The third page of BMW’s HP4 press material says everything you need to know about BMW Motorrad in one short sentence; it reads, “Even the S 1000 RR left some room for improvement...” Few journalists, racers or consumers would have the guts to throw these eight words together in a sentence, and yet here stands BMW itself, admitting that the overly successful RR has yet to reach full potential. The Bavarian manufacturer isn’t simply talking the talk either; this year it sent a group of engineers back to the drawing board to create an even better package than what was already offered. The result of their efforts, dubbed the HP4, is hands down the most sophisticated sportbike to be sold on showroom floors.
Building On A Legacy
High Performance (HP) models are nothing new to the BMW lineup, although in the past it was primarily boxer models that were bestowed with the designation — think HP2 Sport, HP2 Enduro and HP2 Megamoto. Now plus two cylinders, the latest HP model is a continuation of BMW’s already successful series, complete with Dynamic Damping Control (DDC), IDM-developed Race ABS, launch control, forged aluminum wheels and much more. The HP4’s S 1000 RR platform, in particular, is sans updates to the engine and chassis, which brings all of our attention to the bike’s electronics and accessories.
The S 1000 RR’s four riding modes, Rain, Sport, Race and Slick, have all found their way into the electronic programming of the HP4, although Rain mode now delivers an identical throttle response to the others as well as access to all 193 horsepower. The only hint of Rain mode’s neutered nature in fact, is a slightly smoother torque and power curve from 2500 rpm through 8000 rpm. In all modes, torque is said to have been increased from 6000 rpm to 9750 rpm by means of electronic programming and a new titanium exhaust. More power — just what the S 1000 RR needed to literally beat your senses into oblivion.
The HP4’s reworked traction control system is tasked with helping you manage that newfound acceleration, and now offers on-the-fly adjustment in Slick mode. Fifteen levels of intervention are offered in total, with the range reading -7 to +7 and 0 offering the most similar feel to that of Slick mode on the standard RR.
A DTC adjustment button has...
A DTC adjustment button has been added to the left clip-on and provides 15 levels of traction control adjustment in Slick mode. The range is -7 to 7, with 0 providing the same intervention level as Slick mode on the standard S 1000 RR.
Forged aluminum wheels wrapped...
Forged aluminum wheels wrapped in Pirelli Supercorsa SP tires save an estimated 5.3 pounds. Brembo monobloc brakes equipped with newly developed pads provide a slightly less intimidating bite, but the HP4’s brake lever worked its way to the bar in the beginning of each of my sessions, zapping some confidence in the binders.
Front fork preload adjustments...
Front fork preload adjustments are done the old fashion way with a 17mm socket. The right tube carries a spring but no damping valve. HP branding on the triple clamp is par for the course.
Bigger news than the HP4’s added levels of DTC adjustment is its Dynamic Damping Control (DDC) system, which pulls data from various sensors to provide semi-active suspension adjustment in real-time. The system itself is a first for production sportbikes, although not new technology for BMW, who’s been using nearly identical equipment on its M series automobiles for years now. When compared to Ducati’s electronic suspension, the HP4’s setup is different in that it provides real-time damping adjustment on-the-fly, without rider input.
The DDC’s lifeline is a control unit that is mounted behind the front fairing and analyzes such parameters as lean angle, lean angle rate of change, acceleration, speed and spring travel. Upon crunching these various numbers, the DDC manipulates damping rates at an astounding speed by either closing or opening internal damping orifices via an electromagnetic valve. Transition aggressively through a chicane, for instance, and the damping rate will go from soft to hard (for stability at the peak of your transition) then back to soft again as you tip the bike on its opposite side. Similarly, as you increase lean angle through a corner, the front suspension will soften up for better compliance and to not overwork the carcass of the front tire.
A new-for-2013 menu option allows the rider to adapt front fork damping rates manually by means of a switch on the left clip-on, and more importantly, signifies that BMW computers don’t have full control over suspension adjustment. Front fork changes are made as a single rate however (no separate rebound and compression adjustment), while rear damping is separated by compression and rebound adjustments made possible by the HP4’s shock travel sensor. At their baseline, Rain and Sport modes focus on around-town comfort, whereas Race and Slick are centered on aggressive track riding.
BMW’s Race ABS is now structured around the HP4’s more in-your-face tendencies, and is claimed to have been reworked based on data gathered during the German Superbike Championship. The primary benefactor of these changes is Slick mode, which now offers “refined control impulses and allows maximum deceleration at the grip limit,” claims BMW. Front and rear brakes remain linked in all four riding modes, although rear wheel lift detection and rear wheel ABS is deactivated in the HP4’s most aggressive setting.
The laundry list of track-oriented features rolls on with the addition of launch control, which can only be accessed with the bike toggled over to Slick mode. Accessing LC is as simple as holding the starter button for five seconds then dropping the bike into first gear (take note, Aprilia). Once activated, revs are kept to 8000 rpm and wheelie control is activated so that the engine’s torque doesn’t overwhelm the rider in either of the first two gears. From there, consistent, World Superbike-esque starts are a matter of feathering the clutch out of the box and simply holding on as the bike drives forward.
Although the HP4’s electronics admittedly steal much of the press material limelight, the bike’s long list of tangible add-ons is nothing short of impressive. Seven-spoke forged aluminum wheels save 5.3 pounds where it matters most and complement the 10-pound-lighter exhaust. BMW’s quick shifter now comes standard, as does a larger 200/55-size rear tire and lighter battery, which all combine to make the HP4 the lightest four-cylinder production bike currently on the market, claims BMW. Getting the newly slimmed packaged slowed down is a set of Brembo monobloc calipers equipped with specially developed brake pads that work on the HP4’s 320mm brake discs.