The Suzuki is a much more amenable companion around town, with agile handling, crisp fuel injection and an incredibly responsive engine greatly easing the ability to zip through traffic. The Bandit's torquey yet quick-revving engine finally hits the mark that the original 1200 (and actually, the majority of Japanese standard/naked bikes in the past) aimed for all along: snappy, strong acceleration instantly upon demand, without having to couch that request with a downshift or two. The roll-on performance numbers are deceiving: Although the BMW's beefy motor eventually shows its muscle in top gear, thoroughly whupping the Suzuki in both 60-80- and 80-100-mph tests, the Bandit is much more responsive to throttle input at speeds below 70 mph. In any other gear at lower rpm, the Suzuki will leap ahead of the K-bike until the Bavarian beast gets wound up and moving, and by that time it's usually too little, too late. Both bikes can be lugged down to 2000 rpm and cruise at 2500 rpm all day without a problem, but when you call for some immediate steam from the engine room, the Suzuki's crisp fueling quickly gets the bike accelerating, while the BMW needs a bit more time (and getting past some gargling sounds from the intake) before it gets its legs moving.
The K12R Sport's fuel injection isn't nearly as polished as the Suzuki's, with an abrupt response from closed throttle, which we've complained about on the K12R and S models, albeit improved slightly from those two. Attempting to cruise at 3000 rpm or higher in the lower gears results in some surging, and there's a bit of driveline lash present during slower speeds that, combined with the abrupt off/on throttle response and the BMW's heavier flywheel effect, can make gearchanges more of a clunk than a snick. Getting any real acceleration requires a lot more throttle rotation than on the Suzuki, and a bit more rpm as well; make no mistake, the BMW is definitely the stronger of the two, but its power isn't nearly as accessible as the Bandit's.
The ESA (Electronic Suspension Adjuster) adds a significant bump to the K12R Sport's already heady price tag ($800 on top of a $14,925 base sticker), but its convenience and function are hard to ignore. Simply push the bar-mounted button to change the damping setting to "Comfort," and then once more to switch the spring-preload setting to the single-rider position, and the BMW becomes a plush sport-tourer, eating up highway frost heaves without a problem. (Sharp-edged bumps still get fed back through the front suspension a bit, however.) Then, when you get into some twisties, pushing the button a few more times changes the suspension to a setting more befitting a sportbike. Adding a passenger or some soft luggage? No worries, there are settings for those situations too.
The Bandit, with only spring-preload adjustability in the conventional front fork and rebound damping/spring preload in the rear, nonetheless has suspension rates that are thankfully much firmer and more controlled than the flaccid and wallowing character of the previous Bandit's units. There's plenty of compliance for long-haul comfort, yet when you encounter some twisty pavement and up the pace, the Suzuki is a willing-rather than retreating-accomplice. Still, limited adjustability means there are restrictions to how much you can ramp up the pace, so you have to be cognizant of that point (more on that later).
Both bikes feature 5.0-gallon fuel tanks, and with average fuel consumption hovering in the 36-mpg range, 180 miles to a tankful is the norm. Wick up the pace and start really twisting the throttle, and the BMW's more aggressive motor shows its thirsty side, dipping as far as 31 mpg.
Both of our test units came equipped with the ABS option, but there was a huge difference in price. Opting for ABS with the Bandit increases the sticker by just $500 (which is pretty amazing); asking for it with the K12R Sport, however, inflates the price by $1040-yikes. The BMW's latest Integral ABS II is a far cry from the somewhat clunky action of the previous generations, though; this ABS system is the best we've sampled yet on a BMW, and its performance is pretty darn close to the best Japanese units we've tried.
In fact, the K12R Sport's ABS is superior to the Suzuki's, offering up better power (although part of that can be attributed to the Beemer's better rubber-the K-bike's Michelin Pilot Powers have better grip than the Dunlop D218s on the Bandit) and less cycling effect. Once the ABS is engaged on the Suzuki, a definite pulsation can be felt through the lever, and brake feel pretty much goes out the window. The BMW's very sophisticated (and complicated) system utilizes a number of pressure sensors, modern hydraulic valving (variable instead of just on/off) and electrohydraulic pumps, all controlled by the ECU through a recirculating design to maintain a high level of line pressure at all times during braking. This allows much quicker cycling and creates much better feel at the lever, with far less pulsation. While both the Suzuki and BMW brakes require high lever effort for maximum braking power (both the ABS activation thresholds are pretty high, thankfully), the K12R Sport's ABS has some feedback to it when engaged, instead of everything going totally numb while braking is completely handed over to the ABS system.
The BMW's brake system is also integrated (hence the Integral II moniker); pulling on the front-brake lever also partially activates the rear brake, while pressing the rear brake pedal activates the rear brake only. The actual brake hydraulic systems are separate, however, so as not to rob any feel from the application of the front brake. When the front brake is applied, an electrohydraulic pump and valves apply the rear brake automatically according to a preset level determined by the amount of front-brake pressure. Thankfully, the system as a whole is more transparent than most other front/rear combined brake setups we've tried.
When the ABS wasn't called upon while braking, neither bike garnered any plaudits. The BMW no longer uses the dubious servo assist system on its brakes, but overall braking action is still very progressive during light usage; power ramps up quickly with only minuscule lever movement, yet serious braking power requires a good amount of lever effort. The Suzuki's brakes don't have a whole lot of feel and are pretty wooden in response-major stopping power requires a lot of effort in the same manner as the BMW.