2011 Supersport Shootout - Street [Video]
Honda CBR600RR vs. Kawasaki ZX-6R vs. Suzuki GSX-R600 vs. Yamaha R6
2011 Honda CBR600RR $11,199
“Some might call the Honda long in the tooth, but it’s still a solid performer.”
These succinct but wise words come from young Master Troy, with not-so-young Kevin echoing this sentiment. One of the enduring traits from the Honda to which we attribute its great-all-arounder status on the street is its useful mid-range. With the RR’s engine unchanged, it still isn’t a horsepower leader. However, in street environs rarely does a rider have an opportunity to tap the high reaches of the rev range where the peak horsepower battle takes place.
Despite the CBR engine’s poorest showing by numbers posted in the dyno room, the RR manages to convincingly mask its power deficiency, tricking all of us into thinking it might’ve had a more prominent mid-range punch.
“The Honda’s torquey feeling engine is fantastic, which is especially handy on the street,” says Troy. While the CBR’s mill doesn’t do anything particularly thrilling, and its exhaust note is metallic sounding rather than snarling or screeching, the Honda powertrain nevertheless offers a feeling of broad power – an ideal quality for getting around town or digging out of slow-speed canyon road corners.
Kevin says the CBR’s engine gives the impression that its midrange is the strongest in class thanks to slightly shorter gearing. If it weren’t for a minor abruptness during throttle reapplication that a majority of the testers noticed, the CBR engine could’ve slotted in as a top contender for street use. Out in the street, the Honda’s engine character belies its comparatively lower power.
We generally include ergonomics to a small degree during racetrack evals, but things like the rider triangle, seat comfort, reach to levers, etc., carry much more importance for street riding. As in tests past, the CBR60RR is a pleasurable ride whether dawdling down the boulevard or eating freeway miles. With respect to the rider layout, we didn’t find much changed for us from the track to the street, where only Tom found he needed a brief acclimation period when switching from one of the other three to the CBR.
T-Rod says he often felt as if he were “perched on top and seemingly over the front end” while aboard the Honda. Lending validity to his sensation of sitting on top of the Honda rather than down in it (like we all noted of the Gixxer’s seating position) is the CBR’s second tallest seat height of 32.3 inches – only the R6 is taller at 33.1 inches. Otherwise, the Honda’s cockpit provides a compact but still comfortable package, with Troy judging it best overall, noting that it’s relatively high bars place the least amount of weight on the wrists when commuting.
Kevin remarked that the Honda’s styling is aging well, and he got no arguments from the rest of the crew. The CBR-RR’s sleek bodywork projects an aggressive appearance that’s still relevant in the face of newer bikes in the class. Despite racy outer good looks, the 600RR’s instrument pod is something of a let down.
“The instrument panel’s coarse plastic construction looks cheap to the eye,” says Kevin. On the other hand he, as well as Troy, appreciate the Honda’s useful fuel gauge but not the lack of a gear-position indicator – another sign of the Honda’s age, as both the Kawasaki and Suzuki provide a GPI.
The Honda’s additional 0.3 gallons to the other bikes’ 4.5-gallon fuel capacity might not seem like such a bike deal to some, but we felt it worth mentioning.
Troy and I lauded the CBR’s superb suspension performance during time at the racetrack, with both of us feeling like the CBR had a perfectly damped fork and shock for the technical but bumpy Streets of Willow. Throw in the lightest wet weight (410 lbs) that only serves to enhance the Honda’s feathery agility, and handling is a key feature that quickly gets a rider’s attention.
And though the CBR is the only bike that continues use of an under-tail exhaust, the can’s placement doesn’t seem to negatively affect handling by caring weight high above the bike’s center of gravity. The under-tail exhaust also helps keep the CBR’s overall styling uncluttered.
The ease-of-use the Honda’s chassis performance offers doesn’t diminish much from track to street; however, we did notice that it wasn’t quite as compliant in some instances when hustling down serpentine canyons. It stands up slightly during braking, unlike the Suzi and Kawi that remain noticeably composed and neutral under the same circumstances.
“In back-to-back runs on a twisty road, I was surprised the CBR didn’t show a clear advantage in agility over the others, although it’s still very responsive,” says Kev.
Stopping performance is of a very high caliber in this class, as you might expect, and the Honda’s four-piston monobloc calipers on loan from the CBR1000RR are more than up to the task of hauling in the RR. There’s lots of force on tap in the Honda’s binders, but in terms of feedback they fall ever so slightly behind the GSX-R’s and ZX’s stunning brake packages. We even hate to imply here that the CBR600RR’s brakes may somehow lack; but in such a closely contested class the slightest advantage, if even barely perceptible, matters.
Wrapping up final thoughts on the Honda, Kevin says, “Although the CBR hasn’t been significantly revised since its 2007 introduction, the all-around goodness of the package still holds up well in the company of fresher competitors. No one thinking of buying the 600RR will be disappointed.”