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2011 Suzuki GSX-R600 Track Comparison

Monday, June 6, 2011

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2011 Suzuki GSX-R600 Track Shootout Video
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Check out the 2011 Suzuki GSX-R600 Track Shootout Video to see how the street winner stacks up on the race track.
Fresh off Suzuki’s Hamamatsu, Japan production line, the GSXR600 is the only all-new bike in this comparison, well, aside from its punched-out 750cc sibling. In short, the revamped Gixxer is an evolutionary update with more refined handling and engine performance. We came away impressed after pinning it around Barber Motorsports Park during our 2011 Suzuki GSX-R600 First Ride and the motorcycle took top honors in our Supersport Street Comparison so there is no doubt this bike is good. Despite that the new Gixxer 600 made such an impact on us on the road, compared to the other Supersports on the track it came up a bit short.

Given the astronomically high level of competitiveness that defines this middleweight sportbike sector it’s critical in our racetrack shootouts that a bike’s chassis get set-up optimally so the test rider can put in clean, fast laps. And that’s what ultimately held the Gixxer-Six from a better result, as the Dunlop AMA-spec race tires have a unique profile which requires a very specific set-up.

2011 Suzuki GSX-R600 Track Shootout
Our smaller test rider  Jen Ross  like the ergonomics of the GSX-R600.
(Above) AMA Superbike racer and Daytona 200 winner Steve Rapp hustles the 2011 Suzuki GSXR600 around the tight and twisty tarmac of Chuckwalla Valley Raceway. Our smaller test rider, Jen Ross, likes the ergonomics of the GSX-R600.
We’re confident that we could have achieved a better set-up, however, Suzuki’s technical services crew restricted from making the changes to the bike's suspension because our recommendations were “out of spec”. (Like all motorcycle manufactures, when Suzuki engineers its sportbikes it makes note of the suspension settings for optimum performance with a given brand of tires.) Considering the testing was done in Japan, apparently Suzuki didn’t test the U.S.-spec Dunlop AMA racing tire when developing its textbook specifications. As a result, we couldn’t get handling set-up to the level required to press the Suzuki to its true performance limits.

The chassis geometry wasn’t right with the rear of the bike, sitting way too low which made it steer sluggishly and handle awkwardly mid-corner. Adding preload to the shock helped alleviate these conditions somewhat, but technicians we couldn't add enough ride height to the rear of the motorcycle to make it handle the way our fastest test riders wanted. This really hindered the bike during our timed Superpole session.

“It felt way too low in the rear,” notes road racer Steve Rapp. “It didn’t handle very well at all. To get the thing to turn you had to hold the front brake in order for it to make the corner because there just wasn’t enough weight on the front of the bike.”

“What held the Suzuki back was the chassis setup,” reaffirms our Contributing Editor Steve Atlas. “As a result the bike continually struggled when it came to initial corner-exit drive-grip, as well as rear end feel and grip on corner entry, an area where you don't want to be taking chances.”

Since we continuously ran into handling issues during cornering maneuvers is was impossible to get an accurate read on the Suzuki’s chassis hence the low marks in all five of the rider subjective handling scores (Fork, Shock, Turn-In, Mid-Corner, Corner Exit). Though it’s important to note based on our experience during our First Ride report we know the sum of the components is excellent and at a level on par with the competition. Spend the time to get the little Gixxer set up to fit your needs and we are sure you will have better results than we did here.
2011 Suzuki GSX-R600 Track Shootout
The top ranked motorcycle in our street test didn't fare too well on the track. That is why we make it a point to conduct two different tests. Street riders will be happy while track riders have some work to do to get this bike just right.

The lack of trust between rider and machine is quite apparent after looking at some of the data. Between Turn 4 and 5 the Gixxer held the third lowest corner speed (65.3 mph), and in the banked right-hand Turn 13 it was second from last with a speed of 71.1 mph that was superior to only the Ducati 848 EVO (71.0 mph). With a full tank of fuel the Suzuki weighed in at 415 pounds (only four pounds heavier than the class-leading Honda). This paid dividends through Turns 8/9/10 with the Suzuki registering the highest side-to-side lean angle range, which proves both how maneuverable it is as well as how much steering range it required to navigate through those corners due to its less than optimum set-up. It also registered the fastest side-to-side flick rate measurement of 66.0 (deg/sec.) which can be interpreted one of two ways: First the bike could just move from side-to-side that quickly. Or the rider had to steer the bike with added muscle because the bike resisted turning. And since all of our testers felt the sluggishness, we’re positive it was the latter.

2011 Suzuki GSX-R600 Track Shootout
2011 Suzuki GSX-R600 Track Shootout
2011 Suzuki GSX-R600 Track Shootout
Despite finishing fifth on the track, the 2011 Suzuki GSX-R600
scored high in our Maximum Flick Rate and Maximum Flick
categories. The Suzuki has a better result lurking deep inside.
Where the Gixxer struggled through turns it was a complete different story with a handful of throttle down straight-aways as all of our testers were very impressed with the Suzuki’s updated engine. Of the Inline-Fours the Suzuki 600 offers the strongest bottom-to-mid engine performance cranking out the highest peak torque figure (44.6 lb-ft) at 11,600 revs. It’s a fast revver too, piling on rpms quickly just like the Kawi and Yamaha. Top-end was also strong but not quite up to the same tune as the Green Machine with only 104.17 ponies available at 13,700 rpm. Over-rev is fantastic with power tapering off gradually for an additional 1600 rpm available before the rev limiter cuts in at 15,300 revs.

“The changes are very noticeable and the bike really feels like it has more under the hood,” comments expert-level test rider Corey Neuer. “For me bottom-end power was still on the soft side but man oh man does the GSX-R have some mid-range power. This makes it shoot off the corners really well.”

We all loved the Suzuki’s engine and well proportioned rider interface that was second to only the Honda. Due to the awkward chassis set-up it was hard to really put the engine to use hence poor acceleration forces (0.60 and 0.58g) and low top speeds coming out of Turns 10 and 13 (122.2 mph / 105.9 mph).

“The biggest disappointment of the test was the Suzuki GSX-R600,” continues Atlas. “Because the bike has the potential to be a front-runner, as the new engine makes awesome power, coming in right on par with the Kawasaki in terms of seat-of-the-pants feel.”

Typically we’ve always been big fans of Suzuki’s drivetrain. And while it employs one of the best slipper clutches in the business the bike sometimes didn’t want to up-shift into the next gear at very high rpm. Accordingly sometimes the rider had to let off the throttle a split second longer than some of the other bikes.

The GSX-R’s new Brembo braking componentry was well received by our testers though due to the set-up issues we never had the confidence (or conversely the need) to get on the brakes hard and really exploit their potential. Even still the GSX-R600 registered decent brake force numbers of -0.94g into Turn 1 and -1.05g in Turn 8 which makes us wonder how much higher it might have performed with a better set-up…
Highs & Lows
  • Excellent brakes
  • Powerful 600cc engine; great powerband
  • Well calibrated slipper clutch
  • Missed chassis set-up
  • Could have more top-end power

In spite of what transpired during our test we truly believe that the GSX-R600 has what it takes to run up front. It’s got a strong, great-running engine, excellent ergonomics and top notch suspension and brakes. Now if we could have only gotten all of those elements to work in unison we’re confident that we could have achieved a much better result all around—especially in Superpole. This time, however, the Suzuki 600 slots in last place.

2011 Suzuki GSX-R600 Track Gallery
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2011 Suzuki GSX-R600 Technical Specs
Fresh off Suzukis Hamamatsu  Japan production line  the GSXR600 is the only all-new bike in this comparison.
Engine: 599cc Inline Four
Bore x Stroke: 67 x 42.5mm
Compression: 12.9:1
Valvetrain: DOHC, 16-valve
Clutch: Wet, slipper
Final Drive Ratio: 16/43
Frame: Twin spar aluminum
Front Suspension: 43mm Showa BPF 3-way adjustment with 4.7 in travel
Rear Suspension: Showa 4-way adjustable 4.9 in
Front Calipers: 4-piston Brembo monobloc
Front Discs: 310mm
Rear Brakes: Single 220mm
Wheelbase: 54.5 Seat Height: 31.9
Weight Total: 415 Weight F/R: 218/197
Fuel Capacity: 4.5 gal
MSRP: $11,599

Peak Horsepower: 104.17 @ 13,700
Peak Torque: 44.6 @ 11,600
1/4 Mile: 10.7 @ 130.8 0-60: 3.32
Braking 60-0: 122
MPG: 35.2 Range: 158.5 miles
Sound Idle: 84 Sound Half Redline: 97 @ 7500

Crankshaft: $1002 Piston: $113
Clip-on Bars: $179/$175
Front Brake Lever: $88.50 Front Clutch Lever: $35
Footpegs: $30 Footpeg Brackets: $96
Rear Brake Lever: $89 Shift Lever: $92
Radiator: $655 OEM Air Filter: $38
Mirrors: $118.50 Turn Signals: $43.15
Suzuki GSX-R600 Data Chart
2011 Suzuki GSX-R600 Track map
2011 Supersport Smackdown Superpole

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motousa_adam   June 14, 2012 12:10 PM
honestly, i don't know why they wouldn't make the change-- i assume it's because they never tested that tire in japan so that's the reason-- but the short answer is: yes, bump up the ride height and the problem will be solved-- they wouldn't do it because it has a corporate hierarchy it needs to follow...adam
shaunm   June 7, 2011 07:38 PM
Hi Adam - Could you please explain the following: "We’re confident that we could have achieved a better set-up, however, Suzuki’s technical services crew restricted from making the changes to the bike's suspension because our recommendations were “out of spec”." So Suzuki wouldn't add ride height because it fell out of their spec for the bike? Its just such a common change to add ride height in the rear for most bikes to improve turning, why wouldn't they do it for this shoot out? Especially when the issue was all caused by the lower profile Dunlop. Hope you do a follow up shoot out and let Yoshimura loose on this bike.