What began as a whisper last November and rose to a highly-vocal conversation in March is now a full-blown roar — an all-new BMW Boxer engine is in the offing and the best-selling big adventure bike on the market, the BMW GS, will be the first to get it.
The new Boxer engine will reportedly get a displacement bump, to 1254cc from the current 1170cc. Just as importantly, it’s going to have variable valve timing, which will be a first on a BMW motorcycle. The added ccs will push the horsepower up from the current 125hp to somewhere between 134hp and 150hp. That’ll bring the power output closer in line to the competition, KTM and Ducati, who sport 160hp.
Variable valve timing has a number of benefits. For one thing, its added efficiency would make the Boxer comply with stricter EU emissions regulations, set to come into effect in 2020. From the rider’s perspective, VVT should add low-end torque and possibly improve mileage. (Ducati added VVT — or DVT as they call it — back in 2014.)
The current crop of rumors have the 1250GS being the first to go to market with the new engine, with the Adventure to follow as much as six to seven months later. But it’s worth noting that back in March spy images of the 1250 RT were published online.
BMW tipped their hand about all of this back in 2017. UK insurer Bennetts published an interview with Motorrad’s Head of Development, Karl-Viktor Schaller, in which he laid out the blueprint that BMW have apparently closely followed.
On the future of the water-cooled engine:
“We are making big developments in engine control systems as well as our understanding of the combustion process and we have seen that there is no limiting factor in terms of emissions standards in the future. The air-cooled engine certainly has a long life in the future and we feel the partially water-cooled motor also has a lot of life as its power characteristics suit its intended use.”
On the off-road performance of the engine:
“The GS’s focus has always been on drivability as well as the ability to do off-road riding with minimal effort. And not just motocross-style off-road riding, slow speed work in rough terrain where a high output engine is not helpful. We have never focused on having the highest power output. The partially liquid-cooled boxer engine is only four years old and we always design extra life into it and with all the competition moving ahead in terms of power we have options to do something.”
And one more thing, which explains why the horsepower boost won’t match the competition’s 160hp.
“It’s not about the cooling, it’s about using the whole motor from the valve train to the transmission system. You can always do something to increase power, but our customers are not asking for more. We could put in 160hp, but what’s the point?”
Early reporting suggests that engine aside, there won’t be many changes from the current 1200 GS — apart from weight. Width and wheelbase are unchanged on both GS models, while the Adventure gains a little over half-an-inch in length. BMW says Hill Start Control, LED headlights and a color digital display will be standard issue.
The additional weight on an already-heavy bike might give some prospective owners heartburn — ride height and the porkiness are two things some would like to see reduced. Instead, early word is that both models will pack on another 11 lbs (5 kilos.) Blame the new, bigger engine with its variable valves, as well as a new and quieter exhaust system. As for the rest, it was just a year ago that the GS line got option packages that included hill start, traction control and upgraded dynamic suspension.
The GS is right on schedule for a new engine. The first GS (as opposed to the G/S,) the 1100 airhead, landed in 1987. The oilhead 1100 came eight years later, in 1995. The bigger 1150 rolled out in 1999. That was closely followed by the 1200 in 2004. The partially water-cooled engine launched in 2013.
Next announcement — fall of 2018.