2013 BMW R1200GS: Same face with new guts
At first glance it would be easy to think that the 2013 BMW R1200GS received only a minor facelift. It shares the same profile as the current model, has many similar design elements, and it has those trademark horizontal cylinders jutting out the sides.
In reality BMW’s latest GS model, arriving at dealers in early spring, is an entirely new machine. It will bring with it a price increase of $950, now starting at $18,850, but it also gets a slew of major changes, most of them focused around its boxer twin-cylinder engine.
The BMW boxer twin was first introduced in 1923, and for the first time in 90 years it will be liquid-cooled. BMW actually calls it “precision cooling,” as coolant only flows through the highest heat-stressed areas in the cylinders and heads, while large cooling fins dissipate the majority of the heat generated in the cylinders. Only 35 per cent of the engine cooling is achieved by liquid, the remaining 65 per cent by air.
Another big change is the new, vertical configuration of the intake and exhaust ports, which improves airflow into the engine but also improves legroom, as the throttle bodies have been moved from ahead of your shins to above the engine. The new engine produces 15 hp more, now at 125, and peak torque is up to 92.2 lb.-ft. from 88.
Another first for the boxer twin is a move to an integrated gearbox. BMW boxers have always had separate transmissions, but this new engine houses its six-speeds inside the crankcase, below the crankshaft, making for a very compact engine assembly. The clutch, now a multi-plate wet unit, is at the front of the engine and is much easier to service. The shorter engine has allowed engineers to lengthen the swingarm without altering the wheelbase, which improves traction as well as rear suspension compliance.
Five ride modes are available on bikes equipped with BMW’s optional Dynamic ESA (electronic suspension adjustment). You can select, via handlebar-mounted switches, between Rain, Road, Dynamic, Enduro and Enduro Pro modes, each mode adjusting engine characteristics, ABS, traction control levels and suspension settings to match the riding conditions. Ride modes can also be custom tailored; if you prefer a firmer suspension setting in Enduro mode, you can change it while riding. Standard suspension includes non-adjustable fork and shock adjustable for rebound damping and preload.
Fire up the new R1200GS and you’re greeted by the characteristic drone of a boxer twin. However, the bike has a raspier exhaust note that is higher in pitch than the outgoing model, and the engine also revs up much quicker when blipping the throttle.
Once rolling, the new GS feels much like the old one: solid, planted, refined and smooth. But it also feels quite different. Despite the new bike’s heavier claimed curb weight of 238 kg (9 kg more than before), a lower centre of gravity makes it feel much lighter, whether you’re moving or at a stop. And when accelerating up to speed there is a pronounced intake howl. The airbox is now located directly above the engine and ahead of the mid-mounted, 20-litre fuel tank, with twin air intakes mounted higher than before. Aside from the increased intake honk, this also reduces the likelihood that the engine will drown out in deep water crossings.
Clutch action is light and the gearbox is among the lightest I’ve ever sampled. It’s almost too light, and with heavy off-road boots on it’s sometimes difficult to feel the detent when shifting up or down.
I sample all of the ride modes, including Rain despite the hot, dry weather, and they are all effective. Different modes can be called up while riding, and confirmed by shutting the throttle and pulling the clutch. None of the modes limit maximum power, but throttle response is greatly altered. It is softened in Rain and Enduro modes, normal in Road mode, and more aggressive in Dynamic and Enduro Pro modes. Likewise, suspension settings vary from ultraplush in Enduro mode to almost racetrack firm in Dynamic mode. Traction control intervention also varies in the different modes, as does ABS effectiveness. Only in Enduro Pro does the rear brake work independently from the front, and the rear wheel can be locked up if only the rear brake pedal is applied, even if the ABS is switched on.
The new ABS is a vast improvement over the old. With the old system it was preferable to switch the ABS off when wandering off road, otherwise loose conditions would trip it and stretch braking distances considerably. The new ABS works flawlessly, slowing the bike effectively without fear of lock up, though if you still don’t feel confident in its stopping efficiency, you can turn it off. Ditto for the traction control. Surprisingly, the stock Metzeler Tourance Next tires grip with remarkable tenacity on dirt roads, despite their lack of knobbies.
BMW set up a short, rough off-road circuit, and I swap my test stock bike for one equipped with more aggressive Metzeler Karoo 3 tires. The bike also has a one-piece off-road saddle, and it is adjusted to Enduro Pro mode, which has firmer suspension and more aggressive throttle settings than Enduro mode. This mode is ideal if you want to blast high-speed through rough trails, but at the moderate pace I settle upon, Enduro mode would have been preferable. Throttle response is just a tad too abrupt in this mode, though the suspension feels quite compliant, providing better control over the rough terrain than the softer Enduro setting.
Heated grips and ABS are standard and there are a few options that can be added individually, like cruise control ($400) a tire pressure monitor ($225) and the spoke wheels ($450) among other items. There are also four options packages available. The Comfort package includes the tire pressure monitor, luggage brackets and hand guards for $625. The Touring package adds to that Dynamic ESA, GPS hardware (without GPS), an on-board computer and chromed exhaust for $1,600. The Active package includes Enduro ASC (traction control) and cruise control for $800, and the Dynamic package includes ASC, ESA, GPS hardware, computer and the LED headlight for $2,300. A low seat is a no-cost option. The Adventure model will only become available next fall.
2013 BMW R1200GS
ENGINE: 1,170 cc boxer twin
POWER/TORQUE (hp/lb.-ft.): 125/92.2
FUEL ECONOMY (L/100 km): 4.8 highway (claimed)
COMPETITION: KTM 990 Adventure, Moto Guzzi Stelvio, Triumph Tiger Explorer, Yamaha Super Ténéré
WHAT’S BEST: Improved upon almost every aspect compared to the outgoing model.
WHAT’S WORST: Those seeking the Adventure version will have to wait until fall.
WHAT’S INTERESTING: Servicing the transmission and cylinders, if needed, will be more difficult due to unit construction.
Travel for freelance writer Costa Mouzouris was provided by the manufacturer. Email: email@example.com.
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