The XR6 – still the best freeride machine?
This test first appeared in KW #100 in July 2019
You may also want to read our Core Nexus 2 kite review, published September 2020 in issue #106 – click here to read it now.
TESTED BY: CHRIS BULL AND JIM GAUNT. FIND THEIR DETAILS AND TEST SCORE BREAKDOWNS HERE.
TEST TEAM NOTES:
We were really excited to review the XR6 because, from a tester’s standpoint, the XR5 is very hard to improve on because it fulfilled the freeride / jumping role so perfectly. We were finding it hard to see how Core could improve things without messing it up!
The XR5 really stood out for us as the best (easiest) all-round freeride big air machine in a busy category that’s chock full of kites. It changed the game for accessible jumping performance with comfortable boosting ability for the masses, as you didn’t need to be an expert to instantly add another 10% of height to your jumps.
It’s funny how your brain adapts to a new standard and how subtle changes in feel can alter the riding sensation. Progressing from the XR5, the XR6 does in fact have a cleaner feel. We loved the XR5 because it was obviously giving you that extra 10%. The XR6 still gives you that, but does it more subtly, and you’ll see later in the review, that this adds to even more top end control. Sheeting is smoother, and going from full power to no power is seamless as the delivery is a little less aggressive with fewer spikes throughout the whole throw. The wingtips look a bit more ‘swept’ than on the XR5, but there are no radical design overhauls, which means people who already own XR5s needn’t feel nervous moving onto the XR6.
Overall, the XR6 is more precise. There’s still plenty of grunt and low end power, but the latent performance is more hidden away and, even in winds that were gusting 30 knots, we didn’t need to adjust the trim; the natural sheeting range is enough. Winds of up to 40 knots are very different to 30 of course, but we have ridden enough kites to know that the XR6 has a sublime feel and in the hands of high-level riders who crave experiences in 35 knots and above, the fact that the XR6 is smoother than the XR5, means we’re confident it will deliver the control they’re looking for.
The XR6 pulls at a high angle into the wind window, making for a light but direct steering impulse and you don’t have to aggressively dig your rail in when riding in strong winds. The kite never overshoots itself, nor does it surge too far forward in gusts. The pull is very consistent, which is something you’ll quickly come to appreciate when riding it powered-up in snatchy conditions. The autopilot programme is definitely running the latest software in the XR6.
In the air, the XR6 still has that huge jumping sweet spot overhead and climbs very steadily before also lowering you gently back down, too. You’ll still need to do a few heli-loops if you go really massive, but the feel is so intuitive that it’s harder to put a foot wrong now than on some of the gruntier, older XRs, which carried more brutality.
In general the whole experience is more manageable for less experienced riders now too, remaining balanced even if you haven’t got enough line tension, or when you’re riding downwind after landing a jump. You don’t need to be perfect on this kite, and it lets you get away with fumbled handling.
Better riders who are confident throwing bigger loops will also appreciate a more consistent loop now. Of course the XR6 is far more pivotal than the GTS5 and doesn’t deliver the same body-stretching pull around the lower half of the window, but you can get a good kite loop sensation and the handling is so tight that you can even re-correct and adjust the kite’s steering trajectory mid loop, which is rare on a very swept shaped kite like this. That extra forgiveness gives you the confidence to push it harder, helped by the nicely forward flying position that keeps driving through the window.
Away from airborne antics, the XR6 is a really fun freeride kite thanks to how responsive but comfortable it is. You can haul it through the power zone for quick turns when smashing waves, even more so than the XR5, because the improved precision and speed are tempered with improved manageability for riders of all sizes. Quicker response alongside less chugg.
The low end performance is good, but there are kites in this bracket that will do better in lighter winds, however they won’t necessarily have such an incredible top end ability. The XR6 is very composed with a lot of available trim.
The big question on a lot of people’s minds will be whether or not they need to step up from the XR5. Ultimately the XR6 is still powerful, but because it’s more refined in all areas, the eventual top end performance is higher through more adept and smoother handling. Now less obviously aggressive, this will allow more intermediate riders to push their riding a lot harder, but it also has more crossover for smashing out wave hits, too.
The XR5 is a classic kite that helped a huge swathe of people assault the Woo charts and perhaps the heavier intermediate rider will never lose faith in its robust sheeting power and easy skyward yank. But imagine you’ve been on a plane wearing a pair of quality headphones with the noise cancelling turned off. They’re pretty good, but when you switch the noise cancelling on all the background snarling disappears, leaving you with extra clarity and improved sensation. That’s the difference.
We’re big fans of the Core Sensor ultra light bar (coming in three spec options), which feels lovely, small and compact. Although simple in look, the bar is beautiful – with a sheet-down line untwister, super-clean layout and easy, light impulse rope trim. The only thing to note is that you need to be aware and practice the quick-release motion, which is a twist mechanism, rather than push-away. It is very smooth and reliable though, and not difficult to re-set.
Watch the XR6 Product Video:
SUMMARY: The XR6 delivers a stunning freeride experience and is a standout example of how performance-ready a freeride kite can be without being too hot to handle. Some advanced intermediates might prefer the physicality of the XR5, but the XR6 achieves the same end result without making your life difficult. There aren’t many kites that will allow you to really achieve your big air potential in the way that the XR6 does.
KW LIKED: A beautifully dialled in progression from the XR5. It was always going to be hard to improve this kite, but Core have done it by ironing out any wrinkles, leading to an altogether smoother experience.
KW WOULD CHANGE: Nothing. If you really want a seat-of-your pants flying experience then check out the GTS5!
XR6 BALANCE POINTS:
Build quality: 9.5
Full package: 9
Low end: 8
Top end: 9.5
Steering speed: 6
Turning circle: 4 (Smooth and powerful)
Bar pressure: 5
Water relaunch: 9
Ease of use: 9
XR6 SIZES: 13.5, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 and 5m
XR6 LW SIZES: 19, 17 and 15m
More at corekites.com
CORE NEXUS 2 8 & 10M KITE REVIEW – HERE