It's finally here! On the heels of the massively redesigned and amazing 2015 YZF-R1 Yamaha has finally updated the YZF-R6. For 2017 the bike sees some fairly major updates including new R1-inspired bodywork, traction control, ABS, and some fancy materials to help reduce weight. Sadly, the engine does not appear to have been massaged at all, though with three World Supersport Championships and 21 AMA Championships over the last 13 years, it's clear the previous bike was already plenty capable.

2017 Yamaha R6 unveil
Yamaha debuted a new YZF-R6 today at AIMExpo in Orlando, Florida. Why not at INTERMOT last week? MotoAmerica’s strong 600cc classes likely had something to do with it. A resemblance to the R1 is no accident.Photo: Julia LaPalme

The most obvious change for 2017 is the bike’s look. Bodywork is all new and closely resembles the R1’s lines, and Yamaha says the redesigned bodywork “provides the most efficient aerodynamics ever featured on a production Yamaha.” Aero us up a claimed eight percent, which should pay dividends at racetracks around the world.

2017 YZF-R6 dash
That dash is new, but the key features—a huge analog tachometer, a massive LED shift light, and a big gear-position display—are still there, they’re just in different places now. New features include displays for the bike’s TC and D-Mode.Photo: Julia LaPalme

Hanging below the squinting brow of the new nose fairing are LED headlights as found on the R1. LED turn signals are now incorporated into the turn signals, making it that much easier to strip the bike for track days. The tail matches the hollowed-out look of the R1 superbike, and rests on a new cast-magnesium subframe that’s lighter and narrower than before. The seat is reshaped, both to permit freer movement across the bike while railing corners and to offer street riders an easier reach to the ground.

2017 R6 headlight
LED headlights shine brighter than halogen setups. They also draw less power and produce less heat. They also look AWESOME.Photo: Julia LaPalme

No modern sportbike can be considered complete without advanced electronics, so the R6 now has six-level traction control. It’s no IMU-informed, NASA-grade system as on the R1, but rather a simpler setup as found on the previous-generation YZF-R1 and the current FZ-10. The R6 also gets Yamaha’s D-Mode engine-map software as found on several other bikes. That system lets the rider choose from three throttle-valve control maps (Standard Mode, “A” Mode, and “B” Mode) for different throttle-response behaviors at the push of a button. Both systems should prove useful for racers coping with shagged tires and changing track conditions. In that same vein, the new R6 will offer the QSS (Quick Shift System) as an option from the Yamaha accessories catalog, allowing for full-throttle, clutchless upshifts.

2017 R6 fork
Look familiar? That’s the same excellent KYB fork found on the R6’s big brother. You get adjustable spring preload and compression and rebound damping, but the previous fork’s separate high- and low-speed compression-damping feature is gone.Photo: Julia LaPalme

The R6’s chassis remains mostly the same, which anyone that’s ridden one at speed will agree is a good thing. Key changes include a new front suspension setup, pulled directly from the R1. The bigger 43mm KYB fork (larger by 2mm) and 25mm axle should offer a more rigid and responsive front end, while larger 320mm front discs (up 10mm) will provide even better braking performance. Those honkin’ brakes are now backed by ABS, though there’s no mention of ABS adjustability or a dedicated track mode.

2017 R6 tail
Honda, Kawasaki, and Suzuki racers are likely to be seeing this view a lot! The R6 was already the winningest model in its class, and its new more aerodynamic bodywork should help it stay at the front of the pack. That tail and LED tail light look to be lifted right off the R1.Photo: Julia LaPalme

ABS is notorious for adding weight to a bike, so to help cut the fat Yamaha shaped the R6’s gas tank from aluminum, cutting about 2.5 pounds. The subframe is magnesium now as well, further helping reduce weight. Despite those efforts, the 2017 YZF-R6’s claimed wet weight of 419 pounds is still a few pounds heavier than its predecessor.

2017 Yamaha R6 brakes
Larger 320mm rotors should provide more bite and more overall stopping power thanks to increased leverage. ABS now comes standard, though we don’t know if it can be adjusted or disabled for track riding.Photo: Julia LaPalme

The quickshifter upgrade option will be given free to the first 500 buyers of the 2017 R6, but considering Yamaha has sold more than 150,000 examples of the R6 in the United States, you had better already be in line if you want the free QSS upgrade. The 2017 YZF-R6 will be available in Intensity White/Matte Silver, Matte Raven Black, and Team Yamaha Blue. It will retail for $12,199 (up about $1,200 over the least expensive 2016 option) with availability in dealerships beginning in March. We expect to have ridden one by then, and will report back right here.

2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 in Intensity White/Matte Silver.
2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 in Intensity White/Matte Silver.Photo: Yamaha
2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 in Matte Raven Black.
2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 in Matte Raven Black.Photo: Yamaha
2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 in Team Yamaha Blue. (Our favorite!)
2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 in Team Yamaha Blue. (Our favorite!)Photo: Yamaha