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?

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week - By Jon Urry MCN GUEST TESTER

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

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