It seems that mid-size bikes are all the go these days; with most of the major players having several mid-size models in their range. In Yamaha’s sports / road range they have the R6 sports-bike and the more civilised FZ6. In 2009 they added the XJ6.
At first it was thought that the XJ6 was going to replace the FZ, but as a Yamaha rep explained to me at the time, it was intended as an additional model in the range and aimed at a different market.
The XJ6 has less power than the FZ6, but develops that power lower in the rev-range. And it has more torque. So it’s aimed at the rider who prefers to ride the low-mid-range. As the Yamaha the rep said, the FZ6 “really sings” when revved hard, but at lower revs it can feel a little under-powered; as I said in my test of it.
Australian Road Rider, when describing the XJ6, wrote of Yamaha’s “proud history” of building mid-size bikes, and mentioned in particular the XJ600. They wrote, “The XJ’s replacement, the FZ6, was revvy and demanding on the rider. It didn’t produce the loyalty the older bikes had built up. It was time to go back to the strengths of the XJs – and that’s precisely what Yamaha has done.” Well, I am one of those people they describe.
I owned an XJ600 and loved it. (That's a photo of it on the left). It was comfortable, easy to ride, and wonderfully tractable. By comparison the FZ6 I couldn’t like. It felt under-powered, just as the Yamaha rep said. So this new XJ6 was aimed at people like me really – people who liked the earlier mid-sizers, but not so much the later ones.
Looking back at the history of Yamaha’s mid-sizers is interesting because they’ve done this type of thing before. The first XJ600 (which I also owned) was released in the early 1980s and was really the fore-runner of all these sporty mid-size bikes we have today. It was quite powerful – especially for an early 80’s 600cc bike – although, like the FZ6, it was quite peaky; there wasn’t much power under about 4,500rpm. It was discontinued in the late 80s, then a few years later re-appeared with basically the same engine, but with the whole bike softened a bit. The twin-discs up front had been replaced by just a single one, and there was a different frame with better ergonomics to make it even more comfortable. The engine had less power, but as I indicated above, had it available from lower in the range, making it more enjoyable to ride for a wider range of people. So the new XJ6 really is a current version of that second-generation XJ600. It’s all a bit “Back to the future” really!
  I’d been wanting to test an XJ6 for a long time; not just because it was the current model of a bike I used to own, but also because it was a worthy addition to the mid-size field that I compared in 2009. (Click here for that). But none of the local dealers ever had a demo model available to test. Finally an opportunity came when Yamaha held what they described as a “Power Trip Ride Day”, bringing most of their models, registered and ready to test-ride, to a venue west of Sydney. So I booked in for a ride on the XJ6. The model they brought was the naked. I would’ve preferred the half-faired Diversion, but apart from the lack of fairing they are basically the same bike, so that was okay.
After having a look around the bikes we were taken on a test-route that, while fairly short, was varied and telling. It included some around-town, some suburban back-roads with choppy sections and sweeping corners, and then some open highway.

In either naked or faired version, I reckon the bike looks good. I’m not too sure about those scoopy panels on the side of the naked, but it does look modern. The Diversion I reckon is a nice-looking bike.
The riding-position and general ergonomics are very good. It’s fairly upright but with a gentle lean forward to the wide bars. The seat felt a bit firm to me though.
The bike feels very light, and all the controls are light and easy to use. The controls are all well-positioned too, something that can’t always be said about bikes today.
This is something that Yamaha generally do quite well. Most of their bikes have good ergonomics, with even the sportier models (FZ6, FZ1 etc) having riding-positions that give good comfort and control; allowing the possibility of even old blokes spending more than an hour in the saddle without having to book a session with a physiotherapist.
The instruments are the usual set-up of analogue tacho – red-lined at just under 12,000rpm – and a digital display that shows speed, fuel-level, odo, engine-temperature and time of day. It's all easy to read, with the speedo being particularly clear. (A lot better than that horrible affair they fitted to the early FZ6!).
The engine is very smooth; and remains smooth, from idle right up to red-line – or at least the 11,000rpm that I had it up to. At those high revs the motor is fairly howling along, but it’s a sound you expect when the revs get into double digits and isn’t unpleasant.
I like this engine much better than the FZ6 on which it is based. The FZ6 might have more power when you really get it going, but if you’re not “up-it-for-the-rent” this engine gives a better riding experience. It pulls better and more evenly from low revs. With that double-digit red-line you know it’s going to get even stronger as the revs rise, and so it does. From about 4,000rpm it really starts getting its act going; double that and give the throttle some action and it responds in a very sprightly manner. No, not as sprightly as the FZ6, but still pretty good for a mid-size all-rounder!
If I have any criticism at all, it’s that the engine doesn’t have much character. It’s smooth and efficient, without being exciting or making any kind of statement. But then it’s probably not intended to.
Like most mid-size 4-cylinder bikes, it is quite low-geared, running at just under 20kph / 1,000rpm in top. At 110kph it’s doing about 6,000rpm. I’ve often said that I consider this type of gearing a bit low for comfortable cruising (my old XJ600 was doing about 1,000rpm lower at the same speed), but on this bike I didn’t mind it so much. That’s because, even though it was revving harder than I would’ve liked, it felt totally smooth and relaxed.
The ride is good. The suspension is fairly basic I suppose, and you do feel the bumps on choppy back roads, but there is a fair amount of compliance there to soften the hit of the bigger bumps.
It’s very stable over bumps too. At one point I hit a rather nasty longitudinal hump in the road and it tracked straight and true without even a hint of a twitch at the bars.
It also handles well. It’s light and easy and accurate; good fun to punt through the corners!
Gentle counter-steering is all that’s required, and it turns in exactly where you want it to go. And if you want to change your line in a corner it’s happy to do that too.
Australian Road Rider said, “Yamaha have gone back to the strengths of the earlier XJs”, and they have; although perhaps not quite achieved it. To me the seat is a bit firm; and I’d still like to see the gearing a bit higher, although as I mentioned, it actually didn’t bother me on this test.
Despite those small niggles, I still like this bike; I like it a lot! Putting it into that comparison I did a couple of years ago, it would be a serious contender, if not an out-right winner. Yep, it’s that good!

A very good all-round mid-size bike; only let down slightly – for me – by the firm-ish seat. There are other mid-size bikes that have more outright power, but as an all-rounder this works as well, if not better, than most.

Engine: 4-cylinder, 600cc. Power: 57kW at 10,000rpm. Torque: 59.7Nm at 6,100rpm.
Gearbox: 6-speed.
Final-drive: Chain.
Fuel capacity: 17 litres.
Suspension: Front: Telescopic fork, 130mm travel. Rear: Monoshock, 130mm travel.
Weight: 205kg (fully fuelled).
Seat height: 785mm.
Wheels / Tyres: Front: 120 X 17, Rear: 160 X 17. 
Brakes:  Front: Twin 298mm discs. Rear: Single 245mm disc.
Price: $9,999 (+ORC).
Test Bike From: Yamaha Australia.

Ridden 2011.

UPDATE: 2013.
Although Yamaha’s web-site still lists details of the semi-faired version and the naked version, it appears that only the naked version is being sold now. This is essentially the same as the one tested here, apart from repainting some of the panels, which makes it look less messy. Looks good!
The bike now qualifies for the LAMS brigade, so I’m not sure whether the engine is the same as the one here or not. (And Yamaha dealers I’ve spoken to haven’t been terribly clear as to comparisons with the earlier models). Yamaha says, “The seamless power delivery combined with compact dimensions, light weight and neutral steering make the XJ6-NL an ideal entry level machine.” So it’s obviously pitched at the beginner.
What is also unclear is how it compares to the FZ6. The XJ used to be a re-tuned version of the FZ, having less outright power, but putting that power more in the mid-range. Now they are probably both the same in terms of engine. (Specifications on engine power aren’t given, so it’s difficult to confirm).
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