Comparison test of the 600 super sports car


Comparison test of the 600 super sports car
Ducati 748 R.

Comparison test, Ducati 748, Honda CBR 600 F, Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R, Suzuki GSX-R 600

600 super sports car in the test

Fireworks! Kawasaki’s brand new ZX-6R explosive like never before, Suzuki GSX-R 600 and Ducati 748 SPS with a ’98 model upgrade fire – the eternal reference Honda CBR 600 F to the crackers withered?

New models, old history. Like every year, the friends of MOTOCICLISMO Espania invite the MOTORRAD testers to the sun of the south for the annual 600 supersport comparison test. The bomb bursts shortly before departure: the weather services report a catastrophe, and the whole of southern Europe sinks uncharacteristically under rain-rich foothills. What to do? Paradoxically, the German winter with sun and 18 degrees brings an upside-down world. That’s why MOTORRAD doesn’t meet its Spanish colleagues in distant Calafat, but in the nearby Rhine Valley near Colmar.
A rare-explosive pack of 600ers is at the start. Above all, Kawasaki has upgraded. The Ninja ZX-6R (see box on page 19) has been thoroughly renovated and has a solid finish. Of course, the competition never sleeps. Titanium connecting rods help the noble Ducati 748 SPS to turn even more easily. In 1997 the Duc won the Supersport 600 world series, in which, as in our comparison test, it is allowed to participate due to the regulations. Suzuki went deeper into the nitty-gritty with the revision of the solid and well thought-out GSX-R 600 (see box on page 19 below), which fell short of high expectations last year. Finally, Honda pats itself appreciatively and sends the bestseller CBR 600 F into the new year unchanged. How is the class from 1998 doing on the autobahn, the country road and the racetrack?
The journey via the Rheintaltrasse clears the first questions. A happy surprise: The newcomers from Kawasaki and Suzuki in particular set new records in terms of performance, and the Honda and Ducati are not exactly slow either. Walking straight ahead, everyone nibbles at the 250 km / h limit or even exceeds it. Incidentally, the wind protection of the Honda and especially the Ducati turns out to be bad at such speeds. The revised Suzuki shields the airstream most effectively. The Suzuki and especially the Kawasaki, whose performance exceeds all previous 600s, also set new records in terms of acceleration and torque. An impressive performance of the four on the express route. But what about the actual 600 domain, the country road?
The uncompromisingly sporty Ducati seems traditionally slightly out of place in this context. Only die-hard fans willingly endure longer stages. Almost in push-ups and always in a downhill position, the poor person hangs over the deeply clamped stumps, the tightly sprung noble chassis maltreats the bones through the thin seat cloth. The drive also reveals gaps in everyday life: the racing-like ratio with an extra-long first gear is particularly annoying in the city, especially since the V-Twin yawns wearily at low speeds. It admittedly takes on the accelerator smoothly from 2000 rpm, but a noticeable increase in engine speed is a long time coming. On top of that, the razor-sharp response of the injection during such maneuvers also causes annoying load change jolts. Nevertheless – in order to protect the environment, the Duc driver should operate the somewhat gnarled, super-precise switch box quite often to protect his fellow human beings from the infernal noise from the intake tract and silencers at high speed. He is all the more pleased with the unshakable driving stability. Like a moon, the Ducati curves around its planet of all kinds – as long as these have no waves. Then the wide rear tire brings noticeable swell into the tubular frame. And the everyday routine? Passable light, consumption still in moderation, clear and complete instrumentation.
The Honda driver is much nicer there. Almost like touring, he sits on the soft seat cushion, always with the reassuring feeling of having the motorcycle safely under control. A passenger also feels comfortable. The integrated seating position always conveys security and confidence in the CBR. It whizzes nimbly through the curves, the spring elements iron all waves smooth. Really good, this Honda, but not free from small flaws. For example, the enormous handiness causes constant slight restlessness, because the CBR reacts to every movement stick. The violent load change reactions do not have a calming effect. Easily and quite precisely, but with shocking noises, the gear steps lock into place. In addition, the test CBR vibrates and slows down at low engine speeds – Kawa and Suzi can do that better. To avoid any misunderstandings, the CBR 600 F is still an excellent motorcycle that is very suitable for everyday use – just think of the main stand. Their weaknesses are particularly evident in comparison with the strong competition – for example the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R.
A look at the rating tables reveals the dominance of the Kawa all-rounder: there is hardly a category in which it would not achieve the highest score in comparison. There has never been a 600 with such a powerful and at the same time cultivated engine: Accompanied by a Kawa-typical, pithy sound, there is acceleration and torque at 750 level, ample power in the lower and middle speed range, topped by an enormous 112 horsepower. In addition, the engine takes on gas cleanly and spontaneously, remains completely free of vibrations and shines with the lowest consumption of the competition – wow! The super-smooth, precise and short-range shiftable transmission directs the power through the almost non-reactive drive train to the rear wheel without jolting. And with all this, the Kawasaki still finds the golden mean between precise feedback and comfort. Erect and comfortable, much like on the Honda, the pilot directs the lightweight ZX-6R just as easily, but more precisely and less nervously through the winding country roads. Neutral and undeterred, she keeps the path she has chosen. The wide tank only gives the impression of having a high center of gravity, the first few meters of travel prove the opposite. The impression of comfort is mainly due to the sensitive spring elements and not because of the soft seat. The Kawa is tightly padded – real feeling, so to speak, because the driver receives transparent feedback about the driving status at all times. As if all of that weren’t enough, the rear seat offers comfortable space for a passenger and the clear cockpit has a practical clock. Light? Fine.
And the Suzuki? Also benefits from the thorough revision. Although the seating position still tortures the pilot, it is extremely comfortable compared to the Ducati. Smaller riders in particular have problems gripping the handlebars around the wide tank. A passenger finds a pillow that is not uncomfortable, but no support. Too bad. The GSX-R 600 is just a thoroughbred athlete, that’s that. But one with manners, because it also convinces with pleasant suspension comfort, and if it weren’t for the Kawa, it would be the power master in all speed ranges. What a torque, what a spontaneous response to gas commands. Great. And what a pronounced load change jerk, what a bad hot start behavior. Unfortunately.
The new series tires (Dunlop D 207 Standard) take a significant step forward: The Suzuki circles the radii much more manageable and far more neutral than last year, preferably with physical effort. The 180 mm rear wheel roller still uses undulating asphalt for slight unrest in the chassis, but the egg dance of the ’97 model has given way to presentable neutrality.
A strong performance by the challengers on the country road. The seats will also be redistributed on the circuit?
A comparison drive on the Anneau du Rhin race track near Colmar in the Rhine Valley brings clarity. The perfectly flat route in a neat ambience offers two hard braking points, above all fast changing curves and a nasty high-speed turn. Unfortunately, two artificial chicanes slow the pace in front of the Mutecken, but the friendly Ms. Bugatti (actually, related!), Who looks after the route on site, guarantees that this is for safety. Well then, once with standard tires, once with a Dunlop D 207 GP on the slopes.
The Ducati can finally reveal its cards. Once the pilot has got used to steering by shifting weight rather than using the handlebars, there are almost no limits. The driving stability is second to none – you would probably have to hammer on the stub to shake the chosen course. Razor-sharp precision, no inclination up to the adhesive limit of the Klebomat Dunlop, plus the incredibly elastic V-Twin, the jolt-free drive and the aggressive seating position. The brakes alone draw a thin line through the Ducati bill. Why only this dull controllability, this weak effect? Especially since the Duc defends itself wildly against the helpful engine brake and is not exactly the lightest at 211 kilograms. Nevertheless – a great top athlete.
The Honda is struggling with completely different problems. The tough competition relegated their four-cylinder and their chassis to the places. Round driving is generally the order of the day, because the soft fork acknowledges abrupt changes of course with a spongy turn-in, and the CBR decays in stirring movements around the longitudinal axis. Although these are never unsettling, they are clearly noticeable in comparison. The Honda commutes easily even at high speeds. Not so much in Anneau du Rhin as on undulating slopes, the actually very good lean angle becomes a problem – the silencer is pretty relentless. Problems that would occur less with tighter suspension elements – there is a lot of homework to do. After all, guest tester Pere Casas relativizes the judgment. He achieved personal bests with the Honda with both series and racing tires. But Pere also criticized the Honda and blamed his performance on his many CBR kilometers.
The new ZX-6R sees its chance and confirms the good impression of the country road ranking. Fabulous handling, a stable chassis with great suspension elements and this almost unsettlingly flawless motor that transports its power through the drivetrain to the rear wheel. The ample torque saves many gear changes. Unfortunately, the fat fork casts a bit of a shadow, which lapses into light stamping when braking hard and when changing lean angles quickly (new German: pitching). A phenomenon that plagued the old ZX-6R in a much stronger form and that cost the new Ninja the top spot despite the best time. Especially when turning in, the high-frequency hops spoil confidence in the front wheel. There are also negative points for the standard tires (Dunlop D 204) – okay for the country road, not enough grip for the racetrack. The sitting position should also be more stooped here. On the other hand, the Kawa’s freedom of inclination is pleasing: only the harmlessly folding footrests scrape the asphalt. And the brakes: snappy, stable, crisp pressure point – simply fantastic.
The surprise star is called Suzuki GSX-R 600. The Suzi does not show a real defect in sports. Be it the appropriate seating position, be it the stable, precise chassis that is hardly inferior to that of the Ducati, be it the engine, which equals that of the Kawa in terms of torque and thus reduces the shift work. Speed ​​effortlessly – everything fits. The fork is now also adjustable in the pressure level. Finally, it supports sporting ambitions in partnership with the sensitive shock absorber. The stability of the revised brakes is a pleasure. Also nice: the performance of the standard-mounted Dunlop D 207 – a good choice.
Tyes, winners and losers: as expected, the Ducati disappoints on the country road, but unfortunately also on the race track. The Honda says goodbye to its usual supremacy – still good, but just good average. She finds her masters in the sporty, everyday Suzuki and above all in the new Primus: the all-rounder ZX-6R.

Test result: Ducati

4th place street Admittedly, that’s not what it was built for. Everyday matters will never be decisive for the purchase of the Ducati, which costs over 30,000 marks. Her strengths are fascination, independence, exclusivity – and above all sportiness without compromise. 3. Place racetrack, this is where it belongs. Stable chassis, perfect spring elements, elastic force. But the toothless brakes and the relatively high weight make the Duc a dash through the silver or gold medal.

This is new: Kawasaki ZX-6R

The revised ZX-6R is robust. The somewhat bulky fairing combines adequate wind protection with decent aerodynamics: 252 km / h is a new class record. The engine base remained untouched, the engine peripherals were heavily redesigned: the double-channel ram-air system and the airbox gained volume. Brand new downdraft carburetors suck in through intake funnels of different lengths. In addition to the speed signal, a throttle valve sensor electronically adapts the ignition timing to the engine load. Both ensure improved response and a full torque curve even at low speeds. Corrosion-resistant stainless steel elbows dispose of the exhaust gases through the aluminum silencer (optionally with a catalytic converter). The record-breaking 112 horsepower of the exhaust-gas-cleaned test machine recommend the clean solution, while the reinforced crankshaft and improved lubrication are said to extend the service life. Pistons made from a special material dissipate the heat of combustion better, which is good for a balanced temperature balance. A lighter, more compact alternator rotor is narrow and reduces the rotating masses. As a result, the engine revs up faster, responds better to gas commands and is lean and easy to lean. The shock absorption in the clutch basket has been modified for even smoother gear changes. The chassis layout has changed: the reinforced frame (now with bolted rear frame), the massive, fully adjustable telescopic fork with 46 millimeter standpipe diameter, the solid 25 millimeter wheel axles – the signs point to stability and crystal-clear handling. The geometry also changed: the steering head is now steeper (66.5 degrees to 66 degrees), the caster grew (from 87 to 91 millimeters) and the wheelbase shrank (from 1415 to 1400 millimeters). The swing arm, which has been upgraded by an axle mount with prismatic guide, looks much more solid, and the rear wheel rim has grown to 5.5 inches wide. For the first time on a 600 series, six-piston calipers grasp the front brake discs. Magnesium engine cover, aluminum radiator and gearshift linkage reduce the weight to a measured 203 kilograms – including catalytic converter and secondary air system.

Revised: Suzuki GSX-R 600

Torque weakness, jerky drive train, poor target accuracy – just a few of the allegations that the GSX-R 600 had to put up with in 1997. For 1998 the Suzuki was extensively redesigned, and with great success, especially the engine airways were improved. The intake cross-section and volume of the airbox grew, and the carburetors got longer intake stacks. Inlet valves with tapered stems reduce the flow resistance in the intake tract, sharper control times and larger cam lifts (which require deeper valve pockets) improve the gas throughput. New piston rings with lower tension reduce the friction losses on the cylinder wall. Finally, an increased volume of the silencer ensures that you can breathe freely, and the chassis benefited in particular from the additional compression adjustment on the fork. Thicker brake discs minimize the fading sensitivity of the ’97 model, and a shorter secondary gear ratio makes the Suzuki legs when accelerating. Weight was saved where possible, for example on the fairing bracket. Also worth mentioning: the improved wind protection.

Test result: Honda

2nd place street The CBR is still an excellent all-rounder, but no longer the best. It loses mainly due to its comparatively powerless engine and the rough drive train. 4. Place racetrack Yesterday top, today flop? By no means, the Honda continues to delight with its sporty qualities. But the better is known to be the good enemy – the competition leaves the aged CBR behind.

Test result: Kawasaki

1st place streetWhat a debut – the Kawasaki leads the competition in almost all points. The competition will have to measure itself by this standard in the future. The construction and workmanship are also convincing. 2. The Kawa also shines on the racetrack. Although she achieved the fastest lap time, she only finished second in the end. Why only second? Because she unsettles her driver with a slightly stamping fork

Test result: Suzuki

3rd place streetNo comparison to last year. Closely beaten by the Honda, the Suzuki cuts a fine figure thanks to its improved torque and stable chassis. The sporty seating position and the uncompromising concept limit the everyday value somewhat. Place on the racetrack yes, something’s going on! The stable, precise chassis and the bearish engine shoot the Suzuki just ahead of the Kawa and the Duc at the top of the podium. The brakes now also keep pace with the driving dynamics.

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