Suzuki GSX-R600 - New Kid on the Block
Hutch tests the inverted 43mm Showa fork of the 2004 Suzuki GSX-R600 at the Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch as he dives into a fast right hander.
As the only real unknown element in this test, the newborn GSX-R600
gets top billing for now at least. Suzuki has endowed the new Gixxer with just about everything on a sportbike fan's wish list. An inverted 43mm Showa fork leads the way, and the front brakes are about as trick as they get: A radial-piston master cylinder actuates radial-mount 4-piston calipers that clamp on dual 300mm rotors. The latter are smaller in diameter this year, which drops some unsprung reciprocating weight from the front end. Its narrower fairing gives it a fresh face in this crowd.
Inside the reworked engine you'll find titanium intake and exhaust valves, forged pistons and chrome-moly con-rods, along with the usual contemporary efforts at reducing pumping losses at high rpm. Bore and stroke remain the same, but a new cylinder head boasts more compact combustion chambers with a narrow, 22-degree valve angle and bigger ports. A new 32-bit ECU processes info faster and has more memory. The muffler internals are made of titanium, though its skin is aluminum, while the exhaust piping is made from stainless steel.
What it all adds up to is a motor that trumps the other 599cc engines up to 11,000 rpm, winding out with the loudest howl in a healthy, linear powerband. We were a bit surprised the Gixxer didn't bust the 100-horsepower mark on the Hansen's dyno because it feels nearly as strong as the "cheater" Kawasaki, whether on the street or the track. The R6 does enjoy a small advantage around 12,000 rpm as its power peaks but then falls behind again as the Gixxer's over-rev tails off more gradually. This is a super-quick-revving engine with the smallest flywheel effect in the bunch rev it in neutral and zzziiiinng! However, the light flywheel also makes the GSX-R the easiest bike to stall when pulling away from a stop.
Suzuki seems to have hit a wall in terms of reducing the weight of its middleweight. Our 2004 scaled in at 394 pounds, one more than last year's model. We theorize the added weight of the inverted fork over the '03's conventional utensil is the culprit behind this lack of mass-reduction progress.
The GSX-R600 provides plenty of low-end grunt with its 44.5 ft. lbs. of torque at 11,000rpm as demonstrated by Duke Danger at our top-secret quarter-mile test facility.
With rake reduced to 23.25 degrees from 24.0 degrees and trail down by a couple millimeters to 93, the new Gixxer steers a bit quicker than the previous version, even if the 55.1-inch wheelbase has remained stagnant. It turns in quick, but not the quickest, and its standard-issue steering damper lends it a confidence-inspiring, stable quality when leaned over without blunting much feedback from the front end. It's the only one of the group to be equipped from the factory with one.
Though Suzuki has made the fuel tank 20mm narrower and 10mm shorter, the Gixxer still feels on the fat side in comparison to the others. This is more of an observation than a real condemnation, but one rider said switching to the 749 from the GSX-R felt like hopping on a TZ250 in comparison. Still, for those who like to ride till they can't no more, the Suzuki has a fairly roomy cockpit (with a bit of a reach to the bars) and its seat is the cushiest of the bunch.
- Brakes and tranny as good as any.
- Engine second only to the cheater ZX.
- Terrific overall balance.
- Doesn't stand out anywhere.
- Feels a bit fat from the saddle.
- Tepid styling.
The GSX-R's new brakes received top marks for their ease of modulation, providing plenty of power without any grabbiness. The Gixxer also received praise for its best-in-class gearbox (tied with the Honda) and its simple instruments that offer easily assimilated information. We also appreciate that Suzuki throws in a seat cowl with the $8099 MSRP, something lacking from all the others except Kawasaki.
"The GSX-R does everything well," summarizes MCUSA captain Don Becklin, "allowing its rider to go faster with less effort and panic. The motor is excellent, ergonomics are good, the chassis and suspension make the little Gixxer handle well, and the brakes get the bike stopped. Hard to ask for much more."