BMW S1000R Review - Splitting Hairs
BMW’s 1000cc inline-four superbike engine has been around since 2009, powering the then-brand-new S1000RR. Subsequently, in 2014, it expanded its repertoire to two, when the S1000R supernaked was unleashed.
The ess-thou-arr takes the engine, gearbox, frame and suspension from the double-arr and gives it a solid reworking to make it usable for mere mortals. For 2017, BMW levelled power at 123kW and shed three kilos to bring wet weight to a smidge over 200kg. BMW’s ‘Gearshift Assist Pro’ was also made standard, as was an Akrapovic exhaust muffler and upgraded electronics, including semi-active suspension. A somewhat mild refresh, then, but one that does the trick. The 2017-spec S1000R is a properly good thing.
Let’s start with the looks. BMW’s motorcycle styling has divided the two-wheeled-world since dinosaurs were around, and the new S1000R doesn’t really change that. The asymmetrical eyes are a little more normal-looking, but still, definitely, a BMW design feature and the analogue rev dial on the dash is still there.
Personally, I love the dial as it’s a nice stylistic note compared with the increasing amount of colour TFT displays that are coming out, but the digital part of the S1000R’s dash equation is now looking dated. It’s perfectly fine to use in both darkness and direct sunlight, but compared with what Triumph or Aprilia are putting out, it’s very “last decade.” We already know there is a new S1000RR being worked on, so given BMW chose not to update the screen for the 2017 refresh, we’d bet on a new-look dash arriving with the next model. It’ll trickle down to the S1000R as well, after a year or two.
Being down 23kW compared with the RR doesn’t faze the supernaked much, with much of the performance in the more usable midrange. Of course, it still has the biting top end inline-fours are known for. Max power hits at 11,000rpm while 112Nm of torque is available at 9250rpm.
That translates to a loose front end if you select anything above Road mode, as Dynamic and Dynamic Pro dial back the traction control a fair bit. The latter will actually let the front wheel get quite high if you ease into the power, but will still keep the bike from totally looping out. If you hamfist it, it’ll cut in straight away, nixing any sudden attacks of yobbishness.
Good grief is it fast though. The S1000R will haul ass through any favourite routes, most of the time with the front skimming the road, and take you home in comfort too. Compared to the Tuono, I found the Beemer a bit more liveable.
Dynamic Pro also lets you engage Launch Control, which is fantastic fun. Hold the starter while the bike is running for a few seconds, and the white shift light will come on along with ‘3 LCON’ on the dash. The number refers to how many launches you have left before you need to ride the bike a certain number of kilometres to have another stab at it. It’s basically ensuring the clutch doesn’t have the half-life of a fruit fly.
Put it into first, hold the rear brake, open up the throttle and the revs will sit at about 9000rpm. Feed the clutch in as quickly as you dare (I wasn’t brave enough to just dump it) and hope the traction control is working! The open road speed limit comes up mighty quick - 3.4 seconds by my count and the launch wasn’t perfect (Louisson later managed a 2.9s sprint).
That new quickshifter is a gem as well, slotting through gears as fast as you can move your foot up and down. Ideally, I’d like the upshift function to work with or without throttle input; perhaps Beemer is sitting on that for the next generation.
Other new toys include semi-active suspension, which works, but I’d like more range. There are two settings - Road and Dynamic - and both seem to be varying degrees of ‘Hard’. If there was a third ‘User’ mode where riders could really dial in the softness, that would be great. First world problems?
As it stands, Road isn’t terrible, but some of Auckland’s tarmac can be quite punishing. Dynamic firms everything up, a mode more suited for the track. Apparently, the system adjusts itself one hundred times a second. There’s also a preset mode for two-up riding, if you can find someone willing to perch on the tail of what is essentially a naked superbike.
The braking is phenomenal, with Brembo calipers clamping on fat 320mm discs. ABS is standard, with Dynamic Pro mode activating cornering ABS, which essentially smooths out hard braking mid-corner. And, let’s be honest, if you ever find yourself braking hard enough to engage ABS in the middle of a corner, you’ll want all the stability you can find.
Immediate competition is Aprilia’s Tuono, an absolute maniac of a thing. The Italian makes a few more kilowatts and a bit more torque, and is subjectively a better sounding and looking bike. However, it costs a fair bit more, asking $28,490 for the Factory version which has Öhlins gubbins, forged wheels and a nicer paint scheme. Meanwhile, an S1000R will only take $25,990 of your dollars and has better equipment in the forms of semi-active suspension and heated grips. Both bikes have ride modes and cruise control.
There’s also KTM’s 1290 Superduke R, if you can find one, or Ducati’s Monster 1200R, if you want to pay $32,490. Willing to wait a few months for more reliable riding weather? Triumph is about to launch the new Speed Triple RS.
At the end of the day, though, all these bikes are immensely capable and far beyond street-level. You’re winning no matter which steed you choose.
Model BMW S 1000 R Price $25,990
Engine 999cc, liquid-cooled, fuel injected, IL4, 123kW / 114Nm
Transmission 6-speed, chain final drive Vitals 2.92s 0-100km/h
1.28s (37.39m) 80-120km/h, 38.76m 100-0km/h, 205kg