When it comes to a premium experience behind the wheel, or the handlebar, no one does it like BMW. However for many, the price of ownership has put its motorcycles out of reach… That ends next summer with the release of BMW’s fun and affordable 2017 G 310 R ($4995 with destination charge).
A BMW motorcycle for under five grand in the US? You betcha. Engineered by the studious Motorrad team in Munich, Germany, but assembled, with supervision, by TVS Motor of India, the G310R’s entry begins a new chapter of effective multi-national motorcycle innovation for both brands.
As the nomenclature insinuates, this Beemer is powered by a 313cc liquid-cooled and fuel injected Single. A four-valve head and dual overhead camshafts give this single-cylinder engine some snap. Both the valvetrain and cylinder bore incorporate engineering tricks employed on BMW’s ferocious S1000RR superbike with either machine sharing identical valve angle (11.2 degrees intake, 13.3 degrees exhaust), bore measurement, and off-set cams.
The engine’s 10.6:1 compression ratio is modest but it’s by design so the engine can run on lower grade gasoline. However, for peak performance, 91 or more octane fuel is recommended.
For packaging purposes and to elevate handling, the engine is titled rearward within its tubular steel frame. The arrangement of the intake and exhaust have also been reversed, a’la Yamaha’s YZ250F/450F moto bikes, with the intake charge entering up front and spent gasses flowing from the rear of the cylinder.
Big Fun, Small Size
Flip the ignition key, press the engine start button and the engine fires to life. Fuel-injection and water-cooling ensure quick getaways allowing the motorcycle to be ridden immediately. BMW says that the engine’s good for 34 horsepower at 9500 rpm and 21 lb-ft of torque at 7500 revs. On the road it feels even more powerful.
Effective and well-suited gear ratios boost acceleration and it’s surprising how quickly this G-bike accelerates— especially when you consider the more limited lung capacity of its one-cylinder engine.
Editor’s note: generally multi-cylinder engine platforms produce more power per cc. However, due to cost, engineers settled on this configuration.
The engine delivers enough pep to outgun cars from traffic lights and when revved to its 10,500 redline it delivers enough acceleration to put a smile on your face— all the while registering upwards of 60 mpg as displayed on the digital dash. Not bad.
Easy clutch lever action along with a low first gear make launching away from a stop a snap. Plus, we appreciate the clutch and six-speed gearbox’s quality and precise feel. Even though its oriented toward beginners and value-conscious riders, the G310R’s componentry doesn’t feel cheap and toy-like, as is the case with some of the competition.
Since BMW is renowned for intriguing and highly charismatic engine character, the G310R’s relatively mundane personality, along with the at times, strong vibration (at higher rpm) are the only real gripes in an otherwise excellent powertrain. Added intake growl, or a throatier exhaust note would be worthwhile updates on future iterations.
We were surprised by the high-level of build quality. Most of the components, including switchgear, and digital instrumentation look like authentic BMW hardware. Speaking of the dash, its nicer than some motorcycle’s twice the price! Still, if you look carefully, there are a couple subtle quality demerits, most notably the orange-peel paint effect on some of the hard parts like the bottom of the fork leg.
Interestingly, in contrast to BMW’s other motorcycles, the Torx head fasteners have been replaced with conventional metric bits to satisfy mechanics across the globe. Running costs are reasonable too, with oil changes scheduled for every 6200 miles (following the initial 600-mile service). A more detailed service, including the replacement of the chain/sprockets and a valve clearance check, is recommended at 12,400 miles.
Great in the City and Even Better in the Twisties
Although capable of freeway-plus speeds (BMW says that it’s good for 90 mph in top gear), where the G310R really shines is in the city.
With a fully fueled curb weight of 349 pounds (for comparison purposes, a S1000RR sportbike weighs 100 pounds more), paired to a short-rider friendly, 30.9-inch seat and compact wheelbase, this BMW couldn’t be any more perfect for darting around dense, complicated cities like Los Angeles.
It slices and dices through gridlock offering the maneuverability and unencumbered riding experience of a scooter, only it’s a heck of a lot more fun to ride! The rear view mirrors are functional and the suspension does a fine job of filtering the effects of bumpy well-worn pavement, yet retains a reasonable road hold in the twisties.
Sure the KYB suspension can be a little bouncy but it wasn’t enough to slow us down with the handling retaining that signature BMW dynamic that makes these Motorrad’s so special. The OE-fitted Michelin Pilot Street Radial rubber is another plus versus non-name brand tires the competition uses.
The tighter the curves the better — the BMW eats ‘em up never missing a beat. And if the pace gets too hot, ABS keeps wheels inline and streets clean from rubber skids. Both disc brakes provide progressive slowing power, without a sharp brake bite that can make them tricky to use. It’s also nice to see premium stainless-steel brake lines fitted standard, as well as a real four-piston front brake caliper.
The seating position can be cramped for taller folks, however the handlebar bend is more aptly proportioned and gives a full-size bike type of feel. BMW offers a taller “comfort seat” (32.1 in.) and an even lower seat option (29.9 in.) as well which will be worthwhile upgrades if you lean toward either end of the height spectrum.
Consider its authentic Motorrad handling, and true sensory experience in terms of premium BMW touch and feel, even if it cost six grand the G310R would be a capable machine. But because it costs less than $5000, excluding state tax and DMV fees — with a three-year, 36,000-mile warranty, it’s obvious you’d be a fool not to get out and experience the thrill and time/cost savings of motorcycle riding.