The S1000RR is the real deal. It is easily competitive with the best from Japan; in performance, in styling and, yes, even on price.
2010 BMW S1000RR
PORTIMAO, PORTUGAL // Exit the long, sweeping left-hander flat out in fourth. Knee stuck hard into the sticky Portuguese tarmac. Leaned way over and hard on the throttle. This is a BMW? Snick it up to fifth without letting off the throttle, thanks to the quick-shifter that cuts the ignition for but a millisecond. Hit the steep crest that marks the beginning of the back straight and feel the 193 horsepower percolating between your legs try to wheelie over backwards at well over 200 kilometres an hour.
This is a BMW? Keep it pinned. One more clutchless shift up to sixth with the electronic speedo still spitting out new digits like some crazy slot machine. Take one last furtive glance down at the LED gauges and see that it's registering 268 kilometres an hour, the front end still dancing because you're still accelerating like Sir Isaac Newton and the various laws of physics and aerodynamics never existed.
This is a BMW? Welcome to the wonderful new world where not all BMWs are shaft driven, more than two pistons are allowed per motorcycle and, though no direct comparisons are available, one would swear that the S1000 would get to the end of a straight faster than anything wearing a Honda or a Yamaha badge. Maybe even something clad entirely in green as well. I wouldn't rule out the Gixxer either. The 193 beside the horsepower specification on the brochure's spec sheet is not a typo; credit the most oversquare engine in the biz - 80.0 mm x 49.7 mm bore and stroke - Formula One style "finger" followers for the camshafts and a trick variable length intake system for the outrageous numbers. Other features - two injectors per cylinder, ultra-light, incredibly short slipper pistons, etc. seem conventional but incredibly refined.
So it's fast. Not just fast for a BMW, but really fast. What else have you got for me? Well, how about one of the most sophisticated - certainly the most complicated - traction control system available on a production motorcycle. First off, there's four basics modes to the Dynamic Traction Control system - rain, sport, race and slick. The first is the full nanny experience, the S10000RR's max power cut to a comparatively sedate 150hp. One can't really consider this slow as, with those 150 ponies, the S1000RR feels like a really fast 900 of just a decade ago.
But, in comparison to what's coming, it's positively sedate. Even in the next most protective mode, the 999cc powerplant's full 193hp charge stands at the ready; the difference being that the aggressiveness at which the traction control kicks in. In rain mode, for instance, the ECU ignores all calls for more throttle when the bike is leaned over more than 38-degrees; in sport mode, it's 45-degrees and, in race mode, it's 48-degrees. The only mode that wheelies are permitted is "slick" and even then only when the bike is heeled over less than 23-degrees and for a maximum of five seconds.
Indeed, this "wheelie control" may be the bike's only weakness. On steep roller coaster tracks like Portimao, the S1000RR wants to wheelie off the crest of every hill and, when the DTC cuts in to prevent the adventure, it can be quite startling. The only current solution is to disable DTC completely, but then you don't have your traction buddy to prevent any mid-corner miscues. Since it is but a software change, there is some chance that the "race" mode may gain some intermediary function that will allow some mono-wheeling but limit its severity.
Not that the S1000RR handles poorly without the electronic goodies. Indeed, quite the opposite. Lighter than any other sportbike with an anti-lock brake system (206.5kg with a full tank of petrol), the S1000RR steers with the razor-sharp precision one expects of a top-flight superbike. It's especially adept at rapid transitions, an attribute the Portimao circuit certainly rewards. Stability, thanks to its husky aluminium perimeter frame, is incredible. The Sachs suspension is adjustable for both compression and rebound damping and the front inverted fork runs on beefy 46-millimetre stanchions.
As for their abilities, the suspension was plenty firm and well-damped enough for high-speed handling; how well they handle broken tarmac will have to wait for another evaluation as the new Portimao circuit was billiard-table smooth. BMW's preoccupation was presenting its racetrack bonafides, so any determination of how well the suspension works over potholes will have to wait for a future street test. Lastly, the brakes, being the latest radial-mounted, monoblock Brembos are nothing short of brilliant Fade is non-existent, even when the binders repeatedly have to cope with braking from 270 klicks downhill into corner one.
But wait, as they used to say in the K-Tel commercials, there's one last break with BMW tradition, perhaps even more shocking than the S1000RR's incredible turn of speed. The S1000RR is extremely reasonably priced, and not just by BMW's normally inflated standard. The $17,300 (Dh63,500) manufacturer's suggested list price includes the ABS system, optional on most other bikes. Ditto for the traction control system.
As for the S1000RR's styling, much has been made of its asymmetrical headlights, though, in truth the odd front fairing looks far better in real life than photos. As well, almost all the bikes in BMW's photos are the lime green option, but everyone liked the traditional blue, red and white, and the all-black version looks seriously wicked. The S1000RR is the real deal. It is easily competitive with the best from Japan; in performance, in styling and, yes, even on price. It is an amazing accomplishment made all the more incredible since BMW, unlike all its direct competition, has no tradition of building four-cylinder superbikes. email@example.com