BMW are certainly getting serious about performance.

The new K Series four-cylinder machines have class leading power. Likewise, the latest series of R Boxer machines punch much harder than before while moving with a lot more agility than their predecessors. As a result sales are increasing at an unprecedented rate for the Bavarian brand. So much so in fact that their order books are overflowing and BMW Australia are constantly fighting battles for more stock from Europe. While many distributors are having major sales to offload surplus stock, BMW are in the enviable position of having a waiting list in excess of four months on most models.

And after sampling the latest and greatest Bavarian Boxer I reckon those waiting lists are set to get longer. The first shipment was sold out before they had arrived and most of the soon to arrive second shipment already have deposits on them. Times are good for BMW dealers, very good.

The R 1100 S was first introduced in 1998. I first sampled one a few years later and to be blunt, I wasn’t impressed. Claims were made of 74kW, which is close to 100 horsepower in the old scale. In reality, I failed to get the machine to crack 75 horsepower on the dyno let alone get near the magic ton. While I could live with that amount of power and not complain too much, I could never live with the gearbox. Clunky and recalcitrant are two of the nicer terms I recollect using to describe the torment of swapping cogs on the original S model. Clearly, I was not a fan of the R 1100 S. I harboured a similar loathing for Ducati’s 900SS of the same vintage. But both bikes still built a solid following in the marketplace, albeit for reasons that I could never understand.

But times have changed. Ducati have long ditched that archaic 900SS for the delightful 1000DS machine that is so much better than its predecessor. You couldn’t imagine they were born from the same factory. The leap in performance and manners enjoyed by the all new R 1200 S are similar to those improvements Ducati have instilled in their latest model. However, while you couldn’t pick the 900SS and 1000DS came from the same womb as each other, there is no mistaking the R 1200 S is a BMW, and proud to be one. The switchgear is little changed, the lurch to the right as the machine bursts into life and the solid albeit smoother engagement of the gears all serve to make sure that unmistakable Boxer feel is clearly evident and of course celebrated by BMW aficionados.

I took the R 1200 S through its paces around Phillip Island at the recent launch and came away very impressed with the machine.

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Coming down Phillip Island’s main straight at over 240kph lap after lap is something earlier Boxers could never have hoped to get anywhere near.

I drop down a couple of cogs for turn one then on the throttle hard again before going down another gear for Southern Loop. The initial turn in through the Telelever front end is as light as any sportsbike on the market. A little pressure on the pegs and a push on the inside bar sets the machine up for a nice run through what is a long and quite tricky left hander.

From the apex I squeeze the throttle on carefully. The Metzeler Sportec M-1 rubber lays down good drive and the tacho needle brushes the 8500rpm redline.

Up to fourth gear, then fifth before turning into another left hander, the very fast turn three. A measured but firm squeeze on the brake lever sees a pair of four-piston calipers clamp on generous 320mm disc rotors. I have turned off the ABS for my track sessions and as I get more and more confidence in the brakes and stability of the R 1200 S I start to leave my braking later and later. Halfway between the 150 and 100 metre boards was as brave as I dared. I wanted to wait until the 100 metre board but a fear of possible pain that grows with every year I age prevents me from doing so. I release the brakes and there is little reaction from the machine in protest, the unconventional front suspension system refuses to get upset.

I tip in and brush my knee on the deck for turn four. Not because I have to, just because I gain great satisfaction from getting such a lean angle from a BMW Boxer, and the body language helps to keep the pegs from scraping. Rest assured that there is no chance of touching down those cylinders as numerous geometry changes help to realise a generous 52-degrees of possible lean angle. Put simply, if you are touching the cylinders down, you’re in the process of crashing.

Second gear provides smooth drive out of turn four and early in the day I would leave the bike in second gear for the run to Siberia Corner with the 1170cc powerplant hitting its 8800rpm rev-limiter before tipping into the left hander. Later in the day I took off my skirt and dared to carry a bit more entry speed to Siberia and began to shift to third gear before tipping the machine onto its side. This led to a gradual increase in corner speed throughout the day and the kneeslider greeting the deck earlier and earlier in the corner. Like most modern sports machines the pace it can muster on the racetrack is limited by the rider much more so than any other factor.

Exiting Siberia the throttle is wound to the stop before shifting to fourth just before the bridge. The bars here gave a little wiggle to let me know that I’m starting to have a bit of a go. The machine does have a steering damper but I could find no available adjustment and it’s quite soft in its operation. Earlier in the day I would hold fourth through the fast right-hander that is the hayshed but as I gained more trust in the Metzeler hoops and my ability to keep the machine on line, I started clicking fifth before the Hayshed. This is quite a scary part of the circuit and the fact that I built up enough confidence to carry good speed through the Hayshed is testament to the rapport I had built with the machine. If you told me at the start of the day that I would be using fifth gear and carrying close to 200kph through the Hayshed on a BMW Boxer I would have laughed, but by the end of the day, that was exactly what I was doing.

Down to third gear for the somewhat scary but eminently satisfying Lukey Heights then a big squeeze on the brakes and down to second gear for the tight MG Hairpin. You would imagine that two massive cylinders would create more than few dramas in regards to compression lock-ups but I’m glad to report that for some reason the BMW posed very little problems in this regard. Only when I got a little hamfisted on a couple of occasions did the rear slither around a little under compression, but never did it threaten to get untidy. When I went down one cog too many in a moment of brain fade the rear stepped out to the side quite nicely but it never threatened to get ugly. Pity the photographer wasn’t there. I could have pretended to do it on purpose and show off the photograph as testament to my level of bike control. Cough… Wake up Trevor, no one is that easily fooled.

So anyway, back to reality.

Second gear is the chosen cog for MG Hairpin followed by a short shift to third before that always satisfying change of direction for turn 11. Squeeze the throttle on as hard as you dare through turn 11 and then nail it to the stop as you straighten out of the turn. Click fourth as redline approaches and tip in again for turn 12. The cleanup marks from an oil spill some days earlier were clearly evident on the inside line through turn 12. A few times I braved it enough to go through a little quicker and take turn 12 in fifth but visions of me highsiding in fifth gear and being banged on the back of the head by a somersaulting R 1200 S saw me exercise caution. Thus I was a bit of a pansy through here and utilised the upper reaches of fourth before clicking fifth, then sixth as I cross the start/finish line and again I see 240kph on the conventional white faced speedo. No matter how long the straight I don’t think I would see the full 260kph mark on the speedo but on a long run I am fairly sure 250kph would be easily achieved. Generally, BMW speedometers are actually somewhere in the ballpark of reality and not 20kph or more optimistic like most Japanese machines. Make no mistake, this Boxer boogies.

Let’s get technical….

Now to the numbers game…

The R 1200 S is 18kg lighter than its predecessor and with a full tank of fuel and other fluids tips the scales at a very respectable 213kg. That’s just 20kg more than the latest lightweight litre weapons from Japan and a massive 35kg less than BMW’s premier sporting four-cylinder machine, the K 1200 S.

BMW will offer a tankbag and tailbag for the R 1200 S but no panniers will appear in the BMW Rider Equipment and Motorcycle Equipment catalogue. BMW will point riders that want a sporting Boxer with panniers towards the R 1200 ST. The R 1200 S will be marketed purely as a sportsbike and BMW hopes the model may steal customers that are considering machines such as Ducati’s 1000SS and other large capacity sporting twins. That said though the R 1200 S does feel quite slim between the knees and offers a very comfortable seat and nice reach to the bars that would make big days in the saddle an attractive prospect.

BMW claim 90 kW (that’s 122 ponies in the old scale) and my seat of the pants tells me that figure has to be somewhere near the mark. That peak power figure arrives at 8250rpm while a prodigious peak torque figure of 112 Nm reaches its peak at 6800rpm. More than 100 Nm of torque is available all the way from 3500rpm to the 8800rpm rev-limiter.

That type of performance from an air-cooled twin means that it must be fed a diet of premium unleaded, preferably the best 98 octane you can get. However a knock sensor ensures the machine performs just fine on 95 octane and can even brave the poorest Australian fuel when there is no other option. It may be smart though not to lean on the motor too hard for long periods of time if running on low octane fuel. The machine is more vibe free than other Boxers with a third cam bearing helping to minimise vibrations.

Changes to the engine that enable it to reach those heady power figures include a very high 12.5:1 compression ratio, stiffer valve springs, new steel alloy con-rods, larger 52mm throttle bodies and intake manifolds help get more premium unleaded into the reshaped cylinder heads while a 5mm larger 50mm exhaust headers help shift the gases out of the revised exhaust ports.

The six-speed gearbox and shaft drive system is unchanged from recent 1200 Boxers and is a vast improvement on the box of gears the previous 1100 Boxers suffered with. There is very little torque reaction or climbing under acceleration from the shaft drive system. And contrary to the well worn myth, shaft drive is no barrier to getting the big girl up on one wheel. The single arm Paralever shaft drive system requires no maintenance whatsoever according to BMW.

A standout feature for me with the Telelever front suspension layout is the lack of dive under brakes or fore and aft yaw on the machine when releasing the brakes. The front end provides great composure and had instilled enough confidence in me by the end of a day around Phillip Island to allow me to use entry speeds that previously I had only achieved on Japanese sportsbikes. Fixed 41mm tubes are matched to a preload and damping adjustable shock absorber via longitudinal arms to offer 110mm of front wheel travel. I found nothing to complain about but for reasons of experimentation I clicked on some more damping and added more preload to the spring. The changes could be felt and provided even a little more confidence than before but I was already circulating as fast as I dared and felt no reason to push things too far out of my comfort zone.

At the rear an Ohlins shock absorber kept the 190mm Metzeler Sportec driving hard. The Ohlins shock is a $1000 extra and adds a lot more adjustment than the standard shock.

A huge range of spring preload helps the rider to tailor the ride exactly to their preference and ride height can also be adjusted at the lower shock mount. Turning a wheel at the bottom of the shock after removing the plastic protector that helps to keep road crud away is all it takes to alter the ride height. No shims or extra parts are required. I wound the damping to maximum and set the spring preload about two-thirds on and found this to offer great performance. There was certainly no hint of a wallow at any time and stiffening things up at the rear helped me to more easily hold a tight line around some of the faster corners Phillip Island has to offer. With things set on the stiff side of the equation large bumps can give the rider a solid shove in the kidneys.

At 66° the steering head angle is 1° steeper than seen on the R 1100 S and front caster is down from 100mm to 87mm. The wheelbase has actually increased marginally, up from 1478mm to 1487mm but the machine changes direction with little effort, even at high speed.

The rims are really quite gorgeous. The front is the common 3.5 x 17 inch sizing and the standard rear rim is a 5.5 x 17 inch item shod with 180/55ZR17 rubber. An optional 6 inch rim with a 190/50ZR17 tyre is $235 extra.

The ABS system is fantastic for road use but always the control freak I switched it off for track duty. The brakes have great power and good feel at the lever. Under the repeated stress of hard stops the lever can start to come closer to the bar. This happened both at Phillip Island braking for turn four and also at Wanneroo braking for the final right hander. It was never too much of a concern and I simply adjusted the lever further out from the bar so when it happened again I still had room between the lever and the bar. Don’t read too much into this however as I could easily live with it even with doing track days. I am quite hard on brakes. I seem to be much better at stopping than I am at going… A pair of 320mm discs at the front are clamped by four-piston calipers to which the fluid is delivered via braided lines. At a guess I would say the master cylinder may be the culprit in the issue of the lever coming back further under heavy racetrack use. The rear brake is 265mm in diameter and requires a firm press on the lever to bring any meaningful retardation.

Instrumentation is clear and concise with an attractive white faced conventional speedometer and tachometer flanked by an intuitive LCD. Dual tripmeters can be cycled through and reset via a convenient button on the left handlebar. When only four litres are remaining in the 17 litre fuel tank a yellow exclamation mark illuminates on the display and a range counter starts to count down the kilometres remaining. I tested this facility and found it to be accurate. Running low on juice I watched the range count down kilometre by kilometre and as the number clicked from 1 down to 0 the machine spluttered to a stop. How’s that for accuracy! Normal riding sees a touring range of around 300km but of course your right wrist determines the fuel economy. I went through a tank and a half at Wanneroo Raceway onboard the S.

A photo sensitive cell is featured in the display and automatically adjusts the intensity of the orange backlight for the present light conditions which is a nice touch, as are the heated handgrips.

The wiring on the R 1200 S follows the latest automotive trend with Can-bus technology controlling all electrics through a single wire. Plenty of information is fed to the LCD screen including gear position, oil temperature, time and fuel level. An electronic immobiliser is also incorporated into the system.

The rear view mirrors are easily adjusted on the fly and work brilliantly. The indicators are integrated into the rear of the mirrors and are activated via a switch on the corresponding bar.

The large diameter header pipes terminated in an underseat silencer with two vertically stacked outlets. At idle it sounds a bit like a wet fart in a tin can but things get better when the revs rise. I would love to hear one with a decent aftermarket system as no doubt such an item would sound a nice symphony.

An 18 lens LED tail light sits above the muffler and while it looks very modern I don’t think it really complements the look of the machine. In the flesh the machine is quite a stunner with the single sided swingarm showing off the great looking rear rim and the Boxer engine looks quite tidy and muscular.

Our test machine was fitted with the optional wider rear rim as well as the $1500 ABS option. Two-tone paint commands a $750 price premium while the standard anti-theft immobiliser system can be augmented with an audible alarm for $495. The base machine retails for $21000.

The two-tone Red-Silver colour scheme looks much better in the flesh than in any photograph and my pick would be between that colour scheme and the solid black finish. The White Aluminium colour scheme seemed a little bland to me at first but quickly grew on me, as did the Shine Yellow variant. Likewise the overall look of the machine became more and more agreeable to me as my bond with the machine grew stronger.

Yes, in only our all too short acquaintance I had really started to form a bond with R 1200 S. For potential owners, that certainly suggests that the R 1200 S ownership experience could be mighty rewarding indeed.

Tech Specs – BMW R 1200 S

  • Engine – 1,170cc Boxer Twin

  • Bore/stroke – 101/73MM

  • Claimed Power – 122hp @ 8,250rpm

  • Claimed Torque – 112Nm @ 6,800rpm

  • Compression Ratio – 12.5:1

  • Induction – BMS-K Electronic Fuel Injection, 52mm throttle bodies

  • Clutch – Single dry plate

  • Gearbox – Six speed

  • Final Drive – Shaft (2.75)

  • Front Suspension – BMW Telelever, Preload adjustable, 110mm of travel

  • Rear Suspension – BMW Paralever, adjustable ride height, single adjustable shock (optional Fully adjustable Ohlins), 120mm of travel

  • Front Brakes – 320mm discs with four-piston calipers (optional ABS)

  • Rear Brake – 265mm disc (Optional ABS)

  • Rims – 3.5×17 (F), 5.5×17(R) (Optional 6.0×17 rear rim)

  • Tyres – 120/70ZR17 (F), 180/55ZR17 (R) (Optional 190/50ZR17 with 6 inch rim)

  • Length – 2151mm

  • Width – 870MM at the mirrors, 738mm at the bars

  • Seat Height – 830mm

  • Dry Weight – 190kg (213kg with all fluids and tank of fuel)

  • Fuel Capacity – 17 litres (including four litre warning light reserve)

  • Price – $21,000 + ORC

  • Warranty – Two years, unlimited kilometres (optional extension to 36 months for $395)