BMW S1000RR (2015) Review

Now we say 200 horsepower as though it’s completely normal, even though it clearly is not. But there are clues to suggest BMW’s revised S1000RR breaks even that startling threshold.

BMW S 1000 RR, MY 2015

Attack in Beast Mode

I’m at Circuito Monteblanco, Spain, and it’s early 2015, which will go down in sportbike history as the year 200 horsepower became the new norm, thanks in part to one thoroughly revised S1000RR.   

But when all superbikes have become machines so ferociously fast each deserves to be called “beast,” exactly what should you call a new one that’s even faster? Monster beast? Beast among beasts? BMW’s new S1000RR demands an answer.

That the RR is a very fast bike is nothing new to anyone even vaguely familiar with today’s sportbike scene. With the exception of maybe the Ducati 1199 Panigale, the Beemer has reigned over the Superbike world ever since it was introduced in 2010. But even though it took a few years for rival brands to catch up, they now have and for 2015, the Panigale, Yamaha R1 and even the Aprilia RSV4 all now produce over 200 hp. So BMW built a new S1000RR. 

On paper, the 2015 RR seems like a revision of the original machine. Styling is new, yet very familiar, dimensions vary only slightly, weight is down by just a few kilos and horsepower is up by a mere three per cent. What typically happens in situations like this is a new bike that feels almost identical to the old one. Well, not this time, and that’s because BMW isn’t exactly forthcoming about a few things. Those additional six ponies and that max number of 199 horsepower? My opinion is it’s not even close. I’m betting the RR will produce considerably more once dynos reveal the truth. Call it political correctness.

It’s hard to illustrate exactly how strong the 2015 S1000RR feels when its new ride-by-wire throttle is pinned. You could say it’s a beast, but then that word could no longer apply to its prior rivals. In terms of raw power, the BMW is in a new class. On a racetrack—the only environment a rider can even begin to experience the sheer speed of the bike—every moment the throttle has to be wide open is cause for near-anxiety. The S1000RR catapults its rider THAT fiercely and THAT relentlessly between corners.

 The 193-hp 2014 RR certainly was no slouch when it came to acceleration, but the 2015 raises the bar quite a bit higher. Not only does it feel much fuller at low and mid revs, which makes for a considerably wider usable rev range on a track, but it also generates speed with a ferocity that I can’t say I ever felt on a model in this class. The truth is the new S1000RR feels like its displacement has been bumped to 1100 or 1200cc even though it hasn’t. It will be very interesting to see what the Beemer’s new 200-plus horsepower rivals feel like by comparison.

Other than its eyeball flattening power, the key feature of the $17,950 S1000RR is its industry-leading suite of electronic assists. Canadian versions will come standard with Traction Control, ABS, multiple riding modes and a new assisted shifter with rev-matching on downshifts. Options include Dynamic Damping Control—a feature up until now reserved to the discontinued for 2015 HP4—heated grips and even cruise control, among several others.

Simply reciting the features list doesn’t do justice to the S1000RR as these components are an inherent part of the riding experience. Their effectiveness is such that an average rider can select a relatively high level of assist, like Rain or Sport modes, and lap a circuit without any real fear of getting bit in the butt by the monster he’s playing with. But the remarkable part happens when those aids are diminished to the point they are only useful to the expert rider. Choose Pro mode, lower the amount of intervention of the TC system and get ready for some seriously intense lapping. 

BMW S 1000 RR, MY 2015

Programmed this way, the S1000RR will allow the front wheel to leave the ground pretty freely and also let the rear tire spin enough to get slightly unhooked during corner exits. True, other bikes offer traction control, but there’s something different about the entire S1000RR’s electronic package. It feels like it’s the real deal, like it’s not just a feature of the bike, but rather a genuine tool engineered and tuned by a world-class race team and ultimately intended for use by world-class racers. It just so happens anyone with the budget to buy an RR now has access to that stuff. 

Speaking of real deal equipment, here’s one that struck me pretty profoundly. It’s an onboard data logging system that records everything about a lap. Corner speed, lean angle (yes!), gear, maximum speeds and lap times are just a few of the parameters, which can be downloaded and displayed on a computer. The system works with GPS and will even draw a map of the track with colours indicating throttle openings. The result is incredibly interesting to analyze and makes track days that much more fun.

A few years ago I was testing a new Kawasaki ZX-6R at Barber. Two units present at the media launch were equipped with an almost identical system. They were “staff use only,” but I was allowed a session on one. “Please don’t crash,” begged the Kawasaki engineers. They didn’t care so much about the $12,000 motorcycle as they did the $35,000 data logging system installed on it. The new RR’s should be less than a grand. 

A truly amazing machine this RR, and a truly amazing era for speedfreaks.

  • by Bertrand Gahel, April 2015 issue

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