BMW S 1000 XR Review – What the Facts?

BMW S1000XR - What The Facts?
BMW S1000XR – WTF?

Now that the important reviews are out of the way and the riding media and community have had some time to ride, assimilate and read about the S 1000 XR – what BMW calls an “Adventure Sports Bike” –  let’s take a spin.

I had some quality alone time with the BMW S1000XR, and traversed most of my favorite local roads in search of the heart of the beast. In action it truly earns the moniker that BMW has given it. For all the specs, see Ultimate MotorCycling Online Editor Ron Lieback’s BMW S1000RR review from July.

As I pull on my gloves the sound of the warming engine is filled with mystery and potential. Its growl earns my immediate respect. Let’s forget the specifications and let the XR talk. It tells of an easy birth from a liaison between the S1000R and RR. This child wants to run and make life exciting in a comfortable way. High, wide and handsome, as they say.

The BMW S1000XR – Why?

As only the second entry of an inline-4 powered ADV-S (Adventure-Style) bike in the U.S. (Kawasaki’s Versys 1000 was the first) it’s no surprise that for all the familiar design cues it really is a solitary machine capable of solid performance beyond most riders abilities and satisfying in all aspects of the ride.

Eschewing the old school notion that an adventure bike must have a torque-monster motor that can deliver down low, we witness the coupling of a sporty, high-revving yet torquey engine in an ADV format and that opens up many possibilities.

The BMW S1000XR – How?

Its evolution started with the 999cc engine and aluminum composite bridge frame that is used on all three S 1000 models. It can then be slathered in optional equipment. The depth and functionality of these options is at the pinnacle of street bike technology and highly effective. Gear Shift Assist Pro, Ride Modes Pro, Dynamic Traction Control, Dynamic ESA (semi-active suspension) along with a sweet, instantly responsive, cruise control unit operate at a high level and exceed expectations.

BMW S1000XR ColorsBMW S1000XR Engine

The engine starts with a sharp, staccato burst and settles into a high idle. BMW’s new S 1000 XR is sending me the first of many messages this world-class ADV-S bike will convey over our time together. It imparts a unique feeling through its sounds and responses to my varied inputs, never disappoints and often encourages more. It is fast as stink and if this bike doesn’t satisfy your need for speed you might consider taking up flying jets.

Those who say inline-4 engines lack soul have never ridden this bike or its stablemates who share this power plant, albeit in slightly different states of tune as mandated by their missions. A twist of the throttle unleashes, in this case, the 160 horsepower (claimed at 11,000 rpm) fury capable of lofting the front tire effortlessly if that be your aim. As important, the cadence, rhythm and growl of the engine, whether on the boil or around town, is stirring and the crackle, pop and tiny backfires on deceleration thrill me no end. I want to continuously stir the motor up and down through the rev range just to hear its song. Grab a handful of throttle anywhere above 4,000 rpm and the engine sounds like a V8 exploding to life and the linear power, with gobs of torque, simply pull one’s arm out and keep them there until sensibilities, or the police, overcome ego.

BMW S1000XR Transmission

The BMW S1000XR offers the Gear Shift Assist Pro (speed shifter up and down) on it 6-speed transmission and it will put a smile on your face, guaranteed. Once accustomed to what is, essentially, a foot paddle-shifter, the rider realizes just how much momentum is lost in the traditional shifting paradigm; this being so much quicker. I found it smooth-acting, even from first to second gear, traditionally stodgy, whether you are hard on the throttle or taking it easy. Downshifts auto-blip and I did find that the pressure required to shift down into a lower gear was noticeably higher than upshifting. It was not a problem and it might diminish over time. A smooth-operating slipper clutch completes the package.

BMW S1000XR Electronics

Unlike some brands, BMW electronics, commands, switch layout, tactile feel and Multi-controller (circular control around the left grip) function feels right, are precise and quite intuitive. As a tech-type, I pride myself on not reading instructions. True to form, I was able to figure out all functionality with only a few minutes of experimentation. You will too.

BMW S1000XR Ride

As with many, modern high performance bikes, they make riding easier than in the past, whether slow or fast. The BMW S1000XR slots right in here whether you’re out for a cruise or riding with your hair on fire. It doesn’t care. The chassis is stiff yet the ride is supple and compliant. The electronic suspension (Road and Dynamic modes) is effective and the brakes are sharp and powerful with excellent initial bite and smoothly progressive feel through the entire braking range. No amount of abuse fazed them on the road.

BMW S1000XR off-roadEven though it is a bit taller than many sport bikes one can brake just as hard into a turn, lay it over as far as you dare, press hard through the apex and exit with the front tire lofted, all with a minimum of drama. It is neutral handling and finishes turns well with a stable attitude heading down the straight and into the next turn.

I have heard someone I respect call this the best bike he has ever ridden. That is a highly subjective statement yet I offer no argument.

BMW S1000XR Buzz

There has been some experience with, and talk of a buzzy vibration in the handlebars and foot pegs, especially at highway speeds. I found this to be true when I received the bike with 580 miles on the odometer. I had heard anecdotal stories about it and my first ride, of about 20 miles, left my hands slightly numb. I loosened my grip a bit during further rides and have found that the feeling, or signature, of the vibration has changed over time for the better. As the miles piled on the vibrations diminished. Now, with well over 1,200 miles on the clock I can attest to a change that has eliminated the numbing completely and is now at an acceptable level. Friends ask if I am simply getting accustomed to the buzz but I feel sure in saying it has lessened. Yes, it still has some vibration but not at the unacceptable frequencies first exhibited.

BMW has produced a stellar vehicle in the BMW S1000XR, especially as a first year offering. It is a world-class motorcycle as good or better than any bike in the several categories in which one might sensibly compare it. Retaining my driver’s license after a month-long affair – priceless.

Photos by Kevin Wing

BMW S1000XR | What the Facts? Photo Gallery