Twenty fifteen was a big year for sportbikes, with the new Yamaha R1 and a heavily revised BMW S1000RR and Aprilia RSV4 RF making their debuts – the two European weapons motoring their way to the Best Sportbike and runner-up awards, respectively, in last year’s Sportbike MOBOs. With the proverbial load being blown that year, there wasn’t much excitement in store for 2016, save for the new, heavily revised Kawasaki ZX-10R. The Green Machine is a good literbike, no doubt, but it still wasn’t a match for the year-old Aprilia RR (the “base” model RSV4) when we put the two $17,000 machines against each other.
Based on the strength of the BMW and the relative ease with which the Aprilia dispatched the Kawasaki, it was an easy choice for us to retain the German and Italian as the top bikes in the Sportbike category again for 2016. However, those who are paying close attention to our awards over the years might have noticed that this year we have the two switching positions as bride and bridesmaid.
The reason is simple: both the BMW and Aprilia are beasts – we contemplated giving them both top honors this year – but Aprilia won the tiebreaker because it is able to offer two versions of the RSV4, the RR and the RF, with the RR model providing 95% of the performance of the RF for $4,500 less. And quite honestly, the RR has all the performance 95% of us will ever need. It’s still got the same intoxicating V-4 engine we love, advanced electronics, and sublime handling of its more expensive sibling, but if you don’t think you’ll ever exploit the virtues of forged aluminum wheels and Ohlins suspension, then it makes sense to grab the RR. Of course, for those who want the absolute best of the best, then they can reach into their pocketbooks and fork over for the RF.
Sure, the S1000RR starts at $15,695, which is less than the RR Aprilia, but good luck actually finding a bare-bones base model S1000RR – BMW’s online configurator won’t even allow you to uncheck all the options to get the $15,695 bike. It’s the proverbial unicorn. However, assuming you do end up finding a base S1000RR, you’ll be missing out on things like a quickshifter, dynamic traction control, and ride modes, and you’ll kick yourself for not spending the extra $800 for the Aprilia that’s already so equipped.
Let’s be real for a minute: if you’re in the market for a BMW S1000RR, then who’s actually thinking about buying the base version? Not many. Throwing price aside for a moment, the BMW S1000RR is simply one of the best literbikes on the market today, and the reason why it’s been demoted to the runner-up position this year has nothing to do with its performance. In fact, the BMW’s performance is nothing but praiseworthy. When we tested it against its rivals in our 2015 Six-Way Superbike Shootout (track, street, overall), it demolished the field in the horsepower department with 182.9 – seven horses better than the next closest bike, the RSV4 RF, and a whopping 32.5 horses above the weakest bike in the field, Honda’s CBR1000RR SP. In the torque game, it was the best of the four-bangers at 79.9 lb-ft, topped only by the booming 1285cc V-Twin inside the Ducati 1299 Panigale.
What’s more, the BMW’s chassis is equally as capable as its engine, harnessing all that power and allowing it to be put to the ground effectively, while also carving apexes with scalpel-like precision. Combined with its advanced traction-control system, launch control, Race ABS, quickshifter, and Dynamic Damping Control, the S1000RR is simply a powerhouse on track. That said, the BMW is also remarkably user-friendly on the street as well. Its seat is well padded, the ergos aren’t extreme on the street (for a sportbike), and it’s still the only superbike with cruise control!
Like the Aprilia Tuono and KTM 1290 Superduke R in our Best Streetfighter/Hooligan category, you really can’t go wrong with either the RSV4 or S1000RR.
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