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

Middle Ground

By Ari Henning, Photography by Cali Photography, Joe Neric

Triumph Daytona 675R
Best Lap: 1:35.2

We’ve always been a fan of the Daytona 675’s three-cylinder engine, but the same can’t be said for its chassis, which had a tendency to feel fidgety and run wide at corner exits. For 2011 Triumph took a cue from Ducati and assembled an R-model with upgraded suspension. Japanese suspension components were traded for Swedish Öhlins, an NIX30 fork up front and twin-tube TTX36 shock out back. Braking components are also from Europe; Italian Brembo Monobloc calipers replacing the Japanese Nissin units used on the base model.

Other improvements exclusive to the 675R include an electronic quick-shifter, pearl-white paint and carbon-fiber fenders, dash trim panels and muffler heat shield. The Daytona’s use of the genuine article makes the GSX-R’s “carbon fauxber” seem cheesy by comparison. Other changes for 2011 include a new dash and a taller first gear as used in the accessory close-ratio racing transmission. Yet despite rocking $4000 worth of top-tier suspension products, the 675R only costs $11,999—just $1500 more than the base model.

The Daytona’s 675cc engine isn’t much bigger than a typical supersport’s, but that small displacement bump and unique three-cylinder architecture make for one potent and flexible powerplant. Our testbike “spun the drum” to the tune of 111.1 bhp at 12,600 rpm, with nearly constant torque output that peaked at 48.4 lb.-ft. at 10,600 rpm. It’s the smallest and weakest of the middleweights, but at 420 lbs. ready to ride, it’s also the lightest.

The Triumph’s riding position splits the difference between the Ducati’s and the Suzuki’s, and although the posture is aggressive it’s not severe, and proved acceptable to all our testers. The seat is firm and slants toward the tank, but is nowhere near as punishing as the 848’s crotch-crushing wedge. Legroom is ample, and while there is a faint buzz in the footpegs around 6000 rpm, the smooth-spinning engine leaves things electric-bike-still everywhere else. Wide-set mirrors offer the best field of rearward view as well as the crispest images. Complaints are few: The white-on-blue LCD dash is difficult to read, and the quick-shifter doesn’t work at all throttle openings and engine loads. You quickly learn when to use it and when it’s best to employ the clutch.

Revving the Daytona unleashes a captivatingly silky sound that’s equal parts three-cylinder engine whir and exhaust note. Engine character is equally silky: Throttle response is instantaneous and power builds in an admirably linear fashion from idle to 13,000 rpm. There’s still a lot of revs left before redline, but thrust diminishes in the extreme of the upper register.

It may seem like we’re always championing Öhlins, but there’s a reason every MotoGP team runs their stuff! The Daytona’s new suspenders transform the way it behaves, attaining the fabled balance of a firm-yet-plush ride. Even on the most beat-up backroads, the Daytona was surefooted and settled, turning on a dime and tracking as if on rails. That stands in stark contrast to our 2009 long-term testbike, which showed a frustrating lack of stability when pushed hard.

No faults could be found with the Triumph’s handling or ride quality on the street, and at the track it needed the least fiddling before being deemed dialed-in. The Daytona turned the quickest and was the most stable once leaned over, leading to higher corner speeds and earlier throttle application as evidenced by the abundance of liquefied rubber on the edges of its rear tire. Bikes this responsive tend not to tolerate mistakes, but the 675R is amazingly forgiving. Everyone raved about its razor-sharp handling, slick quick-shifter (at full throttle) and unflappable composure. It’s the ideal dance partner on the track; ask more of it and it gladly delivers. It’s no wonder our testers logged consistently quick times on the Triumph, and that the Britbike turned the fastest lap overall.

The chink in the Daytona’s gilded armor is its brakes. They’re tremendously powerful, but when forcefully applied at triple-digit speeds produce an unsettling shudder. The Öhlins caliper mounts don’t employ locating dowels as on the previous Kayabas, so we suspected the calipers might be misaligned with the discs. Loosening the caliper bolts and then retightening them while simultaneously applying the brakes served to center the pads and significantly reduced (although didn’t eliminate) the sensation.

Even with those unsettling pulsations, after stepping off the Suzuki onto the Triumph, braking points could be moved a few bike-lengths closer to the corners. Not only will the 675R outbrake the GSX-R, it matches its acceleration off the apex and keeps the Ducati in check down the straights. The Suzuki might have the most power, but its chassis isn’t on par with its engine and its shifting issue was a pain. As a streetbike its supple suspension and stable handling are a boon, but as a sportbike those same characteristics are a bane. Some call it balanced, but in stock trim we call the GSX-R compromised.

We all knew the Ducati would be brutal on the street, but were openly expecting it to dominate at the track. When that didn’t happen, its overall rating plummeted. V-twins tend to be forgiving and flexible by nature, but the 848 EVO’s rev-happy engine isn’t. The Ducati has cachet, but the Triumph does too, with good manners to boot.

Triumph’s Daytona 675 was voted our Motorcycle of the Year when it came out in 2006, and if the MOTY feature earlier in this issue had a “Most Improved” category, the 675R would win that trophy hands-down. As it stands, the Triumph topped all our testers’ lists in nearly every category. Even if you never take it to the track (though we sincerely hope you do!), you’ll notice and appreciate the bike’s upgraded suspension for its ride quality and the way it puts you in total control. The 675R has the 848’s distinction, the GSX-R’s versatility and a character all its own. It’s also got our vote as the Best Middleweight Sportbike of 2011.

Off the Record

Ari Henning
Age: 26 | Height: 5’10”
Weight: 175 Lbs. | Inseam: 33 In.
I had high hopes for the Ducati, but its shortcomings on the street weren’t rectified at the track as I’d hoped. The Suzuki was the opposite: In stock form it’s a better streetbike than track machine. Braided-steel brake lines and a stiffer shock spring would surely help that. The Triumph manages to work well in all environs. After riding the 675R, I’m both impressed and pissed—impressed that it is so incredibly improved, and pissed that I was never able to get my long-term 2009 Daytona to work this well! It’s rare to find a motorcycle that is so comfortable on the street while being race-ready, but the 675R does it. Well done, Triumph!

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