Musings on the Motoring World

Is the BMW M1000RR a true M model or a branded bike?

No doubt that BMW was already bracing for the internet storm that would engulf the MY2020 M3 and M4’s debut. As a token of goodwill, the company also rolled out a third M product as a surprise. Called the BMW M1000RR, BMW touts it as “the first M model from BMW Motorrad”.

So, while the internet rags on the M3 and M4, let us examine what this curious addition to the M family really is. If you are familiar with BMW Motorrad, the M1000RR is the M version of its flagship S1000RR superbike. Replace that “S” with an “M”. See, that’s clever.

Souped-up superbike

The modifications too are rather clever as well. With the S1000RR’s 1-litre inline-four engine as a base, the M1000RR gets a 4kW bump to 156kW and a 500rpm higher redline. Torque is maintained at 113Nm, though its mid-range is said to be meatier. Small power gains, but in the world of high-performance motorcycle engines, it is a substantial hike.

The new engine benefits from lighter Mahle 2-ring forged pistons, titanium valves and connecting rods, lighter rocker arms, new duct geometry, and a titanium exhaust system. Adding to that, the BMW M1000RR debuts MotoGP-style front winglets and M motorcycle brakes.

Being a flagship M product, the M1000RR also features a selection of the S1000RR’s M accessories. These include the M carbon fibre wheels and M lightweight battery. If that is not enough, there is an M Competition package, which throws in GPS laptrigger system, 220g lighter swinging arm, and DLC-coated “maintenance-free” chain.

Is the M Division working on motorcycles now?

News of the BMW M1000RR would be exciting for M fans who have an affinity for high-performance two-wheelers. However, is this the opening of a new chapter for the M Division? From a brand perspective yes, from an operational perspective, not quite.

As it turns out the motorcycle industry and car industry have little overlap. BMW is one of only three brands in the world that still produces cars and motorcycles, the others being Honda and Suzuki.

Yet, for all three companies, its car and motorcycle operations are separate from one another. BMW’s motorcycle division is called BMW Motorrad, and it is a distinctively different operation from its car division.

Drawing the line

The M1000RR (left) with its WSBK racer version

With the M1000RR being hailed as an “M model” it does sound like the M Division is now responsible for creating four-wheeled and two-wheeled chariots of oversteer. Although there is no official word from Munich, it is safe to say that it isn’t the case.

According to experts on the subject, the M1000RR is what would have been the HP4 version of the second-generation S1000RR. It is hard to believe that the M Division would have worked on the M1000RR, considering motorcycle engineering is a whole different ball game to cars.

The HP4 was the track-focused version of the previous-generation S1000RR

Then there is a question of resources. The M Division is already working itself to the bone fettling BMW’s wide range of cars and SUVs. Surely there would be little reason to take on the Motorrad portfolio. Especially when considering there aren’t many Motorrad products that could do with an M variant? Would an M GS motorcycle work? I don’t know, would motorcyclists enjoy slamming into the side of a dune at 200km/h?

BMW’s wording of the M1000RR’s launch shows a clear delineation between BMW Motorrad and the M branding. “BMW Motorrad follows the philosophy of…M”, goes the official statement. In other words, the M1000RR is not a product of the M division but one branded as an M model.

An M motorcycle – yay or nay?

That isn’t to say that the M1000RR is a limp-wristed badge-engineering exercise. Or a tagged-on name to lend some excitement to a range-topping model as it was with the M135i or M760Li. It is a bonafide performance flagship from Motorrad. Only that it has been seconded to the M branding for a more globally recognisable brand prestige. It is a rational move and one that is better integrated than Volkswagen’s stalled relationship with Ducati.

The fact that It certainly isn’t raising any issues with BMW loyalists is a good sign. Or perhaps they are all still busy throwing bricks at the new M3 and M4. Either way, things are looking good for Motorrad’s new link with the M name.