BMW needed a hugely innovative approach to its ‘holy grail’ horizontally-opposed engine layout. Greg takes on the sharpest boxer the Bavarians had ever built, the 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 spent 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 was the third in the HP range, which included 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 HP phenomenon of the first decade of the new millennium, the mathematics first, then we can get to the poetry …
Based on the globally well-received R 1200 S, the HP2 Sport used the brand’s 1170cc, air and oil-cooled, four-valve, horizontally-opposed twin.
The big, big difference was the fact that the engine represented the first production double overhead camshaft boxer in BMW history.
That’s significant and it’s the primary reason this engine was able to produce 96kW at 8750rpm and 115Nm of torque at 6000rpm. With the redline at 9500rpm (no, that’s not a typo), this made this engine the highest revving boxer ever built.
Further innovation saw the bike’s six-speed gearbox equipped at standard with a race-type quickshifter – the first production motorcycle to feature this technology.
The HP2 Sport was not downright expensive at $34,750, let’s be straight up about that. But you got a lot for your dollar. Take a good look if you get the chance. The bike just dripped with quality componentry.
There was carbon fibre as far as the eye can see, with Magura switchgear and Ohlins suspension hardware gracing (and that gold stuff is indeed graceful) the Telelever front-end (which was not so much graceful, as impressively functional). And, of course, beautiful Brembo four-piston remote-mounted calipers (with optional and switchable ABS). Delightful.
The techno-feast continued 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, a very sexy and beautifully constructed stainless underseat exhaust cackling and popping on the overrun.
There were lightweight forged aluminium wheels too, so all that power makde its way to the road with as little resistance as possible.
Yes, it was all very good gear, and that’s what a potential purchaser of such a top-end motorcycle needed. 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 ticked both of those necessary boxes with a big, German, felt-tip pen.
It was a relatively comfortable bike. For such a hard-edged sports offering, the seating position was 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 could do it with something like this – a brutally efficient, razor-sharp sportster, which had no right whatsoever being pleasant to sit on, well the template was built.
Consider the fact that there was a 16-litre tank there and touring on this thing was in the equation. It wouldn’t have been your first pick for regular long tours, that’s certain, but for such a balls-out (sorry ladies) sports bike, it wasn’t a swine on a long trip.
Handling. Now we’re talking. It was fabulous. The front-end of this bike had a hotline to the handling gods and they were corresponding regularly.
The bike changed direction very quickly, allowing the rider to set-up, pick their spot to dump it in and barrel on around. The power delivery allowed you to get back on the gas nice and early due to its competent nature (it did have a ‘powerband’ at six-grand), it was 178kg dry and hoelds a good deal of its weight under its waistline.
This added up to slingshotting out of corners a little earlier than usual. So, the picture was; late entry, quick transition, on the power early on the way out. Sound like a formula for ‘fast’?
Yeah, I reckon so too.
It was suspended by the best mass suspension builder on the planet, the geometry was nigh-on perfect. It’s simple physics as to why this thing worked so well. Magnificent in the handling department. Touchdown BMW.
Now, was it beautiful? The old ‘looks are in the eye of the beholder’ thing… It was a handsome bike, very masculine. It was not Japan-pretty, (those heads hanging out never will be), but it was futuristic and minimalist and that worked for me. Plus, that quality gear everywhere made a closer inspection both inviting and satisfying.
The Sport deserved a good deal of consideration, it was different, classy and has brand-cred to burn. But, it was a lot of money and the bike was operating in a commercial realm that was occupied by some very nice, exotic, European, sports kit.
For that reason and price, it was never going to be a high-volume seller, and BMW probably didn’t care about that. It was a hero bike. It’s enough that people that tested it raved about how well-executed the bike was, just like I have.
Snag’s career in motoring journalism spans 29 years with stints at major bike mags Australian Road Rider, Motorcycle Trader and AMCN along with contributions to just about every other outlet worth a hill of beans. He was editor of Unique Cars magazine and hosts his legendary podcast ‘Snag Says’ when he gets off his date.