The S 1000 RR's dash is well...
The S 1000 RR's dash is well designed, with a white-faced analog tach with clearly defined numbers that are easy to read at a glance. The adjustable shift light is properly positioned to be easily spotted when looking ahead, and all the information is easily accessed via buttons on the handlebar switchgear, meaning you don't have to take your hands off the bars.
We rode much of the first session in Rain mode (which limits power to "only" 150 horsepower) because we were new to the Portimao circuit and needed to learn our way around, but also because we wanted to see just how the setting behaved. The BMW is equipped with a gyro sensor that detects how far the bike is leaned into a turn, and BMW engineers informed us that the system in Rain mode prevents acceleration at lean angles greater than 38 degrees. We found that to be true for the most part; rolling on the throttle at the apex of a turn at aggressive lean angles in the dry resulted in much less acceleration than you ask for until you begin picking the bike up. In fact, you can feel the increase in acceleration as the lean angle decreases, which made for some fun in trying to get as much power as early as possible by picking the bike up right off the apex. Nonetheless, the throttle response and power are neutered significantly, which quickly became old on a dry track; we're looking forward to seeing how it works in the wet back home.
Sport mode definitely livened things up, with a much better throttle response and full 193-claimed-crankshaft-horsepower levels restored. The traction control max intervention lean angle is backed off to 45 degrees, so there's a lot more acceleration available everywhere. With the most oversquare engine configuration in the class, we assumed that the BMW was going to give up a little midrange acceleration to its competition, even with the variable-length intake system and various exhaust valves. But the S 1000 RR exhibited a strong midrange lunge from 7000 rpm on up, surprising us with its ability to pull strongly off slower corners in second gear in this rpm range.
But best of all, here is where we were able to fully experience the fruits of the BMW engineers' undoubted hard labor in developing and producing their highest output engine ever. Prior to this press launch, we'd ridden a modified Japanese literbike that we dynoed at 163 rear wheel horsepower; our butt dyno easily puts the S 1000 RR at around the mid-170-horsepower mark. No hyperbole, no BS-the BMW really felt that strong. Put it this way: heading onto Portimao's front straight is a pavement rise taken in fourth gear, and the RR would try to snap into a vertical wheelstand if it wasn't for the wheelie control cutting power when the wheel speed sensors determined that the front wheel was slowing down. Power continued strongly well up a bit past 13,000 rpm, with the redline set at a stratospheric (for a literbike) 14,200 rpm.
Actually, the wheelie control in Rain and Sport mode can be a bit overbearing at times, especially in the lower gears where unintended lofting of the front wheel is most prevalent. With the Portimao circuit's roller-coaster elevation changes, the front end gets airborne quite often in second and third gear, and in these situations the power retardation quickly drops the front end back to earth, only for full power to swiftly return and hoist the front end back up again. The literal pogo-sticking over many sections of the Portimao circuit soon became annoying.
Not only does the BMW have anti-wheelie control in the front, it also has a system for the rear. The ABS system in Rain and Sport mode detects if the rear tire has become airborne and quickly decreases front brake pressure to settle the chassis. The aggressive braking that becomes the norm at the racetrack triggered this system often, but when activated, there is no pulsing through the lever and its action is fairly transparent, even though lever feel still goes a bit numb. Both the DTC and ABS can be turned off if desired, allowing wheelies at both ends if that's your thing.