Honda's CBR600RR returns to challenge its 600 rivals as the best Supersport for the street in the CBR600RR street video.
Honda campaigns a refreshed CBR600RR for 2013, with new wheels and up-spec Showa BPF suspension, as well as tweaks to the bodywork and engine mapping. These revisions improve a bike that received its last ground-up redesign in 2007 – not a bad thing, as the current CBR is a two-time shootout winner. But can the tweaked Honda 600 upset its displacement-cheating rivals on the street?
Tweaks to the CBR’s 599cc Inline Four deliver a respectable boost of mid-range torque. Credit an improved ram-air system and revised ECU fueling settings. The Honda registers peak power numbers of 100.67 horsepower and 44.81 lb-ft torque on the dyno, almost identical to the 2011 peak readings of 100.65 hp and 44.81 lb-ft. But peak torque comes 700 revs sooner now, and the Honda torque curve is more robust from about 6500 to 11,000 rpm, where it now covers the GSX-R and Yamaha – only trailing the new 636.
Improved mid-range power makes the inviting Honda even easier to ride. The engine churns out a steady, even power delivery. With the exception of maybe the Triumph, there’s not a flatter torque curve in the class. And fueling on the Honda is so exact, it’s uncanny. There are no surprises. No hiccups. No lags or hesitations. It’s about as refined as a 600 Inline Four can get.
“First thing I noticed was how responsive the throttle was. No lag whatsoever,” says Nathon. “The motor felt strong with power that felt like it pulled through all the way through each gear.”
Adey agrees, saying: “Honda’s power delivery came with no surprises. It is super linear and predictable, inspiring confidence to twist the grip on unfamiliar twisty roads.”
On the top end is where the Honda starts to suffer, but that’s more an issue on the track than a street. That said, the CBR holds its own during acceleration tests. A 3.74-second 0-60 isn’t notable, but the 11.12 quarter-mile bests all save the true cheater in this shootout, the GSX-R750.
Honda’s engine benefits from the improved mid-range, no question, but doesn’t offer up much character. Compared with the playful Triples and gruff Ducati Twin, the Honda Four is bland. It’s not quite so bad compared with its Japanese rivals, but tester’s still deem it the least inspiring engine in the shootout.
“The CBR’s got a good amount of mid-range punch, especially when you consider that it’s an Inline Four 600,” says Adam. “But it lacks a degree of edge compared to the R6 and GSX-R. It’s about as exciting as a high-performance blender and just doesn’t do it for me on the street.”
The Honda transmission runs counter to the argument that a quickshifter and slipper clutch are must-have spec in this class. Some test riders mistakenly assumed the Honda has a slipper, it’s such a smooth shifting ride. Ignorant or not, they don’t penalize the CBR for not having one, as the Honda rates equal to the Kawasaki and Suzuki transmissions – both of which source a slipper clutch.
Nathon says of the Honda drivetrain: “It’s just so smooth. I mean Honda does everything right. The clutch felt supple, with smooth power off the bottom and a strong pull to midrange and its sweet spot between 6-8K rpm.”
Testers rated the Honda as the best-handling bike in the 2011 Street test, but it falls to third behind the Triumph and Kawasaki this time around. Again, it does nothing bad, the redesigned Triumph and Kawasaki simply excel. In fact, the new Honda is, if anything, improved in the handling department. The BPF fork transmits a less dramatic road feel, but doesn’t dampen out feedback. The BPF also reduces front-end dive, and it makes the already stable and balanced Honda even easier to ride.
“The Honda supplies ultra-light steering, while staying planted to the tarmac – inspiring fun, spirited rid¬ing,” says Adey. An opinion Nathon seconds, adding: “The Honda front end is responsive and gave a lot of feedback from the road. Extremely well balanced, the CBR didn’t feel divey in the corners. Fun and easy to ride.”
The CBR600RR Inline Four benefits from improved mid-range grunt that makes an accomodating street mount even more so for the 2013 model year.
Radial-mount, four-piston Tokico calipers don’t offer the Brembo monobloc spec bragging rights, but our testers prefer them on the road. Only the Triumph’s Brembo setup rates higher, as did the Nissin monobloc calipers on the Kawasaki. The CBR brakes are forceful, without being grabby, and transmit terrific feel at the lever. They make the bike, dare we say it again, EASY TO RIDE.
The ergonomic package on the Honda works well for a wide range of riders. While it feels more compact than some of the 600s, it’s quite comfortable – with the one of the softest seats.
“The initial feel when you sit on the Honda is comfort,” notes Adey, who at 6’3” is the tallest test rider in this shootout. “It doesn’t have racy ergos that bend you in odd positions. It’s only flaw comes from the super slippery seat. It feels like the cheapest vinyl material they could find in China.”
Nathon also favored the Honda ergos, saying: “So comfortable to ride. I could ride the Honda for hours and not get tired. Not sure if it’s the shield or the overall design of the bike, but I didn’t feel as though I was jostled around by the wind as much on this bike as I was on some of the others. Pedals, levers... Everything seemed to be exactly where it needed to be.”
Nathon’s spidey sense for wind disruption can be credited to the MotoGP-developed bodywork changes for 2013, which Honda claims reduces drag by 6.5%.
Aside from the aforementioned complaint about seat material, Honda’s customary fit and finish is evident, and the CBR feels like a high quality bike. That said, the CBR600RR platform had gone a long way between complete overhauls. It’s sported significant updates in between – but no major styling makeovers. This split test rider opinion in the styling department, as some deem it dated, while others say it’s one of their favorites. Testers also divide over the Honda’s dash, with some finding it outmoded compared with the newer offerings in the class.
“The tank is a bit overdone with the plastic, and the Red White and Blue livery we tested isn’t my favorite,” admits Nathon. “But the all-Red CBR is my second favorite looking middleweight bike. Fairings look very MotoGP-esque and kudos for Honda breaking out of the standard three-spoke model to the 12-spoke race-inspired wheel!”
- Engine mapping tweaks improve mid-range kick
- Tokico brakes and Showa BPF fork deliver terriffic performance on par with higher-spec rivals
- Super sorted transmission doesn't have us begging for the slipper/quickshifter upgrades
- Honda Four deemed the most bland
- Improved engine performance, but rivals trump it on the bottom and top-end
At $11,490 in stock trim, the CBR600 is the second least expensive offering in this test – $500 more than the Yamaha R6. A Repsol colorway, which includes special orange wheels, will set riders back an extra $500. Honda also offers ABS for a $1000 premium, available only in the Red livery Nathon loves so much. The sensible Honda ups its practicality factor with the second-highest observed fuel efficiency (36.9 mpg) and estimated range (176.9 miles).
For consumers who can’t make up their mind in this crowded Supersport class, the Honda is an easy pick. It’s the most practical. It’s affordable. It does everything it needs to do, and does it with competence. Engine performance, while improved, feels tame compared to its more raucous rivals. But the Honda platform is so dialed – it’s an inviting entry into the Supersport ranks. The refinements from Honda see the CBR move up in this competitive class, slotting third in our Supersport Street rankings.
Follow the Honda's fate on the track in the 2013 Honda CBR600RR Supersport Track Comparison