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Old 01-13-2015, 12:50 PM   #1
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First UK road test 2015 BMW S1000RR review

Its proved it can walk the walk around a dry test track but how does BMWs new S1000RR cope on the UKs sketchy roads

ABS and TC can be turned off...

IS 200hp simply too much for the road? There’s a question you’ll never get a conclusive answer to.

Still, I suspect it’s one that will pop up a fair few times over the next 12 months, given that 2015 sees the release of 200hp superbikes from Ducati, Aprilia, Kawasaki and Yamaha.

Just short of that immense power figure is BMW’s new S1000RR - it produces 199hp, has electronics that make better decisions than I do, and - if you’re impartial to a bit of asymmetry - looks the business too.

We already know it’s blisteringly quick around a dry test track in Spain, but what’s it like on UK roads? Greasy winter roads where grip is non-existent and every leaf-covered corner looks like a low-side boobytrap.

Our test bike was the Sport edition - it costs just over £1,000 more than the basic version but comes with electronic suspension, extra riding modes, a quick-shifter, heated grips, LED indicators and a seat cowl.

This 2015 model may look similar to the old bike but it actually has completely different chassis geometry, new engine internals, different bodywork, revised electronics, more power and more torque in the midrange. It’s a serious update and not just a thinly veiled excuse to remind fickle sports bike riders that the S1000RR is still very much a contender in the superbike class.

I’m a big fan of sports bikes but I tend to prefer two-cylinder to four-cylinder models. The former tend to be more compact and a lot narrower, which I like. Sitting on an old GSX-R1000 is like trying to wrap your legs around an oak tree.

But there’s none of that with the new S1000RR, I don’t know how BMW has managed to keep it so narrow but it’s no different in shape to a modern supersport. The tank doesn’t splay out your legs and there’s no protruding fairing getting in the way.

It handles like a 600cc sports bike too. You don't need to fight it into corners, turn-in speed is exceptionally quick thanks to a steeper rake and it’s not at the expense of stability either. There’s very little headshake or movement under power, just drive from that 190-section Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa. Well, when it’s dry anyway.

You see, I’ll never understand why new bikes aren’t offered with a choice of tyres. The S1000RR may be a weapon on track and have silly amounts of power, but it’s no good if you can’t actually lay it down. Even in rain mode where power is reduced and its delivery is significantly softer, the rear tyre was lighting up coming off roundabouts under even moderate acceleration in the rain. Pirelli’s Supercorsa: awesome on a track day, complete cack in cold weather, even worse in the wet.

A smart feature that does work is BMW’s new Gear Shift Assist Pro. It lets you hook both upshifts and downshifts without so much as breathing on the clutch lever. It may be aimed at track riders looking to scrape a tenth off their personal best but I think its real coup de grace is how it helps to keep the bike stable.

It’s like handing clutch and gear lever duties over to Marc Marquez whilst you concentrate on braking. Seamless upshifts every time and perfect throttle blips on downshifts. It might feel like cheating but it’s certain to make you a smoother, if not faster rider, by removing jerky inputs that upset the bike’s balance.

The gearbox is quick and precise too but I couldn’t get used to the soft feel and minimal amount of travel in the gear-shift lever. Downshifts felt odd to me, as though I was pushing my boot into sand, instead of feeling a definitive clonk as the bike selected a new cog. Occasionally I’d have to look down at the digital gear indicator on the dash to see if the transmission had actually shifted down.

That, or I’d listen for a change in engine note booming from the S1000RR’s new exhaust, which happens to sound unbelievably good. In a world where aftermarket exhausts can easily cost £1,500 for a full system, it’s nice to see a stocker pumping out some proper noise. It’s got a hollow whir that changes into pops, bangs and burbles as you downshift and leave it on the overrun. I even caught a young boy in the back of a car pointing at his ears and giving me a thumbs up. I took that as code for ‘ please’ - the bike happily obliged.

The old S1000RR engine is praised for its endless amount of power, but it now makes 6hp more and has a dollop of extra torque in the midrange too. Acceleration in third and fourth gear pulls much the same as a 600cc in first gear, whilst pinning the throttle in first and second gear is so fast that it verges on scary. And with only 700 miles clocked on our test bike, it's likely to get even faster as the engine 'loosens up' with mileage. It's not uncommon for used S1000RRs with 5,000 miles on the clock to make around five horsepower more than when they were new.

It doesn't need to be ridden like a hooligan though. The engine is strong and smooth enough to pull from sixth gear at low speeds and the electronic suspension, whilst firm, offers perfect damping on our sketchy roads. In fact, if I was going to fork out £13,700 for the basic version, I’d beg, borrow and steal to find the cash to afford the Sport. It will be easier to flog if you ever decide to sell and the electronic suspension and Gear Shift Assist Pro are more than worth the extra money.

Like almost every modern sports bike, the ABS-equipped four-piston brakes are powerful and only require one finger on the lever for the majority of braking duties.

One thing that puzzled me is the lack of fuel gauge. It seems an odd feature to leave out when things like launch control and a pit lane speed limiter make the cut... Still, there's no need to panic over running out of fuel, our low fuel warning light came on after 95 miles of normal riding and the onboard computer showed the 17.5-litre tank still had another 40 miles in reserve.

After several days of riding the new S1000RR, I couldn't help but think of it as the two-wheeled equivalent of the Bugatti Veyron: wildly fast and yet completely manageable. The comfortable riding position, light throttle with perfect response and heated grips is making me want to call it civilised too.

So, is 200hp too much for the roads? Perhaps...199hp is absolutely fine though.

Model tested: 2015 BMW S1000RR Sport

Engine: 999cc inline-four

Price: S1000RR Sport £14,760 (standard RR £13,700). Bike tested also had £490 Race Package, £385 Motorsport paint option and £1075 forged wheels; total £16,710.

Power: 198hp

Torque: 83lbft

Wet weight: 204kg (full tank)

Tank capacity: 17.5 litres

Seat height: 815mm

Available: dealer launch February 7th
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