Editor’s Note: As much as we wanted this announcement to be real when we posted it on March 31, BMW Motorrad has admitted that it was, in fact, an April Fool’s Day joke (the official press release from BMW’s global press site was dated April 1). The press release sounded plausible. All-wheel drive motorcycles already exist (see Christini reference below), and Wunderlich showed the BMW R 1200 GS LC “Hybrid” concept bike at EICMA in 2015, which has “a ten-kilowatt electrical front wheel gearbox.” So, yeah, we fell for it. But it was a fun fantasy while it lasted.
Yes, you read that headline correctly. BMW Motorrad has developed and tested a two-wheel drive version of its R 1200 GS Adventure, claiming it’s “the world’s first series-production all-wheel drive travel enduro with hybrid drive.”
Unlike the mechanical all-wheel drive (AWD) system made by Christini for dirt bikes, BMW’s xDrive Hybrid system uses a 45-horsepower electric motor housed in the front wheel hub. When activated and combined with the air/liquid-cooled, 125-horsepower, shaft-driven boxer twin engine that powers all R-series models, the R 1200 GS xDrive Hybrid makes a combined 170 horsepower (claimed).
BMW says that making the front wheel driven provides superior traction in slippery, low-traction conditions, much like all-wheel drive cars, and the xDrive Hybrid system was originally developed by BMW’s automotive division. All-wheel drive can be operated automatically or manually by the rider via the 2WD (2-Wheel Drive) switch located on the left handlebar’s switchgear, activating the wheel-hub e-Drive system that functions both as electric motor and generator.
During braking, the e-Drive system captures and stores kinetic energy—also known as regenerative braking—which helps recharge the batteries and improves braking performance. Sophisticated management software ensures that power is supplied to the front wheel as needed given the riding situation, as traction permits. Riding modes customize how the all-wheel drive system operates and adjusts the hybrid system’s recuperation strategies, with everything controlled via LCD display.
Given the braking function of the xDrive Hybrid system, BMW changed from a dual-disc to a single-disc brake setup on the front wheel, saving 6.4 pounds of unsprung weight, which more than offsets the 1.9-pound weight of the wheel hub e-Drive and maintains the R 1200 GS Adventure’s legendary agility. Overall curb weight of the motorcycle is said to be unchanged.
To prove the capability of the new xDrive Hybrid GS, it was subjected to thousands of testing miles in extreme conditions. Reiner Scherbeck, head of winter testing at BMW Motorrad, rode it to Norway’s North Cape and across the frozen Barents Sea to the North Pole and back again.
“We were absolutely amazed how problem-free and reliable the all-wheel drive worked even at minus 56 degrees,” Scherbeck said. “Thanks to our functional BMW rider equipment, the cold temperatures were no problem for the rider, too. Probably the most thrilling conclusion we can draw from our test runs, is that for the first time we can offer a motorcycle that makes riding a motorcycle a pleasure at snow depths of 1.25 meters [4.1 feet] in high winter with the new R 1200 GS xDrive Hybrid. Special front section components have also been developed for this purpose as well as high-speed suitable M+S all-season tires. This was also necessary in order to meet the necessary requirements for high-speed winter operation.”
BMW says the R 1200 GS xDrive Hybrid shown to the public in the near future and that it will be available in the second half of 2017. BMW Motorrad will announce special tires, optional equipment and pricing at a later date.
Editor’s Note: This press release was dated April 1. Is it fact or fiction? Leave your comments below.