BMW S1000XR (2020 - on) Review
- Sports performance, adventure practicality
- Impressive specification for base model
- Not ideal if you want to be Charlie McGregorman
At a glance
|Owners' reliability rating:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£260|
Overall ratingNext up: Ride & brakes
The second-generation 2020 BMW S1000XR didn't need to reinvent the wheel. Launched five years earlier, the original bike (2015-2019) quickly came to define the adventure-sport class, packaging a retuned S1000RR superbike engine and frame with long-ish travel suspension, adventure bike usability plus decent weather protection and comfort. What’s not to like about a practical distance-ready 160bhp jacked-up sports bike?
But while the recipe for the 2020-on model is similar, the XR is actually almost entirely new. The inline-four 999cc engine is the latest powerhouse from the most recent S1000RR (minus its ShiftCam variable valve timing) and it features the RR’s more feel-some ‘FlexFrame’ as well. Weight is down, running gear is revised, semi-active suspension is standard, electronics are updated, and there are revisions to the riding position and looks.
- Related: Best touring motorbikes
- Related: Best adventure motorbikes
- Related: 2019 BMW S1000RR bike review
The S1000XR’s ability to slice across the country in a relaxed manner but with ban-inducing speed is amazing. You can ride it faster than the donor sports bike, as the riding position gives better control, is less tiring and makes overtaking easier, especially with the added midrange from the XR-spec engine. It feels refined and complete, a motorcycle in its own right rather than a gap-filling bitsa, with an impressive standard spec for the £14,290 base model (2021 price). Another two grand gets you the TE with a full quota of bells and whistles.
It’s not a proper adventure bike, though. Only a swivel-eyed headcase would consider taking the BMW on anything rougher than a recently raked gravel drive, and though comfort and sophistication are better than the early version it doesn’t have the luxury of more touring-biased rivals like the sumptuous Kawasaki Versys 1000, remarkable Ducati Multistrada V4 S or its sibling rival, the ubiquitous R1250GS. The S1000XR’s aggressively sporty nature can become a little tiresome on day-long rides, too.
Equally the BMW isn’t as day-to-day friendly as its younger brother, the F900XR. The smaller twin-cylinder version is slower, has less outright handling and is far less of a statement, however for us normal folk the 900’s remarkable ease of use, economy, confidence-boosting feel and far lower price tag have serious appeal.
Then again, BMW weren’t trying to create a knobbly dirt-junkie or cuddly workhorse. They say that the XR 'stands for the uncompromising combination of athleticism and long-distance performance' and 'is built for curve hunting'. If you’re after a practical high-rise sports bike, the S1000XR should still be where you look first.
This version replaced the 2015-2019 BMW S1000XR. Once you've read this review and our owners' reviews, you could consider joining an online community to talk to likeminded people. We'd suggest this BMW S1000XR forum would be a good place to begin.
Watch our expert BMW S1000XR video review here:
Ride quality & brakesNext up: Engine
With a riding position at the aggressive plugged-in end of the adventure spectrum, the way you can hurl the S1000XR around is startling. At low speed it changes direction readily with an up-on-its-tyres feel; it’s not got the remarkable weightless agility of a GS below 40mph, but you could never, ever call it unwieldy. And the chassis feels better the faster you go. High-speed corners need little more than a tip of the head in the approximate direction of travel required, with plenty of sure-footed confidence. Yes, the XR handles.
The standard-fit semi-active suspension is superior to the optional set-up of earlier XRs. Larger damping pistons and a lower operating pressure provide a more supple ride and the range of adjustment goes further towards 'soft', and in the standard Road setting there’s definitely a more absorbent ride quality. The balance between comfort and control is good.
Riding with gusto or romping down bumpier roads reveals that the rear shock can be a little bouncy and disconnected, though. Optional Dynamic ESA with its sportier 'dynamic' damping setting is recommended for more enthusiastic riding and certainly gives greater control, though the firm set-up sacrifices some ride quality. Nothing to grumble about with the brakes, mind – apply the lever and you stop, quick as that.
The two-height screen’s decent but not perfect (down for sporty anytics, up for visor-clearing motorway stints), and has a delightfully simple height adjuster. A scooped-out seat places you where it wants you – there’s minimal potential for squirming back and forth. Not the most deeply padded perch, either.
The bike’s handlebar 'decoupling' system tackles most of the disappointing vibration that spoilt the first-generation S1000XR, but four-cylinder buzziness still creeps to the grips at motorway speed. There’s even more through the footpegs.
EngineNext up: Reliability
BMW say adventure-sports riders use the range from 3000 to 10,000rpm so have tuned the ex-S1000RR engine to suit, though this still means a hefty 165.6bhp on our dyno (which is as much as they claim). It’s tall geared compared to other adventure bikes, though, and with a 12,000rpm rev limit the XR has streaking long-legged power rather than the traditional punch of twin-cylinder adventure bikes. Fast? Bloody hell yes.
This isn’t to say the XR isn’t flexible. The motor pulls high gears from low revs and has so much clout that you rarely need anything more than 50% throttle – and still end up looking like a speed-mad terrorist to other road users. There were grumbles when it was revealed the bike wouldn’t have the RR’s variable-valve system but trust me: it doesn’t need it.
A hint more civility might be nice, though. Being based on a superbike means that the XR has a coarseness and edgy feel that’s not an issue on a giddy blast, but is less desirable on a two-up weekend saunter. The optional two-way quickshifter (standard on the TE) works well at almost any combination of revs and load, though does encourage you to explore the full potential of the mighty engine.
Reliability & build qualityNext up: Value
There shouldn’t be anything to worry about. Earlier XRs (like the BMW S1000RR they’re derived from) could have misbehaving gearboxes and a few electronic niggles, but BMW were very aware and have made efforts to sort the job out. Some owners also complained about so-so finishes to the engine castings and casings, and there were odd grumbles about the fit of the bodywork.
This later version hasn’t thrown up such concerns, and there are no specific faults. Clumsy and constant quickshifter abuse at low revs and light load won’t help transmission longevity, but as long as the engine is serviced to schedule the motor should be solid.
The chassis should feel as taut after 40,000 miles as when fresh from the showroom. Switchgear is robust, running gear is high quality, and the level of finish is more or less as you’d expect for a bike costing upwards of fourteen thousand.
Our 2020 BMW S1000XR owners' reviews show no prevailing reliability issues for the new bike.
We also ran a 2016 BMW S1000XR as a long-term test bike.
Value vs rivalsNext up: Equipment
Fourteen-grand is a significant quantity of folding, but the S1000XR is a lot of motorcycle. As well as its boisterous inline-four motor and corner-carving chassis, the BMW has a strong standard specification. Find the extra couple of thousand for the TE variant and it’s liberally loaded with gizmos and extras.
It looks good value, especially as you’re buying from a premium brand with a solid reputation. However, with the exception of a semi-active ride, the Kawasaki Versys 1000 S gives you all the features and extras of the S1000XR TE, but for a grand less than the base-model BMW. And while the XR is faster, the Versys is smoother and more comfortable.
In February 2021 MCN put the BMW S1000XR TE up against the Versys 1000 S on the MCN250. Tester Jon Urry concluded: "If you are moving from a sportsbike the Versys will feel like a downgrade. Not only it is heavier than the XR, it is bulkier with a taller screen, squishier seat, softer suspension and more relaxed motor that lacks the BMW’s free-revving nature (all traits that make it a far better machine than the BMW when it comes to covering miles).
"If, however, you still have that lust for a sportsbike but your wrists are telling you the days of clip-ons are behind you, the XR doesn’t feel like you have traded running shoes for carpet slippers. Its firmer ride, more compact position and noisy and a bit vibey motor give it real spirit at the expense of creature comforts. Which is the better value? You can have a stock Versys S for £3226 less than an XR TE and the only things you will be lacking is semi-active suspension (which you can have on the SE), hill start and keyless ignition. So if you are happy with these compromises, at 46mpg that gives you 27,480 miles of fuel already paid for, which will get you to Cape Town and back!"
Things don’t look better for the XR when compared to more adventurous bikes. Its stablemate R1250GS is way gruntier at legal speeds, more supple and offers greater comfort, and though the Ducati Multistrada V4 S is significantly pricier it’s clear why: the Italian has the speed and handling of the BMW, but is smoother, classier, more civilised, more comfortable, better equipped, a superior tourer… you get the idea.
And the adventure-bike S1000XR isn’t really doing the same thing as a sports-tourer KTM 1290 Super Duke GT either. Its height and suspension travel mean it’s not as engaging or capable in turns, and it can’t match the Austrian V-twin’s wallop. They’re not really playing the same game.
However. With the demise of Triumph’s 1050cc Tiger Sport, there’s now no other large-capacity, big-power bike offering the BMW’s mix of sports bike performance with adventure bike practicality and presence. If that’s what you’re after, it’s still the kiddie.
As well as lots of horsepower and superbike-based handling the XR has a good base specification. Electronic suspension (ESA), cornering ABS, multiple riding modes (Rain, Rode, Dynamic, Dynamic Pro), phone connectivity, separate traction and wheelie control, self-cancelling winkers, in-built pannier lugs and gloriously simple screen height adjustment are all included for your £14,290. In addition, turn-by-turn navigation can be shown on the dash by downloading an app to your phone, and can also be used for music, phone calls and other distractions if you really must.
Stump up £16,220 for the TE model and your bike will also boast cruise control, scalding heated grips, two-way quickshifter with blipping whatsit, daytime running lights, cornering lights, keyless ignition and more. There’s no seat height adjustment, electric screen or Ducati-esque radar, but it’s an impressive package.
To increase your choice (or add to the confusion) there is also a raft of extra-cost options to apply to the base model.
Improve your BMW S1000XR specs with these packages
For example, there’s a Dynamic Package for clutchless gear changes, posh traction control, cruise and LED indicators.
The Sport package has a titanium exhaust and BMW three-colour race paint, while the Premium Package gets heated grips, pannier fastenings, GPS preparation (yes, even though the dash offers turn-by-turn guidance…), a centrestand and luggage gubbins. Plenty of racy HP bolt-on accessories as well, from sportier footpegs and forged wheels to a bundle of carbon fripperies.
You'll get a trio of paint schemes to choose from on the BMW S1000XR - black, red or the HP Racing red, white and blue.
|Engine type||Liquid-cooled, DOHC, 16v inline four|
|Frame type||Aluminium perimeter|
|Fuel capacity||20 litres|
|Front suspension||45mm USD fork, semi-active damping|
|Rear suspension||Monoshock, semi-active damping|
|Front brake||2 x 320mm discs, four-piston radial calipers, cornering ABS|
|Rear brake||265mm disc, single-piston caliper, cornering ABS|
|Front tyre size||120/70 x 17|
|Rear tyre size||180/55 x 17|
Mpg, costs & insurance
|Average fuel consumption||42 mpg|
|Annual road tax||£96|
|Annual service cost||£260|
|Used price||£13,300 - £14,000|
How much to insure?
|Warranty term||Three years|
Top speed & performance
|Max power||166 bhp|
|Max torque||84 ft-lb|
|Top speed||155 mph|
|1/4 mile acceleration||-|
|Tank range||184 miles|
Model history & versions
- 2015: Based on the S1000R supernaked (in turn derived from the S1000RR superbike), the old S1000XR combines the best bits of a sportsbike, adventure bike and tourer in one do-it-all package. 160bhp (claimed), two riding modes, and a host of desirable optional extras.
- 2017: New handlebars to stop finger-numbing vibration on long rides, plus a five-horse increase to a claimed 165bhp.
- 2020: New engine and chassis based on the latest S1000RR, with a greater spread of usable power, less weight and better feel. More toys and ride-enhancing widgets as standard, including semi-active suspension, four riding modes, cornering ABS and a TFT dash with connectivity.
Prices start just shy of £14,300, however there is a blinged-up £16,225 S1000XR TE available; featuring a luggage rack, centre stand, sat-nav mount and more (2021 prices).
Owners' reviews for the BMW S1000XR (2020 - on)
4 owners have reviewed their BMW S1000XR (2020 - on) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.
Summary of owners' reviews
|Ride quality & brakes:|
|Reliability & build quality:|
|Value vs rivals:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£260|
Best features Quick shifter - really smooth both up and down Engine - more than enough power to keep you happy Handling - a really joy in the twisties Comfort - ride all day Sport Colours - bike looks amazing App - the Motorrad app is very good with up to date maps, historical ride details plus loads of other stuff including lean angle Vibration - still a little through the seat and the grips. But nothing compared to the previous model. Sports windscreen - looks great but offers little protection, wind noise is pretty high and my face takes all the flies
Ride Quality- Very comfy, I can ride for hours without a break. The bike is happy round town in 2nd or 3rd. You can leave it in 3rd for the twisties and there’s more than enough power on hand to get you to 3 figures. Plus it can cruise all day long on the motorway.
Some YouTube reviews complain the power doesn’t kick in till 6,000 revs, I’m not so sure it flies like a bullet with no lag when it’s in Pro mode
All good so far. 3 year warranty was a big factor in my purchase decision having previously had a 2012 Multistrada that love the local dealer more than the open road.
First service is an oil change at 600 miles, £200 for this is pretty top heavy.
It’s got all the whistles and bells you would expect for a top of the range model. One of the things it comes with that I didn’t know about is hill start which I really like.
Buying experience: Purchased from BMW North Oxford, over 200 miles from where I live. Rob and Simon where top guys to deal with. My local dealer couldn’t get anywhere near the package they put together for me.
The best thing is the engine. The worst one the engine. While the GS (1200 LC) I come from gives everything up to 6/7k revs, meaning it carries you from slow to middle speed, this one, albeit much smoother than the big twin, starts at 6k, and you better be very careful about how to manage the bike from there on. Exciting, no doubts, but not exactly a "tourer".
A much better experience than with the GS, as strange as it may sound. Two hours on the saddle without any urge to stop for a pause - something I am not used to. The star missing is for what I said above: this stands if you ride under the 6k revs, which is the equivalent of having a good 600 with all the equipment of a sportbike. Passing that limit will make you enter in a different dimension, like a videogame. You no longer count minutes, you just have fun and try not to lose too many lives.
As above. A fantastic engine, smooth, regular, and simply amazing from 6k to the limit (somewhere around the 11k revs, but I chose not to check while riding...). But you don't have the immediate torque of the twin, and, so to speak, is black and white: either you are a very pacific tourist, or you are in a qualifying lap somewhere in Portimao, bar the escape lanes. No middle ground.
Excellent quality, in every part. The extras (hill-control, Dynamic ESA pro, adaptive headlights, etc.) are easy to use, perfectly functioning, and very useful. They are not just add-on to entice the client: they really serve a purpose, and they do it well.
I am at 2k kilometers, so the only service I got is the first, free, one. However, I would not be surprised to learn further up on the road that it will be more costly than the GS, due to a more stressed engine.
Mine was full, except for the carbon pack. However, you have to add panniers (the original are very expensive), engine protection (and you cannot decently buy the original one, carbon-only, at a ridiculous price), and a bigger windshield (the "sport" is tantamount not to have it). In the end, the total becomes quickly very impressive, for a bike that is far less able to stand the test of time (= used price) than the GS.
Buying experience: From a dealer and the price was the one shown. The bargaining was about how much I would get for my GS. I think I got a fair evaluation, especially considering that BMW is selling in Italy (where I live) more than ever: the Covid seems to have pushed people to buy the idea of liberty through a new motorcycle, curfews and lockdowns pending, and extending.
Annual servicing cost: £300
Engine is superb, smooth and pulls in any gear, but then cog it down and it takes off. handling is exceptional for such a tall bike as long as the suspension is in dynamic mode. Rode mode can be a little bouncy if pushed but plush when two up for the passenger. love the engine sound when riding hard especially the induction noise, unfortunately Euro 5 emission regs has dulled the exhaust note. Mirrors vibe at certain revs which can be irritating, however I don't feel it in the bars. Ergonomics are great, I even love the controversial seat. I previously had a GS but find the XR so much more fun and surprisingly more comfortable. Been in the saddle for 4 hours with no complaints.
The bike handles great, very easy in traffic and slow speeds and excellent in the twisties. Good all round road bike for solo, two up, weekend scratching and long distance touring. Fun and practical. I can rid this for 3 to 4 hours before I'm glad it needs refueling, a quick fill and a stretch and i;m good to go again in my opinion it is more comfortable than my previous GS.
I find the fueling to be good and I love the fact that it has a different personality depending on how you ride it. Yes it hasn't got the low down grunt of a V twin and may be I would of liked a little more torque low down, but its power delivery when up above 4k is very acceptable, cog it down again and keep it above 6k its hysterically fast. Its so easy to ride, it will do 30mph in top gear and still accelerate with no complaints (ok slowly). It will also do 30mph in 1st or 2nd and accelerate like a rocket. this also makes it very comfortable for a passenger as its easy to find that sweat spot in the rev range were it will pull without causing head clashes or neck whipping and still make good progress. its currently averaging 46mpg which for an inline four, liter bike is pretty good.
Done about 1500 miles so far and had two issue, the steering lock which was quickly rectified and had the top box exchanged because of a faulty latch. build quality is typical BMW, a bit plastic but that's par for the course these days especially with this style of bike unless you can afford the extra 1500 pounds for the Kevlar. The plastic seems well fitted and good quality.
not had a 6k or annual service yet, just the first service. cost 150. I know the 18k service is loads of money. No different from many other bikes.
Equipment and spec for the TE is very good but again typical BMW, it's not quite got every thing you want, so you part with more money to add it. I opted for their New M chain, which so far seems good time will tell. You don't need to oil it but I clean as usual and then run it through a rag soaked in little XCP oil to prevent corrosion. lugage is good quality although i had to have my top box changed because of a faulty locking mechanism.
Buying experience: Bought from a dealer. I traded in my R1200GS rallye two years into my pcp and got what I thought to be a good deal, My monthly payments actually reduced by a fiver.
Annual servicing cost: £230
A great bike with only a few minor niggles - it does everything exceptionally well - a better road bike than a GS in my opinion
Ride quality in Road mode is soft and great for the majority of our roads then I switch to Dynamic if I want to firm it up to hit bends with 40 degree lean angles
Superbike power nice and smooth on the whole if not a little lacking below 4k but over 6k it comes alive
Overall fairly well built but too early to really make a judgement
Had a free run in service so not due till 6k and then I'd expect a £230 bill roughly
As all BMW bikes the world is your oyster or shall I say wallet - every possible extra can be fitted including TPS Alarm etc
Buying experience: Dealer as it's a new model