27th March 2013, 11.04 a.m. It was raining when I arrived at the Perdana Suite, Sepang International Circuit for the launching of the new BMW HP4. On normal days, I would not care if it’s literally raining cats and dogs or any other kinds of pets but on that particular day, I was thwarted to the bones because BMW Group Malaysia had earlier said that the media could test ride the HP4 on the track, but with the rain pouring down without any sign of stopping, the test ride was most likely to be cancelled.

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So I went on and witnessed the unveiling of the HP4, while anxiously looking out the glass windows to see if the rain had stopped. I previously thought that the HP4, which is the first four-cylinder to bear the High Performance badge would not step its foot on our shores because I read somewhere that it was supposed to be a limited edition, but I was wrong as BMW Group Malaysia Chief Executive Officer Dr. Gerhard Pils¬†explained that the HP4 is on a “limited run” instead of being “limited edition”. Whatever it is, I’m just glad that the HP4 is here!

To my delight, the rain stopped and the sun finally came out with about an hour to go from the scheduled test ride. And not long after that, a BMW Motorrad instructor was already seen riding around the track on the HP4, probably testing the track’s condition. With the track drying up in no time, the table had turned and the day seemed better and better with a chance of getting on my first 1,000cc bike seemed closer than ever. You read that right, the HP4 was my first 1,000cc motorcycle and to add it up, it was also my first time getting on the Sepang track. So no pressure there, right?

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A little bit about the HP4. It is basically a lighter and more powerful version of the S1000RR. Someone must have given the S1000RR some steroids. As opposed to the RR, the HP4 (with the optional Competition Package) is packed with an array of delicious HP components such as the HP brake and clutch lever as well as HP foot pegs. The likes of engine spoiler, badge mounting and tank trim are all made of carbon fibre. And to add to the already mouth-watering list, the HP4 gets sponsorship sticker kit and lightweight aluminium wheels in Racing Blue finish. Each HP4 with the Competition Package is issued with its own serial number engraved on the upper fork bridge.

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Back to the test ride. I was already in my oversize rental suit when Dr. Pils and two other instructors just finished their runs on the track with the bikes. Before we were let loose on the track, the instructor, which I forgot his name, demonstrated how the Launch Control system works at the starting grid. Speaking of it, the HP4 is the first two-wheeled BMW to be fitted with such system and from the demonstration, I could see how the Launch Control boosted the HP4’s 0 to 100 km/h sprint of just 2.9 seconds. There were no spins, no front-tyre liftoff whatsoever. The bike shot itself from standstill to oblivion just like that.

Then it was my turn to get on the bike. I was put in the ‘Beginner’ session, together with another journalist, with the instructor leading us on a S1000RR.¬†On the straight, everything felt conveniently appeasing, especially the clutch and throttle feel. I adapted to the nature of the bike quite immediately. Unquestionably, the bike was fast and gear shifting was smooth, there was no interruption of tractive force eventhough I shifted at high RPMs. That was when the fully titanium exhaust system from Akrapovic started to ‘sing’. Not only that it is 4.5 kg lighter than the stock exhaust system, the note it produced was heavenly. You have to ride the HP4 and listen to the wail for yourself.

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Then there was Turn 1, where I lost all my cool and went in really slow. I didn’t have the guts to slide my knees but at 199kg, the HP4 can be safely said as a very light litre bike. Being light, the bike is nimble and responsive when it comes to handling so putting it into corners will not become an issue, if you have the skills.

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The bike I was riding was put on Rain mode or also known as ‘Only-An-Idiot-Could-Crash’ mode. In Rain mode, throttle response and power delivery are milder and the ABS and Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) will fully come into play. All 193 horsepower and 112 Nm of torque are still in the bags though. It did not take long for me to put the DTC on work. Coming out of Turn 2, I opened the throttle a bit more than I should have and for a quick second, the rear wheel squirmed and the tail was giving out but before I could panic, the system interceded and somehow straightened the bike. That saved me from being a total idiot.

Perhaps one of the headline feature of this tech-savvy HP4 is the semi-active suspension system called the Dynamic Damping Control or DDC, the world’s first on a production motorcycle. It adjusts the front and rear damping settings according to the road condition and riding style – soft on bumpy roads, hard and firm under hard braking and so on. In Slick mode, the DDC, as well as DTC can be fine-tuned on the fly in fifteen different settings ranging from +7 to -7. The bike I was riding was in the Rain mode and setting was on default, so there was a lot of electronic intervention. For instance, I could feel that both ends firmed up during corners and under rapid acceleration, the rear suspension stiffened up and indirectly provided more grip for the rear tyre to propel the bike.

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Coming to the third lap, both the instructor and my fellow journalist had left me behind. It’s not like I didn’t try to chase them but the idea of crashing a RM158,888 bike wasn’t just germane to me. So I basically rode alone until the session ended while trying to further understand its nature. As I was riding, the only thing that I could think of the HP4 is that it is a domesticated monster. The bike is all about raw power that works in tandem with control. Think of BASE jumping. You know you are off for a brutal, vicious leap of your life once you jump off the plane but at the same time, you know you are in safe hands with a parachute on your back that can be pulled out any time. Riding the HP4 is something like that.

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So there you go, the all-new 2013 BMW HP4 and how it brings off from a beginner’s point of view. Five laps (an extra lap for me for missing the pit entrance) on the Sepang International Circuit was not enough for me. The HP4 is just too good. At RM144,444 (add an extra RM14,444 for the Competition Package), the HP4 may have a steep price tag but it is still cheaper than its Italian counterpart, which the HP4 will surely give its run for the money.

2013 BMW HP4 Specs
Price RM144,444, RM158,888 (Competition Package)
Engine Type Water/Oil Cooled In-Line Four-Cylinder, Four Stroke
Displacement 999 cc
Power 193 hp at 13,000 rpm
Torque 112 Nm at 9,750 rpm
Brakes Double 320 mm, 9x floating discs (F), Single 220 mm, single floating caliper (R)
Gearbox Six-speed synchromesh with spur gears
Kerb Mass 199 kg
Wheelbase 1,422 mm
Length 2,056 mm
Width 826 mm incl. mirrors
Seat Height 820 mm
Fuel Capacity 17.4 Litres
Tyres 120/70 ZR17 (F), 200/55 ZR17 (R)

 



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