Kawasaki ZX-6R vs. Triumph Daytona 675R | Iconoclastic Supersports

Going Their Own Way, and Quickly

By Ari Henning, Photography by Kevin Wing

Ask anyone on the Motorcyclist staff to name the best middleweight sportbike on the market, and one of these two bikes will be at the top of the list. The other will be right there in its draft. Both the Kawasaki ZX-6R and the Triumph Daytona 675R are truly outstanding motorcycles. They boast broadband power, they’re laden with impressive components and features, and they offer the kind of telepathic handling that will elevate any rider’s game.

Both the ZX-6R and Daytona 675R break the standard inline-four, 599cc mold with unorthodox engine designs. One has a class-defying 636cc “cheater” motor; the other a new, shorter-stroke triple. Both offer more torque and smoother power delivery than their supersport contemporaries, making them better suited to the street and easier to ride at the track. These two supersports are bound together by their nonconformity, but only one can be the best. It was our pleasure to determine a winner via two days of street riding and a full day strafing apexes at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway in Desert Center, CA.

We’ve delved into the details and heaped praise on both of these bikes before in First Ride reports and road tests, so we’ll just hit the high points and get right into the nitty gritty. Kawasaki’s ZX-6R returned to an old formula for 2013: more displacement. The bike’s motor gets a little more cylinder volume via a stroke increase of 2.6mm, with the airbox, cams, fuel injectors, exhaust, and other supporting systems reworked to suit. Fresh styling, revised suspension, and the addition of Kawasaki’s excellent three-level traction control and switchable engine maps make this the most powerful and technologically advanced Japanese supersport on the market today.

Hinckley’s latest Daytona 675 and up-spec 675R are new from the tires up—and brilliant. A redesigned engine with a 2.7mm shorter stroke and an elevated compression ratio makes more power and revs higher than ever, while a new frame yields sharper and shorter figures for better handling. A mission to reduce and centralize mass sees the exhaust relocated under the engine, while the wheels, rear brake, fairing stay, headlight, and other parts at the bike’s extremities are lighter. New bodywork, updated suspension, new brakes, and switchable ABS with a Circuit mode round out the updates for 2013. For our test we opted for the R-bike, which comes with Öhlins suspension front and rear, an electronic quickshifter, and a splash of carbon fiber.

The 675R we last tested in 2012 was a solid performer, but it didn’t quite stack up to the 636 in the quarter mile, during top-gear roll-ons, or on the dyno. Now, though, the tables have turned. The 2013 Daytona displays better numbers in all the above categories: it puts down 112.9 horsepower to the Ninja’s 112.0 bhp; flies down the dragstrip in 10.54 seconds at 132.05 mph, well ahead of the Ninja’s 10.71 sec. run at 130.96 mph; and the 675 runs away from the Ninja in the top-gear roll-on test, posting a 2.79 sec. time from 60–80 mph, compared to the Kawasaki’s 3.33 sec. At 420 pounds with a full tank, the 675R maintains the weight of the previous bike, 2 lbs. less than the 636. That’s impressive considering the Triumph now carries ABS.

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