2011 Supersport Shootout - Track [Video]
Can Suzuki's new Gixxer spoil the 600cc party?
2011 Suzuki GSX-R600 $11,599
As the only new machine in this bunch, Suzuki’s new GSX-R600 has a lot to live up to. With all this time to develop a new 600, it’s win or go home as far as the Gixxer is concerned. As mentioned above, Pete’s first ride impressions in his story from the launch seemed cautiously optimistic that Suzuki has the winning package for 2011. The old bike earned second-place honors in our 2009 track shootout, but the deciding factor was only a lack of power compared to the Kawi.
Well, that seems simple, right? Suzuki just needs to add more power. Of course, solutions are never as simple as they seem, but Suzuki set out to achieve just that. Focus was spent on increasing low- to mid-range power, and our track impressions confirmed that it does come through on its promise. Using the ZX-6R as the benchmark by which all the other 600cc mills are judged, the Gixxer’s midrange pull coming out of tight corners at the track rivals that of the Kawi. Considering a lack of power is what hurt its score two years ago, this bodes well for the Suzuki.
“The GSX-R600 has a decent spread of mid-range power that becomes noticeably effective by the 8000-rpm mark,” Pete remarks. This proved especially useful at Streets, since much more time is spent in the middle of the rev range as opposed to wide open.
We’ll have to wait for the official dyno numbers to confirm whether its top end rivals the ZX, but during a game of cat and mouse down the front straight between Kevin and Pete, both noticed that neither the Kawi nor Suzi were able to close the gap on one or the other. “I was amazed when the powerful ZX didn’t really close in on the Gixxer down the straightaways,” Duke raves.
The Gixxer’s fueling is spot on. Power delivery is completely predictable without any sudden hiccups or hesitations. When comparing it to the Yamaha and Honda, Kevin believed its powerband is a good compromise. “It boasts more midrange than the R6 and a bigger top-end hit than the CBR.”
Beyond the fueling, however, the new Gixxer has an intangible X factor in the form of its intake snarl that is absolute music to the ears. “It’s so loud and satisfying that I wouldn’t feel the need to add an aftermarket exhaust for anything but aesthetics and weight reduction,” remarks an enthused Kevin.
One of the potential downfalls when redesigning a motorcycle is that while one area is improved, another might be compromised in the process. That holds especially true when increasing power is the main objective. There’s a risk that the chassis may not be able to cope with the bump in power. Considering the Gixxer chassis has been one of our favorites for years, we’re glad to report that none of the magic is lost on the new machine.
All of our testers got along right away with the Suzuki’s chassis. In direct contrast to the Honda, you sit in the GSX-R rather than on it. This layout is typical Suzuki, and a trait which took no time to get used to, “I was immediately comfortable on the GSX-R and able to go fast,” T-Rod boasts. Pete and I both echo those sentiments, as, like the Honda, it took but a few corners before the Suzuki felt like my bike.
If confidence is something you’re lacking on a motorcycle, the Suzuki knows how to inspire it in spades. With 23.5 degrees of rake angle and 3.8 inches of trail, it’s one of the quicker-turning bikes in this crowd, and an electronically controlled steering damper reins in any instability. It turns in with complete neutrality, allowing the rider to place the bike precisely where they want it. Couple that with the second lightest curb weight of 412 lbs. — just two more than the Honda — and it’s no surprise that the GSX-R feels light to steer as well.
A big upgrade in suspension for 2011 makes its way to the baby Gixxer in the form of a 41mm Showa Big Piston Fork, similar to that on the Kawi. A single, fully-adjustable shock lies out back. Feedback from both these units was superb as the bumps were absorbed, yet the chassis didn’t suffer a loss of front-end feel.
“Brembo brakes. What else need I say?”
Good point, Pete. Not much else needs to be said. Arguably the second most important upgrade to the new Suzuki (apart from the engine) lies in the brake department, where Brembo monobloc calipers are used for the first time. Needless to say, their performance was top-notch. Braking power is strong without being overbearing, while feel and modulation at the lever were almost telepathic.
“The addition of Brembo front brakes has vaulted the Suzuki up to the Ninja’s class standard,” Duke notes. “Perhaps even exceeding them.”
Combined with its athletic chassis, the GSX-R truly is an impressive machine.
“Trailbrake through the entirety of a turn and the Gixxer remains on track, never wanting to stand up or complain in any manner,” says Pete.
When talking about the ergos of the new GSX-R, “comfortable” comes to mind. Of course, comfortable is a relative term when talking about a sportbike, but it’s worth noting that this is the only bike in the group with adjustable footpegs. Though we had them at the highest setting for the racetrack, Tom, our tallest tester, who hovers right around 6 feet tall, never complained about any discomfort.
Another point not mentioned earlier is the Suzuki-Drive Mode System, which allows the rider to choose between two different power settings, A and B. With this being a racetrack environment on a sunny California day, we didn’t bother with B mode as it drastically spoils the fun.