2017 BMW S1000R Review: This unassuming German streetbike might be the wildest thing on the road
The 2017 update to this super-naked streetbike is far and away the craziest machine in the BMW stable. And with active suspension, cruise control, cornering ABS and a ton of other gadgetry, it's also got a claim on being the smartest nakedbike in its category. Loz Blain dons the leathers and rides the awesome S1000R.
It's been four years since BMW launched the barnstorming S1000R super-naked sportsbike. That thing blew me away when I rode it in 2014, so I was super keen to take the 2017 update out for a spin at the Australian media launch in Tasmania.
Here's what's changed. The 1000cc inline-four engine, adapted from the S1000RR superbike block, is now Euro 4-compliant. In the process it's gained a thoroughly unnecessary extra five horsepower, taking the total peak to 165 hp (123 kW). I say unnecessary because, thanks to gearing and throttle response, the old bike already felt massively faster on the road than the RR superbike. It was already downright bonkers.
Weight is down 2 kg to 205 kg (452 lb), and that's ready to roll with a full 17.5 liters (4.6 gal) of fuel. Most of the weight reduction is, believe it or not, in the exhaust. The standard exhaust is now a titanium Akrapovic HP unit, which looks terrific, sounds pretty good for a legal can, and effectively saves you a ton of money on something aftermarket. Bravo!
The quickshifter, which used to be an option, is now standard, and it goes both ways, with an aggressive auto-blip on downshifts. It rocks.
The cast aluminum frame has been updated with a lighter rear section, and design-wise it's lost a fair bit of plastic to become significantly naked-er than the old model. Now, I still don't think this is a good-looking motorcycle, because the headlight unit is still too bulbous and ugly for my tastes. But I'm on board with everything astern of that; it certainly looks a ton better than the old model, and I could live with the red and weird grey color options.
I think we're all best off pretending the white one doesn't exist. It looks like something from the Honda learner bike range and BMW has priced it higher than the others, presumably to scare off any poor blind fool who thinks it might be a good idea.
The S1000R now comes in two models in Australia: the standard R and the Sport. The AU$2,300 (US$1,760) Sport upgrade is just about mandatory in my opinion, because it gets you the really good stuff. BMW's DDC active electronic suspension system, for starters, as well as a lean angle-sensitive upgrade to the ABS system, plus launch control and a pit lane speed limiter. There's also heated grips and cruise control, which might not fit most people's definition of "sport" but I'm in love with both.
Going to the Sport model also unlocks two extra dynamic ride modes and the option of paying a further AU$1,850 (US$1,415) for a set of forged wheels that take a whopping 2.4 kg (5.3 lb) off your unsprung weight. They'd set you back about AU$6,000 (US$4,600) if you bought them aftermarket, and if I had the cash I'd find them very difficult to turn down.
All in all, it's not an earth-shakingly huge update, but it's a significant one and a step forward from what was already an absolute monster of a thing to ride.
And speaking of riding, let's get our heads out of the spec sheet and see how this thing goes in the real world. Mind you, it's hardly fair to call Tasmania the real world. It's a slice of motorcycling paradise tucked away off the south coast of the Australian mainland and battered with awful Antarctic weather for two thirds of the year. But in the dry window it offers flat-out unbelievable riding roads that wind through mountains, valleys, rainforests and desert ridges – as well as a famously throttle-friendly approach to speed enforcement.
Perfect for bike testing, then, and when I finally get off the S1000RR superbike and throw a leg over the R, it immediately feels like home.
I love the riding position. For my frame (just under 6 ft, lots of Xs in front of the L) it's a great blend of comfort and aggression that lets you cruise around in a stress-free fashion, or get the old Angry Elbows out and switch into attack mode. The seat is firm and sporty without being uncomfortable, and it's an easy bike to climb around on if you like getting right off the side in the twisties.
Taking off up a patchy bit of road, I'm immediately struck – just as I was last time – by just how wild the engine feels. It's a genuine shock the way this road bike feels so much less measured and civil than its superbike cousin; it's a face-kicking brute of a thing. Give it a handful anywhere over about 4,000 rpm, and it pounces forward with focused intent, malice aforethought and a wheel wagging in the air if you're in first or second with the traction control off.
That's not to say it's unmanageable; the throttle response is very well designed, with almost no snatch on takeup and a progressive delivery. But there's just a heap of grunt behind it right up and down the tacho, ready to humble you if you think you're man enough for a handful in the lower gears.
When you hit the corners, it really starts to shine thanks to its wide, anti-vibration handlebar, which is low enough to give you a razor-sharp connection to the front wheel and offers effortless counter-steering leverage. Where the front wheel can feel a mile away on the S1000XR, the R gives you a direct telepathic line to the tire.
That's a recipe for serious cornering brilliance, and even the standard S1000R is an absolute weapon on a twisty road. I've had a quiet suspicion for years that BMW might be sneakily playing with the suspension settings on test bikes they give me, because just about every one I get feels terrific right out of the box, and that rarely happens with other brands. And yet here we are with eight riders of all shapes and sizes, and these bikes still feel amazing.
Move to the Sport model with active suspension and lightweight wheels, and things get even better. It's not a glaringly obvious change, thanks to the strong performance of the standard setup. In fact, until I really paid attention, I just thought the roads happened to be smoother and the corners not as tight when I got on the Sport model.
In reality, DDC is working overtime, making rebound and compression damping changes at both ends up to 100 times per second, like some madly stressed munchkin with six hands and a can-do attitude is clinging to the subframe. If you hit a bump with your front wheel, the shock's ready for it by the time your back wheel hits it. It controls brake dive and throttle squat, and nips things up a bit firmer when it senses you're in a smooth corner.
If you chuck a wheelie, it'll soften the compression damping on the forks so that you touch down as smoothly as possible, reducing genital trauma and making you feel better at this sort of thing than might actually be the case. Suspension used to be a compromise, but with this DDC gear it's just not anymore, and the fact that you can flick it back into road mode and soften it off for your cruise-controlled freeway blast home at the end of the day is a touch of luxury you won't find on other super-naked bikes.
In terms of complaints, I find the steering lock a bit narrow on u-turns. It feels more like what you'd expect on a sportsbike than a naked, and it'd slow you down in between lanes in traffic. The quickshift system can make neutral a bit fiddly to find, and, be it the quick turn throttle or the nose-down weight bias, it did take me some practice to wheelie it halfway competently. It's not what I'd call a born hooligan.
But these are trifles. Honestly, this bike makes me feel faster and more confident in the twisties than anything else I've ridden. If – nay, when – my kid starts choking on a Cheeto and I absolutely need to get from one end of a twisty road to the other at light speed to save him, this is the bike I want to be on. It's devastatingly quick and composed, incredibly easy to go quick on, and it's one of those bikes that quietly flatters your riding while getting out of the way to let you concentrate on the white lines.
The 2017 BMW S1000R retails from AU$19,390 in Australia, with the Sport model costing AU$21,690 and the lightweight rims an extra AU$1,850 on top of that, which is still thousands of dollars cheaper than the 2016 KTM Super Duke R and very much in the Tuono's ballpark.
Equipment levels differ in the US. The base bike costs US$13,795. A Sport package adds traction control, dynamic riding modes, cornering ABS Pro, cruise control and the up/down quickshifter for $950. A separate dynamic package, the price of which eludes me, gives you the DDC active suspension and heated grips, and the lightweight rims cost $1,375.