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.
The HP4 is offered with a...
The HP4 is offered with a competition package, complete with adjustable HP rearsets, hinged brake and clutch levers, blue metallic wheels, a sponsor sticker kit and multiple carbon fiber pieces. The tinted windscreen is standard.
Choose Your Package
Purchasing an HP4 will be freakishly similar to buying a new BMW car, since there are at least three different packages available, a standard, competition and passenger package — that’s right, the HP4 is so performance oriented that you actually have to purchase a passenger seat and passenger footrest system separately if you’re looking to take someone along for a ride! The competition package adds to the performance aspect of the HP4 and includes adjustable HP rearsets, hinged HP brake and clutch levers, carbon fiber paneling, a sponsor sticker kit and blue metallic wheels. In typical BMW fashion, the fleet of test bikes on hand during the HP4’s official launch in Jerez, Spain, were all outfitted with the competition package.
Next Level Performance
Every word you’ll read about the HP4 suggests that it’s more performance hungry than the already sadistic S 1000 RR, which can at first be intimidating considering the RR’s reputation for such in-your-face performance. But even with its limb-stretching 193 horsepower the bike is much more graceful than its RR sibling. Smooth, refined, tractable, all these terms perfectly define the HP4.
Hustling the bike through a tighter section of track is biggest evidence of its newfound feel. The HP4 steers into slow-speed corners with less effort and transitions from side to side without taxing your upper body the way the S 1000 does, a sure benefit of the forged aluminum wheels and nearly 20 pounds that have been lopped off the package as a whole. It feels lighter on its toes through the middle of a corner and more apt to make mid-corner line alterations — consider it a heavyweight fighter that just lost 20 pounds…but absolutely none of his strength. The HP4 feels much more manageable as you crack the throttle too, and its power seems to be provided in a more refined manner. Everything feels seamless in fact, allowing you to relax, breathe and drive through the corner without much excitement. The S 1000 RR, by comparison, feels more like riding a wild bull; it’s fun, but it’ll wear you out.
The HP4 feels more active through the middle of a corner thanks to the Dynamic Damping Control, which can make roughly 100 changes to the damping rate every second. The speed at which the system adapts is quick enough and its accuracy high enough that the bike always feels sufficiently set-up for the section of track you’re covering. Release the brakes and tip into a corner for instance, and the front end feels softer, allowing you to load the front tire and steer the bike better. Accelerate aggressively out of the corner in contrast, and the rear feels to stiffen up, allowing you to drive forward without excessive chassis pitch.
The HP4’s updated display depicts DDC settings, DTC settings and launch control activation. Front damping rates are adjusted as one, meaning no separate rebound or compression adjustment. Rear suspension can be adjusted on the rebound and compression side through 15 levels of damping. With launch control activated, the display shows your three allowable launches and revs are held at 8000 rpm. Notice also the DTC setting indicator.
While you can’t adjust front rebound and compression separately (you can if you purchase BMW’s fork travel sensor as an accessory), I manually stiffened up the damping rates throughout the course of my day aboard the HP4. The changes provided a more composed feel through the faster corners and at the entry of a turn, and were easy enough to make using the menu option on the HP4’s display. One thing I noticed, however, is that feedback from the single-valve fork is slightly different than the feedback from a standard fork, thus it takes some time to get a feel for what changes you want to make. The real test, of course, will come when we get a test bike stateside and can measure the bike’s adaptive performance on public roads.
The large range of suspension adjustment made possible by the DDC is mirrored by that of the new Dynamic Traction Control system, which makes tailoring the HP4 to tire — and road — conditions a relatively easy feat. The DTC feels much more refined in its intervention, even when ramped up to level +3, where torque is clearly restricted but not to a point where you feel the system cutting and returning power. If it weren’t for the yellow light on the dash in fact, I’d otherwise have been unsuspecting of the system’s intervention — it’s really that much better than in years past. Each level from 0 to -7 requires a bit more preparedness, and utmost faith in your skill as a rider. Not to be confused, the new 200/55-size Pirelli Supercorsa SP tire is well up to the task at hand, and a definite improvement over the Metzeler K3s that come standard on the S 1000 RR in terms of side grip, feedback and feel. Opposite the DDC system, DTC changes are made by means of a dedicated button on the left clip-on. Simplicity for the win!
The HP4’s DDC control unit...
The HP4’s DDC control unit is mounted behind the front cowl and analyzes data provided by a plethora of sensors. Lean angle, lean angle rate of change, shock travel, and acceleration are just the primary parameters that are evaluated.
The HP4’s wheelie control now feels equally as refined as the traction control system and no longer cuts power to the point that you’ll need to see a chiropractor. Down the back straight at Jerez the front wheel would even loft so high that I nearly decided to close the throttle myself. Just before the point of no return, however, the HP4 electronics would kick in (smoothly!) and gently pull the wheel back down to a point where the bike continued to drive forward. BMW really has improved these electronics.
The Race ABS with IDM-setting can be turned off via a button mounted near the DTC control, although the revisions made to the programming feel to have suppressed the need to do so. Granted I didn’t pull any Rossi-esque brake maneuvers into either of the braking zones at Jerez, but in neither Race nor Slick mode did I encounter any ABS cycling. And I was quite thankful for that, as I’ve yet to finish cleaning my underwear after having the system on the RR cycle last year heading into turn one at Valencia.
The HP4’s new brake pad compound complements the revised ABS system well, and while there’s still an aggressive initial bite, the overall braking performance feels less intimidating. Power through the pull is enough to get all 193 horsepower slowed down and there’s a good amount of feedback through the lever, despite the brakes requiring a bit of added force from your right hand. One of my main concerns with the HP4 brakes, however, is that the lever would work its way toward the bar at the beginning of each session. It would remain consistent after that initial movement, but confidence was mostly zapped for the time being.
Also related to getting into the corner, BMW has revised the HP4’s engine braking characteristics. When compared to the S 1000 RR, the HP4 freewheels much less into the corner, providing a better sense of control as you rush a turn.
Last But Not Launch
After a full day of DTC adjustments and DDC fine-tuning, the final piece to the HP4 testing puzzle came down to switching the bike over to launch mode. Doing so proved as easy as BMW staff made it out to be, with a simple push to the start button setting me on the course to propulsion heaven. I gave the bike around 60 percent throttle and let the revs bounce off the (launch-control-specific) 8000 rpm rev limiter, then at a moment’s notice began slipping the clutch and driving forward. I managed to get out of the box well for my first attempt and let the revs fall only slightly in first gear, proving how idiot-proof the system really is. Wheelies were non-existent through second gear, yet the bike pulled with enough grunt to easily match a decent non-aided race start. For a first attempt at building a launch control system for a production bike, I’d say BMW hit the nail on the head, which really doesn’t come as much of a surprise when you look at the S 1000 RR package as a whole.
The Best Money Can Buy
But as good as the standard S 1000 RR is, the HP4 is better. Every gripe I could come up with during this year’s literbike comparison has been addressed, from the RR’s heavy steering to its intrusive electronics. What the HP4 will retail for has yet to be announced. Put it this way though: If BMW can keep the pricing even remotely close to the retail of the Panigale S or Apilia RSV4 Factory APRC, then I’d easily label it the best money can buy. Leave it to BMW to make the best, better. SR
BMW Dynamic Damping Control
New technology has a funny effect on consumers; some are scared of it, while others appreciate it. What’s amazing about the HP4’s new DDC system, however, is that it utilizes the exact technology that BMW’s M series automobiles have been using for years. The electromagnetic valve inside both the shock and fork for instance, can be found in your neighbor’s M3, M5 and beyond. Even more, some of the equipment can be traced as far back as BMW’s 1997 7 series car.
The system itself is fairly simple; both the fork and shock use an electromagnetic current to open or close orifices in the valve and effectively stiffen or soften damping rates. How stiff or how soft the damping rates become are based on suggestions from the DDC control unit, which crunches data from a number of sensors throughout the bike. According to BMW, the primary parameters for the front fork are lean angle and lean angle rate of change. The shock, in comparison, is adjusted primarily based on the rate at which you open the throttle and shock travel as indicated by BMW’s spring travel sensor.
Unlike the rear shock, the front fork is without a spring travel sensor. BMW claims this is because they don’t have a proper guard to shield it from road debris, which would ultimately damage it. You can purchase one separately however, and the HP4’s electronics are preprogrammed so that upon plugging the sensor in the bike’s control unit will fully understand which part of the stroke the fork is in, ultimately granting you access to front rebound and compression adjustment.
While all this is exciting and new, what’s perhaps more thrilling are the capabilities of BMW’s system when paired with the company’s HP race calibration kit II. Because the system works off GPS signals, you can go into the calibration program and signify what percentage of damping you’d like at a certain part of the track based on meters traveled. Say for instance the bike works really well everywhere on the track, but it feels stiff over a bump in turn two at your favorite track. With the HP race calibration kit, you can go into your computer and manually change the damping percentage for that section of track alone, ultimately designing the perfect suspension setup for a given track.
New technology can indeed be a bit frightening, but in reality BMW’s DDC is more a sign of things to come than a sign of things to be scared of.
HP Race Data Logger
BMW’s HP4 is, in many ways, a racebike with mirrors and headlights. That being said, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise to find that much of BMW Motorrad’s accessory catalog is filled with the same components you’d find in the World Superbike factory BMW team hauler. The HP Race data logger is just one of these high-end “tools of the trade,” and a unit that’s become increasingly popular at various BMW press launches. During the HP4 launch in particular, we had some time to get a behind-the-scenes tour of the unit from the BMW engineers who know it best.
The most important thing to consider when it comes to the HP Race data logger is that it was developed in-house by BMW with the help of MotoGP suppliers 2D Datarecording. More specifically, the unit was designed specifically for the S 1000 RR and HP4. It uses GPS and “connects to between 12 and 20 satellites depending on the track location,” says BMW. What’s more, the unit ships with BMW’s very own analysis program, which can be downloaded directly to your computer for plug-and-play data acquisition fun.
While not as truly in-depth as the data logging system found on the WSBK-spec S 1000 RR, the HP Race data logger can measure around 33 channels, providing enough insight to literally dizzy you between sessions. In an attempt to not completely fry your brain, BMW has built into the program a handful of templates that give you a quick overview of what’s going on with your riding. The important channels are clearly highlighted, including speed, rpm and lean angle at each corner.
An added bonus of the HP data logger is that it can connect to Google Maps — provided you have an internet connection. Once paired, the program can accurately depict variations in your line from one lap to a next. Compare that with your corner speed, lean angle and other parameters, and you can pinpoint what lines may or may not be working in your favor.
The system may not be for every S 1000 RR or HP4 owner, but there’s no denying its potential to help you as a rider at the track. You can’t beat the fact that it’s developed by BMW, for BMW, either.
2013 BMW HP4
Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse DOHC inline four, 4 valves/cyl.
Bore x stroke: 80 x 49.7mm
Compression ratio: 13.0:1
Induction: BMS-KP EFI, single-valve 48mm throttle bodies, dual injectors/cyl.
Front tire: 120/70ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP
Rear tire: 200/55ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP
Rake/trail: 24.0 degrees/ 3.9 in. (98.5mm)
Wheelbase: 56.0 in. (1423mm)
Seat height: 32.3 in. (820mm)
Fuel capacity: 4.6 gal. (17.5L)
Claimed wet weight: 439 lb. (199kg)