2016 BMW S 1000 XR Review | Debut Ride Test

2016 BMW S1000XR Review | Debut Ride Test

2016 BMW S 1000 XR Review – Ultimate Ducati Multistrada Killer?

2016 BMW S1000XR Review | Debut Ride Review
2016 BMW S1000XR in rainy Canada

One look at the 2016 BMW S 1000 XR, and my very first question is – have the Bavarians created the ultimate Ducati Multistrada killer?

I own a second-generation Multistrada 1200, and the bike has impressed from day one, mostly due to its electronics, superbike performance, around-town agility, and powerful L-twin. Ducati’s idea of Adventure was biased towards street performance – a typical attitude of the folks from Bologna.

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The Multistrada 1200 was never a true competitor to BMW’s almighty Adventure Touring bike, the R 1200 GS, and vice versa. Since the 1980s, BMW has had the Adventure Touring market pinned with its GS models. BMW actually invented the ADV movement with the release of the 1980 R80 G/S, the G/S standing for Gelände/Straße, which is German for terrain/street.

Though BMW has retained the grasp on the ADV market, competition from nearly every manufacturer began surfacing around the turn of the 21st century. Fast-forward to 2015, and nearly all of BMW’s R 1200 GS competitors have more horsepower.

What to do? Instead of messing with an already top-selling platform – and the R1200GS is one hell of a motorcycle – BMW plunged into another market segment – the more road-savvy ADV tourers like the Multistrada 1200 – a genre BMW calls “Adventure Sport.”

2016 BMW S1000XR Review | Debut Ride Test at speedBMW pooled its seemingly endless resources and created the S1000XR – the fourth machine in BMW’s inline-four lineup alongside the S 1000 RR and HP4 superbikes, and the S1000R roadster. The S 1000 XR – the lightest in its class at 502 lbs. wet – is closest to the S1000R naked, which arrives with the same 199-horsepower engine featured in the S1000RR superbike, but detuned for better streetability and “only” 160 horsepower.

Basically, the 2016 BMW S1000XR is for the customer who seeks a BMW that shares characteristics of both the R1200GS and the S1000R naked roadster.

My first ride on the BMW S 1000 XR was at Muskoka in Central Ontario, Canada – land that twists around the 1600 lakes that punctuate the area north of Toronto.

Unfortunately, my test S1000XR had less than 14 miles when I first started it! This meant the rev limiter was set at 9000 rpm – 2000 before redline. Fresh S1000XRs are setup this way for correct break-in; once the bikes go in for the 600-mile service, the the bike is allowed to fully rev. This 9000 rpm redline robs the peak-power fun, considering the S1000XR’s power plant creates a peak 160 horsepower at 11,000 rpm, and peak torque of 83 ft/lbs at 9250 rpm.

Yes – the engine felt soft and underpowered, and it rained the entire day. However, this didn’t prevent me from completely testing everything else during my 140-mile ride around the Muskoka region filled with odd things for a Pennsylvanian, such as numerous turtle- and snowmobile-crossing signs.

Note that my BMW S1000XR test bike was equipped with the Premium Package, which takes the base MSRP of $16,350 to $18,750. This package is well worth the $2400; it upgrades the S1000XR with the Dynamic Package (DTC – Dynamic Traction Control, ABS Pro, Ride Modes Pro, Gear Shift Assist Pro, Cruise Control) and the Touring Package (Dynamic Electronic Suspension Adjustment, GPS Preparation, Heated Grips, Center Stand, Luggage Rack and Saddle Bag Mounts). Each option contained within the Dynamic and Touring packages is also available as a separate upgrade to the base model.

Clearly aimed at the road-going customer that enjoys power – the inline four having the same horsepower as the 2015 Ducati Multistrada 1200 DVT – the S 1000 XR arrives with 17-inch wheels and Bridgestone T30 Sport Touring rubber (same size as the Multistrada – 120/70 front and 190/55 rear).

The bike’s upright position and wide bars provide a dominating feel for the road, and the rider triangle catered perfectly to my 5’ 11” frame – even while standing up in some off-road sections. But first, let’s talk about what BMW is known for – the savviest electronics in the industry.

2016 BMW S1000XR Review | Debut Ride Test gauges2015 BMW S 1000 XR – Endless Electronics

Starting with the electronics – all functions switchable on the fly – the Rider Modes Pro (included in the Premium Package, or offered as a $450 option) adds a “Dynamic and Dynamic Pro” to the already base engine maps of Road and Rain. The encoding plug for “Dynamic Pro” wasn’t installed on the test bikes, so I had three modes to choose from – Rain, Road and Dynamic.

Due to the steady downpours, I began in Rain mode, which provided optimal traction control and a softer throttle response. For the cautious, this is optimal – but for the adventurist, the TC and ABS offered too much engagement. I bumped the S1000XR’s map into Road for a bit, but quickly changed directly to Dynamic mode, which provided the most rear-wheel slip for some fun in the mud.

By this time I was happy for the rain – I would have never truly tested the Rider Modes. How good are they? In Rain and Road mode, I was able to hold a wicked lean angle around some corners and bounce the rev limiter (remember – 9000 rpm due to mileage) without any loss of control. As the rain grew stronger and the day longer, my faith in Bavarian electronics was unbelievable; by day’s end, I was doing the same in Dynamic Mode, showing the true forgiveness of the BMW S1000XR.

By day’s end, giddiness set in, and I was thankful that TC – along with ABS Pro – was disengageable, allowing for some true mud slinging and sliding in the rain.

The same situation also occurred regarding Dynamic ESA suspension setup (standard in the Premium Package, or $950 option; arrives with gold forks). By mid-morning, I used Dynamic mode in single-rider mode in the dirt, and Dynamic mode for two-up on the street, the latter providing a much stiffer feel – my preference. Also available is a mode for a single rider with luggage, but I couldn’t find much difference between that and the single-person mode.

The setup of Dynamic ESA can get confusing, so – in BMW’s words – “Dynamic ESA is preset to the ‘Road’ damping set-up in the ‘Rain’ and ‘Road’ riding modes and to the firmer ‘Dynamic’ damper mapping in the ‘Dynamic’ and ‘Dynamic Pro’ modes. Riders can easily switch between the two damper settings at the press of a button on the handlebar, even while on the move.”

The other electronic aid that provides forgiveness for startled reactions and a safer ride in extremely wet conditions – both on- and off-road – is ABS Pro. To make things simple, ABS Pro means ABS works while cornering. This is the first time ABS Pro is offered as a factory option, and it works flawlessly.

2016 BMW S1000XR Review | Debut Ride Test windscreen

ABS Pro offers less slip as the Rider Modes are changed from Rain to Road to Dynamic to Dynamic Pro. While riding a straight line in Rain and Road modes, I was able crank on the binders without loss of control – and no feeling of integration, even at one planned-emergency stop from about 70 mph on the road, and another of about 50 mph in the dirt. The ABS also slowed the bike quickly while at serious lean angle; I experienced a few sharper corners in the wet around 60 mph, and was able to seriously crank on the front or rear brake, or both, without upsetting the suspension.

Feel at the lever was perfect, and no pulsating was felt, even under extreme braking. The lever also has four levels of adjustment, unlike the non-adjustable clutch lever.

It’s truly amazing how seamlessly the S 1000 XR’s electronics integrate together while riding. This provides immediate safety for the newbies, and loads of fun for the experienced rider who likes to push things under uncertain conditions – such as brake stabs at ridiculous angle in the rain.

Our bike also arrived with cruise control, which worked flawlessly on some longer stretches of roads.

2015 BMW S 1000 XR – Gear Shift Assist Pro for an (almost) clutchless experience

When I rode the 2015 BMW S 1000 RR at Circuit of The Americas, I left Texas with a newfound love for something I had never experienced before – clutchless downshifts.

This was due to the S1000RR arriving with BMW’s Gear Shift Assist Pro. Clutchless upshifts are nothing new, but the same couldn’t be said of clutchless downshifts. The S1000RR automatically blips the revs so well I felt very MotoGP (though my lap times were closer to World Superbike).

Included in the S 1000 XR’s premium package or offered as a $475 option, Gear Shift Assist Pro is well worth the price, although the system didn’t seem quite as refined as it did on the S 1000 RR.

This may be due to the low mileage and lack of a break-in period, but things seemed stiff – regardless of high or low rpm – during clutchless shifts, especially downshifts. I found myself having to use the clutch from first to second or second to first, but then forgetting about it until stopping.

2016 BMW S1000XR Review | Red and white

2016 BMW S 1000 XR Engine – With a 9000-rpm limit, what’s there to say?

As I said earlier, my S1000XR had covered less than 600 miles, which is when the first service is due. Once the service is complete, the tech will uncork the engine and the real fun should begin.

From riding the S 1000 R roadster with the same powerplant, we know the S1000XR will be a screamer.

Power from closed throttle to wide open, power delivery is smooth, and the engine’s mid-range is optimal in urban situations. But once cranked in the mountain passes, the S1000XR did not let me down – even if all power wasn’t on tap. Though I’d enjoy a bit more noise, the stock exhaust has an aggressive tone when near the upper (soft) rpm limit.

The bike is also geared well for nearly all situations, from faster speeds on the highway to low speeds in town. The low-rpm engine character – though not as strong as I’d like – proved impressive in town. I kept the engine in sixth gear a few times while slowing for sleepy Canada towns, and allowed the engine to chug under 2000 rpm at speeds below 30mph. Though not as strong as a V-twin, the S1000XR powerplant provides enough pull to disregard downshifting, and will easily bring you back to highway speeds.

Typical of BMW’s other inline fours, the S 1000 XR displays little vibration throughout the rpm range. There was a bit of buzz on the highway through the bars, but nothing annoying.

2016 BMW S 1000 XR Chassis – One with Multiple Personalities

Built on the same platform as the S1000R roadster, the S1000XR’s aluminum perimeter frame is welded together at four points – the steering head, the engine and swing arm mount, plus two side sections – and the engine is used as a load-bearing element.

The aluminum frame’s lightweight design allows for a slim claimed weight of 502 pounds wet – a definite factor in the S 1000 XR’s agility around town and light feel on country roads. The S1000XR is easy to toss around at speed, and requires little muscle in quick directional transitions. This lofty feel arrives regardless of the long 61-inch wheelbase – which is 4.3 inches longer than the S1000R roadster, primarily due to a longer rear swing arm (26 inches instead of the S 1000 R’s 23.5-inch unit.

This longer wheelbase also increases traction – something that was never a problem on or off road. Even under slick off-road conditions and with the Bridgestone T30 Sport Touring tires at recommended air pressure, the bike remained planted, and provided on overwhelming sense of security.

Though I didn’t ride with luggage or a passenger, the chassis setup will likely continue to provide comfort and a planted feeling. Also providing comfort was the long-suspension travel – 5.9 inches up front from the 46mm inverted fork, and 5.5 inches out back.

2016 BMW S1000XR Review | Debut Ride Test seat

2016 BMW S 1000 XR – Ergonomically Fit for Comfort, and Stylish

At 5’ 11”, I’m average in size – a great size, considering most bikes are built for the average rider. But after talking with a few taller and shorter riders, everyone seemed to agree that comfort was optimal, though a few taller ones said the pegs could be a bit lower. Thankfully, BMW offers loads of accessories for the S1000XR, including three-position adjustable rearsets.

The reach for the pegs and bars never provided any discomfort, and the same could be said while standing up. The only complaint about standing on the pegs is lack of space to ride on the balls of my size 12 feet. Getting in the way of my heels were the exhaust on the right, and the optional (though standard with the Premium Package) Center Stand, with its genius double-spring design on the left.

And just like my Multistrada 1200, the S 1000 XR arrives with pegs that feature a removable rubber insert. These rubber inserts dampen vibration for touring, but when removed the bare metal is exposed for extra grip off road or in the rain. I had the rubber inserts out of the BMW XR within 20 minutes of starting my ride.

At 33.1 inches, the standard seat height allows my 34-inch inseam to comfortably place both feet flat on the ground at stops. Catering to a wide range of riders, the S 1000 XR is available with an optional 33.7-inch high seat, or a 32.3-inch low seat, the latter capable of being lowered to 31.1 inches with lowered suspension and D-ESA. The seat provided all-day comfort, though I felt it was a bit restrictive when I was moving around in the corners.

Regarding style, the S 1000 XR is a mash of the GS (though the beak is smaller), S1000RR and S1000R. The typical sporty elements are the slightly asymmetrical headlights and split-face air intake. The tail section’s clean design also derives from the sportbike side of things. While on the test ride, I questioned many Canadian bystanders about the styling. Only three out of 20 thought the bike was ugly. I agree with the majority.

The fairing has a slim design, and it provides adequate wind and rain protection to the upper torso; the legs could use a bit more coverage. The windscreen also provides adequate coverage, although it only has two positions – up or down. As expected I felt less head buffeting in the upper position, but the difference was slight. As for adjustment, there are no knobs to fuss with here; simply push the BMW S1000XR windscreen down or pull it up.

BMW keeps things simple in the paint department. The BMW S1000XR is available in two colors – Light White and Racing Red. Both are appealing, though my feelings changed once I saw the bike in person. I initially fell for the white after seeing the bike on the screen, but the red is much more attractive in person.

2016 BMW S1000XR Review in Rain

2016 BMW S 1000 XR – The Verdict

After my debut 140-mile ride around Ontario’s Muskoka region, I found few negatives with the S1000XR. BMW’s entry into the world of “Adventure Sport” provides a versatile platform, one that can get you comfortably around town or a weeklong tour. If some light gravel or fire-roads come along, don’t worry – the S1000XR is more than capable.

As for the sport side of things, the Dynamic ESA and other electronic aids will up the fun factor. Unfortunately, due to the 9000-rpm limiter, I couldn’t truly test the upper power range of the engine, which loves to be revved – something proved on the S1000R roadster. I’ll find out more once I get an S1000XR for some extended testing that will surely include a track day or two.

Now back to my original question – did BMW build the ultimate Ducati Multistrada killer? The BMW S1000XR’s electronics definitely supersede the second-generation Multistrada 1200, though I’d argue they are even with the 2015 DVT model.

Regardless of being nine pounds lighter than the 2015 Multistrada, the S 1000 XR’s chassis still doesn’t have the on-road planted feel of Ducati’s trellis frame and wider handlebar. Off-road, though, both feel about the same – but the S 1000 XR proves comfortable while standing.

I won’t go near engine comparisons until I ride a fully uncorked S1000XR. But it goes without saying that the inline four can’t match the mid-range torque of a V-twin, and the V-twin can’t match the upper scream of an inline four.

Without a doubt BMW has built a fresh “Adventure Sport” motorcycle – a do-it-all bike that caters to the sporty side of the road. And the pricing is attractive for bikes offered in this segment, the base S 1000 XR model arriving at $16,350 – though I’d surely splurge for the $18,750 premium package. The extra coin is well worth it for the best electronic suspension and rider aids currently available. These electronics not only increase safety, they also up the confidence factor. More confidence means more speed, and more speed equals more fun for this rider.

The only question I have remaining is for BMW Motorrad USA – can I get my test S 1000 XR soon, with full power, please?

Photos by Kevin Wing

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2016 BMW S1000XR Review – Photo Gallery