2008 Honda CBR600RR Review

The 2008 Honda CBR600RR is our reigning Supersport Shootout champion for good reason: It simply rocks. In 2007 the CBR won our test with a combination of light weight and a powerful motor that hauled it to a dominating performance, taking top honors in both street and track portions of the review. This year Honda is defending the title with no significant updates and these days a motorcycle needs to be near perfection if it hopes to win two years in a row. There is always a new or improved competitor intent on being the best, there’s different riders, different tires and different tracks that all factor into the final result. If the Honda is to pull off the double, it will be a direct reflection of the all around goodness of the motorcycle. That said, the CBR600RR is tough to beat.

Engine: 599cc Inline Four

Bore x Stroke: 67mm x 42.5mm

Horsepower: 106.3 hp @ 13,100 rpm

Torque: 44.9 lb-ft @ 11,300 rpm

Weight: 397.5 lbs w/fuel, 368.7 lbs w/o fuel

Power to Weight Ratio: 0.27

Wheelbase: 53.9 in.

Rake: 23.55°


Seat Height: 32.3 in.

Exhaust dB at 5000 rpm: 88

Measured MPG: 35.5

MSRP: $9599

At the track is where the Honda was pressured consistently by the improved versions of the R6 and GSX-R it made fodder of just a year ago. Compared to the Yamaha, the CBR power is at its best over a wide spread between 10- and 13-grand. Although down on horsepower and torque on the dyno graphs, the Honda never suffered low subjective marks in the engine department, as it still feels like one of the strongest bikes in the group. With 106.3 hp at 13,700 rpm it is one of the highest revving motors in the test, coming up 3 hp shy of the R6 which peaks at 109.7 hp at 14,300 rpm.

Its hard-hitting power delivery combined with one of the test’s best transmissions and Infineon-friendly gearing keep the Honda in the hunt on the track. There is 45 lb-ft of torque peaking at 11,300 rpm, but a look at the dyno graph shows that over 40 lb-ft is available from a wide spread of revs between 9 and 14 grand that gives riders some wiggle room compared to the R6, which is victimized by its taller gearing and comparative lack of mid-range. As you can see by the lap charts, this didn’t really hurt the Yamaha.

“The CBR makes fantastic mid-range power from as low as 9000 rpm,” says Waheed. “It feels the strongest of the Japanese bikes which makes it easy to ride. It almost feels like it has some extra ccs inside. Top-end power is in the same ball park as the other bikes however, and top-end power doesn’t feel quite as exhilarating as the Yamaha.”

Our Superpole timed session allowed us to get back-to-back runs on every bike with new tires and the same amount of fuel in each bike. Our random drawing had the Honda up second, after the Ducati, so the pressure was on to come to grips quick with the defending champ. Neither bike has a slipper clutch, so it would seem to have been a benefit running them on consecutive sessions, but the CBR didn’t fare as well as the 848 in the overall times for our faster rider. Honda gets nipped by a fraction of a second to the quick GSX-R on Hutch’s lap chart but it falls to fifth in Earnest’s lap list, 1.5-seconds behind the R6 and GSX-R. This result, coupled with the surprising effort from the GSX-R, came as a shock since the Honda feels fast and is regarded as easy to ride.

Earnest reported that he wasn’t happy with his effort on the CBR, citing some bad gear selections as the culprit for his results. Hutch, on the other hand, adapted quickly to the Honda and nearly put the CBR at the top of the list – it may have even been on top had it not been for some bobbles on the brakes. While the Honda might not finish at the top of the heap on the track, it still posts excellent results considering that it has no slipper clutch and gives up a few ponies to boot.

As the lightest bike in the test, 11-lbs less than the Triumph and 16-lbs under the R6, it starts to make sense why it feels so good. The Honda carries 28 fewer lbs than the Suzuki and as any racer is quick to point out, low weight is like free horsepower. It also aids in the side-to-side transitions, braking power and acceleration – all subjective categories which the Honda rates high in.

“Honda’s CBR is the most well-balanced machine during our track test even though it doesn’t feel as fast as the R6 on the track,” explains Jimmy Moore. He ran a 600RR at the ’07 Isle of Man TT so he is familiar with what the Honda is capable of in both stock and race-ready trim. “The CBR is a really well thought out package with no corners cut and it shows. It is as good as it can be. The fork is bitchin’ and gearing, power and the brakes are right on the money. All the other bikes have some quirks; the Suzuki shock was soft and needed more setup work, the R6 has that slippery rear end, the Kawi was weak in the motor and both the 848 and 675 gearing required lots of shifting. The Honda feels good all the time.”

But not everyone is as enamored with the CBR as Jimmy. Waheed and Earnest both rate the Honda below the Suzuki and Yamaha on the scorecards and, in the end, that hurt the CBR on the track. The Honda is the only bike other than the R6 to come out on top of the individual scores, with three of the seven test riders picking it as the best of the field. Honda averages third in the objective scoring for Superpole laps, horsepower and torque, but receives top billing for its low weight.

“The Honda is such a polished machine that it can seem a bit boring. It doesn’t really make much noise and although the controls have elevated amounts of feedback, the bike really never does anything that unique,” points out Waheed.

The CBR600RR is still good, but the data doesn’t lie, and this year it is relegated to third-best on the track thanks to impressive efforts from Suzuki and Yamaha. Fortunately for Honda, our tests are equally weighted on road and track performance, and while the competition focuses intently on outright track performance, the RR is still one of the best streetbikes on the market.

It should come as no surprise that the Honda blows away the competition on the street considering how well it did in ’07. It is almost as though Honda is willing to concede its shot at the track title knowing it has the others covered here. Compared to the close results on the track, with the top three separated by a single point each, the CBR sweeps the street scoresheets of all seven riders, leaving the well-rounded Suzuki and torquey Triumph to battle for runner-up honors.

Ergonomics play a huge role on the street, so it should not be a surprise that the multi-purpose Honda rates high in this category.

“The CBR is hands down the prime ride for the stuff we ride in and even through town it is clear why people like it,” reports road tester Kevin Scurlock. “I didn’t feel like I was hopping on an unfamiliar bike. Everything was just where I expected it, the gauges were easy to read and sportbikes with fuel gauges…what a brilliant idea! Comfiest seat, I felt like I could comfortably ride it fast (a relative term) right from the start.”

Simply put, the Honda CBR600RR has no weaknesses. It is equally capable of pushing any bike to the brink on the track and offers a combination of power, light weight and good looks that no other middleweight motorcycle has been able to match.

“As delivered, this little (and I mean little) bike is the best of the group,” gushed Jimmy. “It is the most balanced, easy to ride fast by a good margin. The motor rips, the brakes are bitchin’ and the chassis is near perfect. The only complaint I have is the fact that it is just too small for a 6-foot-tall rider like myself to ride comfortably. Other than that, this little gem is brilliant.”

That is high praise from our test rider who has raced international street races and loves riding on the road as much as track.

While the rest of the manufacturers would prefer the CBR600RR share fate with the infamous Carmen Winstead and disappear without a trace, it refuses to be pushed aside, and as a result will be haunting them for one more year. Honda has set the bar so high that the competition has not been able to make the performance jump necessary to keep up with it in the real world. It is still the lightest bike by 10 lbs and is only three horsepower and three lb-ft away from class-leading dyno numbers.

In the end the Honda does lose ground by finishing behind the Suzuki and Yamaha on the track, but simply overpowers the Suzuki on the street-side of the scoresheet. By virtue of its continued domination on real roads and its narrow defeat on the track, the CBR successfully defends its Supersport Shootout title.

If you are searching for the ultimate supersport motorcycle, then look no further than the 2008 Honda CBR600RR.

Honda CBR600RR – Rider Notepads:
Honda fork gives great feedback.
Very quick initial turn-in.
Honda transmission is silky smooth.
Honda and Suzuki brakes are the best of the group.
Feels small but very comfortable.
Needs a slipper clutch.
Great mid-range and great front end feedback.
Bars are narrow.