tie.
Kevin said it succinctly when he remarked that the R6’s “seat isn’t quite as tall as the Daytona’s, but its wide pad splays short legs uncomfortably.” For this same reason, the 5-foot-5 Alex called it downright “undesirable for street use.” Though not necessarily having anything to do with ergos, and for reasons we haven’t quite figured out yet, we noticed that an unusual amount of heat worked its way to a rider’s legs and bottom. The mystery here is that the R6 has one of those new-fangled mid-ship exhausts for mass centralization, so there isn’t an obvious reason for the warming sensations. Oddly, we didn’t experience this with the 675, ZX-6R or CBR, all of which have under-seat exhausts.
(control, comfort, ease of adjustments)
All of the bikes provide lots of adjustability in suspension, and all five run an inverted fork. Despite many similarities between them, the CBR achieved a perfect score. Both front and rear suspension were ideally adjusted from the get go. This bike provided a very forgiving ride on the street and freeway without being overly soft. The rider was sufficiently isolated from crummy pavement or nasty expansion joints, yet the bike never felt numb or lacked feedback. On the track the Honda’s springy parts lent to its stellar handling. It never protested with confidence-sapping chatter or buck lighter riders in the bumps in the braking zone at the entrance to Turn 3 at Willow.
The Suzuki was a close second, mostly due to its very supple ride. I prefer a bike that’s a bit soft as to one that requires numerous adjustments to soften a harsh ride. Kaming didn’t care for this quality on the track, remarking that the Gixxer’s softer suspension caused the bike to pitch fore and aft, making it difficult to ride smoothly. The ZX and R6 were pretty well matched with both providing good feedback and responsiveness on the track, while time on the street revealed less forgiving mounts. The R6 gets kudos for its shock’s easily adjustable spring preload via a ramped adjuster, sharing this useful feature with only the Honda.
This is the department where the Triumph took a nose dive. It was quite the opposite of “divey,” especially on the street. When we received the bike it was nearly impossible to ride on the street as front rebound was too fast and rear rebound was maxed out. After we added two clicks to the front and backed off significantly the shock’s rebound, handling improved a ton, but the Daytona’s suspenders never performed as well as the CBR’s. As a matter of fact, no bike rode like the Honda.
|Fit and Finish
(how well is it put together, etc)
Another near-perfect score for the 600RR, except this time we expected as much. If one thing characterizes a Honda, it’d have to be perceived quality. This is a hallmark of all products from Big Red. After less than a day on the CBR, the rider comes away feeling like the entire bike was built by hand while still holding to the exacting standards set by the Japanese vehicle-making giant. Right down to the switch gear, the RR feels solid and perfectly assembled.
The GSX-R ain’t too shabby either, as this latest iteration carries a high level of refinement from years of model honing, and we all appreciated its front and rear turnsignals neatly integrated in its mirrors and tailsection, respectively. The R6 also exudes quality, from its CF aluminum swingarm to the luster of its bodywork. The remaining two certainly aren’t jalopies, but there may have been a squeak here or slightly misaligned body panel there. The Honda is the standard bearer.
In a calculated move by Suzuki designers, the Gixxer Sixxer gets some new duds, and in doing so they may have made it the best looking supersport on the planet, at least in our test unit’s new White/Silver color combo. This re-skin includes a very effective and eye-catching three-beam headlight design, a GSX-R1000-inspired fuel tank with a 4.5-gallon capacity and lighter wheels, among other details, to make this one sexy six.
The Yammie makes its best showing yet thanks to “razor-sharp” styling. The R6, like the GSX-R, got styling updates for 2008, and continues a menacing stance that makes the bike look as fast as it is. The Honda isn’t ugly or even unattractive, but it may suffer a bit in looks thanks to the usually conservative Honda styling as compared to a couple of the others that are more willing to take risks. Not quite sure what happened to the poor ZX. Maybe the green was too much to take?
(desirability, poser value, extra features)
If we could use one word to best sum up this category in this test, it might be uniqueness. The Triumph simply blows the other four away. In a copycat world of inline-Fours that all share identical bore and stroke figures, the English Triple is a breath of fresh air – even if it’s now three years old. Multiply uniqueness by a degree of exclusivity – you just don’t see many 675s – then factor in the unmatched intake and exhaust sounds the Daytona makes, and you’ve got a winner head and shoulders above the pack.
As the latest in a long line of popular Gixxers, this updated version is even more desirable with its fresh duds, and it ties with the R6 for the runner-up spot thanks to its full complement of features, although none of our testers believe the S-DMS has a useful place on a 600. As for the R6’s high score, you’d understand if you’ve ever heard the intense wail of the best-sounding 16,000 revs on the market.
Poor little Ninja...
(how big of a smile it puts on your face)
No doubt we can point to pretty much all of the same traits that helped the Triumph win the above category as helping it win this mini race, too. I really like the way Steve summarizes the bike from his motherland: “The Triumph is made from a different mold than your normal 600; foreign yet familiar, with a British style about it.” Fookin’ ‘ell, mate!
The Honda fared much better in this category than it did under the equally subjective Cool Factor rankings. We’ll safely guess that when casting their secret votes the majority of the testers were wooed by the CBR’s powerful and playful mill. The R6? Well, it has quite the opposite appeal of the 675, as its engine is still peaky relative to the others. Frankly, it has a two-stroke quality to it; soft until about 10k rpm where it opens up and screams like a banshee (Yamaha quad pun intended). On the street this can be nerve-wracking considering how blind corners flanked by granite walls tend to approach quicker than you expect.
Wow! Three victories in a row for the Triumph! This is no small thing in such a closely matched race. Full points go to the cheapest bike with minor deductions adding up for each MSRP as they get farther and farther from the winner.
Although the Suzuki is $400 more than the winning 675, its freebie passenger seat cowl helped anchor second place with the ZX that’s marginally more expensive than the Daytona. Both the R6 and Honda demand the most from potential customer pockets so they finish together at the bottom.
Drum roll, please...
Honda CBR600RR - 88.8%
Average fuel economy: 39.2 mpg
If you’ve been watching the individual category results you’ll have noticed that this was a very lively brawl with no obvious champ. Even we were a little surprised when the Honda was declared the victor when so much talk in the pits or at lunch stops was how much the 675 tickled our giggle bone.
Regardless of the Triumph’s high appeal and a strong win in the engine department, the 675 failed to topple the RR, which is missing only a gear-position indicator and a slipper clutch to be almost perfect. After years in the contemporary middleweight game, Honda presents a wealth of experience in creating an almost flawless package, and it’s called the CBR600RR. Mark Gardiner summarizes by saying, “The Honda seemed positively dowdy – no slipper clutch, no trendy MotoGP-style shorty exhaust. And yet as soon as I rode it, I found myself thinking, ‘The CBR600 wins again!’”
|The Perfect Bike For...|
|A do-it-all rider who simply wants to ride the most polished 600cc package, whether its on the way to work, scratching with buddies in the canyons or strafing other riders during trackdays – it does it all with no fuss.|
Suzuki GSX-R600 - 87.2%
Average fuel economy: 41.7 mpg
“What what whhaaat!” you scream into the monitor of your five-year old workstation as the coworker in the next cube calmly dials building security. Your surprise is understandable and somewhat warranted considering the Triumph scored consistently high, and that virtually every other publication in the world thinks it unbeatable. Suzuki, like Honda, has been making these things for a long time and has sculpted the little Gixxer into a finely-tuned device. Heck, they sell more of these than anything they make!
The GSX-R600, though not currently dominating any roadracing series, has a lot of street cred. I don’t know about you, but the question I get most often from people who don’t know bikes is, “What’s the best bike around, one of them Gixxers?”
|The Perfect Bike For...|
|Those who feel the allure of the racy GSX-R heritage and who want the latest, greatest example.|
Triumph Daytona 675 - 86.5%
Average fuel economy: 39.8 mpg
Consider two things before you call the Internet Police on us: The Daytona is now three years old and only slipped to third spot by seven-tenths of a percentage point. Though this beloved bike tied the Honda for four category victories and is clearly the least expensive, it didn’t score quite as high as often as the Suzuki did.
Regardless of shootout results, we’re more than sure the legions of Daytona devotees will only grow. There was an exceptionally narrow gap between the top three bikes in this shootout, and given a different crew of inmates, the Triumph could just as easily have won. If hard numbers weren’t used, and votes were cast with the heart, this three-cylinder siren may have wooed us all to its cause.
|The Perfect Bike For...|
|The rider who wants his Supersport serving spiced up from the cookie-cutter four-cylinder norm and who enjoys a symphonic exhaust note.|
Kawasaki ZX-6R - 84.7%
Average fuel economy: 37.3 mpg
Whatever nuances our testers individually determined were a little too off-putting about the ZX-6R, all of them combined couldn’t have amounted to the biggest factor in the green bikes low finish: not enough go power. Even after modifications that demonstrated our disrespect for the EPA, the little Ninja still didn’t have the steam needed to chase the others down the front straight at Willow after exiting Turn 9. The rest of the bike is really, really good. As Kevin said, “The Kawi might’ve won this test if it had the Triumph’s motor.”
Don’t let the Ninja’s fourth-place result take away from the fact that Steve Rapp has fared quite well in AMA Formula Xtreme on this same basic machine.
|The Perfect Bike For...|
|A rider who wants quick, confident handling and superb brakes and gearbox, and who is willing to do some electronic trickery to extract the maximum power available.|
Yamaha R6 - 79.6%
Average fuel economy: 36.2 mpg
We don’t imagine it’s all that often that a revised bike finishes a distant last place in a shootout held in the same year of the revision. Yet, the R6 managed to do just that. Combing over the notes and score sheets from each tester, it become obvious early that the Yamaha just didn’t do enough things right for us. There isn’t anything that doesn’t function correctly or is wholly unacceptable about this machine, but it also doesn’t sacrifice enough of its racing-edge performance to make it sensible for the prudent but demanding motorcycle enthusiast.
Initial turn-in requires more effort than the other four, the brakes lack sensitivity in an arena where the best binders require little more than a hot breath, and its ergos aren’t forgiving enough for the rider who needs to get on and off the saddle more often than just between races. Moreover, its engine, though maybe the most thrilling to hear and feel at peak horsepower, creates a bike that’s too focused on the podium rather than being focused on its owner’s well-rounded enjoyment on public roads.
Steve “Speed” Kelly says it plainly: “For this one, I would say that only racers need apply.”
|The Perfect Bike For...|
|Ben Bostrom and other similarly racy riders.|
In my garage...
If I had to choose one of these bikes to for myself, I would love to get the Kawasaki for its performance. However, looks and cool factor are important for me, too, which brings the Honda and the Suzuki into the game. And there I’d have a really hard time to making a decision; it might just come down to what I’d get the best deal on. They’re all so close that I’d probably base my decision on looks and price.
It is very difficult to choose between these five outstanding motorcycles. As far as I am concerned they are all perfect depending on owner’s intentions. If I plan to do mostly trackdays, my first choice would be Yamaha R6, but at age 53 I now spend most of my time in the canyons. For this reason I found both the Triumph and Kawasaki user-friendly due to their power delivery and comfort. On the other hand, the Honda CBR and the Suzuki are nearly perfect on all categories, great for both trackdays and canyons. The truth is, I can't make up my mind.
I came to this test with a completely open mind, but left slightly confused. Having previously owned three different 600s – a CBR600RR, GSX-R600 and two Daytona 675s – I felt I would be able to have a good feeling for each bike’s strengths and weaknesses. The CBR600RR is light and agile; it was the easiest to flick side-to-side yet was super stable mid-corner. Fueling and power were excellent; with a slick gearbox and no missed shifts. One of best things about the Honda is the great engine. This bike rips out of corners! Overall a super-enjoyable bike to ride and probably the bike I’d pick as a personal fave. Please don’t make me pick!
What would I buy? The Hondumph. Or maybe the Trida. Okay, seriously, if it was shaded for the street and high mileage, the Honda. If it was shaded for trackdays and occasional use, the Triumph. The Honda gets a bonus point for what I imagine is superior durability; the Triumph for its amazing motor.
Even though I’m not a fan of the Triumph’s committed riding position, the Daytona’s lusty three-cylinder is simply too intoxicating to resist. It combines punch that will make you forget about updating to a literbike with a glorious howl out its exhaust. The torquey Triple is the bike’s defining feature, and it’s more than enough to overlook the bike’s pedestrian finish quality. The Kawi might’ve won this test if it had a comparable motor. As it is, the three-year-old 675 excels because of it, making the package distinct and highly desirable. A near-unblemished service record and the lowest MSRP seals the deal.
Though these little beasts are fully of techno wizardry and already perform at brilliant levels, I expect it to get even better. Perhaps we won’t get more horsepower, but maybe we’ll start seeing things like OEM-spec traction control. The 675 is now in its third year and probably due for an overhaul, perhaps in time for the inaugural season of Daytona Superbikes. As good as it is, we can dream at how it may get even better! In the meantime I’d take a deal on a good used 675. Now to completely contradict myself after thousands of words, I just want to say that most literbikes offer a better value than most supersports. C’mon, when you amortize the extra two grand or so over five or six years, who wouldn’t want that extra 30-35% spank?
2008 Literbike Shootout: ZX-10R vs CBR1000RR vs GSX-R1000 vs YZF-R1
2008 Suzuki GSX-R600 Review
2008 Yamaha R6 - First Ride
Choose Your Weapon: Best of the Best, 2006
2006 Middleweight Supersport Shootout