2019 BMW S 1000 RR First Ride Review
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The flagship BMW litre-class motorcycle drops weight, adds power and is loaded to the brim with tech. Is it the best superbike on sale in India?
Very few bikes have managed to make an impact from the get go. One such bike was the BMW S 1000 RR which made its debut in 2009. The first superbike from BMW was a game changer and made its rivals look they were stuck in time! It had a powerful four-cylinder motor, introduced electronic rider aids and a plethora of features. No wonder it went on to garner a strong fan following soon after its launch. The fact that BMW had no prior experience with supersports or any racing background for learnings like its rivals made the impact of the S 1000 RR even more profound.
In its almost decade-long run, the S 1000 RR received only one facelift, which shows how far ahead of the curve the German brand was. However, its competitors stepped up their game over the past few years and BMW Motorrad has responded with the 2019 S 1000 RR. It’s an all-new motorcycle, with revised styling, a more powerful motor, superior underpinnings, loads of tech and an abundance of electronic goodies.
Does BMW have another legend in the making? We put in some hot laps aboard the 2019 S 1000 RR Pro M Sport at the BIC (Buddh International Circuit) track to get you the answer.
- Blistering performance from the new engine and among the best power-to-weight ratio in the segment.
- Shift Cam (VVT) makes the bike more versatile to ride.
- Loaded to the brim with the latest electronic aids.
- Good value for a CBU litre-class superbike.
- Brake bite and feel could have been better.
- Engine refinement isn’t as good as Japanese in-line-four rivals.
- Limited dealership presence in India.
- The new TFT screen has loads of information and is easy to read as well.
- First mass-production bike to get carbon fibre wheels.
- Shift Cam has improved low and mid-range performance.
One of the most noticeable changes on the new S 1000 RR is its new styling. Gone are the asymmetric headlight, and the new bike has a much cleaner lines. There has been a lot of debate on BMW ditching the iconic ‘winking’ headlight since it was first unveiled at the 2018 EICMA motorcycle show. According to BMW, the asymmetric headlight on the first-gen bike was opted for because it helped shed weight. However, the new LED headlights are lighter than the older unit and hence they went ahead with a twin headlight setup. The new bike also gets mirror-mounted LED indicators and the brake light has been incorporated into the turn indicators, which saves weight and makes the rear look uncluttered. BMW also claims that the whole number plate assembly can be easily removed for track riding. The designers carried forward the shark gills only because they help the motor run 10 per cent cooler.
With fewer body panels, a redesigned frame and smaller tank, the new motorcycle looks slimmer and more compact than its predecessor. While the older bike had much sharper lines, the new S 1000 RR has more rounded-off edges. Also the BMW “M” racing colours on the Pro M Sport makes it look striking. Design is a personal preference, but I feel the older bike looked better with its edgy lines and had a distinct visual aura about it.
You see, I am not the fittest rider out there, with my generous waistline, so I was a bit skeptical of riding a litre-class superbike around a racetrack. To my utter surprise, the 2019 BMW S 1000 RR has one of the most relaxed riding positions of any superbikes I have ridden yet. This might sound weird as the clip-on bars have been set even lower than the older bike. But the new frame has allowed the designers to make the fuel tank slimmer and this means you feel that you’re sitting in the bike, rather than being on top of it.
While the footpegs are rear-set, they aren’t stupidly high and the rider doesn’t feel cramped for space. Despite being on the track for a 30min session, my wrists or shoulders weren’t aching, which is a testament to its comfortable ergonomics. This also means that owners can ride the S 1000 RR hard for a longer duration without fatigue creeping in. Seat height has gone up slightly at 823mm and I couldn’t rest both my feet on the ground (I am 5ft 10inch tall). Maneuvering the bike while parking will take some effort as the steering movement is also restricted.
Technology & Features:
Technology and BMW are almost synonymous with each other and with the new S 1000 RR, the German brand has gone all out to ensure that its flagship superbike has been equipped with the best and latest technology. Some of the highlights include cornering ABS, multi-level traction control, wheelie control, bi-directional quickshifter, four riding modes (Rain, Road, Dynamic, and Race) and Shift Cam (VVT).
The semi-digital instrument cluster has been replaced with a 6.5 inch TFT screen, which holds a plethora of information. My favourite bit was the real-time lean angle display, similar to what you see during a MotoGP race. The various settings can be accessed by a rotary control on the left handlebar, which I feel isn’t as easy or practical as the 5-way joystick on the Triumph Street Triple RS.
The BMW S 1000 RR Pro M Sport variant which we were riding gets additional goodies such as carbon fibre wheels (first on a mass-produced bike), an extra riding mode (Race Pro Mode), Dynamic Damping Control (DDC), launch control, heated grips, pit limiter and cruise control! The stock bike doesn’t come with a pillion seat but owners can opt for it at no extra cost.
BMW engineers have heavily reworked the new in-line four powerplant. The 999cc engine pumps out 207PS, which is an increment of 8PS over the older bike. Torque figure remains unchanged at 113Nm, but a huge chunk of it is made available at lower revs (BMW claims 100Nm around 5,500rpm). This is thanks to the inclusion of ShiftCam technology which in simpler language means VVT. It has a ‘mild’ cam profile till 9000 rpm, and for a better top-end performance it has a ‘hot’ cam profile. And as if the power figures weren’t impressive enough, BMW engineers also managed to make the new motor 4kg lighter!
As we exited the pits of the BIC race track, I was riding the bike in Race mode with full power on tap and all the electronic nannies dialled in. The first thing I noticed was how sharp and precise the throttle response is. After a sighting lap, I lined myself for a good exit on turn 3 onto the back straight and whacked open the throttle. The S 1000 RR gains speed in a ludicrous manner and I was holding on to the handlebar tightly as it crossed the 200kmph mark in a matter of seconds! In one of my runs, I redlined the bike in the first three gears and the bike was doing around 220kmph, which gives you a fair idea of the ferociousness of the motor! I did manage to clock around 275kmph on the back straight in 5th gear and the S 1000 RR was absolutely rock solid doing those speeds. Top speed of the bike has been electronically limited to 299kmph.
Despite the firepower on tap, the new BMW offering is a rather easy bike to ride, with its smooth power delivery. Also, the ShiftCam allows you to ride around at 100kmph in 6th gear without any knocking. Now that might sound like a silly high speed in sixth. But you have to realise that the bike can do about 160kmph in just 1st gear. However, its real test lies on the streets. My only grouse with the motor is that it doesn’t feel as refined as its Japanese rivals. The stock exhaust system is decently loud at high speeds but you will have to invest in an aftermarket system to really enjoy the inline-four symphony.
The 6-speed gearbox in my outing performed flawlessly, but some of the BMW owners who had ridden the bike in the afternoon session faced shifting issues with the transmission. A bi-directional quickshifter is standard across the range and it performed really well out on the track.
Ride, handling and braking:
Before BMW engineers could start working on the new S 1000 RR, they were given a rather difficult target. The new bike had to be 10kg lighter, a second quicker around the track and easier to ride than its predecessor. And as expected, the Germans outperformed as the 2019 S 1000 RR is 11kg lighter for the standard variant and the Pro M Sport variant managed to shed an additional 3.5kg! Weight savings were courtesy a lighter motor, exhaust and the new Flex Frame. BMW engineers have extended the wheelbase for added stability at high speeds, but have tightened the steering head angle. Another unique addition is the race bike-inspired underslung double-sided swingarm and the Pro M Sport variant with its adjustable swingarm pivot point.
With the tyres warmed up, it was time to test the BMW S 1000 RR’s handling prowess and I must admit, I was taken by surprise. The moment I started leaning the bike, it had already tipped into the corner! I have never experienced a litre-class superbike with such an eager front end and I was missing my apex because I had turned in too early! It took me a few corners to get used to the swift reacting front end and credit goes to the lightweight carbon fibre wheels for the lightning-quick reactions. Around the sweeping fast corners of BIC, the bike felt connected to the tarmac like a leech, with lots of feedback and tremendous grip from the Metzeler rubber. The electronics play their role from the sidelines to make you feel like a pro. However, you need some skills to really enjoy the absolute best of the S 1000 RR’s handling dynamics.
Another element playing its part in improving the cornering performance of the bike is the Marzocchi-developed Dynamic Damping Control (DDC). While preload has to be set manually, the DDC system manages the damping based on the reading from the IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit) every 100 milliseconds. In the stock four riding modes, the system manages 90 per cent of the damping, while 10 per cent remains static. In Race Pro Mode, it’s the opposite so that the rider has more control and feel on the track.
Anchorage is provided by 320mm floating rotors clamped by four-piston Hayes calipers and a 220mm Brembo disc with single-piston caliper. The brakes have a very nice progressive feel to them with a good amount of bite, which isn’t choppy like the older bike. However, on the back straight, braking performance wasn’t consistent, which was a bit irritating. I was in Race mode with rear-wheel lift mitigation turned off and the rear wheel did rise in the air under hard braking, but it was in a controlled manner.
The 2019 BMW S 1000 RR is available in three variants in India. The standard variant has been priced at Rs 18.50 lakh. Compared to the older bike, this is an increment of around Rs 50,000, which we feel is commendable given the additions. The mid-spec Pro variant carries a price tag of 20.95 lakh and gets goodies such as DDC, heated grips, launch control and tyre pressure control. The top of the line Pro M Sport retails for Rs 22.95 lakh and gets carbon fibre wheels, Race Pro riding mode and M-Sport colour over the mid-spec variant (all prices ex-showroom Delhi).
All said and done, the 2019 BMW S 1000 RR is a worthy successor and the development team have done a laudable work. With a starting price of Rs 18.50 lakh, the 2019 S 1000 RR is the most affordable European superbike on sale in our country (Ducati Panigale V4 is Rs 22.4 lakh). What makes the price even more impressive is the fact that it comes via the CBU route from Germany.
Apart from the competitive pricing, BMW has also made the new bike a tour-de-force with respect to performance. While it isn’t as revolutionary as the first generation bike, the new motorcycle is a well-rounded product and is among the best litre-class superbikes on sale in India and globally.
And while at it, the electronics package will ensure that riders of varying skills can relish the new S 1000 RR without scaring them silly. The S 1000 RR is among the most friendly and accessible bike in its segment and it’s a good option for someone upgrading to a litre-class superbike. The only concern for BMW will be its restricted dealership network compared to its rivals.