2016 BMW S1000XR Review

Riding BMW's Adventure-Seeking Superbike Spinoff in the Great White North

2016 BMW S1000XR
The 2016 BMW S1000XR, being tested in the rural backroads north of Toronto, Canada. Photo © Kevin Wing

Most riders who dig fast, sophisticated superbikes should find plenty to like with BMW's S1000RR; The 193 horsepower screamer packs a boatload of electronics that makes its boundary-pushing performance accessible to a broad array of knee-dragging enthusiasts. But if your interests go beyond the racetrack or the canyon, chances are you'll find the S1000RR's stretched out layout and balls-to-the-wall performance a bit limited.

What's a roadgoing, BMW loving thrillseeker to do? Thanks to the Bavarian brand's platform sharing, the naked S1000R variant has led to yet another spinoff with quite a bit more bandwith.

The 2016 BMW S1000XR, which first debuted at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy, is referred to by the German manufacturer as an adventure sport bike that links the S1000RR and S1000R to the R1200GS, BMW's rugged R1200GS. By BMW's reckoning, the S1000XR's DNA is about 30 percent sport bike, 25 percent roadster, 30 percent tourer, and-- interestingly, only 5 percent enduro. (In case you've done the math and wondering what happened to the last 10 percent, that's considered "urban mobility", encompassing a "poised, heads up riding position and agility for riding in traffic."

The S1000XR inherits the S1000R's 160 horsepower, 83 lb-ft inline-4 cylinder engine that's been tuned for lower end torque and less revviness than its supersports counterpart.

Compared to the S1000R (priced at $13,260), the S1000XR (starting at $16,350) offers a lengthy 5.9 inches of front and 5.5 inches of rear suspension travel, a more upright seating posture, a taller 33.1-inch seat height (versus 32.0 inches for the S1000R), and a hulkier presence that includes saddlebag mounts and a big 4.6 gallon fuel tank.


Don't let the $16,350 price tag deceive you: although it comes with a decent selection of standard items like traction control, riding modes, disengageable ABS, and a power accessory socket, BMW has baked quite a few quick and easy ways to boost that MSRP, starting with the so-called Standard Package which lifts the cost of entry to $17,295 by adding cruise control, heated grips, saddlebag mounts, and wiring for a GPS unit. There's also a tangible price for all the extra heftiness, in the form of added poundage: while the slim and (relatively) trim S1000R weighs in at 456 pounds, the S1000XR tips the scales at 502 pounds, a figure BMW says actually makes it the lightest bike in its segment.

The Ride

My test of the 2016 BMW S1000XR took place on the scenic roads surrounding Lake Muskoka in Ontario, Canada, a couple hours north of Toronto. The good part: this place is gorgeous, and seemingly the perfect backdrop for a long-legged adventure sportbike like the S1000XR. The bad part: the weather promised to be cold, cloudy, and rainy during my day aboard the bike... but then again, some good news came with the fact that the S1000XR offers greater wind protection than the naked bike it's based upon.

What's a guy to do? Well, since I showed up ill-equipped for the inclement temps, I borrowed my friend's girlfriend's wet weather gear (no joke), saddled aboard the bike, and hit the open road with a group of my moto journalist peers.

Though not exactly a low rider, my fully loaded S1000XR test bike was relatively easy to mount (my inseam measures 32 inches), and the bike feels big and authoritative from the cockpit, with wide bars that tilt a bit more forward than you might expect for an adventure-style bike (remember, that 30 percent sport composition is matched only by its 30 percent touring personality).

The S1000XR's electronics package is robust, and admittedly, sometimes confusing in its setup and capabilities. Though it comes standard with ABS and traction control (which BMW calls ASC, or Automatic Stability Control), the Rides Mode Pro feature that's part of the Dynamic Package (which is part of the Premium Package and can also be ordered a la carte for $450) adds two modes, Dynamic and Dynamic Pro.

It also replaces ASC with DTC (Dynamic Traction Control) and ABS Pro, BMW's first factory offering of lean angle-optimized ABS. Dynamic ESA offers electronic suspension damping with a bank angle sensor, while Gear Shift Assist Pro enables clutchless upshifts and downshifts.

I approached my rainy ride with a bit of trepidation: after all, with wet roads, 160 horsepower at my command, and a competitive spirit coursing through my blood, it would seem the cards were stacked against me coming out unscathed. And so I cautiously put the bike in rain mode and rode away, gingerly applying throttle and brakes as I followed the ribbon of road. The S1000XR responded with surprising mildness, laying down power smoothly and easily while exhibiting predicable, manageable handling. As I escalated my aggressiveness, the upper portions of the powerband yielded a bit too much speed for the conditions-- and curiously, glancing down at the tachometer revealed a lot more room to go than I expected before the peak power figure at 11,000 rpm. Clutchless shifting worked as promised, though when executed under moderate throttle there was sometimes a bit less smoothness to the proceedings. 

Switching to more aggressive power modes (but unable to experience the electronically adjustable suspension due a warning light that revealed a fault in the setup), the engine produced strong, satisfying power that felt less torquily explosive than the Ducati Multistrada's 160 hp mill. Handling is predictably precise, though with a clear bias towards usability and comfort; a later spin on a bike with fully functioning suspension adjustability revealed a nice balance between sport and comfort modes.

A brief jaunt on a slick dirt trail made it abundantly clear the XR is built for the road, not loose surfaces, as the front tire (which wasn't being helped by its 17-inch diameter wheel) felt disconcertingly loose over the slippery stuff. On the other hand, road riding offered a comfortable seat, decent wind protection from the two-way adjustable screen (though some buffeting was present), and plenty of passing power on tap. In fact, the S1000XR felt more like an upright sportbike than an all-out adventure tourer on bigger stretches of road, with its rewarding revviness that enabled higher engine rpms to deliver the satisfying sense of speed most red-blooded riders crave. I didn't realize how sure-footed the XR's tires were on pavement until I switched to a less intrusive traction control setting that, despite heavy-handed throttle application, still didn't trigger the TC light. It was only when I rode on the muddy stuff that the light came on with any degree of frequency.

Bottom Line

Does the BMW S1000XR eclipse competitors like the KTM 1290 Super Adventure and the Ducati Multistrada 1200? Well, it's not exactly fair to compare the Beemer because it's so philosophically different from the big twin-equipped Austrian and Italian. Thanks to its linear 4-cylinder powerplant and even-keeled personality, the BMW appeals more to riders seeking a smooth, tractable, powerful ride more than those craving a soulful, charismatic (and potentially quirky) one. That said, the XR's on-road prowess clearly differentiates it as a motorcycle that doesn't claim to be ready for a round-the-world adventure, but rather is perfectly happy touring the globe's great paved surfaces.

And that, for most people, is enough to make the S1000XR a bike that satisfies their urban riding needs with a dash of adventure savvy style.