BMW R 1200 R Review: Techno Oomph


Text by Deyna Chia
Photos: Deng De Ming & Derryn Wong

SINGAPORE – BMW Motorrad’s line-up has expanded hugely since 2010 –  it about put to rest the old story that BMW made tourers for retirees and little else, Now you can take your pick from city-slicking scooters (C 600) to lightning (visual?) quick superbikes (S 1000 RR) and everything in between.

Record sales since then have proved the approach correct. But at its core, the blue-and-white roundel (on two wheels at least) has always been identified with the boxer twin layout, beginning with the R 32 of 1917. The ‘R’ name has gone on to mark all of BMW’s bikes equipped with horizontally-opposed (aka boxer) engines.

It’s a bit like Porsche’s own story with its boxers, managing the switch from ‘classic’ air-cooling to ‘modern’ liquid-cooling. BMW’s perennial best-seller, the GS, debuted the first liquid-cooled, 1,170cc boxer twin in brand history back in 2013.

But arguably nowhere else is the ‘LC’ switch as dramatic as it is here, the R 1200 R, which used to be the ‘retro cruiser’ of the BMW range – a role now filled by the BMW r NineT.

The radical difference is apparent from the huge amount of tech-trickery on-board, take a deep breath:  

Electronic suspension (Dynamic ESA) that constantly adjusts the rebound and compression settings and has its own selectable settings, ensuring that the tyres stay in contact with the ground at all times; traction control (DTC); quick-shifter for upshifts and automatic rev-matching for downshifts (Shift Assistant Pro); navigation (GPS) cradle with multi-controller (for use with BMW’s Navigator V head unit); riding modes (Rain, Road and Dynamic); key-less start (and headlock); and for the first time – regular telescopic forks.

Even the dashboard displays a huge amount of information, it’s almost like riding a jet: Everything from the engine temperature to ambient temperature, riding time, fuel consumption and more.

So the R 1200 R has gone from retro relaxed to sporty tech-packed all-rounder.

READ MORE: BMW S 1000 XR – A new sort of adventure?

With a rider friendly seat height of 790mm (and options of 760mm or 820mm depending on your inseam), the seating position feels compact and “in” the bike, and, as our experience over more than 1,000km of roads of all sorts in Malaysia, it’s superb for long touring hours.

But where the bike really lives up to its new sport billing is handling.

One clear benefit of the R1200R’s semi-active suspension is that the bike handles a cosseting sportsbike, ridden on a smooth race track. Uncanny really, as real-world road conditions are hardly like a race track.

Flicking (yes, literally) the bike from left to right to left was effortless, the chassis and suspension stiffening in a fraction of a second, to allow precise handlebar inputs, whilst maintaining traction.

Simply put,  the 2015 R 1200 R belies its 200kg dry weight, handling with the precision of say a Triumph Street Triple R, or Aprilia Tuono V4R.

READ MORE: Aprilia launches 200bhp RSV4 and new Tuono 1100

While 125bhp sounds modest in this day and age, the liquid-cooled engine delivers impressive grunt that makes the R 1200 R properly fast. It simply rockets off from the traffic lights. Even short shifting through the slick gear box, leaves other road users far, far behind.

After the initial wave of shove, there’s a second wind at 6,000rpm that pulls you strongly to the 9,000rpm redline. As we said, it’s properly fast – when you’re on the gas, there’s no time to look at the dash. It simply rockets forward at a tremendous rate.

Fitted with the low (sport) screen, I was able to sit upright till an indicated 215km/h (at a private test track, of course (We should also note that Deyna’s tolerance for turbulence is higher than average – Ed.).

Whilst exhibiting less of a bark than the exhaust note of the Rnine T, the R1200R has a tuned, sporty exhaust note. It’s louder both at idle and full chat as compared with the old, with the usual over-run pop and crackle disappointingly missing.

The riding modes are supposed to help with that, but I didn’t feel an appreciable difference in power deliver or urgency whilst in Dynamic, so I left it in Road for most of the journey.

While it’s very easy, almost effortless, to gain momentum and preserve it through the corners on the R 1200 R, slowing down is just as easy, with the powerful Brembo callipers having good feel and ABS as standard.

Even more impressive, BMW has programmed the electronic suspension to wind up compression control when braking, simulating the previous bike’s Telelever front end that reduces brake dive, but combined with better feel from conventional forks now. Helping you concentrate on your riding is the Shift Assistant, which automatically rev-matches downshifts, and means you simply stomp your way down through the gears without the clutch or blipping.

In plain English all this means you can brake hard and late and with tonnes of confidence in the front end.

The R 1200 R performed immaculately throughout the trip, and what stood out most despite, or because of, all the technology on board was how easy the bike made everything seem.

Want more lean or less? Easy. Want a plusher ride? Push a button. Don’t want to use the clutch at all except when stopping completely? Done. Want to go slow, or rocket off into the horizon? Twist the throttle.

I found myself looking for reasons to fault the R1200R – illegible tachometer, tiny speedo numbers, acute knee angle (even compared with R nineT), pointless date stamp, a slightly higher fuel consumption than the air-cooled model…in other words, the R1200R has hardly any major faults. If ‘purist’ riding means focusing on the ride, and allowing you to go further with more smiles on your face, then this is one of the most ‘purist’ bikes around.

WATCH: Our video walkthrough of the R 1200 R’s keyless start system

Bikes are cutting edge too, nowadays. BMW's R 1200 R packs keyless go, traction control, navigation and lots more….

Posted by CarBuyer Singapore on Friday, 10 July 2015

BMW R 1200 R
Engine type 1,170cc, 8V, boxer twin
Bore X Stroke 101 x 73mm
Gearbox type 6-speed manual with Gearshift Assist Pro
Max power 125bhp at 7750rpm
Max torque 125Nm at 6500rpm
0 to 100km/h 3.3 seconds
Top speed >200km/h (est.)
Weight (fully fueled) 231kg
Seat Height 790mm

Price $38,500 (machine only)
Availability Now

about the author

Derryn Wong
CarBuyer's chief editor has a keen interest in all things mechanical, technological, animal and mineral. He's particularly fascinated by eco-cars and cars which make no logical sense. An avid motorcyclist and photographer, he also enjoys cats.