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2015 BMW S1000XR Review


by Pascal Bastien ,

BMW takes on the crossover segment (Kawasaki Versys, Ducati Multistrada, Aprilia Caponord) with a secret weapon: the all-new 2015 BMW S1000XR. Following the S1000RR superbike and S1000R naked sport bike, here’s the latest German thoroughbred designed to help you cover even more ground.

Similar to its two siblings, the S1000XR boasts asymmetrical headlights and sharp lines from nose to tail. High-quality plastics and premium fit and finish are a testament to BMW’s expertise. This machine has a unique personality, mind you, and with such racy styling and a tall seat height one could describe it as a two-wheel BMW X6.

Spec’d like a king
Featuring ABS and Automatic Stability Control (ASC) as standard, the 2015 BMW S1000XR can be equipped with a Touring Pack or Dynamic Pack. My fully loaded tester also included active suspension (with solo, two-up, and cargo modes), Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) using gyroscopes, ABS Pro (which takes into account the lean angle), a gear shift assistant (allowing clutchless shifts in both directions) using a slipper clutch, heated grips, a GPS mount, a centre stand, and excellent Bridgestone T30 tires. On the other hand, it lacked some room under the seat, and the clutch lever was not adjustable.

At 840mm high, straddling the seat means you have to be at least 5’8” -- that is, unless you select the optional lowering kit (factory installed) and thin rider seat that together drop seat height to a more reasonable 790mm. You also need to get used to the wide fuel tank and determine how you want to put your feet down at idle since the footrests are right in the way.

After just a short while it becomes clear that the 2015 BMW S1000XR’s weight is ideally distributed, so it doesn’t feel like a 228kg bike at all. Despite a multitude of adjustments, the suspension proves stiff given its sporty, all-terrain aspirations. Luckily, the sculpted seat, almost natural riding position, generous legroom, and remarkable protection against the elements combine to deliver more than adequate comfort. The passenger can’t complain, either, with good ergonomics that make it possible to stretch the fun beyond 300km. And depending on your riding style, that’s pretty much the range you can expect from the tank.

Superbike DNA     
Whereas the versatile R1200GS can take you anywhere regardless of the surface you may encounter, the new S1000XR specializes in dynamic on-road performance thanks to a judicious mix of comfort and handling. It shares many components with the S1000R and S1000RR including the potent inline 4-cylinder engine. Here, you get 160 hp at 11,000 rpm and 82.6 lb-ft of torque at 9,250 rpm. The perimeter aluminum frame, active suspension system, and Brembo brakes all come from the world-renowned superbike, too.

On the flip side, the transmission (identical to the one in the S1000R) doesn’t appear to be properly calibrated for a crossover bike. I could say the same thing about the final drive ratio which keeps the engine spinning at more than 5,500 rpm on the highway. The result is an excessive amount of vibration through the handlebars and mirrors (the image gets blurry). Fortunately, neither your feet nor your butt will feel it thanks to smartly designed footrests and a thickly padded seat. One more sprocket tooth up front and maybe two fewer in the rear would probably drop the revs by about 1,000 rpm and eliminate these undesirable vibrations.

Unparalleled skills
Great overall balance and a favourable turn-in ratio mean you don’t have to put your feet down in heavy traffic. The 4-cylinder is easy to modulate courtesy of a ride-by-wire throttle system, so you can move along with just a hint of throttle pressure without using the clutch. At higher velocities, the 2015 BMW S1000XR displays unparalleled skills, and the handlebar-mounted controls make it easy to navigate through the dashboard info.

The aforementioned active suspension (ESA) works wonders on twisty roads even where average-quality pavement is the norm. In Road mode, ESA does a nice job of soaking up imperfections while resisting the urge to nosedive under braking, while the Dynamic mode stiffens everything up so it feels like you’re riding a sport bike. A softer option would have been nice on badly damaged roads, however.

Despite the long-travel suspension, the S1000XR handles like a supersport bike in corners. DTC allows you to rip the throttle wide open without wasting any power, while ABS Pro enhances your confidence by providing great feedback from the tires. The sharp front wheel and generous ground clearance enable surprisingly fast riding around bends, no matter what the pavement looks like. The engine is ready to answer your call from just 2,000 rpm, and comes alive at 4,500 rpm to send you flying as if you were on a private jet. This is all backed by a loud intake sound that, admittedly, becomes a bit irritating over the long haul. And always remember to keep an eye on the speedometer!

BMW S1000XR 2015
Following the S1000RR superbike and S1000R naked sport bike, here’s the latest German thoroughbred designed to help you cover even more ground. (Photo: Sébastien D'Amour)

Bottom line
The German manufacturer wants us to discover a new way of riding. Far from being a comfort-obsessed flagship tourer, the 2015 BMW S1000XR is a sport tourer that can handle just about any type of road and any weather while offering most of the thrills of a superbike.

  • Superb chassis
  • Very powerful engine that remains easy to exploit
  • Competent and comprehensive rider-assist package
  • Plenty of room and protection against the elements
  • Excessive noise from the airbox
  • Undesirable vibrations through the handlebars and mirrors
  • Stiff ride