R1200GS new v old head-to-head
The R1200GS TE is BMW’S deluxe range topper – so do the 2017 updates make the new TE Exclusive even better?
Entering a BMW showroom can be a confusing affair. These are bikes sold with myriad options and each has its own bamboozling acronym. But there is a way to simplify the whole process – just tick the box marked ‘TE’.
The R1200GS TE is the range-topping model and as such gains just about everything you could possibly need. It costs £3000 more than a stock GS, but you get what you pay for and aside from spoked wheels and a comfort seat, it is delivered with all the factory-fit options. And for 2017 the TE has been further enhanced through engine, electronics and styling upgrades. But at an eye-watering £15,565, is the new model significantly better than a lightly used 2016 R1200GS TE for £2000 less?
What’s actually new?
Here is where it gets a bit confusing again, because between the 2016 GS and the 2017 model, there was a ‘2016.5’ generation, which has the same updated engine as the 2017 bike but in the 2016 chassis with the older electronics. But we will gloss over that anomaly as only a few made it to the UK.
The 2017 GS comes with a Euro4compliant engine with a revised catalytic converter to allow it to pass the tighter emissions regs without sacrificing power, in fact BMW claims both make 123bhp with 92ftlb of torque. Inside the 2017 motor a new judder damper has been added on the output shaft, while the selector drum actuator and transmission shafts have been revised for smoother gear changes.
When it comes to electronics, the TE gets everything. Both have Dynamic ESA, ABS, Dynamic Traction Control, Riding Modes Pro and Cruise Control, but for 2017 the TE gains keyless ignition and Gear Shift Assist Pro – they were extras in 2016. The ESA has also been updated and now features the next generation self-levelling function, which automatically sets the suspension’s height according to the bike’s load status where on the 2016 bike you have to set it manually. Cosmetically there are alterations to the clocks, radiator covers and screen before, finally, the 2017 Exclusive, which is £270 more than the stock TE, adds a unique ‘Iced Chocolate Metallic’ paint scheme, black painted engine and gearbox and gold calipers.
Spot the difference
Visually, the new TE doesn’t leap out as a new bike because its alterations are
subtle. The radiator covers are slightly larger, but aside from the blue backlight to the dash, it’s basically just down to colours and the gold calipers. But as soon as you engage a gear, you know which generation you are riding.
Boxer riders will be more than aware of the clunk when you go from neutral into first gear. In some ways that’s all part of the GS’S charm, but to anyone brought up on super-slick inline fours it’s a little disconcerting. Select first on the 2016 bike and the clunk is there, do the same on the 2017 machine and it’s an altogether quieter operation while the clutch is lighter in its action, too. There is a bit of mechanical noise as first engages, but it’s the faintest of whispers compared to the 2016 model. And it is a similar story during every other change of cog, the clunk has been replaced by a smoother and quieter operation.
Get up to speed and using Gear Shift Assist on both machines delivers an equally slick change, but it is at low speed – when the BMW’S autoblipper on starts to feel a little crude on down-changes – that you really spot the improvements to the drivetrain. And that’s the one gripe I still have with the GS, the Gear Shift Assist is poor at low revs or slower speeds when changing down. With a pillion, even on the smoother 2017 bike, I found the need to override it with the clutch to keep the ride smooth, which is disappointing. But there is another oddity on the new machine: its indicators.
The GS is now so advanced that BMW have run out of space on the dash for warning lights, meaning the indica- tor warning light is now a single light rather than individual left and right arrows. My car only has a flashing green light and it’s never bothered me, but if you are used to the old dash, at first you end up thinking you have activated the hazards by accident.
Feel the difference
While the drivetrain updates are certainly more than welcome, it is the advanced electronics that set the new model apart from the previous GS. When you start up, the self-levelling Dynamic ESA measures the static weight of the bike (including rider, pillion and luggage if there are any) and sets the rear preload to suit to level the bike out. On the older machine, you need to manually scroll through the dash and select one helmet, two helmets, luggage, etc to achieve the same result before you set off. As well as saving time, this new function delivers improved ride quality.
At slow speed it’s hard to spot, but once on the open roads, and even more so on uneven surfaces, the new system is more composed. At first it’s a little strange as the bike feels like it’s sitting flatter on its suspension in bends, something Adam reported from the bike’s press launch.
‘It’s so advanced, BMW have run out of space on the dash’
New Dynamic ESA changes front-end feel mid-corner They might look like twins, but they’re certainly not identical 2016 suspension lacks the new bike’s selflevelling function