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2018 BMW G 310 R, G 310 GS review, test ride

20th Jul 2018 6:02 pm

The BMW 310 twins finally come to India. We tell you what they’re like to ride.

  • Make : BMW Bikes
  • Model : G 310 R
This has been such a long-drawn-out story that you probably know everything there is to know about the BMW G 310R and G 310 GS by now. You surely know that these are the first fruits borne of the partnership BMW Motorrad signed with TVS in 2013 to build sub-500cc motorcycles at the latter’s plant in Hosur, which would then be sold around the world. You must also be painfully aware of the extended delay in these made-in-India motorcycles actually going on sale in our market – a delay that was reasoned by BMW’s need to set-up a decent dealer network.

But all that is finally consigned to history, as we finally have the prices for these bikes. And as expected, the prices are premium, to say the least. If you want the sweet nectar of that prestigious propeller badge, you’re going to have to pay for it. Since this is no small sum of money, you’d be absolutely right to want to know how these bikes will fare in our conditions – and we finally have an answer to give you.

DOUBLE VISION

Do they look “BMW” enough? Surely a question on many minds; and yes, both these bikes have a satisfyingly imposing presence. The naked 310 R is compact but muscular, with clean, sophisticated lines. The tank looks fairly chunky and it has a strong shoulder line that extends all the way to the suspension fork. Below this is a dash of jewellery, in the form of a BMW badge that you definitely want to keep an eye on; badge theft may have reduced over the years, but it still very much exists.

While the fuel tank adds a sense of mass, the actual attention-grabber along the profile comes in the form of the large panels on either side. These are inspired by the mighty S1000R litre-naked, and they sit on a smart-looking grey panel that resides below. Inscribed across these panels are the only name badging you’ll see on the bodywork. Below this is the engine block with the proud BMW stamping and it’s aptly finished with a small belly pan below.

 

BMW G 310 GS headlight

If you’re wondering why some details look familiar, it because the TVS Apache RR 310 runs a similar gold suspension fork, wheels, and nearly the same exhaust unit. The footpeg holder is a different design, though, and this single silver unit holds both the rider and pillion footrests. As on the TVS, the rider gets rubber-topped footrests, while the passenger pegs are metal. The G 310 R has a single-seat unit, but it is deeply scooped out and quite supportive. I like what the designers have done with the tail section – neatly integrated grab handles and a brake light that sits on the very end of the rear fender. And finally, the face gets a simple-looking triangular halogen headlamp, with the plastic panels around it on either side lending a touch of both, class and aggression.

Moving over to the G 310 GS, the first thing that catches your attention is how much bigger it looks than the R. Sure, it still looks tiny before something like a mighty R 1200 GS, but the GS is visibly taller, wider and more imposing than the 310 R. The 310 GS uses the same headlamp as its naked sibling, but the face is otherwise very different, thanks to a big ADV style beak and a small windscreen that sits on top. I’m no fan of big windscreens on large ADV bikes as they block out too much air in our hot conditions, so this small screen looks just right and it works well. It provides some level of wind protection but also allows for plenty of refreshing air through the chest and helmet. 

BMW G 310 R headlight

The side profile of the GS is quite different too, thanks to the different mouldings for the tank side panels (both bikes hold 11 litres of fuel). While the seat units are similar, the GS’ sits at a lofty 835mm against the friendly 785mm height of the G 310 R. This will certainly be one of the key factors to consider in the G 310 buying decision, as the R is very low and friendly – much more so than the KTM 390 Duke, but the GS will be intimidating for anyone shy of 5ft 8in.

The GS uses a similar fender-mounted tail-lamp, but the rear section looks dramatically different thanks to a large aluminium luggage rack (5kg payload) at the back which smartly incorporates dual grab handles. The wheel design is the same and this bike also gets gold colour forks, but there’s longer suspension travel on the GS and the front wheel is a 19-inch unit. Both bikes use a fully digital display which has plenty of information to offer, but you need to swap through menus to see all of it and it isn’t all on display together. Further, this isn’t a full-colour TFT unit like you get on the KTM 390 Duke. Fit and finish levels are the best you’ll get at this price point and the switchgear quality is excellent too. 

HEART-THROB

Both these bikes share the same 313cc four-valve, liquid-cooled single-cylinder engine. Max power stands at 34hp while torque peaks at 28Nm. These are the same numbers you get from the TVS Apache RR 310, which also uses this motor. A precise six-speed gearbox handles transmission duties and the clutch lever is reasonably weighted. Neither bike gets a slipper clutch, which is available on the KTM 390s and several more affordable machines as well.

BMW G 310 GS engine

In terms of performance, it’s a very familiar affair with a tractable motor that pulls eagerly a give above 6,000rpm. Refinement was one area of concern after the RR 310 and there is noticeable improvement here. The handlebars are rubber-mounted on both and vibrations aren’t completely absent, but they’re well-controlled. Vibrations in the seat are almost non-existent, too, but both the G 310 R and the GS generate a buzz in the footpegs above 6,000rpm. Overall, refinement levels seem good enough to comfortably get along with, but this engine is not as smooth the one on the KTM 390.

FRAMEWORK

The TVS Apache RR 310 did a fantastic job of introducing the trellis frame that’s at the centre of both these BMW. But interestingly, this isn’t just a case of both siblings dressing up the same dimensions ◊ ∆ differently. The GS, for example, has a more relaxed steering geometry than the R, and along with the bigger front wheel, it results in a longer wheelbase, too (up by a substantial 40mm). Both bikes run a 110-section front tyre and a 150-section rear, but where the street-naked comes with Michelin Pilot Street radials, the GS ships with premium tubeless Metzeler Tourance tyres. 

The big difference is in the suspension travel. While the R offers 140/131mm of front/rear travel, the GS has substantially more with 180mm of travel at both ends. Braking hardware is identical on both bikes, with a 300mm disc up front bitten down on by a radially mounted four-pot Bybre caliper. A 240mm disc serves at the rear and dual-channel ABS is standard on both. Given the GS’ mild off-roading aspirations, ABS can be disabled via a neatly integrated button in the left switchgear console. Fully fuelled, the R weighs 158.5kg, while the GS is heavier by 11kg. 

BMW G 310 R front tyre

It’s quite astonishing that two bikes which share the exact same frame/sub-frame, swingarm, brakes, and engine can be so different to ride, and that’s exactly the case here. The G310 R puts you in a fairly sporty riding position, but one that is comfy with just a hint of lean down to the bar. Actual performance is very similar to the Apache RR 310, but the riding position with moderately rear-set pegs and a nice flat handlebar changes things. This means you sit on it comfortably upright, but are still engaged enough with the motorcycle for some aggressive riding when the mood arises. At this point, the G 310 R reveals a  naughty character which is great fun to unleash on the street. The fact that the R is a more compact and lighter bike than either of its platform siblings gives it an increased sense of agility and manoeuvrability – both of which are great in a motorcycle. Grip and feel from the Michelin Pilot Streets is reasonably good for the application and the brakes work with well-measured sharpness and bite. The R initially gives the impression of being a somewhat firm and sporty motorcycle, but it deals with potholes quite well, and its 165mm of ground clearance is generous enough for our conditions in India. The seat height deserves praise – it’s really low and accessible – and while I, at 6ft 1in, can fit on the bike without complaint, I can see this machine being a segment-favourite for shorter riders.

Hop (or rather, climb) onto the GS and the differences are immediate. You sit much higher, the bodywork feels more substantial and the riding position is more relaxed, thanks to more forward-set pegs and a wider handlebar that feels closer to the rider. Engine performance is largely the same, but the long travel suspension results in a completely different animal. Where the 310 R felt supple but taut, the GS simply steamrolls down the road and swallows all manner of bumps and potholes. Ride quality is downright excellent and you could cover massive distances with ease. At the same time, the suspension is too soft for aggressive riding and there’s limited feel coming off that large 19-inch tyre. Braking performance is not as sharp as the 310 R either due to the exaggerated fork dive. The Metzeler Tourance tyres are very likeable, though. They offer a good feel on-road and willingly take on light off-road work.

BMW G 310 R corner

In a nutshell, the GS is a fantastic all-road motorcycle that can take on some easy off-roading as well. We didn’t get much time with the bike (or its sibling) but you get the sense that this is not a hardcore off-roader and will be much happier taking you to the challenging depths of Ladakh than hammering down a tough and technical off-road trail. However, as a quick, comfortable and capable long-distance motorcycle, the G 310 GS ticks all the right boxes.

THE GRAND SUMMATION

Both the BMWs are really likeable. The R is an easy but fun motorcycle to ride and I enjoyed it much more than anticipated, while the GS feels like a bigger bike and strongly impresses with its touring abilities. There are a few problems, though.

First, the dealer network is still tiny, with only seven outlets across the country; more are set to arrive soon. As you’ve probably guessed, though, its price is the bigger issue. Yes, the three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty is a great move, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that BMW is seriously leveraging its brand value when it comes to pricing for India. At 2.99 lakh (ex-showroom, India), the G 310 R is a whole Rs 76,000 more expensive than the TVS Apache RR 310, with which it shares its entire rolling chassis, electricals and even the same engine spec. The TVS takes it two steps further with a full fairing and a set of expensive LED headlamps.

More relevant though, the KTM 390 Duke costs nearly Rs 60,000 less and offers nearly 30 percent more power and a richer feature set that includes the likes of a powerful full-LED headlamp, a slipper clutch, and a TFT display. And let’s not forget: KTM is a premium European brand with an Indian manufacturing partner, too; and the G 310 R is priced on par with the 390 Duke in most European countries – it’s even lower, in some markets.

BMW G 310 GS action

To sum up, the G 310 R is very well built, thoroughly likeable, and it will certainly appeal to those who want a quick and premium motorcycle that’s calmer than the angry KTM. But ironically, while it is the most affordable way to get yourself a BMW motorcycle, it’s not really affordable. In fact, when you look at these highly optimistic price tags, you can’t help but wonder if BMW Motorrad India went down this route simply because they don’t have the sales and service (service is to be handled independently of TVS) to deal with big numbers, at the moment. Hopefully, that’s the case and this pricing is not just for the sake of massive profit margins, because that would mean that there’s a chance that these bikes or updated versions (already due, as its rivals have taken the game forward) could become more affordable later.

On the other hand, the G 310 GS is far more promising. A quick and premium ‘adventure’ bike like this is something we’ve been dreaming about for ages. Furthermore, it comes at a price point of Rs 3.49 lakh (ex-showroom India), which is bang in the middle of the affordable but underpowered and relatively primitive Royal Enfield Himalayan (Rs 1.7 lakh) and the perfectly matched, but ridiculously priced Kawasaki Versys X-300 (Rs 4.6-lakh). If you factor in that the KTM 390 Adventure is at least a year away, the G 310 GS finds itself isolated for a good amount of time. It will definitely be the more popular of the two siblings, despite the fact that it costs a
good deal more.

Also see:

2018 BMW G 310 R India image gallery

2018 BMW G 310 GS India image gallery

BMW G 310 R, G 310 GS: 5 things to know

PRICE Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Ex-showroom - Delhi Rs 2.99 lakh/Rs 3.49 lakh
ENGINE Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Fuel Type Petrol
No of Cylinders 1
Cubic Capacity (cc) 313cc
Cooling System Water-cooled
Fuel Delivery System Electronic fuel injection
Bore/Stroke (mm) 80/62.1mm
Compression Ratio 10.6:1
Valves per cylinder 4
Max Power (hp @ rpm) 34hp at 9500rpm
Max Torque (nm @ rpm) 28Nm at 7500rpm
TRANSMISSION Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
No of Gears 6
Clutch Type Multiple-disc clutch in oil bath, mechanically operated
Dimensions & Chassis Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Weight (kg) 158.5kg/169.5kg
Length (mm) 2005mm/2075mm
Width (mm) 820mm/880mm
Height (mm) 1080mm/1230mm
Wheel base (mm) 1380mm/1420mm
Seat height(mm) 785mm/835mm
Fuel Tank capacity (lts) 11 litres
BRAKES Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Front Brake Type Single disc, 4-piston fixed caliper, radially bolted
Front Brake Size (mm) 300mm
Rear Brake Type Single disc, single-piston floating caliper
Rear Brake Size (mm) 240mm
SUSPENSION Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Front Suspension 41mm upside down fork
Front Suspension Travel (mm) 140mm/180mm
Rear Suspension Solid die-cast aluminum swingarm, directly hinged monoshock, adjustable preload
Rear Suspension Travel (mm) 131mm/180mm
WHEELS AND TYRES Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Front wheel (inch) 17-inch/19-inch
Front Tyre 110/70 R17/110/80 R19
Rear wheel (inch) 17-inch/17-inch
Rear Tyre 150/60 R17/150/70 R17
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