MCN scooped this spy photo of the 2012 BMW R1200GS being loaded into a van outside a BMW facility in Munich. Previous shots had already suggested water cooling, but this photo appears to confirm it. How? Check out the exhaust headers, which now exit underneath the cylinders — an arrangement facilitated by the increased cooling capacity — and if you squint just right, that might be a radiator fan in one of the front cowl holes. Other changes include radial brakes, and swapped sides for the paralever rear suspension/swingarm and exhaust can. But why is BMW switching from rugged, simple air-cooling on its adventure flagship to more finicky, vulnerable water cooling?
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.
The radiator appears to be located above the rocker arm of the telever front suspension, the same location as the oil cooler on the current bike and somewhere that should be relatively well protected both from rocks and debris flung by the front wheel and in a crash. A too-vulnerable radiator is one of the criticisms most often applied to the BMW F800GS by hardcore offroad riders.