It’s hard to imagine, but up until a couple years ago the words BMW and Superbike were about as relevant as Ferrari and station wagon… oh, how the times have changed. Today, the German brand has established itself as an omnipresent force with its 2011 BMW S1000RR. This technological masterpiece, with its surprising MSRP of $16,630 as tested here, features optional Dynamic Traction Control, Race ABS, Gear Shift Assist and Motorsports colorway.
Throw a leg over it and the BMW S1000RR cockpit feels remarkably similar to the Kawasaki and Suzuki. The 32-inch seat height is identical to the ZX and it offers adequate levels of sportbike comfort. However, it is not quite as luxurious as the GSX-R1000 seat. Reach to the controls and the handlebars are placed a bit low, equating to a more track-oriented feel than the Japanese bikes, yet it is still reasonable for the street. Likewise the foot controls place the rider in a more track-oriented attitude, which isn’t quite as comfortable either. Unfortunately, the position of the foot controls is fixed like the Honda and Ducati. The windshield is on the small side too, which works for riders of average height, but we wish it was a little taller. The rearview mirrors offer a clear view of everyone that you just smoked off the line too.
Considering its horizontal Inline-Four layout, this Beemer is a narrow motorcycle – maybe not quite as slim as the Honda but definitely close. With a full 4.5-gallon fuel load the S1000RR weighs in at 459 pounds, one pound less than the Suzuki but still 20 pounds heavier than the class-leading Kawasaki. Yet somehow BMW engineers managed to hide the weight well because you’ll be hard pressed to feel the difference when riding.
(Above) Although it isn’t the lightest bike out there you’d be hard pressed to tell as the BMW S1000RR is very maneuverable bike. (Below) The BMW’s multi-mode engine power map and traction control system performs well and is easy-to-use.
“It’s funny because the BMW feels a lot like the Japanese bikes,” reflects Gauger. “It’s pretty obvious what they were going after and I like what they’ve done. For me the ergonomics are comfortable, though they are a hair more aggressive than the Japanese bikes.”
In the Instrumentation/Electronics scoring category the BMW was rated highly— second to only the Kawasaki. The mixed analog/digital display is easy-to-use and read but the real bonus is its user-adjustable engine management system highlighted by an engine power/throttle mode selection with settings for Rain, Sport, Race and Slick (as in slick tires for the track). The system is a blend of the adjustable power mode set-ups employed in the Kawasaki and Suzuki with the addition of throttle sensitivity settings like the Yamaha. For street riding most of us preferred the ‘Sport’ setting as it made the throttle less-sensitive (like the Yamaha R1’s ‘B’ mode), which made the bike easier to control.
The optional $1480 Dynamic Traction Control and Race ABS adds functionality to the power mode selection with traction/wheelie control and ABS. The traction control performs better than the standard equipment found on the Ducati; however, it is a bit more restrictive-feeling than the set-up employed by the Kawasaki. Furthermore the wheelie control element does not feel refined, which can actually make the bike more difficult to control in an experienced rider’s hands so we left it turned off. No sense in dumbing down those 183 ponies because we love what that brings to the table.
“The BMW’s electronics package is hard to beat,” explains Steeves. “I love the adjustable power modes and even the TC works great too, but the wheelie control has got to go. It’s just way too jerky. You’ll start doing a wheelie and everything feels good than in an instant the front wheel slams back to the ground. Then a second later when the engine gets on the pipe again it wheelies again just to slam down. It’s so bad that I had to turn the TC off.”
Without a doubt the highlight of the BMW is its phenomenal engine. While it doesn’t have the bottom-end power of the Suzuki, or the mid-range of the Honda, bury the tach needle above 10,000 rpm mark and the BMW engine pumps out authentic World Superbike-grade levels of power – some 20-30 horsepower more than the competition! At 13,100 rpm the BMW cranks out 183.37 horsepower giving it title as most powerful bike in this test. It also churns out the most torque amongst the four-cylinders with 78.79 lb-ft @ 10,800 rpm. To our surprise, observed fuel mileage was the second-best too at 35.3 mpg, which also netted the second-farthest range of 158.8 miles between fuel stops. High horsepower and great fuel economy: Need we say more?
In spite of its mid-pack bottom-end and mid-range power, on paper the BMW shot from zero to 60 mph in just 2.70 seconds – 0.19 seconds faster than the runner-up GSX-R1000. In the quarter mile the German bike was the only one to break into the nines with a seriously fast time of 9.93 seconds. It also had the highest trap speed of 149.8 mph, 4.3 mph faster than the Kawasaki ZX-10R.
One of the features that helped it achieve such a blistering fast time was its Gear Shift Assist option (quick-shifter), which allows the rider to up-shift through the six-speed gearbox without letting off the throttle. Shorter final drive gearing of 17/44 didn’t hurt things, and its cable-actuated slipper-clutch has terrific feel as well as action during launch and, of course, on corner-entry, though it requires a little more lever pull.
The engine’s overall character also impressed us. In the sound test the S1000RR registered 82 dB at idle and 100 dB at 7000 rpm, identical to the Honda. Once the engine spins upwards of 10-grand, it emits a high-rpm shriek unlike anything else on the road. It feels like you’re at the controls of a two-wheeled Formula-1 race car. The sound of the S1000RR howling at high rpm has to be experienced to be believed. And it does all of this with very little engine vibration.
“I love the BMW’s motor,” notes Dawes. “If you’re looking for the fastest superbike on the road then you need this bike. I can’t believe that you can even by something this fast—it’s incredible. I also like that the engine’s got some character. When you get the revs up it makes all the right noises which makes it more fun to ride than some of the others.”
In terms of handling, the BMW feels quite similar to the Honda and Kawasaki. It doesn’t steer with as much agility as those bikes, but it is close. In fact, it feels eerily similar to the GSX-R1000 and that is a good thing for street riders. The suspension does a good job of soaking up bumps on the tore up Southern California highways, yet still delivers a sporty ride in the canyons. It’s als
Kneel before the almighty BMW or feel its wrath. When it comes to the ultimate Superbike for 2011 the S1000RR is King.
o a very stable bike, resisting the urge to headshake or get out of control, which is a feat in itself considering how much power it puts to the back tire.
With all that power and velocity at your disposal, it’s nice to know that S1000RR front brakes are superior to the competition as well. We find that strange considering they are the lesser-grade two-piece cast 4-piston calipers as opposed to the more expensive monoblocs on the other Euro machines. In our braking performance test, the BMW tied the Kawasaki for first-place with a stopping distance of 129 feet from 60 mph performed in ‘Sport’ mode, which enables both front and rear ABS. This proves the effectiveness of its ABS, despite carrying 20 pounds more weight than the ZX-10R.
When the dust settled and the pink-slips tallied there was no denying the outcome of this test. For the second year in a row the BMW S1000RR proves that it offers motorcyclists the finest road-going Superbike. It continues to wow us with the extreme performance combination of its wicked-fast engine, more than capable chassis and awesome brakes. Furthermore, its sophisticated electronics package makes that performance more accessible to a wider range of riders. Say hello to the 2011 Superbike Smackdown VIII Street champion, the 2011 BMW S1000RR.
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