The Honda CBR600RR remains a perennial top contender every time our Supersport comparison rolls around. Twice a winner (2007
), the CBR600 hasn’t seen a complete redesign since the 2007 model year. A modest refresh in 2009 included slight bodywork mods and the introduction of Combined ABS as an option. This year we sampled the non-ABS version, which retails for $11,199 – the third lowest priced bike in this review.
Despite being one of the older designs, the Honda remains a feather-weight in this comparison. Its impressive 411-pound curb weight is four pounds less than the second-lightest Suzuki. The CBR does show it’s a bit long in the tooth once rolled onto the dyno, however, where it just manages to crack triple digits in rear wheel horsepower, peaking with 100.65 ponies at 12,700 rpm. Torque production improves on the scoresheet, where its 44.02 lb-ft peak at 11,300 rpm just edges the R6 and ZX-6R, though that advantage is a scant half lb-ft.
The Honda’s Inline Four produces a relatively linear powerband, at least by 600 supersport standards. Power delivery and fueling is faultless, a trait that makes the CBR an easy-to-ride mount - the easy-to-ride appellation used constantly by test riders describing the Honda. This mill isn’t a high-revving screamer, however, and it does lose something on the top-end to the other 600s. On the plus side, the CBR boasts a stout mid-range that gives it enough performance oomph to keep things interesting. Combined with a pleasing enough exhaust tenor, the Honda gets an edge on some of its Japanese kin in the subjective engine categories, though it doesn’t come close to challenging the Euro bikes.
A former two-time comparison winner, the Honda CBR600RR has always been a strong contender on the street.
“The strongest feature of the Honda's engine is its mid-range performance,” says Waheed. “While it's not as strong as say the Ducati or the Triumph, for a 600 it is very impressive. If it had more top-end performance it would definitely be the best 600 engine no doubt.”
More impressive is the Honda’s super refined transmission, and the driveline rated second only to the GSX-R600. Shuffling through the six-speed gearbox is effortless, with clutch play light and featuring seamless engagement. Riders would be hard pressed to guess the CBR doesn’t sport a slipper clutch, as it’s near impossible to jolt the Honda into anything resembling instability even on aggressive downshifts.
“It's got a good clutch, light and easy to launch,” notes the performance testing Waheed. “The only problem is its weak bottom-end and top-end power. That's what held it back in the acceleration tests.”
The Honda Inline Four belts out a pleasing mid-range punch, but is down on its rivals in peak horsepower.
The Honda did struggle in the quarter-mile and 0-60 results, its 10.98 quarter time dead last and 3.36 0-60 result besting only the Yamaha.
The Honda managed to haul things to a stop from 60 mph in 126 feet. That’s a shameful four feet worse than the class-leading Gixxer 600. In case it’s not obvious, we’re being blithely sarcastic here, as the braking performance is so damn close. Again, the Honda’s radial-mount four-piston Tokico stoppers are average, in other words incredibly effective and near faultless on the street. Not as stout, perhaps, as the Brembo monobloc adorning the majority of the class, but beyond reproach.
Honda excels in the handling department, where it received uniformly high marks by our testing troop on the street. Typical of the praise, Simon says: “I really love the way this bike rides and feels in corners. It was the easiest to get used to, super comfortable and enjoyable to ride.”
Inspiring in the corners, changing direction without effort, the Honda is without question easy to ride… there’s those words again. Whatever it is Honda distills into the CBR’s twin-spar aluminum frame and HMAS suspension components (both three-way adjustable), the end result is a communicative chassis that just plain works on the street. Maybe most impressive, the Honda garnered accolades from both experienced and newbie riders alike.
“Though the CBR did not feel like the fastest bike, I felt like I rode the fastest on it because of its handling and suspension,” says self-identified novice sportbike rider and MotoUSA videographer Joseph Agustin. “The one-word description of the Honda would be ‘butter.’ It was so smooth in every turn and on acceleration. I was able to toss the CBR around with the most confidence going up the mountain (Palomar), which is a major plus for me.”
Part of the comfort factor is Honda’s street-friendly ergonomics, with the CBR’s 32.3-inch-high seath pleasingly soft. Only the GSX-R600 perch rated higher in terms of comfort. Reach to the bars feels natural, and the malleable riding position on the Honda accommodates both an upright stance as well as fully hunched forward sportbike aggression.
Unlike the Ducati, it seems Honda engineers actually took it seriously that riders want to utilize rear view mirrors to see what’s behind them. It’s a very functional rider interface that includes an informative, if spartanly-styled instrument cluster. We appreciated the fuel gauge (hello, Triumph!), centrally-located analog tach and easy-to-read right-side digital speedo. It doesn’t have a gear position indicator, a sure sign that we’re grasping for complaints. But the truth is, there’s not a whole lot to bitch about.
“For me the Honda felt really good, they just dial in their bikes,” Steeves pronounces. “For me the CBR doesn’t do any one thing the best, but does everything like an A. Maybe nothing’s an A+ but it’s a solid, solid bike.”
The Honda does cover the intangibles well. Its 33 mpg fuel efficiency may be on the low side, but nets an impressive 158.2-mile range thanks to its 4.8-gallon tank. That fuel capacity, by the way, leads the class and makes the Honda’s
- Easy-to-ride mount deemed best handler on the the road with confidence-inspiring chassis
- Great mid-range and street-friendly engine
- Comfortable seat and ergonomics
- In spite of age, still the Supersport lightweight
- Least robust horsepower production of test
- A bit long in the tooth in terms of styling
411-pound curb weight all the more impressive. When it comes time for replacement parts too, the CBR was second only to the Yamaha in affordability – not that riders can expect many issues thanks to Honda’s reputation for exceptional build quality.
In the end, the CBR600RR places fourth in our street rankings. The biggest stumbling block for the Honda was its engine performance, and the now dated styling took a hit as well. Considering it places behind machines that entered this 2011 review with the advantages of displacement and model year refreshes, it won’t surprise us to find Honda back stronger than ever before in 2012. This year, however, Big Red will have to settle for fourth.