Ducati 848 Evo vs. Suzuki GSX-R750 vs. Triumph Daytona 675R

Middle Ground

By Ari Henning, Photography by Cali Photography, Joe Neric

Suzuki GSX-R750
Best Lap: 1:35.9

Those seeking balance have long been drawn to Suzuki’s GSX-R750, a bike that’s bridged the performance gap between 600s and 1000s for decades. Absent from the 2010 lineup due to the economic downturn, the GSX-R is back for 2011 and better than ever. A lighter aluminum twin-spar frame now holds Showa’s Big Piston Fork up front, with the previous Nissin calipers replaced by Brembo Monobloc units as on the Ducati and Triumph. With its reshaped fuel tank filled to the brim, the GSX-R tips the scales at 424 lbs.—25 lbs. less than the last one we tested in ’08. A dark-blue patina applied to the frame and generous use of paneling textured to look like carbon-fiber spice up the styling without diluting the GSX-R’s signature look.

Engine tweaks include lighter pistons and conrods that help the inline-four zing up to 12,500 rpm, where its 122.1 bhp is in full effect. For torque the Suzuki stirs up 53.8 lb.-ft. at 10,700, meaning it’s more fun the faster it’s spun. A new close-ratio gearbox makes it easier than ever to keep the GSX-R on the boil, but it’s not necessary to get good acceleration. Midrange power has always been one of the 750’s strengths, and on the street the GSX-R feels strong even at four-digit revs. Power wheelies occur at every rise in the road, and shifting between corners is largely optional. Aside from some lag off closed throttle at low rpm, throttle response is superb and power builds in a predictable manner. Like the Ducati, the Suzuki’s exhaust sounds quieter than we remember, making an angry intake gargle the dominant sound.

The Suzuki’s ergonomics are at the other end of the spectrum compared to the Ducati’s, making it a top pick for the street. The seat is flat, low and soft. Relative to the perch, the clip-ons are higher and not nearly as far away as on the Ducati, resulting in as close to an upright riding position as one is likely to find on a sportbike. Wind protection is excellent due to a taller windscreen and wider fairing, and except for a short seat-to-peg distance and some itinerant vibrations, the GSX-R is easily the most comfortable bike in attendance. Three-position rearsets offer nearly an inch of adjustability, but even in the lowest position legroom is still at a premium.

Like the seat, suspension action is plush, especially in the rear. In town the compliant springs smooth bumps and cracks with aplomb, and ridden at a moderate pace in the canyons the bike’s handing feels rock-solid, although slightly sluggish. Get on the gas more, squeeze the brake lever harder and both ends start to feel soft. Even after we dialed-in more spring preload and damping, the GSX-R’s handling still felt imprecise and slow compared to its firm-footed competition at the racetrack. We would like to have raised the rear ride height to quicken steering, but didn’t have the necessary shims.

The GSX-R’s compact cockpit makes it the easiest bike here to move around on, but it took the most effort to transition from side to side and required a Herculean push/pull on the bars to get the bike through Fontana’s 100-mph Turn 1 chicane. Narrow clip-ons could be part of the problem, as the Suzuki’s bars measure an inch shorter than the Ducati’s and Triumphs, limiting leverage. While the GSX-R is less eager to change direction, it feels unshakably stable and follows the prescribed line until instructed to do otherwise.

The Suzuki’s superior horsepower is evident on the straights, where it blows the paint off the Ducati and the Triumph. On the track’s banked tri-oval, the 750 registered an indicated top speed of 166 mph—10 mph up on the other bikes. Considering its blistering acceleration, it’s a shame the GSX-R’s gearbox was so difficult to change at high rpm, no matter how deliberate our actions. This was never an issue on the street, but at the track sticky upshifts were a constant annoyance. Lowering the rearsets to improve the angle of the shift linkage helped but didn’t completely solve the problem.

Better acceleration gave the GSX-R an advantage between corners, but when it came time to shed speed the Suzuki’s rubber brake lines (the Ducati’s and Triumph’s are braided steel) made the lever feel spongy, eroding rider confidence. The 750’s saving grace at corner entry is an excellent slipper clutch, which kept the back end calm and allowed riders to downshift later, helping the GSX-R log the second-quickest lap time.

The Japanese bike has more versatility than its track-biased Italian counterpart, but comfort doesn’t cut it on a sportbike—it has to perform. The GSX-R750 is a terrific streetbike, and even with its mass-market suspension setup and budget brake lines, it works pretty well on the track, too. At $11,999 the Suzuki costs $1000 less than the Ducati—and only $400 more than its 600cc sibling—making it an excellent buy.

Off the Record

Zack Courts
Age: 27 | Height: 6’2”
Weight: 185 Lbs. | Inseam: 34 In.
The Triumph wins this shoot-out, hands-down. It’s got style on the street, poise on the track, and it’s a tremendous value. The Suzuki has muscle and is the most comfortable, but it isn’t particularly interesting. The Ducati is arguably too interesting, with a high-strung motor and punishing ergonomics. The 675R offers a great compromise, with Öhlins suspension that truly makes it a better and more fun bike to ride. And nifty add-ons like the quick-shifter spoil you immediately. When I realized the only complaints I could come up with were that the dash is a little hard to see and the seat was a tad firm, I knew I was sitting on a winner!

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Sorry about that, you should now see the correct dyno graph.
I think the HP/torque graph for the 675R is missing on page 4...
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