The tension was tangible. Twenty fully grown male journalists stood ashen-faced during a media briefing at Zwartkops Raceway. One reason for the onset of butterflies were dark, menacing clouds hovering above the circuit, but the biggest worry was the presence of eleven fire-breathing, third generation BMW S 1000 RR in the pitlane. The previous-generation bike was a monster tethered with an electronic leash and the new version is claimed to be more powerful and lighter. The utmost of respect is due.
Upon my I approach to the bike it was evident that the S 1000’s slightly revised styling is both stylish and menacing, but there is no denying that the newcomer is still a RR. As I swung my leg over the BMW Motorsport coloured example, I felt my heart pounding inside my chest. I had no objection when the BMW instructor advised me to first explore the track in Rain mode (one of five modes up to Slick), which cuts the power to a still mighty 138 kW (from 146 kW) while providing smoother responses from the fully electric throttle. As I left the pits the sun broke through the clouds, which encouraged us to see how close we’d dare to get to the monster’s teeth…
The first couple of laps were used to explore the track and blow off some cobwebs as I had not been on a track with a bike for a while (it remains the best place to learn how to ride properly). Slowly but surely my confidence returned and I got bolder with the throttle inputs. When exiting the long turn three right-hander I pinned the throttle and the flickering traction control light signalled that power was being curtailed to preserve grip at the rear (for rainy conditions as per Rain mode). As the bike is stood upright, the exhaust note changed and the bike devoured the short back straight with the author clinging on for dear life – surely that could not have been Rain mode!
The next session “I swallowed brave pills” and explored Sport and Race modes. The throttle response was more urgent and there was no more flickering of the traction control light as the bike bulleted out of the corners without any respect for the laws of physics. Make no mistake, this is a fast motorcycle – full throttle can only be employed for three brief stints on each lap. Somehow all the electronic systems allowed mere mortals to flirt with danger and enjoy the bike’s ferocity without fearing for one’s life.
Arrive at a corner, slam on the anchors (as you are going much faster than intended) and the powerful Brembo brakes, with race-spec ABS, slows the bike down by mashing the front tyre into the tarmac while not upsetting the bike’s composure. Turn-in is sharp and mid-corner stability unquestionable.
The S 1000 RR has a lean-angle sensor (for all the dynamic traction and suspension control), but also indicates the reading on the instrument cluster in real time. Moreover, it stores the maximum left and right angles after each session for everyone to see. If you ever thought that you could be the next Marc Márquez then a quick comparison to some of the ex-racers will soon shatter your dreams… The point is that when you believe that you are flat out, the bike laughs at your talent and has so much more to offer. It will take a lifetime to discover the ultimate capabilities of the bike.
It was fun to experience BMW’s new launch control system. CAR regularly conducts performance testing on bikes, therefore I know how difficult it can be to launch a powerful motorcycle. It can wheel spin, death wheelie – or both, if you are unlucky. Selecting launch control with the throttle wide open, the bike’s engine control unit was regulating the engine speed at 9 000 r/min. In the words of the instructor: ”Now gently let out the clutch, keep the throttle to the stop and select gears as the speed rises”. The S 1000 RR left in a serious hurry with the front wheel skimming the tarmac. Just the correct amount of drive is send to the rear wheel by the engine control unit to prevent disaster. The result? Astonishing acceleration that will embarrass hypercars…
Clutch-less gear shifts
Talking about the gear shifting, BMW has again employed a quick shifter for full-throttle, clutch-less up shifts (which cuts the ignition briefly), but now also offers “autoblip” which allows for clutch-less down shifts matching engine speed to the lower gear ratio selected. It took a bit of time to get used to the system, but it is a brilliant concept that leaves the clutch for pulling away only.
BMW has more than just updated the RR (see What’s new at the bottom of the page), it has created a technological wonder to rival any competition from the East (such as the Kawasaki H2 and Yamaha R1). It is clear that the BMW’s performance envelope is far greater than any road rider will ever be able to access. This should not stop the owner from trying, however, for they’d be experiencing one of the greatest, legal adrenalin rushes money can buy at R213 050.
Engine: inline four, four-stroke, liquid-cooled
Displacement (cm3): 999
Power (kW/r/min): 146/13 500
Torque (N.m/min): 113/10 500
Tyre sizes: f: 120/70 ZR17/ r: 190/55 ZR17
Frame: aluminium bridge frame
Seat height (mm): 815
Fuel tank capacity (L): 17,5
Mass (kg): 204 (wet)
Price: R213 050
What’s new (from the press release)
Highlights of the new BMW S 1000 RR:
- Increased power output and torque: 146 kW at 13,500 rpm and 113 Nm at 10,500 rpm.
- Even better rideability thanks to increased torque from approx. 5,000 rpm upwards as well as a more linear curve. A broad plateau of peak torque available in the rev range from around 9,500 up to 12,000 rpm.
- Re-engineered cylinder head with new duct geometry, new intake camshaft and even lighter intake valves.
- New intake system with shorter intake lengths, larger airbox and full E‑gas ride-by-wire.
- Reduction in weight of 4 kilograms to 204 kg with a full tank of fuel (making allowances for equipment).
- New exhaust system weighing around 3 kilograms lighter without a front silencer.
- Riding modes “Rain”, “Sport” and “Race” as standard plus the Riding Mode Pro with two additional modes, “Slick” and “User” (configurable), for optimum adaptation to riding conditions.
- Launch Control for flawless starts as part of the optional Pro riding mode feature.
- Pit-lane speed limiter for maintaining an exact speed in the pit lane as part of Riding Mode Pro feature.
- New, lighter frame structure with an optimised blend of rigidity and flexibility for more traction, greater precision and clear feedback.
- Refined chassis geometry for even better handling, increased traction and unequivocal feedback at the limits of performance.
- Fully adjustable spring elements with optimised negative spring travel for more banking clearance and greater agility.
- Further improved version of electronic Dynamic Damping Control (DDC), familiar from the HP4.
- Race ABS with optimised set-up.
- DTC traction control with precision calibration in 7 +/- steps.
- Gear Shift Assist Pro for fast clutchless upshifting and downshifting.
- New electrical system with a more powerful sensor box and lighter battery.
- Electronic speed control.
- More sophisticated instrument cluster with extended array of functions and wide variety of information.
- Completely restyled bodywork for an even more dynamic design language.
- Innovative colour schemes with three individual characters: Racing Red / Light White, Black Storm metallic and BMW Motorsport.
- Extended range of optional extras and special accessories available ex-works.