BMW’s S1000RR has reigned supreme since it’s first inclusion into the slugfest that is Superbike Smackdown. Not only has it taken the crown in the street testing, but it has also stomped the competition in our track testing. With horsepower numbers that still remain unrivaled by any other superbike offering and a surefooted street-going chassis, BMW probably could have sat back and continued to collect more shootout trophies in 2012. Instead the German powerhouse gave the S1000RR its first technical update to make it an easier bike to ride on the track. The question is whether or not that will make it even better on the street as well?
With so much power on tap, BMW did not delve into changing the internals of the S1000RR’s Inline Four engine. Instead it worked on making the monumental amount thrust easier to control. Previously we’ve complained that in the higher power modes such as Race and Slick the throttle response is much too sensitive, even for our more experienced riders. In a straight line it’s not a huge issue, but when leaned over in a corner it can be intimidating and challenging. BMW remapped all four power settings to smooth the response during throttle modulation. After taming the beast, BMW modified all four maps to produce more low to mid-range power. Additionally a new throttle tube was fitted with a lighter and shorter pull.
On the street these changes won’t be a marked as they would be on the track, since Sport mode is more than optimum for duty on most pieces of road. But when riders really want to test their mettle, it’s fun to experiment with Race and Slick on the street. Before this was a tricky proposition if you weren’t the smoothest on the gas. Now both these modes are useable for mere mortals. Feeding on the power is much easier while still on the side of the tire, and the jerky feel during fine-tuning of the right grip is gone.
But don’t be mistaken, just because the response has been smoothed out doesn’t mean it has been tamed. The power from the S1000RR is voracious and without a doubt unmatched by any other machine in this test. It may not have the most punch right off the bottom, but as you pass through the mid-range the power comes on strong building to a massive rush at the top. Each time we give the BMW full stick we are amazed that this much performance can be attained in in a street-legal production motorcycle.
“Oh, hell yes this thing hauls ass!” exclaims our intermediate level test rider Lori Dell. “It’s got gobs of power, but it’s totally controllable and easy to use. The delivery is smooth on and off the throttle.”
On the dyno the BMW was once again the king, not that there was any doubt that it wouldn’t be. A peak rating of 175.95 horsepower was just a hair over 10 ponies more than the second-best Ducati 1199 Panigale S. In terms of torque the
The 2012 BMW S1000RR is still the king of the horsepower charts for the third year running with a 175 ponies on tap.
S1000RR finished at the bottom with 73.7 lb-ft of torque. That power pushed the 456-pound blue Beemer to a class-leading 0-60 in 3.347 seconds and a quarter-mile time of 10.81 seconds at 147.7 MPH.
The traction control system of the S1000RR is seamlessly integrated into the four power modes, with the most intervention in Rain mode and the least in Race. On the street the electronic intervention is only noticeable in Rain mode and maybe in Sport if you really are pushing. It’s nice to know you have a safety net if something unexpected happens. Our only real gripe is that the wheelie control still comes on too abruptly and brings the front end down prematurely.
“I really like the BMW’s TC system. It’s maybe a little more restrictive than some of the other bikes – but it’s really a moot point on the street,” claims Heed. “The only flaw is the wheelie control, as it still doesn’t offer smooth calibration. I wish you could just manually disable that feature alone, but you can’t.”
The engine character of the Beemer also ranked at the top of the charts, as our testers loved the duality of the S1000RR’s personality. At lower RPMs it’s quiet and civilized, but you know there is a something fierce lurking inside. As you close in on the big end of the tachometer the shriek from the exhaust is musical and fearsome at the same time.
“The sound that the BMW makes is intense,” says Ernie Vigil. “It actually sounds and feels like a bike that has 200 hp!”
Even with all that power being produced the S1000RR is one of the better bikes on consumption of gasoline. After all our fill-ups at the pump we averaged the fuel economy of the big bad Beemer at 35.17 mpg. That equates to a 161.8-mile range from the S1000RR’s 4.6-gallon tank.
The 2012 BMW S1000RR chassis has been revised for better racetrack performance, but that did not hurt the bike’s road going prowess in any way.
Slowing down the S1000RR rocket ship is the responsibility of a set of Brembo calipers that are not of the Monobloc variety. They are the less-coveted two-piece cast four-piston unit, but they do a phenomenal job in hauling the BMW down to speed. Our testing crew rated them the best of the bunch, and in the objective testing on our skid pad the Beemer stopped second-best 131 feet with the ABS switched off.
Our second lady tester, Leah Petersen, succinctly summed up the BMW brakes, “The brakes are so perfect you don’t even realize what’s happening.”
The second area BMW’s engineers focused on is the handling prowess of the 2012 S1000RR. On the street we had no complaints about the previous model year, but on the track in racing trim professional racers have had their struggles. BMW set out to balance the chassis better from front to back. To achieve this goal the engineers shortened the rear shock by 4mm and raised the front end by 5mm. Then the wheelbase was decreased by 10mm, and the fork offset was reduced by 2.5mm. The steering head angle was revised, and lastly the swingarm pivot was raised by 4mm to increase rear wheel traction.
Out on the street, we don’t ride anywhere near the limit of the capabilities of these superbikes, so to be honest the 2012 BMW S1000RR didn’t feel that much different than the 2011 model. That is a good thing. Just like the Honda, the BMW is easy to ride for just about any skill level, but it gives more feedback to the rider, making for a more exciting ride. Every corner makes you feel like you are Leon Haslam. Turning in takes just a slightest bit of muscle, but once on its side the BMW is rock-solid, yet light feeling. The suspension worked well right out of the box for all of test riders. The front fork is compliant
The BMW S1000RR still reigns supreme on the street – no easy feat considering the caliber of the competition.
and provides a direct link to what the front wheel is doing. Out back the rear shock is firm in the turns, but not so stiff that it’s a buckboard on the freeway.
“The S1000RR is confidence inspiring and very well mannered at any speed,” says Lori. “It isn’t upset by imperfect road conditions, and I always knew the it would track true.”
Our testing crew also rated the comfort of the S1000RR as the highest. It has just the right mix for a do-it-all sportbike. The seating position is compact as a superbike should be, but the pegs are not as high as the Honda or Kawasaki allowing for a little more room on the longer stretches of road. Front to back the attitude of the bike is fairly level keeping pressure off the wrists, but when it is time to get aggressive the stance is sporty enough to tuck in and do work. Our only real criticism the engine is slightly buzzy, and it transfers those vibes to grips and footpegs. We’d call it more of an annoyance than a deal-breaker.
When the Ducati 1199 Panigale was introduced we thought the S1000RR’s time at the top might have been over. But pounding out the miles on the best roads Southern California has to offer proves this is not the case. Once again the baddest BMW ever constructed has cleaned house in our Superbike Smackdown Street test, topping over 50% of our scoring categories. While the bike doesn’t feel much different on the road from the previous model, it’s obvious BMW has raised the bar even higher for the ultra competitive superbike class. Stay tuned to see how it performs on the track, but if the street testing is any indication, BMW’s rivals are going to have to be pretty spectacular to knock it from its throne.
2012 Superbike Smackdown IX Street
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2012 Kawasaki ZX-10R Street Comparison
2012 Suzuki GSX-R1000 Street Comparison
2012 Ducati 1199 Panigale S Street Comparison
2012 Honda CBR1000RR Street Comparison
2012 BMW S1000RR Street Comparison
2012 Superbike Smackdown IX Street Conclusion