BMW HP2 Sport
Say the word ‘Boxer’ to a motorcyclist and the chances are he/she will think ‘BMW’. Short of Harley-Davidson’s 45 degree V-twins, no engine layout so defines a brand as the boxer does BMW.
Acutely aware of the need for an ever-evolving boxer engine to fuel the faith shown to that engine configuration, BMW spends a huge amount of time and effort in the development of its HP (High Performance) range. Its ‘hero-boxers’, if you like. A brand-positioning exercise? Definitely.
The HP2 Sport, the focus of our test, is the third in the HP2 range, which includes the HP2 Enduro and the HP2 Megamoto. It was developed using the World Endurance Racing Championship as its test bed and the bike enjoyed reasonable success quickly with riders Richard Cooper and Brian Parriott taking fifth and sixth places in the “Extreme” category at Daytona in 2008.
So, let’s look at the HP2 phenomenon, the mathematics first, then we can get to the poetry …
Based on the globally well-received R 1200 S, the HP2 Sport uses the brand’s 1170cc, air and oil-cooled, four-valve, horizontally-opposed twin. The big, big difference here is the fact that the engine represents the first production double overhead camshaft boxer in BMW history. That’s significant and it’s the primary reason this engine is able to produce 130hp (96kW) at 8750rpm and 85 ft-lb (11.7kg-m) of torque at 6000rpm. With the redline at 9500rpm (no, that’s not a typo), this makes this engine the highest revving boxer ever built.
Further innovation sees the bike’s six-speed gearbox equipped at standard with a race-type quickshifter – the first production motorcycle to feature this technology. Sensing foot pressure when a change is being made, the fuel-injection and spark are cut for an instant. This allows the throttle to be held open and the gearchange to be carried out very quickly by minimising the time that the power is not being delivered to the rear wheel. It feels downright weird the first time you use it, but it works well when you are seriously on the gas. It’s not so precise when just ambling, and I chose to stick with traditional clutch actuation when in tighter urban going, but that’s not where you need it anyway. In short, it makes you quicker when you are having a dip, and although I don’t think that particular sentence will ever grace a BMW catalogue, for our purposes, it succinctly explains the operation and rider-gain of the raceshift set-up.
The HP2 Sport is not a cheap bike at $34,750, let’s be straight up about that. But you get a lot for your dollar, so it is indeed a bike offering value. Take a good look when you get the chance. The bike just drips with quality componentry. There is carbon fibre as far as the eye can see, look toward the front of the bike and you’ll see Magura switchgear, Ohlins suspension hardware gracing (and that gold stuff is indeed graceful) the Telelever front-end (which is not so much graceful, as impressively functional). And, of course, those beautiful Brembo four-piston remote-mounted calipers (with optional and switchable ABS). Delightful.
Now, turn around and you’ll note the techno-feast continues with an Ohlins-equipped monoshock connected to the brand’s fabbo Paralever doing the job of putting that not-insubstantial power curve to the pavement, that very sexy and beautifully constructed stainless underseat exhaust cackling and popping on the overrun. There are lightweight forged aluminium wheels too, so all that power makes its way to the road with as little resistance as possible.
Yes, it’s all very good gear, and that’s what a potential purchaser of such a top-end motorcycle needs. You see, no-one ever went broke delivering a highly-priced, quality-laden motorcycle to a discerning buyer. But try it without the two crucial elements of strong brand desirability and credibility, plus a more garden-variety, cheaper range to keep the development and bill-paying dollars coming in and you’ll be on the next bus to Centrelink, quick-smart. No such worry in Munich. BMW ticks both of those necessary boxes with a big, German, felt-tip pen.
It’s a relatively comfortable bike. For such a hard-edged sports offering, the seating position is surprisingly gentle. I’m uncertain how it does it, but BMW has always been the leader when it comes to ergonomic-sensibility. Yes, it’ll be due to hundreds of late nights and millions of dollars of equipment, so it should come as no surprise, but I’ll be buggered if I can understand why BMW motorcycles are decidedly more comfortable than most of its competition. And if they can do it with something like this – a brutally efficient, razor-sharp sportster, which has no right whatsoever being pleasant to sit on, well the template is built. Consider the fact that there is a 16 litre tank there and touring on this thing is in the equation. It wouldn’t be your first pick for regular long tours, that’s certain, but for such a balls-out (sorry ladies) sports bike, it won’t be a swine on a long trip.
Handling. Now we’re talking. It’s fabulous. The front-end of this bike has a hotline to the handling gods and they are corresponding regularly. For the mere mortal, grip is as much about confidence as it is about physics. No, really. Think about this. When did you last lose the front on your favourite Sunday piece of road? Never? Of course not. How much of not losing that same front was about not going as hard as you could? Right. While that’s a very good method of staying alive, you can be quicker through there and still be very safe. How? Buy an HP2. That front is not letting go for love nor money, have confidence in that.
The bike changes direction very quickly, allowing the rider to set-up, pick his/her spot to dump it in and barrel on around. The power delivery allows you to get back on the gas nice and early due to its competent nature (it does have a ‘powerband’ at six-grand), it’s 178kg dry and holds a good deal of its weight under its waistline. This adds up to slingshotting out of corners a little earlier than usual. So, the picture so far is; late entry, quick transition, on the power early on the way out. Sound like a formula for ‘fast’. Yeah, I reckon so too. It is suspended by the best mass suspension builder on the planet, the geometry is nigh-on perfect. It’s simple physics as to why this thing works so well. Magnificent in the handling department. Touchdown BMW.
Now, is it beautiful? The old ‘looks are in the eye of the beholder’ thing… It’s a handsome bike, very masculine. It’s not Japan-pretty, (those heads hanging out never will be), but it’s futuristic and minimalist and that works for me. Plus, that quality gear everywhere makes a closer inspection both inviting and satisfying.
So… Should we consider buying one? Always the tough question. The Sport deserves a good deal of consideration, it’s different, classy and has brand-cred to burn. But, that’s a lot of money right there and the bike is operating in a commercial realm that is occupied by some very nice, exotic, European, sports kit. For that reason and price, it will never be a high-volume seller, and BMW probably doesn’t care about that. It’s a hero bike. It’s enough that people that test it rave about how well-executed the bike is, just like I have.
- Razor sharp steering
- Surprising comfort
- Technologically brave
- Stiff competition
- LCD instruments hard to read
If you like the HP2, you might also consider…
* Aprilia RSV4 Factory (2009-current)
* KTM RC8R (2009-current)
* MV Agusta F4 RR 312 1078 (2008-current)
* BMW K1300S (2009-current)
* Ducati 1198S (2008-Current)
BMW HP2 Sport
Type: Horizontally-opposed, DOHC, four-valve, four-stroke, twin-cylinder
Bore and stroke: 101mm x 73mm
Compression ratio: 12.5:1
Fuel system: Electronic fuel-injection
Type: Six-speed, constant mesh, raceshift
Final drive: Shaft
CHASSIS AND RUNNING GEAR
Frame type: Tubular steel spaceframe
Front suspension: Telelever, Ohlins shock, adjustable for preload, rebound and compression damping
Rear suspension: Ohlins shock adjustable for preload, rebound and compression damping
Front brake: Twin 320mm discs with radial-mounted Brembo four-piston calipers
Rear brake: Single 264mm disc with two-piston caliper
DIMENSIONS AND CAPACITIES
Dry weight: 178kg
Seat height: 830mm
Fuel capacity: 16 litres
Max power: 130hp (96kW) at 8750rpm
Max torque: 85 ft-lb (11.7kg-m) at 6000rpm
Price: $34,750 plus ORC *
Test bike supplied by BMW Motorrad