BMW G 310 R And G 310 GS: First Ride Review
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Why are these BMW bikes so expensive? We take a closer look and ride them both to know the answer
“Nice bike! How much does it cost?”
“Around Rs 4.2 lakh on-road.”
“ 4.2 lakh!” the pillion rider on the battered TVS Apache RTR 180 exclaimed on my response. “Must be. It’s a BMW bike.” the rider countered.
That's one reason. BMW, on account of its brand value, commands a premium over other 300cc bikes. Let's check out what the other reasons are:
Design and features:
Quality. That's what you notice when you approach these two bikes. The plastic panels offer a premium finish and panel gaps are tight and even, the sort you would see on a BMW car. And it's not just the plastics. The welds on the frame are meticulously finished. While components like the switchgear are shared with the TVS Apache RR 310, the quality and tactility of switches seem a couple of notches higher here. The ADV-style bear claw footpeg and brake pedal shared by both the BMW’s too spell quality and seem lifted off BMW’s larger ADVs.
Both the G 310 R and G 310 GS get aluminium pillion grab rails with integrated hooks and holes to mount luggage. They are well finished with smooth edges on the castings. We loved the single one-piece grabrail of the G 310 GS that also serves up as a luggage rack and mount for an aluminium storage box. Attention to detail is apparent in the way the panels fit with one another, forming a single cohesive design. The BMW badge sits prominent on the flanks and should have badge thieves squeal with joy every time you leave your bike unattended.
While quality is appreciated, BMW disappoints in its lack of features. Other than the LED tail lamp, both bikes uses bulb-type setups for the headlamps and turn indicators. The digital instrument console is a disappointment as well. There is no colour display. Instead, you get a TFT screen which is smaller in proportion to the console it sits in. The display shows your de rigueur information like speed, revs, engine temperature and gear position. While most of these observations might seem like nitpicking, these aren’t things we expect to see on bikes that cost a hefty premium over their closest Austrian competitor.
The G 310 R is quite compact, even more than the KTM Duke 390. Despite its compact and minimalist design approach, the bike looks muscular. It is styled along the lines of BMW’s litre-class naked, the S 1000 R. The muscular fuel tank is flanked by large panels that lend it a sense of aggression. Its single-piece seat gets a sporty step that blends into a minimalist tail piece. The tail lamp sits on the number plate holder, like the Hero Karizma ZMR, but smaller and better finished.
In contrast, the G 310 GS looks large and imposing. Very ADV-like. It is styled on the lines of BMW’s highly recognizable G 1200 GS adventure tourer. It shares cosmetic parts like the headlamp and tail lamp with the G 310 R but the surrounding panels are designed so that they don't seem identical. We loved the beak that sits below the headlamp, which not just looks functional but is made of thick plastic and is quite sturdy.
Overall, both bikes have clean lines and should age well. That said, we don't expect them to win any design awards.
Engine and performance:
Both bikes are powered by the same 313cc liquid-cooled single-cylinder motor in the same state of tune. It is a familiar motor, the same as the one on the TVS Apache RR 310. The BMWs make the same 34PS at 9500rpm and 28Nm at 7500rpm as the Apache RR 310. They feature identical gearing as well. The six-speed gearbox misses out on a slipper clutch, something we would have liked on a performance motorcycle.
The motor is eager at low revs and post 5000rpm offers a strong mid-range pull. It is a tractable motor and quite fun to ride at city speeds. The clutch is light but has a sharp bite so you need to rev the bike a bit and slip the clutch to get things going. While the G 310 R feels more sprightly than the Apache RR 310 thanks to its lighter 158.5kg, the GS’ performance feels on par with the TVS thanks to them sporting a near identical kerb weight of 169.5kg. BMW claims a top speed of 143kmph and a fuel efficiency figure of 33kmpl for both bikes. That number corresponds to what we managed with the RR310 in the real world, but we’ll have precise figures for both the bikes after our comprehensive road test.
Like the Apache RR 310, the BMWs don’t offer extremely high refinement and vibrations do come up between 6000 and 7000rpm. The BMWs, though, get rubber-mounted handlebars so your palms dont feel much of the vibrations. Vibrations through the seats and footpegs are far more contained than the RR 310.
Overall, the motor offers good performance, more so in the G 310 R. The G 310 GS meanwhile benefits from the motor’s low end power delivery though the sharp clutch can make taking off from slippery, off-road conditions a tricky affair.
Ride and handling:
Both the G 310 R and G 310 GS share the same frame and motor - and on the outside, it looks like they share the same 41mm upside down forks and rear monoshock as well. On the inside though, the G 310 GS and G 310 R get completely different springs and cartridges. The G 310 GS gets 180mm front and rear suspension travel compared to the G 310 R’s 140mm front and 131mm rear travel. And it’s not just the travel, both bikes offer different ride and handling characteristics too.
The G 310 R has its ride set up on the firmer side. The good thing though is that while taut, the suspension doesn’t transfer jolts from bad roads to the rider. Thanks to sophisticated damping, the ride at higher speeds, even on bad roads, is kept well under control.
The G 310 R’s compact size makes its riding position quite cramped. Riders taller than 5ft 6in will have trouble locking their knees inside the tank recesses. The seat meanwhile feels roomy enough for skinny riders, but larger riders will feel immobile between the tall tank and deep seat. Its short 785mm seat height will accommodate most riders though. Short and upright handlebars mean that you have a slight lean towards them, but the grips are angled slightly down and towards the rider, allowing for a very natural hand position when holding the bars.
The G 310 R has a sharper steering head rake of 25.1 degrees so turn-ins are quick. That is a boon while slicing through city traffic. Also helping matters is the light front end that makes riding the bike a fuss-free affair. The 110/70 R17 front and 150/60 R17 Michelin Pilot Sports tyres offer good grip though we’d like to spend more time with them to properly evaluate them.
Braking is via a single 300mm disc clamped with four-piston radial calipers and a 240mm disc along with dual channel ABS. While the brakes have excellent stopping power, they are more progressive and miss out on sharp initial bite and feel at the start of brake travel. When compared to the Apache RR 310, the BMW’s ABS feels better calibrated and offers less intrusion.
We couldn't properly test the bike’s handling characteristics due to the lack of time and twisty roads so that verdict will have to wait for a proper road test.
The G 310 GS is set up more like an ADV. Its long-travel suspension has a softer spring action. This leads to a carpet-like ride that does not bend out of shape when confronted with bad roads. Despite the tall 830mm seat height, it is easy to place both feet on the ground thanks to the seat contour being narrow in the middle. The near-vertical riding position is a boon for touring but has shortcomings when taken off-road. The footpegs, for one, feel a tad smaller and the brake pedal is hard to reach, especially when standing up. The G 310 GS could have benefited from a taller set of handlebars as this one has the rider slouched over the bars when standing up and riding.
Handling is a relaxed affair on the G 310 GS owing to a more relaxed 26.7 degrees of rake and a 46mm longer wheelbase than the G 310 R. It also gets 19-inch front and 17-inch rear wheels for better off-road capability. It might not be as engaging as the G 310 R on the road but off it, the G 310 GS comes alive. The suspension setup and dual-purpose Metzeler Tourance tyres make light work of small dirt paths and the ground clearance is enough to clear most small rocks. You also get a dedicated button on the left switchgear that deactivates rear ABS for off-road use. If you need a multipurpose entry-level BMW, this is it.
At Rs 2.99 lakh (ex-showroom) the G 310 R is priced well above the KTM Duke 390 that retails for Rs 2.4 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi). That’s quite a lot when you consider the KTM gets a more powerful motor, better tyres and suspension and is loaded with features. The BMW though has better parts quality and feels like it was built to last - something that can't be said about KTM (though they are getting there). Of course, you also get the pleasure of owning a more premium brand. Other than that, it is very difficult to consider the BMW G 310 R over the KTM 390 Duke.
At Rs 3.49 lakh (ex-showroom), the BMW G 310 GS sits between the Royal Enfield Himalayan (Rs 1.68 lakh, ex-showroom Delhi) and the Kawasaki Versys X-300 (Rs 4.69 lakh, ex-showroom Delhi). Both its competitors are more capable off the road, and the Himalayan offers better VFM while the Versys offers more refinement and kit. The BMW G 310 GS however betters the Himalayan in terms of build quality and performance, and the Versys-X when it comes to price. Despite being on the expensive side, the G 310 GS sits at a sweet spot -- that is, until the KTM 390 Adventure comes in next year.
Photography by Vikrant Date