Suzuki is back with the GSX-R600

Suzuki enters our ninth Supersport test with a big ol’ goose-egg in overall wins. The Gixxer has enjoyed a reputation as a solid all-rounder, and while close a time or two, that coveted comparison win has proven elusive. The hard-luck Suzuki rebounds on this go ‘round, however, standing out as the only full redesign of the 2011 600 class. The little Gixxer, and its 750 sibling, come to this year’s shootout with a trimmer, revitalized chassis and higher spec components.

The 2011 Suzuki GSX-R600's 599cc Inline Four does set itself apart, however, as producing the most robust bottom end of the 600s. It has a decided advantage up to 6K in torque production, the power curve waffling momentarily before jetting up top again and registering the highest peak numbers of its 599cc competitors at 44.6 lb-ft (11,600 rpm). Measuring horsepower on the dyno sees the Suzuki peter out at 104.17, with the Kawasaki necking it out by three ponies thanks a better top-end hit.

The Suzuki provides pleasing, street-friendly engine performance. The Kawasaki may get it up at the very top, and the Honda gives it a run for its money in the mid-range, but the bottom end is the Gixxer’s domain – at least in the traditional 600 class. Keeping these bikes screaming up in the meat of the powerband is a challenge on the street, so it’s no wonder the forgiving bottom-end of the GSX-R600 earned it the highest engine ratings of the Japanese bikes.

This easy-to-ride nature is supplemented by the Suzuki Drive Mode Selector (S-DMS). Tweaked for 2011, instead of the familiar A, B and C modes, there are now only two engine maps to control power output. A bonus for riders, the S-DMS is the only multi-map option found in this year’s crop of supersports. The truth, however, is we didn’t make much use of the S-DMS, as the standard A-mode is a fine blend of smooth power delivery and exhilarating acceleration.

A 10.7 quarter-mile during performance testing, as well as a 3.32 in the 0-60 evaluation, prove the Suzuki has some beans in that motor. It rated behind the Ducati and Triumph, but up front in the Japanese stable (though the Kawasaki just beat it in 0-60 at 3.3 seconds). Says Waheed, “Launching the Suzuki 600 is a little easier than the other Japanese bikes because of its slightly stronger bottom-end engine power. You still have to make sure you have the engine rpms up at launch, but since the powerband is a little more robust, you have some leeway and can still get off the line fairly well without as much of a chance of it bogging.”

It certainly feels fast from behind the Gixxer Six controls, and a big part of that sensory experience comes from the stout engine and exhaust sounds. “GSX-Rs have always been known for their charismatic induction howl, and this is no different,” noted Adam at the press launch earlier this year. And we couldn’t agree more after hearing it back to back with the competition. The little GSX-R’s robust exhaust note hurt it some in the points – the loudest at idle (84 dB) and half redline (97 dB) – but the spirited tones gave the Suzuki more mojo than its 600 rivals. “I loved the way that thing sounds. It’s fun to get on the pipe and ride it,” agrees Simon.

A top-rated drivetrain divvies out power to the rear wheel. Uber smooth and sorted, the Suzuki six-speed is complemented by an idiot-proof slipper clutch. We needled around to find some complaints; there’s just nothing to whine about with this impressive package.

The same can be said of the excellent braking package. Like the Triumph and Ducati, the addition of Brembo monoblocs is a headlining upgrade. The Brembos exhibit immediate stopping power, which is authoritative without being grabby. Combined with precise input at the lever, the components deliver another class-leading rank on our scoresheet. This mark is further bolstered by our Road Test Editor on the 60 to zero performance test – the Gixxer Six casting a slim shadow over the field with a 122-foot reading.

The Suzuki chassis got the biggest facelift in the 2011 redesign. A new 43mm three-way-adjustable Showa Big Piston Fork debuts, with the rear shock reconfigured to work with the new front end. The suspension is mated to an all-new twin spar aluminum frame, which alters the 54.5-inch wheelbase by a scant 15mm. Our scales indicated a curb weight of 415 pounds, which does indeed trim some fat off the 421 pounds measured in our 2009 test (though not close to the 20-pound claim).

Hustling about on the street, the Gixxer delivers a planted feel in the corners and comforting stability. The front end felt particularly impressive, with our Road Test Editor noting its stability under hard braking – which likely boosted the Gixxer’s performance in that category as well. The Bridgestone BT-016 tires seemed to make a perfect fit for the street-bound GSXR too. While it does rate behind the Honda and Triumph in the overall handling marks, this is a compliment to those rides, not a dig on the Suzuki. The 600 and 750 both exhibit all the tell-tale signs of an easy-to-ride bike: "point and shoot," "effortless turning," "the bike seems to turn itself," "I looked down and couldn’t believe how fast I was going" … all were talking points made by various testers in regards to the Suzukis.

The Suzuki’s class-leading street ergonomics no doubt contribute to this easy-riding sensation. The 31.9-inch seat, while fractionally lowest to the ground in this comparison, is far and away the plushest perch. Riding position is more upright on the GSX-Rs, as much as a SS can be termed upright. The clip-on bars feel higher placed and wider. This provides comfort with less pressure exerted on the wrists, as well as a skosh extra leverage when maneuvering.

The windscreen delivers decent wind protection, that is to say a steady, buffet-less airflow to the rider's upper chest. Behind it is a functional, informative dash, with analog tach and right-side digital speedo. The gear position indicator is prominent, a welcome feature on a street bike. The advantage of the S-DMS option, however, is what gets the Suzuki a top mark in the instrumentation/electronics category.

At 35.2 mpg, only the two-cylinder Ducati sipped fuel with more efficiency than the GSX-R600. Its 4.5 gallon tank equates to a 158.5-mile range, just eeking ahead of the Honda by less than half a mile. These fractional wins are offset by the Suzuki’s $11,599 MSRP. Ringing in as the costliest of the 600s, the Suzuki is just $300 more than the Honda but nearly a thousand more than Yamaha and an even $1600 above the budget-minded Kawasaki. Another stab at the Suzuki was its OEM replacement parts costs, which were more than double the Yamaha and easily the costliest of the Big Four entries. But those extra bucks do reflect the most updated round of SS technology, making us wonder what the next-generation 600s will cost from Suzuki’s rivals.

Even with the high-ish pricetag, the GSX-R600 comes out a winner on the street. It’s a notable first-ever win for the Gixxer, and while Suzuki execs might not be pinning this review up on their walls in adoration, this has to be a morale-booster for the Gixxer clan. After a decade of utter dominance in AMA racing, Suzuki’s powerhouse sportbike status has dimmed of late. While the Japanese manufacturers all got hit hard by the market downturn, Suzuki seemed to get it the worst. This was punctuated by the humiliating and dire move to import zero GSX-R sportbikes to the States in 2010. But 2011 is another year – another opportunity to succeed or fail. And in our 2011 Supersport Street Shootout, the GSX-R600 is a success – the clear favorite as comparison winner.

Highs & Lows


  • The best street ergonomics of the class, with comfortable seat and bar placement
  • Superb transmission and slipper clutch
  • Top-rated brakes courtesy of new Brembo monobloc calipers
  • Chassis delivers excellent stability with Showa Big Piston Fork


  • $11,599 MSRP (costliest of the 600s)
  • Loses something on the top end
  • Appearance rated best of Japanese bikes but no match for European