Motorcycles

Can Yamaha’s next-gen R6 breathe new life into Supersports?

Can Yamaha’s next-gen R6 breat...
The 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 has received its first major overhaul in six years
The 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 has received its first major overhaul in six years
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The 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 in action
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The 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 in action
The 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 in action
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The 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 in action
The 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 in action
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The 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 in action
The 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 in action
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The 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 in action
The 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 in action
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The 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 in action
The 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 in action
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The 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 in action
The 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 in action
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The 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 in action
The front cowl of the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 is dominated by a huge MotoGP-inspired air intake, with LED daytime running lights at its sides
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The front cowl of the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 is dominated by a huge MotoGP-inspired air intake, with LED daytime running lights at its sides
The mirrors of the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 incorporate LED indicators
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The mirrors of the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 incorporate LED indicators
The 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 didn't inherit the big color display of the R1, but instead retained the classic mix of a conventional tacho with an LCD screen on the side
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The 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 didn't inherit the big color display of the R1, but instead retained the classic mix of a conventional tacho with an LCD screen on the side
According to Yamaha, the new fairings of the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 improve the aerodynamic efficiency by 8 percent over the previous model
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According to Yamaha, the new fairings of the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 improve the aerodynamic efficiency by 8 percent over the previous model
The rider's seat on the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 has been redesigned for optimal control of the bike – but the passenger area does look a bit uncomfortable
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The rider's seat on the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 has been redesigned for optimal control of the bike – but the passenger area does look a bit uncomfortable
The 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 pays tribute to the design of the YZR-M1 MotoGP racers of Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo
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The 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 pays tribute to the design of the YZR-M1 MotoGP racers of Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo
The 43 mm Kayaba forks and the four-piston radial calipers with 320 mm disks have been transfered to the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 straight from the YZF-R1
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The 43 mm Kayaba forks and the four-piston radial calipers with 320 mm disks have been transfered to the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 straight from the YZF-R1
New 17-liter aluminium fuel tank for the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6, with a plastic cover on the front part and sidewalls that offer more leg space
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New 17-liter aluminium fuel tank for the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6, with a plastic cover on the front part and sidewalls that offer more leg space
The engine and frame of the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 don't appear to host important changes compared to the previous model
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The engine and frame of the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 don't appear to host important changes compared to the previous model
A new adjustable Kayaba shock absorber escorts the R1-derived forks that grace the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6
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A new adjustable Kayaba shock absorber escorts the R1-derived forks that grace the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6
Very slim tail unit, with a license plate assembly that can be removed swiftly for race track use with the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6
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Very slim tail unit, with a license plate assembly that can be removed swiftly for race track use with the 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6
Yamaha designed the 2017 YZF-R6 with a slim waistline in order to offer optimal control to the rider
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Yamaha designed the 2017 YZF-R6 with a slim waistline in order to offer optimal control to the rider
The 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 in Race Blu color
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The 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 in Race Blu color
The 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 in Race Blu color
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The 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 in Race Blu color
The 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 has received its first major overhaul in six years
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The 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 has received its first major overhaul in six years
The 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 in Race Blu color
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The 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 in Race Blu color
The 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 in Race Blu color
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The 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 in Race Blu color
The 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 in Race Blu color
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The 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 in Race Blu color
The 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 in Tech Black color
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The 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 in Tech Black color
The 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 in Tech Black color
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The 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 in Tech Black color
The 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 in Tech Black color
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The 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 in Tech Black color
View gallery - 28 images

Just ahead of the doors opening on the AIMExpo in Orlando, Florida, Yamaha today revealed the first new YZF-R6 in six years. Built around the existing engine and chassis, it inherits looks, running gear and electronics from the latest YZF-R1 in an effort to regain the throne for Yamaha in the all but stagnating in recent years Supersport class.

As far as sportbikes are concerned, the first half of this decade can be described as the rise of the superbike. The liter class headlines every national road racing discipline and, of course, the World Superbike Championship, as the manufacturers have collectively ushered us into a new season of homologation specials.

With all the money and interest going towards big capacities, the 600s were gradually pushed to the shadows. With dwindling sales all over the world and development costs directly comparable to those of 1,000 cc superbikes, supersport models slipped down the list of manufacturers' priorities.

Honda's legendary CBR600RR, for instance, has been using the same engine since 2003, evolved over time along with the rest of the motorcycle of course – but still, no new motor in 13 years is a clearly negative indication. It could even be as bleak as suggested in a recent story from English newspaper MCN that spread like wildfire worldwide, citing irrefutable information that Honda had decided to pull the plug on the CBR600RR for good.

As for the rest of the competition, only Kawasaki introduced an all-new ZX-6R in 2013 and has since proceeded to dominate the World Supersport Championship. Suzuki still employs a motor that was first introduced with the 2004 GSX-R600, and has undergone several updates since; the latest being in 2011 with the addition of Showa's excellent Big Piston Fork.

The 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 pays tribute to the design of the YZR-M1 MotoGP racers of Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo
The 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 pays tribute to the design of the YZR-M1 MotoGP racers of Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo

Yamaha itself has been running the same engine and frame combination since 2008. The R6 was one of the first motorcycles to introduce electronic throttle control (Yamaha Chip Controlled Throttle, or YCC-T) in 2006, adding the variable length intake system YCC-I (Yamaha Chip Controlled Intake) two years later. That was the last major update for the R6.

Yamaha may call it the new YZF-R6, but not everything is new about it. The engine has obviously been tuned accordingly to the latest Euro-norms, yet we can't know what this translates to until Yamaha discloses some fresh performance figures. The most powerful version of this engine was introduced with the 2008 model, producing 133.6 hp (99.6 kW) at 14,500 rpm. In the following years the R6 was detuned, probably due to a previous set of norms coming into play, settling to the 122 hp (91 kW) of the 2010-2016 models.

The aluminium Deltabox frame is unchanged, just as it has been for the last eight years. Yamaha has coupled it with a new subframe, which is narrower and lighter thanks to the use of magnesium. The fully adjustable Kayaba 43 mm forks and the front brake system of the base R1 superbike are transferred (and retuned accordingly) to the new R6, coupled with an also adjustable new rear shock from Kayaba.

The 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 in action
The 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 in action

The 599 cc in-line four-cylinder motor retains the YCC-T and YCC-I electronic systems, adding a slipper clutch, D-Mode selectable ignition maps and a 6-level programmable traction control to the mix. The list also includes anti-locking brakes, apparently a standard road-oriented version instead of an elaborate cornering ABS system. It would be nice to have an off switch, though, because among its future owners we imagine that some will have the ability to push the bike beyond the limit where the ABS starts hampering lap times in a race track – and the bike is definitely up to it.

The updated R6 is dressed in attire that apparently clones the latest R1 – which, in turn, mimics Yamaha's MotoGP champion YZR-M1. With aerodynamics that have evolved from the highest motorcycle racing class, the front end features the signature hidden LED headlights of the R1, with a series of LED daytime running lights spreading from both sides of the central air scoop.

The 17-liter (4.5 US gal) fuel tank is also new, made of lightweight aluminium and offering better leg space along its sidewalls. Together with the new subframe and a freshly designed angled seat, the riding position of the new R6 is supposed to offer better control and a tighter fit to the rider.

Expected to hit showrooms in March 2017, the YZF-R6 will retail from $12,199 in the US, while pricing for Europe is yet unknown.

The 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 in Tech Black color
The 2017 Yamaha YZF-R6 in Tech Black color

It will be very interesting to watch how it will fare in markets around the world. Yamaha played a rather safe bet here, by updating a proven package rather than developing an all new motorcycle from the ground up. With the competition mostly limited to Kawasaki's 2013 ZX-6R, pricing could be a determining factor. How will it compare to the Kawasaki? How much cheaper will it be than a 1,000 cc superbike? If US pricing is indicative of anything, Yamaha comes out some $500 cheaper than Kawasaki and still leaves a good $3,000 gap to the entry-level R1S and almost $5,000 to the fully equipped R1.

There's no question that strong R6 sales could prompt other manufacturers to respond. After all, 600s still offer a far more sensible, educational entryway to the race tracks than any 200-hp liter missile.

The official video presentation of the 2017 R6 featured below may not provide any more answers, but certainly provides a nice glimpse into the new motorcycle, which we expect to see in the flesh for the first time at the upcoming EICMA show in little less than a month's time.

Source: Yamaha

2017 Yamaha R6

View gallery - 28 images
1 comment
Dan Parker
Sounds like Yamaha has essentially put new overalls on an old platform. If you’re considering buying one of these, you may want to consider a look at a Suzuki GSX-R750. It’s built on the same chassis as the GSX-R600, but has power and torque that rivals some of the liter bikes. When you can get into new, leftover 2015 models for $9500 to $9900 it’s an attractive alternative to this “new” R6.