2012 BMW R1200GS spied with liquid-cooled engine

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A SoloMoto.es reader spied what appears to be an undisguised, liquid-cooled replacement for the BMW R1200GS testing on a Spanish highway. In addition to the new motor, it looks like the beak has been sharpened up, the paralever swingarm/drive shaft has been moved to the bike’s left side and the exhaust canister to the right. Why liquid-cooling when the rugged simplicity of the air-cooled boxer suited the GS so well?

Illustration: Xavier Gordillo

Motorcycle emission standards are being dramatically tightened in Europe over the next  few years. Bikes currently need to meet the Euro III standard while cars are tasked with Euro V. Euro IV is being rolled out to motorcycles in 2012 and Euro V in 2015. Current proposals have that changing dramatically by 2020, with both cars and bikes needing to meet the even tougher Euro VI standard that year. Emissions standards in the rest of the world, including the US, are also expected to tighten over the next decade.

BMW’s air-cooled boxer engine is already stretched to deliver competitive power levels while meeting Euro III standards, so liquid-cooling is needed to maintain or increase performance while decreasing noise and pollutants.

SoloMoto says the 2012 BMW R1200GS’s radiator is located above the rocker arm of the Telelever front suspension, similarly to the tiny oil-cooler on the current bike. This arrangement should serve to protect it from damage while off-roading or in a crash.

SoloMoto has photos of the bike and more information.

  • NitroPye

    The current iteration of the R engine is oil/air cooled. Doesn’t that count as liquid cooled sort of?

    Just the same I really love my 2010 GS’s engine. Could be the last of its kind?

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Ha, it counts as air/oil cooled since there’s no water jacket and, well, water (or coolant).

      The 1200GS is a wonderful motorcycle, I’m sure they won’t spoil it.

      • NitroPye

        You are most likely right. I can’t imagine BMW all of a sudden making it a rubbish motorcycle just by tossing a water jacket on.

        A new (well not really) challenge for the engineers, but I doubt it will change things much from a consumer perspective. I guess saying “last of its kind” was kind of mellow dramatic on my part.

      • Ben

        Yet I know quite a few BMW enthusiasts who accept no substitute for an old Beemer “airhead”. In fact there’s a guy about an hour from where I live who used to work for BMW and has a garage without about 15 or so vintage airheads. His native language is german so my favorite quote of his is, “Old airhead handle like bicycle. So nice.”

  • markbvt

    Sadly, air-cooled engines are going to be forced out pretty much everywhere. I would imagine Triumph is going to have to move the Bonneville line to liquid cooling for 2012 as well, or certainly for 2015. It’ll be really interesting to see what Harley-Davidson ends up doing… or maybe they can wait longer because their engines make so little power.

    • ike6116

      why is this sad?

      • ontheroad

        Aesthetically speaking, air-cooled bikes do have a nice clean look with the absence of radiators hanging off of them. Monster S2R v. S4R, for example. Simplicity is slowly (and, as stated, necessarily in order to meet emissions and performance demands) going the way of the buffalo. I suspect that’s why it might seem sad.

  • Corey

    I am amazed that so much can be assumed from that picture. I had a hell of a time making out anything – are there more high res pictures or did the bike get spied at a stop first? Muy borrosa la imagen.

    • NitroPye


      If someone wiser in the way of engines could point out how the illustration (assuming its for a supposed liquid cooled version) indicates this. To the untrained eye it looks like the current engine down to the small oil cooler.

      • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

        Ha, it’s just some illustration. One of SoloMoto’s readers saw it in person and took some bad photos. He’s a current GS owner so the differences were obvious to him. That plus what’s already known about the company’s plans delivers enough evidence to say “water-cooled”

  • Kentaro

    Wow, I’m getting ready to buy a new GSA this next week. Should I hold off?

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Nah, its already a perfect motorcycle and you’d have to wait a year or more.

    • Ian

      The way I look at is: The bugs are pretty much worked out of the current design, and you’re likely to buy an extremely reliable vehicle. Water cooled BMW boxer? Let someone else be the guinea pig.

  • http://rohorn.blogspot.com rohorn

    I’m still waiting for them to mount a supercharger on top of the engine driven by a belt at the front.

    I hate to use the word “Heritage” with BMW, but they do have one with Kompressors and boxer twins.

    • Corey

      I would give them a whole pile of money to make me an updated R90S. A whole big pile – that one has big heritage glitz and lust factor than most bikes (and I say this as a former R75/5 and Ducati Sport Classic guy).

  • Ian

    Does anyone have a link or concise explanation as to why a liquid cooled motor can be made quieter and to burn cleaner? I’ve been hearing for a few years that Harley will have to reckon with this, but I don’t really understand the engineering limitations involved.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Lower noise: water jacket.

      Lower emissions: tighter tolerances are possible because the material expansion due to a wide range of temperatures is reduced.

      • BMW11GS

        Wes, I also think that the actual gas emissions produced can be held at a relatively constant temperature and can be more completely catalyzed by the exhaust system/catalytic converter. Also I believe that since you no longer need the fuel itself to act as a sort of coolant in the cylinder, you can run leaner air/fuel ratios.

        • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

          That’s a much better answer than my half assed, late night effort, thanks