The rumors, teases, and prototypes have been swirling for a couple years, but now the wait is over and the veil has been lifted. The BMW R18 is no longer floating in the ether of concept motorcycles, but has arrived in all its retro-coated glory as a production machine for 2021.

The retro styling of the R18 is immediately apparent. Taking design cues from BMW motorcycles of the past, the 1936 BMW R5 in particular, the R18 shares many of the R5’s sweeping lines. From the shape of the gas tank to the spoked wheels, single seat, and the way the frame cradles the engine all speak to the classic heart and soul of the bike.

The aesthetics are where the retro vibes end and state-of-the-art BMW engineering begins. Not content to play it safe and bolt an existing engine into a cruiser frame, the engine at the heart of the R18 is a new design that is the largest displacement Boxer engine BMW has ever produced since hanging their hat on the Boxer design in 1923. At 1802cc, the air/oil cooled, pushrod-driven Boxer twin is slightly oversquare, with a bore and stroke of 107.1mm and 100mm respectively. The engine is brought to life by wholly-modern fuel injection, with BMS-K+ engine management and twin-spark ignition. It’ll produce a claimed 116 ft-lbs. of torque at 3,000 rpm and 91 hp at 4,750 rpm. All that torque is driven to the pavement through an open shaft drive connected to a 6-speed transmission with a hydraulically actuated dry clutch. The R18 will definitely go, and like any BMW Boxer-powered motorcycle, should provide a thrilling balance of soulful character and easygoing smoothness.

Handling should prove to be relatively nimble for a 761 lb. cruiser thanks to excellent geometry and suspension. The double-cradle steel frame provides rock-solid stability while a heavy-duty telescoping fork up and a centrally mounted mono shock in the rear with respective 4.7” and 3.5” of travel, will keep the ride compliant and smooth. A rake angle of 32.7° and a trail figure of 5.9” combined with the 68.1” wheelbase will strike a fine balance between agility and stability, perfect for the soulful and laidback nature of the R18. Adding to that laidback and easygoing nature is a low 27.2” seat, which should prove to be accessible to riders of all sizes, and will also comfortably place the rider triangle down low in the bike for chilled-out cruising. Bringing those 761 lbs. to a stop are twin 300mm disc brakes up front, and a third 300mm disc in the rear, all squeezed by four-piston fixed calipers with standard BMW Integral ABS.

At $17,495 for the base model R18 and $19,870 for the First Edition (which adds the double striping and chrome elements) the R18 is definitely poised to sway the attention of customers looking for a mid- to high-end cruiser – like a Harley-Davidson Low Rider S or Softail Deluxe or the Indian Chief Dark Horse – yet want something different that’ll stand out from the dominant American V-Twins. BMW is banking on being able to capitalize on retro styling and its heritage, and if the success of the R nineT is any indication, they may just have a winner on their hands with the R18.