Hype (noun) – Greatly exaggerated publicity intended to excite public interest in something; a widely publicized person or thing; a deception or dishonest scheme
$13,800 (base); $16,480 (as tested)
182.83 hp @ 13,300 rpm
81.31 lb-ft @ 10,700 rpm
9.681 @ 142.7 mph
Racetrack Top Speed:
Superpole Best Time:
It could be argued that BMW’s new S1000RR is the most widely hyped liter-class sportbike of the 21st century. But hype can be a double-edged sword. There’s good hype, which results from mass anticipation followed by positive reviews, user ratings and general public praise. But there’s also bad hype, and that comes from massive public anticipation but the subsequent delivery of a product that is inferior to the claimed performance. So the question on everyone’s minds since BMW’s S1000RR specs first broke cover was always: ‘Can we believe the hype?’ Now that we’ve compared it to nearly the entire big-bore sportbike world we can tell you with empirical certainty: Yes!
Revolutionary from the wheels to the windscreen, BMW has come straight out of the box with a motorcycle that has set a new standard for the sportbike world. Multi-level racing traction control, the best ABS we’ve ever seen, period, and the most horsepower a production literbike has ever produced – all for under $16,000 with a base price around $14,000. How is this even possible? We’re still not totally sure, but there’s a good reason this bike has been so eagerly anticipated since it first hit viewers eyes on the show circuit almost two years ago.
Though traditional in the basic makeup, an Inline Four 1000 sitting in an aluminum twin-spar frame with the engine as a stressed member, BMW has done everything it possibly could to separate itself from being seen as a Japanese knockoff. With crazy styling that features one side of the bike totally different from the other, including those odd-shaped headlights, we doubt the S1000RR is going to win many beauty contests. But it has separated itself from the norm by doing this. The Bavarians also knew that the optimum balance between performance, weight and handling comes from a four-cylinder layout, typically of the inline fashion. So they took that philosophy and improved upon it. Why reinvent the wheel when you can simply make the existing one lighter and faster? For full technical details be sure to read our 2010 BMW S1000RR First Ride from Portugal (after you finish this test).
BMW may have arrived fashionably late to the party for our day at the track, they sure made a grand entrance and their presence was known right away. There wasn’t a single rider who came in from riding the Beemer for the first time and didn’t rant and rave about that mind-boggling beast of an engine. It may not have the most low-end or even mid-range of some of the competition, but get it spinning above 7,000 rpm and it will pull your arms clean out of the socket if you’re not paying attention.
“Wow, what a first year effort!” exclaims Sorensen. “It is amazing, honestly 10-15 horsepower up on its rivals and it feels like it too. Say hello to warp speed in the top end with a lot of controllable torque in the mid range. Very similar feel in power delivery like the other Japanese Fours, just with far more in the tank.”
“It clearly has the most horsepower and likes to rev,” reports Earnest. “The way the power is delivered and excellent fuel mapping make the bike so smooth it feels deceivingly fast, until it gets to the higher revs, then it’s just plain fast. The engine feels like a GSX-R1000 that has been remapped with an aftermarket exhaust – it’s that fast!”
After riding the bike and experiencing it first hand on several occasions, we all knew it was going to make big horsepower numbers come dyno time. But I don’t think any of us had any idea how big. Say hello to the first production 1000 to break the 180 hp mark, as the BMW spun Lee’s Cycles dyno to the tune of 182.83 hp @ 13,300 rpm with 81.31 lb-ft of torque at 10,700 rpm. That’s almost 30 rear wheel horsepower more than the Yamaha and 20 more than the second-strongest Kawasaki!
With over 180 rear-wheel horsepower, we still are in awe of the BMW's engine.
This was equally backed by the trackside data, as the BMW accelerated off the final corner with a class-leading 0.78g, 0.2g up on the second-place tie between the Kawasaki and the Ducati. It also ticked the gun on the front straight at a blistering 157.2 mph, nearly five mph faster than the next quickest machine, which was the Honda at 152.6 mph.
The same thing held true come our visit to El Toro field, as the ample feeling provided by the perfectly-working clutch combined with the huge HP and seamless quick-shifter to tally the quickest quarter-mile ET of 9.681 seconds with a top speed of 150.4 mph. Though only a couple hundredths faster than the Honda on elapsed time, the BMW again had the field covered by five mph on top and is the first and only literbike that we’ve ever had break the timing stripes at more than 150 mph.
This isn’t the kind of power to treat lightly, as getting in trouble with 180 rear-wheel horsepower is quite easy. This is exactly why BMW employed a multi-stage traction control and ABS system, one of the most advanced OE setups we’ve seen. The system offers several modes – Rain, Sport, Race and Slick – so as to tune the TC and ABS to the rider’s abilities and track conditions as well as the tires being used. You can also turn everything off, which is something we like as an option as well. And every one of our crew was impressed with the bikes OE electronics.
“BMW has them all covered when it comes to electronics, no question,” Earnest remarks.
Hensley adds a bit more flair to his comments. “Can you say erection? That’s what I damn near sprung when they told me that this motorcycle was equipped with wheel-spin sensors, lean-angle sensors, adjustable traction control that,
when put in rain mode, would absolutely allow me to whack the throttle open on this 180 hp machine mid-corner if I so chose to do so. Of course, I didn’t because I’m not totally stupid. However, that they had the belief in their product to say that to me was pretty amazing. I did switch into rain mode for a few laps and rolled on pretty aggressively in spots, and felt zero threat of getting chucked. Boing! And, yeah, the Ducati’s got a lot of those bells and whistles too, but it also costs at least 10-grand more. That makes the BMW that much cooler in my book.”
While the engine and its associated parts are no doubt the crowning achievement for the BMW, the chassis and brakes are nothing to scoff at, either. Is it hard to say they are on the same level as the revolutionary engine? Sure. But the brakes and the associated racing ABS system isn’t far behind. With a multi-level system that includes both the front and rear brakes, with varying degrees of intervention based on the associated TC settings, the intuitive technology is so advanced BMW has homologated it for World Superbike racing this year, no doubt with the aim of maximizing performance in wet as well as possibly dry races.
Sorensen adds: “The BMW brakes worked just as good as any of the other bikes, good initial bite, more than enough power. But add in the potential for the electronics in less-than-ideal conditions and you have by far the most advanced system in the group.”
A glance back at the data sheets shows the BMW’s maximum braking force entering the final corners to be -1.24g, which was right at the top, bested only ever so slightly by the Kawasaki at -1.26g. As for the chassis’ prowess, it also fared well, though not nearly as dominant as the bike’s other areas. It did hold the highest corner speed in the final corner at 49.1 mph, with a competent 1.3g of grip mid-corner. Max grip in the middle of Turn 2 was also a solid 1.1g, though its corner speed was limited to 67.5 mph, which is fairly far down the field. And while it had ample grip, the base set-up still needed a fair amount of tweaking and that held the bike to a third-fastest Superpole time of 1:57.30. Without question it left time on the table.
The best set-up that we were able to achieve that shortened day left something to be desired with the suspension. Several of the faster, smaller riders experienced front-end chatter, while others commented about excessive bike movement while trying to get it settled into the corners.
By the time the dust had settled on the 2010 Superbike Smackdown VII this was the view the competition had of the BMW S1000RR.
“While the BMW felt planted once fully mid-corner, it skated and bucked around a bit both on entry and exit, the way it was set-up,” Sorensen remarks. “Once the power was on, the slides on the exit were smooth and predictable, but a good deal of the faster guys commented that this bike moved around the most on entry. Though it was something that you gained more confidence with as you put in more laps and we worked with the suspension.”
Shown here by the mixed suspension reviews, there’s no question the BMW’s only Achilles heel is the quest for the perfect chassis set-up. While some were alright with its handling, others found it to still be a bit off the mark. However, this is probably a moot point, as we’re pretty sure that with some more time, finding that perfect set-up would be possible.
Had BMW found that holy grail of a set-up, the S1000RR may in fact have been almost numerically perfect across the board, and that is something we’ve never seen before and hopefully never will. Why? Because while there’s no question the BMW is top dog right now, there’s also no question that all of the competition have S1000RRs sitting in their respective R&D and testing departments to compare against their next generation motorcycles. We were waiting for the bar to be raised and BMW stepped up and made it happen. As a result the superbike power struggle continues. But for now, kneel before it and hail the new 2010 MotoUSA Superbike Smackdown Champion: The BMW S1000RR…