2023 BMW S 1000 RR review: Gives you wings!

    BMW’s exceptional litre-class weapon gets a sizeable update for 2023 and we get to see what the range-topping M Sport version is like on the road.

    Published on Jun 11, 2023 07:00:00 AM


    We Like
    • Awesome performance, but still easy
    • Fantastic electronics, features
    • Good value compared to competition
    We Don't Like
    • Hard seat, heat, hates poor roads
    • Too many black plastics

    Superbikes are simultaneously among the most desirable motorcycles on the planet as well as some of the most painful. They’re amazing, yet stubbornly single-minded things and every motorcyclist has dreamed of owning one, despite the known fact that they can be a struggle on our roads. In fact, most owners in India end up using their superbikes purely on the road, so when BMW called to say there was a brand new S 1000 RR available to review, we decided to do it from that point of view – what’s this thing like to live with on Indian roads?

    And why not, because the S 1000 RR has built an international reputation over the years for being the nicest of the superbikes on the road. After all, the original was the first superbike to bring luxuries like cruise control and heated grips to the segment all those years back. This one has those features too and it even has luggage straps under the pillion seat.

    But for me, what’s most enjoyable is the riding position. This is one of the roomiest of the current litre-bikes and while it is still a full-on superbike riding position that makes you feel like a crushed up ball of paper, it is a little kinder than a Panigale – and much nicer than the new ZX-10R in the leg department.

    However, the big problem is this bike’s very firm seat. That’s great for the maximum feel on the track, but quickly gets painful on the street. Replacing this will really improve the bike’s comfort. Ultimately though, the big make or break aspect of bikes like this comes down to the type of roads you will ride on.

    The BMW’s electronically adjustable suspension can be reasonably absorptive on smooth-ish tarmac roads, but this thing absolutely hates the bumpy tarmac and jarring, slippery concrete roads that Mumbai is full of. It’s a non-stop judder that keeps kicking you out of the seat and it gets so bad that you will quickly question the decision of owning such a bike at all.

    BMW S 1000 RR review: chassis updates, ride and handling

    Thankfully, your frown will turn upside down when you make the effort to find a good road. Suddenly, it all makes sense.

    For 2023, BMW has given the bike a few chassis updates, including tweaked steering geometry and more flex engineered into the frame. It’s hard to say how much of an improvement this has made, but what I can tell you is that this is a very encouraging handler on the road. It follows your every instruction beautifully and you never feel like you have to fight the bike.

    The S 1000 RR doesn’t pack your typical ultra-high-end brand names like Ohlins, Brembo and Pirelli, but everything on this bike works beautifully in unison and at an extremely high level. The electronically adjustable Marzocchi suspension is really impressive in the right environment, the Dunlop Sportsmart TT tyres were super grippy at these speeds and the Nissin brakes also had mega performance.

    In terms of pure handling, the bike simply feels a little lighter and easier than what I remember of most of its rivals. Surely, significant credit for that must go to the chassis, but a big part of that is also because of the amazing carbon-fibre wheels that come on this top-spec Pro M Sport variant.

    Marzocchi suspension is electronically adjustable.

    These help the bike to turn in with surprising ease and quickness and it’s a really wonderful feeling. However, there’s also a sense of anxiety with such high-end expensive wheels. Carbon fibre can be incredibly strong, but if it takes too big an impact, these rims won’t bend like alloys and instead, they will crack or just straight up break. You’ve also got to be very careful when changing tyres and keep an eye on your tyre pressures in general.

    Thankfully, the bike comes with a tyre pressure monitoring system as part of its huge rider assists package. In fact, one of my favourite aspects of the S 1000 RR has always been its rider assists and for this year, BMW has taken them to the next level.

    Huge range of customisable rider assists.

    As with all bikes in the class, you get a party pack of features, including multiple riding modes, multiple screen display modes and many riding assists that are all adjustable on many levels. This bike even brings things like a new slide-control system, a brake-slide assist, hill hold, Bluetooth connectivity and navigation. There’s so much in there that it can become a little overwhelming if you’re not the tech-savvy type.

    BMW S 1000 RR review: engine, performance

    All these amazing electronics also allow you to safely access a truly explosive amount of power from the 999cc inline-four engine. The performance from this engine is so much that you can almost never fully open the throttle for more than a second or two. Sure, you can have a bit of fun in the first couple of gears, but to try and exploit the full performance on public roads is nearly impossible without taking on huge levels of risk both for yourself and other people. That’s one of the things that make bikes like this a little frustrating and unfulfilling on the road, because they really beg to be revved to the redline.

    For 2023, the RR makes 3 more horsepower (now 210hp) and it now revs as high as 14,600rpm. But with its variable valve timing Shiftcam system, the midrange is also surprisingly strong and it definitely has more low-end performance than the Kawasaki ZX-10R.

    Carbon-fibre wheels are exquisite and save 3 kilos, but demand extra caution.

    Riding around in Rain mode puts the bike in a calm state of tune, and while it gets a whole lot more aggressive in the higher modes, the throttle response always feels smooth and predictable.

    As for the sound, it’s worth mentioning that this engine sounds a little rough at idle and it doesn’t have that smooth hum of a typical Japanese inline four. There’s even some buzziness that you feel in the bars and pegs. Usually, this would be annoying, but it actually gives the bike a raw and aggressive feeling and even the stock exhaust screams out an unexpectedly loud tune at high rpms.

    That is a good thing because this engine certainly doesn’t have the same drama and sheer emotional appeal of an Italian V4. But its overall performance is undoubtedly up there with the best.

    BMW S 1000 RR review: is it really usable on the road?

    Ultimately, yes the S 1000 RR is a little nicer on the road than its rivals because of its riding position and the more flexible inline-four engine. But this bike also gets burning hot in traffic around your thighs and feet, and it has a heavy clutch as well. Yes, it will handle being ridden into a traffic jam, but it certainly won’t be a pleasant experience for the rider.

    Pro M Sport seat is painfully hard on the street.

    Trying to live with one of these things is the very definition of a love-hate relationship. Every time I ride one of these 1,000cc superbikes on the road, I promise myself I’ll never do it again. It just feels a bit pointless and the pain generally outweighs the pleasure. But then enough time passes and the sheer excitement of riding a superbike builds back, so when the next opportunity presents itself, I’m jumping to have a go again.

    The story remains the same with this S 1000 RR. It is an absolutely astounding motorcycle, but it only truly shines in its happy place, which is at the racetrack. But if you still intend to buy one purely for road use, you should really think about whether the area you live in has good enough roads to make that an enjoyable experience.

    BMW S 1000 RR review: verdict

    But what about where the S 1000 RR fits against its key Japanese and Italian rivals in India? With prices ranging from Rs 20.2 lakh-24.5 lakh, it slots neatly between the well-priced ZX-10R at one end and the pricey Panigale V4 at the other. And for the sort of performance and kit the BMW offers, that price is really quite reasonable.

    Beautiful, adjustable billet rearsets on the M Sport.

    As for the looks, the new, angry-shark-looking face is menacing and it really stands out with that huge wing, but the tail section is quite unremarkable. This M-Sport version has some beautiful kit on it like the carbon wheels and the billet adjustable rearsets with carbon-fibre heel plates. But then it feels a little too plasticky in other areas and there is way too much black plastic used all over – which is a downer at this price.

    Ultimately, it’s not the most special looking or most evocative of the superbikes to ride. But if you want a track bike that makes you feel like a better rider than you actually are, this is the one to buy. It really makes you feel good as a rider. After all, isn’t that why we buy these expensive toys – to make ourselves feel good?

    Also See:

    2023 BMW S 1000 RR video review

    Tech Specs

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