BMW, LONG PERCEIVED AS A BRAND OF EXPENSIVE, EXCLUSIVE MOTORCYCLES reserved for the most discerning and accomplished riders, is set to break from that tradition with the introduction of the all-new G 310 R, perhaps its first, genuine entry-level motorcycle. The new machine reflects an attitudinal shift not just for the Bavarian brand, but the general direction of all manufacturers, indicating small displacement (under 500cc) and urban mobility represent an important market for the future of motorcycles. With shades of its S 1000 R brother, the G 310 R cuts an impressive stance, the wedged bodywork, bold paint scheme, upside-down gold anodized fork and grown-up-looking mechanicals granting it a much more substantial presence than its smaller displacement would suggest. The engine is a liquid-cooled, electronically fuel-injected, 313cc single cylinder with four valves operating off two overhead camshafts. The engine has a dynamic rear-tilted cylinder with the intake on the front and the exhaust header exiting the rear. Claimed power output is 34 hp at 9,500 rpm. Throwing a leg over the 310 and pulling it off its side stand reveals its feathery presence—a mere 349 pounds—and comfortable ergonomics. Once under way, any concern about 34 horses being inadequate is instantly assuaged, as the 310 spirits along just fine. Our time on the new BMW consisted of a 135-mile circuitous route from Hollywood, California, up into the Santa Monica Mountains. The test allowed us to experience the G 310 R in a multitude of scenarios: morning commute traffic on surface streets, freeway, and mountain twisties, ending the day with the evening congestion for which L.A. is famous. On all fronts, the 310 R pleasantly surprised. The bike’s lithe weight and narrow bars make maneuvering through traffic-snarled streets a breeze (especially in California, where lane-splitting is allowed). Perhaps the biggest surprise was the way the little 310 handled open freeway. In sixth gear, at 75 mph, the bike was planted and relatively smooth both in terms of engine vibration and absorbing the road. When we arrived at the remote canyon roads above Malibu, the 310 again surprised with a degree of sporting rideability. Despite the bike’s light weight, it has a planted feel in corners and responds well to rider input, providing a highly intuitive responsiveness that adds to the fun factor. ABS is standard, the two-channel system mated to a single 300mm disc and four-piston caliper on the front, with a single 240mm disc on the rear. The 310 responds well to ample rear brake input to settle the chassis on corner entry. As would be expected with the bike’s light weight, the 310 can be brought down from speed rather quickly with the stable demeanor of a larger sportbike. The G 310 R will be manufactured entirely in India under strict BMW engineering management, representing globalization in terms of efficient and cost-effective build. With the release and subsequent success of the R nineT, BMW experienced something new: young people in its showrooms. Chalk it up to marketing campaigns outside the motorcycle industry that have increasingly adopted motorcycles as a centerpiece to showcase products and a hip lifestyle. Yes, motorcycles are cool again. BMW hopes to snag a good portion of this rapidly growing segment by offering an attractive, highly functional, capable motorcycle in an unintimidating package for an equally attractive price—just under $5,000, including destination charges. MCN BMW shifts the focus away from its typical highend clientele. First-time buyers—of either sex—are now invited to join the fun.