Comparison test between Kawasaki GPX 600 R and Suzuki GSX 600 F
Signs of aging
What they may lack in youthful resilience after more than ten years of service, the Kawasaki GPX 600 R and Suzuki GSX 600 F make up for with untimely low prices.
In wise self-awareness, the two of them have long since turned their backs on the race tracks of this world and the hunt for lap times. You have recognized the trend of time and leave it to be relaxed with mastering everyday life with all its challenges: the city stroll, the Sunday joyride, one or the other extended touristic venture. And that at truly popular transport rates – the Suzuki costs almost 12,000 marks, the Kawasaki another 1,500 marks less.
Of course, there are other and more drastic differences beyond the considerable price difference. Obviously, these motorcycles embody very individual approaches to coming to terms with the past. The Suzuki is blatantly making for modern times, trying to get rid of the burden of the years with new, rounded outer clothing and a refreshed frame. The Kawasaki is different. It is committed to its origins, undauntedly adheres to the style of the eighties across the board and thus offers the opportunity to experience motorcycle history in detail at the original location.
If you are ready to embark on a journey through time at the GPX, you will first see black: fork bridge, handlebar halves, dials – everything is wrapped in the deep darkness of history. Nevertheless, no visionary skills are required to find your way around, because of the old-fashioned appearance, the control instruments are functionally fully up to date.
Which one can only say with reservations about the sitting position. While the flat flanks of the narrow tank, the conveniently cranked handlebar ends and the shaped seat hollow up the knee ensure a relaxed, discreetly sporty posture, the high and relatively far forward placed pegs bring cramp down the knee. There’s nothing to laugh about in the back rows: too little survival space on the angular seat. It’s just a small, compact machine, the GPX.
The Suzuki proves that having the courage to be large is an advantage when it comes to passenger transport. Under the umbrella term "restrained sportiness", the GSX offers a decisive plus in long-distance suitability thanks to better development options at the front and rear. The Suzuki is also better equipped to maintain mental freshness, as it manages to combine functionality and appetizing views in the cockpit area.
Old hats – four pieces each – form the motor base of the GPX and GSX. Although old is by no means synonymous with backward – after all, both rely on unbroken, contemporary four-valve technology, and after all, they delivered 85 and 86 hp respectively to the transmission in their heyday. The fact that the Suzuki’s personal papers now only show 80 HP and the Kawasaki only 73 HP is not a sign of old age, but the consequence of emissions regulations that have become more restrictive.
The Kawasaki four-cylinder shows old weaknesses in terms of cold start behavior: Too much choke, and after a few seconds it suddenly clicks into unhealthy engine speed regions, too little choke, and it stops working when accelerating with a small shoulder. Even the Suzuki does not shine with spontaneous readiness to work after starting, but can be kept in a more controlled mood with jump starters.
Keeping the four-cylinder in a good mood – in other words: at speed – is also the motto when driving. Both engines accept the lowest engine speeds without complaint, but joy and driving dynamics only emerge in the second half of the performance spectrum. Energetic use of the throttle and gearshift lever turns out to be very pleasing on the one hand with the Kawasaki thanks to the spontaneous throttle response, proper mechanical smoothness and cleanly slipping gears, on the other hand, the engine always annoys with violent load change reactions when the carburetor throttle valve is opened and closed quickly. The Suzuki engine refrains from such bad habits, but runs a little rougher here and there than its Kawa counterpart, and its gearbox needs to be operated more forcefully.
73 HP against 80 HP – this performance difference seems to give the GPX bad cards in the dispute with the GSX in terms of driving dynamics. But as the Chancellor says: What matters is what comes out at the back. And that is a lot for the Kawasaki – despite its performance deficit. Whether top speed, acceleration or pulling power from low revs – the GPX not only marches at a brisk pace, it goes through the bank just as well as the nominally more potent GSX, and is even a little ahead here and there.
Whoever has scales to weigh and eyes to see comes to two conclusions in this context. First, the Kawasaki can underpin its petite appearance with a substantial weight advantage of around 20 kilograms – that literally helps it to accelerate. Second, it pushes a bit less frontal area through the wind, and regardless – or because of – its rough edges, it does so more effectively than the more corpulent, plump Suzuki.
It plays a different trump card in the air displacement competition: its paneling punches a larger hole in the atmosphere, offers more protection from the elements than the tightly cut Kawa dress.
The GPX is also limited in terms of chassis. On small, cautiously tyred 16-inch balloon wheels that roll at a short distance, it looks almost toy-like compared to the GSX, which now lives on a suitably large 17-inch foot and a respectable wheelbase.
What does "work" – the Kawa drives like that too. The little one can be tilted easily and with lightning speed in order to be persuaded to walk upright just as easily at the exit of a curve. Despite its exemplary handiness, the GPX does not play the moody diva when interfering impulses try to sixteen its chassis. Whether on bumpy ground or when braking in a curve – the machine moves largely unmoved on the specified path. At most, in long, fast corners with an undulating surface, the GPX with a bobbing tail shows slight course impurities, a phenomenon that can be managed to some extent with the correct damping setting on the central spring strut – at least level three.
Even the Suzuki – by modern standards also not excessively wide with tires – is a lot of fun on winding paths. It can be asked a little more when changing lean angles, but offers a small plus in accuracy and directional stability.
When it comes to braking, the two machines are again in a head-to-head race – unfortunately a confrontation that takes square in the second division. Although they are technically well equipped with two discs and double-piston calipers, they cannot do any convincing in the fight against the forces of inertia: Here, as there, there is a lack of controllability, there is a lack of bite that would be necessary for well-controlled, hard deceleration – a shame.
It’s also a shame that both 600s have little to offer in terms of driving comfort. Stucking forks that carelessly hobble over small bumps, and unyielding rear suspensions spoil the driving pleasure on third-class back roads on the Suzuki and – to an even greater extent – on the Kawasaki.
UIn the long run, however, the assessment of having made a bargain with one and the other machine remains clouded: For the price of around five liters of fuel per 100 kilometers on a brisk overland trip, the GPX and GSX offer a lot of fun in the Freud. If something like this is showing signs of age – please.
Yamaha YZF 600 R: the alternative?
Is the Thundercat the better, because it is more modern choice?
The YZF is probably the most tourable sports motorcycle on God’s earth. "This quote from the 600 supersport comparison in MOTORRAD 2/1997 is still valid a year later. So the Thundercat can be compared directly with the Kawasaki GPX 600 R and Suzuki GSX 600 F then pull a whole series of trumps up your sleeve. The Yamaha has a much more comfortable chassis set-up, better brakes and delivers – which is a miracle with around 20 more horsepower – significantly better performance. What remains of it in real life is a different story: on unknown, winding roads at a pace characterized by the instinct of self-preservation the advantage of the YZF is extremely small, and even on halfway busy autobahns it does not succeed in permanently shaking off the "less well-off "pursuers. Nevertheless, there is a lot to be said for the modern 600: its superior power and chassis reserves, which it then blows away when the pace is tightened, and its superiority in the technical-artistic performance, which makes a walk around the motorcycle a joyful event.
2nd place: Kawasaki
Age before beauty – with this motto the GPX 600 R doesn’t drive badly. Despite its comparatively modest power output, its four-cylinder ensures proper driving dynamics, despite the supposedly antiquated frame layouts, the machine is an agile and stable cornering racer with a high fun factor. A few deficits in ride comfort, brakes and suitability for everyday use and pillion, however, tarnish the good overall impression.
1st place: Suzuki
Those who bring a lot will bring some something – with this motto the GSX 600 F rolls onto the road to victory. Without being able to set spectacular highlights anywhere, without being able to play to their performance advantage, it nevertheless succeeds in delivering respectable performances in all evaluation categories and convincingly covering a wide range of uses – even the somewhat weak brakes and the limited suspension comfort do not change anything.
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