2006 Suzuki GSX-R600 - Overshadowed Hero

Point Totals: Fifth Place – 81.8%
Rank Totals: Third (16/30)
MSRP: $8799

If you can’t fathom how such a well-rounded sportsbike like the little GSX-R can end up fifth out of six bikes, consider that it finished just one measly percentage point out of third place overall, just 5 points off. If that doesn’t placate the Gixxer kids, you’ll want to blame Kenny and Roberti for their relatively low scores that dropped the Suzuki from third in the rank totals to fifth in our official cumulative points.

The strange thing about the GSX-R’s low ranking is that it received only two marks less than 7 out of 10 – both by Roberti.

“After an impressive debut on our street ride, I was eager to wring out the new Gixxer on the track,” says Chamberlain, who gave the Suzuki a very respectable score of 88. “At the end of the day, though, it was easy to forget about the GSX-R. It’s not that it does anything really wrong, it just doesn’t have any performance areas that really stand out.”

Actually, there was one category in which the Gixxer took top honors: Race Readiness. Suzuki has a strong contingency program, the aftermarket is full of go-fast components for it, its instruments are easily read, and it’s one of only three bikes to have a back-torque-limiting slipper clutch fitted as standard. “If I was choosing a platform to go Supersport racing,” notes Becklin, “I’d start with the new GSX-R600.”

And if DB did renew his Supersport racing career, he might be looking for a way to dig out more midrange power from the 599cc mill, even if he says it was the best of the four-cylinder 600s. “It doesn’t need to be revved to the moon like the Yamaha, and it has a stronger top-end punch than the Honda,” he notes.

“The motor performed well in respect to the other 600s,” admits Chamberlain. “Unfortunately, like the Honda and Yamaha, it falls short in the midrange, although it did have more pull out of the corners than the Yamaha. A good lap time required lots of attention to corner speed or even running a gear lower in the tight corners to maintain a good drive coming out.”

On the relatively tight Spring Mountain circuit, the Gixxer’s tallest gear ratios in the bottom two gears among the multis saps some of the snap out of its motor, even though its top three gears are the shortest.

“Its tall gearing was significantly different from the other bikes,” says the Prez. “I found myself almost always a gear lower around the track compared to the others.”

And speaking of gearing, opinions were mixed regarding the GSX-Rs transmission. Kenny says it “felt as smooth and as slick as the Honda’s” and that he never missed a shift. Meanwhile, Roberti gave it a lowly 6 rating, DB missed a few shifts, and BC still had trouble accessing first gear. On the plus side, all of us had praise for its slipper clutch.

In terms of handling, the Gixxer received generally high marks. Suzuki’s tech Chuck Welch added 8mm of rear ride height to accommodate our Diablo track tires, but some of us believed it still steered a bit slow, so we raised the fork tubes 4mm in the triple clamps.

“I felt very confident on the Suzuki,” Becklin notes afterward. “Even after the bike got quicker steering, it always had great stability in the turns. It was the only bike that never gave me a hint of tire slip or upset the chassis as the pace increased.”

Roberti judged its handling as twitchy with the day-one setup on the Diablos, but a revised setup and the addition of the Dunlop Qualifiers made both ends of the bike more trustworthy.

“Like the Honda,” adds BC, “once in the turn, the GSX-R felt very planted and both the front and rear offered a lot of feel, which made me feel very confident. But getting the bike to flop over seemed to require a little more work than some of the others, perhaps hindered by its narrow and swept-back bars or maybe due to its weight (11 lbs more than the ZX and R6. -Ed).”

Ergonomically, the GSX-R is very accommodating, with relatively tall bars and a comfortable peg placement that nonetheless wasn’t hindered by clearance issues.

“One of the first things I noticed was the overly poofy seat and the fact that you sit down in the Suzuki instead of on top of it,” Becklin notes. “It has a surprisingly plush feel. I was actually expecting something a little racier but it may be the second most comfortable next to the ZX-6R.”

We also appreciated the Gixxer’s highly readable instruments, even if its shift light is placed a bit low. Braking performance from the Nissin radial-pump master cylinder and Tokico radial-mount calipers is strong and they received predominantly high marks. Roberti was their harshest critic, rating them a 7 for a slightly grabby initial bite the rest of us didn’t notice.

In terms of lap times, the Suzuki GSX-R600 didn’t have the combination of attributes that are needed for swift laps around Spring Mountain. Other than being third-quickest for Kenny and Donny B, the Suzuki’s lap times were in the bottom half of the group.

“The Gixxer is one of the better bikes for both street and track duty, although maybe not the best,” Chamberlain sums up. “It does everything pretty well but just doesn’t do anything great enough to leave a lasting impression in this group of bikes.”