2011 Supersport Shootout - Track [Video]
Can Suzuki's new Gixxer spoil the 600cc party?
2011 Kawasaki ZX-6R $9999
Our reigning 600cc champion two years running (granted, we didn’t do this test last year), Kawasaki’s ZX-6R has proven to be quite the 600. The real question now is whether it’s still the cream of the crop, or if Suzuki has brought a Green Machine killer in the new GSX-R.
In 2009 we described the ZX-6R engine as “hella-strong.” Team Green was able to meet the strict noise pollution regulations while still producing an engine that pulled crazy hard at the bottom while losing nothing up top. Out at Streets — where we performed the track portion of our 2009 Supersport test — the 6R’s engine was again the highlight of the show. While the bottom-end grunt feels nearly as strong as the Honda’s on corner exit, it distances itself from the CBR with its greater steam up top.
“Although we should have become overly familiar by now with the ZX’s engine power, somehow, it continues to impress,” says Pete. “Even now in its third year, its power delivery makes it feel more like a literbike than a supersport.”
Duke continued the praise for the ZX, stating, “The Ninja’s most defining feature is its rompin’ and ever-ready engine that has a wide powerband and what feels like the strongest tug up top.” True dyno numbers will have to wait until the upcoming street portion of our test, but it’s fair to say that, judging by the butt dyno alone, the new Suzuki is the only thing that will come close to giving the Ninja a run for its money.
Looking at the Kawasaki’s specs on paper, it appears like it would be an underwhelming performer. It’s the heaviest of the four bikes, weighing in at 421 pounds. It’s got the longest wheelbase of the four at 55.1 inches, and is tied with the R6 with 24 degrees of rake. Granted, the Honda and Suzuki sport 23.5-degree rakes, but in this tightly contested game, everything matters. That being said, the ZX handles with the best of them. We all admired its responsive steering, which helped transition between corners.
Kevin noted that the Showa BPF, or Big Piston Fork, and Showa rear shock were setup slightly on the stiff side for his liking, but thanks to their full adjustability it didn’t take long to dial them in. Duke also noted that the suspension seemed to work better the quicker he was going.
In contrast with the R6’s brakes, longtime readers should be well aware of the praise we’ve given to the binders on the Kawi. Though it boasts nothing fancier than 300mm petal-type rotors, four-piston Nissin calipers and rubber hoses, we could have sworn this bike comes fitted with steel-braided lines. Despite the fact the calipers don’t say Brembo on the side, we’re blown away by the performance of the Nissin units.
“Although lacking a prestigious Italian brand on the front-brake calipers like the Gixxer, the ZX’s binders are one of my favorites on any sportbike,” Kevin notes, adding “There is terrific power on tap but without having a too-sensitive initial bite, and solid feedback through the lever clearly communicates what’s happening at the front tire.”
Ergonomically speaking, the ZX falls somewhere in the middle in terms of its aggressiveness. While it’s definitely not as racy as the R6, its anonymity in this department shouldn’t be a detraction for anyone considering the Ninja. Tom pointed out the seating position feels similar to the Suzuki and is equally as comfortable.
The Ninja also scores points when you look at the finer details. We’re fans of the ZX’s transmission and slipper clutch, which work flawlessly and keep the rear in check. Meanwhile, Pete applauds Team Green for his favorite instrument layout of the four, the ZX winning the honor for simply having a white faceplate tachometer that’s easier to read than the black faceplates of the others. Large graduating numbers and an array of colors (in addition to a shift light) tells riders if they’re in the engine’s sweet spot or if it’s time to shift.
Taking a year off from a 600-class shootout in 2010, the Kawasaki wasted no time in reminding us why we chose it as our favorite 600 in 2009. Its monstrous engine and eye-popping brakes are paired to a capable chassis with outstanding suspension.
To sweeten the deal, Kawasaki has lowered the price for the Zed to $9999, down from $10,699. Now who wouldn’t want an extra seven hundo in their pockets? But is it enough to retain the class title for another year, or has the ZX met its match with the new Gixxer?