I was truly surprised when I learned the new BMW G310R would cost just $5,250 when it arrives early next year. That puts it in the lower end of the entry-level ballpark when compared to the Honda CB300F ($4,999), Kawasaki Ninja 300 ($5,899), Yamaha R3 ($5,799) and KTM 390 Duke ($5,499).
It’s BMW’s first foray into the small-displacement entry-level category, and the company understands that you can’t offer a premium product at a premium price in a category where many riders are fresh out of riding school. But despite its entry-level cost and insurance-friendly engine displacement, this bike has full-sized appeal. We attended the international launch of this global motorcycle in Hollywood, where an abundance of canyon roads are just a stone’s throw away.
Swing a leg over the G310R and you first notice that it is a proper, full-sized motorcycle. Not in an obese, fat-tired-cruiser type of full-size, but rather an I’m-not-riding-a-2/3-scale-entry-level-bike type of full size. Although it boasts a short 1,374 mm (54.1 in) wheelbase, it sits tall (not too tall at the seat though, at 785 mm/30.9 in) and has a wide faux-tank that sits high between your knees, making the bike feel substantial when seated.
It’s an easy reach to the ground for me, and the footpegs are a bit cramped for my six-foot frame, which is why I’d opt for the taller 815 mm comfort seat. There’s a lower 760 mm seat available too, though the non-standard seats are extra-cost options. The cockpit includes a rectangular digital instrument cluster that displays speed, rpm, gear position, time, fuel level, trip meter, and fuel economy. You’ll also see the tops of the large-diameter tubes of the 41 mm inverted fork, which further emphasizes the bike’s sizable proportions.
What gives the bike away as a smaller-displacement machine is its lightness when you lift it off the side stand (at 158.5 kg it undercuts the lightweight CB300F by 2.5 kilos), and its subdued compressor-like exhaust note.
The 313 cc liquid-cooled single claims 34 hp and 20.7 lb.-ft. of peak torque, which is just a bit stronger than the 30 hp/20 lb.-ft. of the CB300F. BMW tilted the cylinder rearward and reversed the head, with intake air coming in through the front of the engine and exhaust gases flowing out the rear. This was done to move the crankcase forward and provide a forward-biased weight distribution. This also allowed the use of an unusually long swingarm, despite the short wheelbase, which enhances handling. You notice this especially with the front/rear weight transfer when braking and accelerating into and out of turns.
And the bike handles exceptionally well. It is stable at speed, while exhibiting light, neutral steering on twisty roads. You can dive into corners hard on the brakes without upsetting the chassis, and its light weight allows you to flick it aggressively through a series of esses, though this is where it reveals its limitations.
Although it might sound odd or unlikely, suspension compliance feels very much like it does on my KLR650 — smooth, plush and surprisingly refined for an entry-level bike, but too soft for me at an advanced sporting pace. I could live with this setup for everyday use, but would prefer adjustable rebound damping, at least in the rear, for attack mode (only rear preload is adjustable). As it is, the bike can handle a very quick pace, but it wallows around, especially at the rear. It’s probably ideally suited for a rider of about 160 lb (I’m 220 lb with riding gear on).
I actually prefer the suspension setup as is, and would likely be more critical if it were too firm; it’s designed to handle a very wide range of road surfaces, and not just racetrack-smooth pavement at a track-day pace. It’s a great setup for a daily commuter, offering plush compliance to deal with potholes and frost heaves, yet provides enough control to handle quick turning transitions without getting too much out of shape.
If you intend on taking the G310R to the track, which it is entirely capable of, you’ll have to look into aftermarket suspension options. Brakes are made by Brembo’s Indian subsidiary, Bybre, and the front needs a firm squeeze but offers very acceptable stopping power. ABS is standard, but it doesn’t switch off.
Its torquey engine launches the bike effortlessly from a stop, and you find yourself rowing through its closely-spaced six gears in no time. In fact, the engine feels powerful enough to pull taller gearing, as you shift into sixth by about 65 km/h and often search for a seventh gear. Despite similar output to the CB300F, the BMW feels stronger at lower revs, and pulls harder up top, though it doesn’t match the larger-displacement KTM single in pulling power.
On the highway, the engine spins at about 7,000 rpm at 110 km/h, with plenty of reserve passing power. The counterbalanced engine is mostly smooth; the mirrors are clear at 90-100 km/h, with a buzzing vibration increasing at about 110, which was prominent in the handlebar, foot pegs and gas tank by about 115. The bike smooths out a bit at higher speeds and can cruise all day long at 120 km/h. It even has a bit of passing power from that speed, though we didn’t have an opportunity to wring it out to top speed. I noted the engine is mechanically noisy when hot, producing a light piston-slap-like noise at idle.
Despite its low cost, BMW didn’t cheap out on the G310R. Sure, there are no frills, and if you want heated grips, they’re available as dealer-installed options, as are saddlebags, a top case, a 12-volt outlet, and even a centre stand. It’s available in black or blue, or in the pearl-white of these photos for an extra $75. But its performance is above par, as is the build quality.
The bike is built in India in conjunction with Indian bike maker TVS Motor Company, but it was developed entirely in Munich by BMW. The G310 platform is an excellent basis from which to spin off other models, like the upcoming G310GS, which will likely include more features (it has switchable ABS), but will also carry a heftier price.
I could say the BMW G310R’s most redeeming feature is its price, but it’s not. It might be an affordable entry-level bike, but it neither feels nor looks like one. It can handle weekend romps on twisty roads in the company of larger bikes as easily as it can handle the daily commute. The low price is just a bonus, and it includes a class-exclusive three-year warranty, all of which should make its competitors sweat in the showroom.
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