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2013 Yamaha YZF-R6 Street Comparison

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

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2013 Yamaha R6 Supersport Street Comparison Video
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Watch Yamaha's racey R6 battle its Supersport comrades in the 2013 Yamaha R6 Supersport Street video.
Yamaha’s YZF-R6 arrives at this year’s shootout six years into its current design. The R6 once had a technological leg up on the competition with its YCC-I (Yamaha Chip Controlled Intake) and ride-by-wire throttle systems, but that was back in 2008. Now the Yamaha faces improved competition. The track-oriented R6 fared well with a third-place result in our 2013 Supersport Track Shootout, but it struggles on the street – a fate it suffered back in 2011 with another last-place showing.

As a bellwether of class performance, the R6 demonstrates the Supersport field’s potency. Its unchanged 599cc Inline Four turned the dyno to an impressive 106.93 peak horsepower, tops amongst the pure 600s. But the Yamaha suffers in torque production with the lowest peak reading of 44.39 lb-ft.

The R6 throttles up performance as revs increase as the variable length intake ramps up power on the top end. The Yamaha Four’s top-end bias proves the least street-friendly compared with the more linear torque curves of its 600 rivals though. Still, this is a relative complaint. If a revamped R6 milked out some more baseline torque to stoke the YCC-I furnace, things would be different. As it stands, the Yamaha doesn’t match up on the bottom end, which hurts it in the scoring.

The R6 has one of the taller seats in this test which make it less friendly for shorter riders.
The R6 has one of the taller seats in this test which make it less friendly for shorter riders.
The R6 handles sharply but it can be a little more intimidating to ride as compared to the ultra-friendly Honda or Suzuki.
Yamaha's R6 remains one of the more track-oriented Supersports, with its sharp-turning chassis making for a nimble, but aggressive handler. Our testers rate its riding position and ergonomics as one of the least street-friendly.
“The R6 still needs some rpm to get out of its own way, but get the tach needle pointed to 10,000 and the thing takes off in a hurry,” reckons our Road Test Editor, Adam. “I also love the character of the engine with it sounding the most similar to a racing engine. It screams, vibrates a little and just really adds to the experience when riding on the road.”

A wailing Four makes for a thrilling engine howl, but the R6 doesn’t stand apart from the Inline Four crowd like its cross-plane R1 sibling does. The Japanese bikes all sound similar compared to the European Triples and Twin.

Ratings in the drivetrain category are a bitter pill for the hard-luck Yamaha. Its six-speed transmission and slipper clutch are beyond serious fault, but so are all the Japanese drivetrains and the flawless Triumph transmission – which rated higher. That said, the R6 upped class performance expectations with its slipper clutch in 2008, and it remains the best calibrated – to the point where it’s unnoticeable on the street.

“No matter the power, the clutch was really smooth on braking or downshifting, not altering the behavior of the bike at all,” notes Massimo. “Everything worked better in ‘race’ conditions, in the canyons, where you can really enjoy and make the most out of the R6.”

‘Race conditions’ are where all these Supersports shine, but the R6 in particular. At 33.5 inches it sports the tallest seat, pitching riders forward to the clip-ons. It’s an aggressive position that works for the track, but suffers on the street compared with the more relaxed Suzuki, Honda and Kawasaki. The wide tank and firmer seat also hurt its comfort rating. While the ergonomics are not ideal for commuting or casual riding, when it comes time to move around on the bike and get to work, the Yamaha is more than ready to play.

“Sure, the seat is a little taller than the rest of them and the ergonomics are a bit tight for a tall guy,” admits Adam, “but the Yamaha is just so well put together. It’s really refined and rides nice and smooth. Like the Suzuki the suspension offers a good balance between comfort and sport. In fact, I think the R6 has a little bit more sporty edge in the canyons, but it’s close.”

Where test riders describe the Honda, Suzuki and Kawasaki as “easy-to-ride” to the point of ad nauseam, the Yamaha is more precise and demands deft hands at the controls. On our street ride it felt perhaps too sharp edged, compared to the forgiving base set-ups on the Japanese rivals.

“It’s a great bike, light and nimble. But when you first sit on the bike, the fairings are really, really wide. It kind of gives the illusion that the bike is a little bit bigger bodywork and a little bit heavier,” notes Steeves, the most aggressive rider in our testing troop. “It definitely needs suspension work done for you. It’s got to go and have a setup done, so I’d recommend you definitely get the sag dialed in for your liking.”

The R6s gearbox is precise feeling and we love that it comes with a true racing-style slipper clutch. Now all thats missing is a quickshifter.
If most of your odometer miles are logged in the canyons then the R6 is one of the bikes that should be atop of your purchasing list.
The R6s brakes dont offer as much initial stopping bite as some of the others pull back on the front lever and there is no shortage of stopping force.
A last place showing for the R6 only shows how competitive and refined the Supersport class has become. At $10,990 the Yamaha R6 may be the best value in the shootout.
The Yamaha’s knifelike handling can be sharpened via its Soqi suspension units, which offer four-way adjustment front and rear (preload, rebound and high/low-speed compression). One rider who didn’t mesh with the R6 setup is Adey, an R1 owner who says: “Every time I rolled off the gas, the front end dove as if I grabbed a fistful of front brake. It made negotiating thru unknown territory quite unnerving. I couldn’t tell if the tires were gripping either. The whole handling experience was vague and confidence sapping.”

Adey had no such qualms with the braking package. “No problems in stopping the R6 - great feedback thru the levers and plenty of bite available from the dual 310mm front disc brake.”

Again the Yamaha does nothing wrong, but rates low in braking only because it’s up against competition that’s armed to the teeth. The Sumitomo calipers didn’t quite match the precise modulation afforded by some of the monobloc Brembo and Nissin bits. Still, we’re talking eyelash levels of braking performance disparity. A GPS setting glitch spoiled our customary 60-0 braking evaluation, but the 2011 brake test results are a fair example of how close things are, with only a couple feet separating the entire class.

Or maybe an unfair example, as the R6 can’t catch a break in our performance data. It rates behind the Honda and Ducati by a scant 0.01 in 0-60 acceleration tests, ahead of only the MV Agusta. It does fare better in the quarter-mile times, besting the MV again as well as the Ducati and GSX-R600.

Far more subjective is appearance. Of the Japanese entries, the Yamaha maintains a distinctive look – with its wide, swoopy fairing. While some find the R6 lines dated, most think it still a racey-looking package – though deemed not as sleek as the supple Italian F3.

One dated aspect of the Yamaha we will not complain about is its MSRP. Remember when the 600s still sported four-figure price tags? Those days are long gone… but the R6 is the budget buy as the only bike in this shootout to stay under $11K ($10,990 as tested with the Yamaha Blue/White colorway tacking on $200). The last time we conducted this street shootout, in 2011, the Yamaha was $10,690 – so price has wandered higher, but it undercuts the Honda by $500 and Suzuki by $600.

Highs & Lows
  • Most affordable bike in its class at $10,990
  • Potent top-end hit still exhilarates
  • Remains stylish ride despite its age
  • Most aggressive ergos of the Japanese bikes
  • Bottom-end and mid-range struggles compared to rest of the 600s
  • Going on six years since total overhaul
While it finished last on the scoresheet, the R6 is a formidable package, and a testament to the Supersport class’ performance capabilities. The Yamaha suffers on the street for being the most track-biased of the 600s, but it’s also the most affordable. The R6 may finish last in this test – but it’s a fantastic bike and arguably the best value.

Adam sums up the R6 well: “It needs some upgrades in terms of handling and a little more versatile engine for it to better keep pace with the more contemporary motorcycles from Kawasaki and Triumph. I’m just really excited for Yamaha to unveil their replacement for that bike. The R6 is not a bad bike by any means, but it is a little long in the tooth compared to the other motorcycles in this group.”

Yamaha's R6 fared better in the Track portion of the 2013 Supersport Street Shootout - read more in the 2011 Yamaha YZF-R6 Track Comparison article.

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Supersport Pricing
The R6s ergonomics are compact for the most part but its large fuel tank was a hindrance for our smallest test rider.
The R6 is indeed the budget offering of the 2013 Supersport field. However, it’s still almost 11 grand and Yamaha has steadily jacked up MSRP – as currency fluctuations have wreaked havoc on the Japanese OEMs in particular. Other Japanese bikes, unchanged since our 2011 Supersport test, have also seen MSRP raised – like the GSX-R750, which is now $300 higher (Suzuki kept the 600 price steady at $11,599).

Pricing strategy is tricky, but it’s a pity for consumers that Yamaha didn’t opt for the damn-the-torpedoes approach that Kawasaki took with pricing its outgoing pre 2013 ZX-6R which was notably under 10K in 2011 ($9,999) and priced at $10,299 the following year. When performance is so close, undercutting the competition by a four-figure margin is a strong selling point….
2013 Yamaha R6 Specs
2013 Yamaha YZF-R6.
Engine: Inline Four
Bore x Stroke: 67 x 42.5mm
Displacement: 599cc
Compression: 13.1:1
Rear Wheel Peak Horsepower: 106.93 HP @ 13,700 rpm
Rear Wheel Peak Torque: 44.39 lb-ft @ 10,000 rpm
0-60: 3.75
Quarter-mile: 11.69 @ 127 mph 
Fuel: Dual Stage Fuel Injection
Clutch: Wet multi-plate slipper clutch; Cable actuation
Slipper Clutch: yes
Quickshifter: no
Transmission: Six-speed
Final Drive: Chain 16F/42R
Frame: Twin spar aluminum
Front Supsension: 41mm Soqi Fork; 4-way adjustable for spring preload, high/low-speed compression and rebound; 4.5 in. travel
Rear Suspension: Soqi gas-charged shock; 3-way adjustable for spring preload, high/low-speed compression and rebound; 4.7 in. travel
Front Brakes: 310mm discs with radial-mount Sumitomo four-piston calipers
Rear Brakes: 220mm disc with twin-piston caliper
Wheelbase: 54.1 in.
Rake: 24 deg.
Trail: 3.8 in.
Seat Height: 33.5 in.
Fuel Capacity: 4.5 gal.
Observed MPG: 32.6 mpg
Estimated Range: 146.6 miles
Curb Weight: 428 pounds
MSRP: $10,990
Colors: Matte Gray; Rapid Red/Pearl White; Team Yamaha Blue/White (+$200)
Warranty: One year

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Fuggataboudit   August 10, 2013 11:51 AM
The R6 is a nice little bike but definitely is lacking in low-end torque, unlike the FJ6R. Overall for the street the FJ6R is a better bike, no question, for that simple reason. Sure it won't put out 100hp at 14k but who needs that on the street. If I gave the R6 a 7 for the street the FJ6R would get an 8...they both are nice little bikes but the 6R is a realistic street-bike where the R6 is not, really. More of a boy-racer. The thing is, is the Ninja 6R a lot better? No, not really. A little more low-end torque but basically the same bike. In green.