Hobbies Cars & Motorcycles 2012 BMW K1600 GT and GTL Review: Meet the New Boss Share PINTEREST Email Print Cars & Motorcycles Motorcycles Buying & Selling Motorcycle History Restoration & Repairs Cars Used Cars SUVs Trucks ATVs & Off Road Public Transportation By Basem Wasef Basem Wasef is the author of "Legendary Motorcycles" and "Legendary Race Cars." His work has appeared in Autoblog, Men's Journal, Robb Report, and Wired. our editorial process Basem Wasef Updated May 20, 2019 01 of 08 2012 BMW K1600 GT and GTL Review: Introduction Photo © BMW The all-new BMW K 1600 GT and GTL challenge the venerable Honda Gold Wing on the heels of a long, dominating reign in the touring bike arena... but what does it take to unseat the 'Wing king? BMW brings a serious arsenal of amenities to the gunfight; priced between $20,900 for a base GT and $25,845 for a loaded GTL, the K1600 boasts an all-new six-cylinder engine, an array of new technology, and a serious sporting attitude. I spent a day aboard both the K1600 GT and GTL, crisscrossing Georgia's hill country to find out if BMW's new touring flagship can dethrone the 'Wing. 02 of 08 The Goods, Part I: Torquey 6-Cylinder + Trick Electronics Photo © BMW The heart of any motorcycle is its engine, and the 2012 BMW K 1600 GT and GTL's main attraction is the six-cylinder powerplant that's partially exposed between the bike's peekaboo bodywork and tilted 55 degrees for a lower center of gravity. Tipping a hat to the Bavarian company's signature inline-6 automotive engines, the K1600's mill-- BMW's first six-cylinder in a bike-- is a remarkable achievement in packaging: it weighs only 226 lbs including the clutch, gearbox, and alternator, and has cylinder sleeves only 5 millimeters apart, enabling a 21.9 inch overall width that's comparable to many 4-cylinders. But the 1,649cc engine packs a serious wallop, to the tune of 160 horsepower and 129 lb-ft of torque, 70% of which is available as low as 1,500 rpm. Equally impressive is the fact that the engine is 10% more fuel efficient at a constant 55 mph than BMW's outgoing 4-cylinder powered K1300GT; its 50+ mpg figure at 55 mph helps it achieve a 300+ mile cruising range. Three electronically managed riding modes control throttle response on the fly: "Rain," "Road" and "Dynamic." An optional Dynamic Traction Control system gauges lean angle (like on the S1000RR) to limit wheelspin and wheelies. DTC can also be switched completely off, though that requires the bike to be at a standstill. Standard anti-lock brakes are linked front to rear, so applying the front brakes will trigger the rears while pressing the rear foot pedal will only operate the rear brake. An all-new aluminum frame weighs only 35 pounds (plus a magnesium front section and an aluminum rear section), and suspension consists of a Paralever rear setup with shaft drive and a Duolever arrangement up front. The electronically controlled suspension is available, and a standard dynamic leveling headlight can be upgraded to an optional adaptive setup which "sees" around corners, anticipating bends in the road. Heated grips and seats are standard, as is cruise control and a power-operated windshield. The GT and GTL models are differentiated by more than superficial trim tweaks. The GT (starting at $20,900) has a slightly sportier, forward-tilted riding posture and firmer two-piece saddle that's between 1.2 and 2 inches taller than the GTL's with a total height of either 31.9 or 32.7 inches, depending on the setting. The GTL, on the other hand, has lower footrests, handlebars that reach two inches further back, and a wider and more generously padded saddle that's 30.7 inches tall. Both can be ordered with low seats as no-cost options. The GTL has a bigger, more touring friendly windscreen, and a top case with an integrated backrest; for details on options packages, take a look at The Goods, Part II. 03 of 08 The Goods, Part II: Tons of Techy Trim Levels Photo © BMW Several equipment packages and quite a few high-tech features are available on the K1600, so let's take a closer look at the breakdown, and how much all those options will cost when the bike hits showrooms in spring, 2011. The base K 1600 GT starts at $20,900, and comes equipped with: Dynamic leveling Xenon headlightHeated seat and gripsCruise controlOn-board computer and multi-controllerABSPower adjustable windshieldLuggage rackWhite LED turn signalsThree-mode electronic throttle The Standard package, available only on the GT, boosts the price to $23,045 by adding: Electronic suspension adjustment II (ESA II)A safety package which includes an adaptive Xenon headlight, traction control, and a tire pressure monitor. The GT Premium version is priced at $24,540 and adds: An audio system with a tuner, Sirius satellite radio (with a complimentary 1-year subscription), an integrated iPod/USB audio system, and GPS prepA safety package that includes Xenon adaptive headlights, traction control, and a tire pressure monitor)A GT Luxury Package which includes electronic suspension, power central locking system, and anti-theft alarm The base K 1600 GTL is priced at $23,200 and features: A body-colored top case with an integrated backrest and third stop lightBluetoothAn audio system with a tuner, Sirius satellite radio (with a complimentary 1-year subscription), an integrated iPod/USB audio system, and GPS prepComfort windshield and footrestsChrome body kit The top-of-the-line K 1600 GTL Premium Package costs $25,845 and adds: A safety package, which includes Xenon adaptive headlights, traction control, and tire pressure monitorA GTL Luxury Package, which includes LED fog lights, electronic suspension, power central locking system, and an anti-theft alarm The K 1600 GT is available in light grey metallic and red metallic, while the K 1600 GTL is available in royal blue metallic and silver metallic. All prices exclude a $495 destination charge. 04 of 08 Swing a Leg Over: Complex Instrumentation, Simplified Photo © BMW Unlike the button-intensive cockpit of the Honda Gold Wing, the view from the BMW K1600's saddle reveals a rather simple layout, thanks in part to a ring on the inside edge of the left handgrip that serves as a multi-controller for many of the bike's functions. The system is navigated by rotating the ring to scroll through options, and clicking right (to "enter") and left (to "exit") the menu, which is displayed on a bright 5.7 inch TFT screen positioned between the analog speedometer and tachometer. Everything from stereo to electronic suspension can be adjusted using the multi-controller, while more traditional buttons handle drive mode, cruise control, turn signal, and power windscreen settings. When equipped with GPS, the BMW K1600 incorporates a Garmin zumo-based screen above the instrumentation. The 4.3-inch screen is waterproof and splash resistant against gasoline, and connects to the bike's electronics system in order to offer low fuel warnings and information on nearby gas stations. Your riding position will depend on which model you choose: the GT model feels a bit sportier and leans you forward slightly, with a flatter, less restrictive seat. Its shorter windscreen is cut with a "V" at the top for better visibility, and the handlebar is positioned farther from the seat. The long distance-friendly GTL model's cupped saddle is supportive and a tad snug, while its overall seating position enables a more upright posture. Both models result in slightly bent knees due to the footpeg positioning. The GTL's 29.5-inch seat height makes it a bit easier to manage compared to the GT, which positions its saddle at 31.9 inches; an optional 30.7-inch seat offers shorter-inseamed GT riders another way to gain confidence at stoplights. 05 of 08 On the Road: Swift, Smooth, and Surprisingly Agile Photo © Kevin Wing Despite the low center of gravity, the K 1600 GT's 703 lb. wet weight (or the GTL's 767 lb. mass) becomes apparent once you lift the bike off its side stand. The engine fires up with a hum, and revving the 1,649cc mill reveals virtually no perceptible buzz at the grips or the pegs. In fact, once you release the clutch lever and ease off the line, the transfer of power is so seamless it requires extra care not to twist too much throttle as you accelerate away, as the engine revs are almost imperceptibly silky. In "Road" and "Dynamic" modes, the engine is extra responsive, requiring lighter grip twists for forward motion. Get going, and the bike's perceived mass becomes quickly diminished. Turns at around 30 mph feel easily negotiated, and weaving through your lane at those speeds reveals a willingness to change direction that defies the bike's mass and 66.1-inch wheelbase. Clutch effort is light and the shifter moves through all six gears with positive feedback, yet doesn't feel clunky or heavy-- impressive, given the fact that the gearbox has to sustain 129 lb-ft of torque from the engine. But more notable than its transmission is the K1600's heroic six-cylinder engine, which pulls with deliciously smooth throttle response, strong authority, and almost imperceptible vibrations. Torque is abundant all the way up to the 8,500 rpm redline, and the exhaust note stays relatively subdued until midrange, where the engine kicks in with a deliciously sexy song that reveals its more feral undertow. This is a powerplant that will hum quietly along at pedestrian rpms, but change the character and transform into a wheel-lifting beast when provoked. A touring bike with electronic wheelie control? Absolutely. The K1600 is a paragon of civilized hooliganism, and speed freaks will appreciate that the traction control system can be disabled, allowing for one-wheeled action at will. Brakes are strong and ABS is relatively difficult to trigger, and while most stops were secure, one particularly hard braking incident made the chassis feel a bit unglued, due to the sudden change in momentum. Unlike most unwieldy touring bikes, the K1600 handles itself surprisingly well in turns. Though I scraped pegs a couple of times on tight roads, the K1600 GT (and GTL, which is tuned with a softer rear suspension) proved remarkably adept at dancing on asphalt. Both bikes turn-in easily and slice through turns confidently. Never did the bikes feel wallowy, and several times I literally forgot I was flanked by saddlebags. When summoned, the inline-6 produces enough thrust to keep pace with harder-edged sportbikes. While not a threat to aggressive literbikes like the S1000RR, the BMW K1600 is nonetheless much more akin to land missiles like the Kawasaki Concours 14 than traditional touring bikes like the Honda Gold Wing-- even when the 'Wing is ridden like a sportbike. A brief night ride reveals that the self-leveling headlights work well, as do the optional adaptive units which "see" around turns; too bad its impossible to see the handgrip-mounted buttons, as they're not backlit like the Gold Wing's. The K1600 achieves a remarkable balance of smooth riding performance thanks to its potent powerplant and nimble road manners. 06 of 08 Bottom Line: How Do You Say "Superlative" in German? Photo © Kevin Wing It seems natural to compare the BMW K1600 GT and GTL to the Honda Gold Wing; after all, both pack six-cylinder engines-- a rarity in the motorcycle world-- and both are built for long hauls. But their cylinder count is where the similarities end; the 886-pound Honda is intended for a different audience, and despite changes to the 2012 model year Gold Wing, this plus-sized bike is focused on all-day comfort, not all-around performance. Which takes us back to the Beemer. Where does the K1600 fit in the universe of bike types? Well, for starters it's certainly comfortable enough for all-day riding, as I experienced after 300+ miles aboard the GT and GTL models. The surprise, however, is how much fun it was to ride through twisty, hilly roads-- stretches of tarmac that would turn most heavyset bikes into useless, blubbering masses. Think of the K1600 as the unlikely athlete that's got the agility to run the 100-meter hurdles and the endurance to run a marathon. Both models are equipped with virtually every amenity you'd want in a bike, and amazingly, the GTL's base price of $23,200 is within a dollar of the 2012 Gold Wing, which maxes out at $28,499-- several thousand dollars more than a fully-equipped GTL's $25,845 MSRP. BMW's new K1600 is an unqualified winner and a relative bargain, to boot. Will the competition step up with similarly ambitious offerings? We can only hope so; until then, the K 1600 GT and GTL are the new benchmarks in the realm of all-powerful touring bikes. 07 of 08 Specifications, Who Should Buy the 2012 BMW K 1600 GT and GTL? Photo © BMW Specifications Price: K 1600 GT ($20,900); K 1600 GTL ($23,200)-- see The Goods, Part II for package infoEngine: 1,649cc inline 6-cylinderFuel requirement: Premium unleadedOutput: 160 bhp @ 7,750 rpm, 129 lb-ft @ 5,250 rpmTransmission: 6-speed with hydraulically actuated clutchFinal drive: Enclosed driveshaftFuel capacity: 7.0 gallons, including 1-gallon reserveFuel economy at 56 mph: 52 mpg (GT), 51 mpg (GTL)Fuel economy at 75 mph: 41 mpg (GT), 40 mpg (GTL)Chassis: Cast aluminum, bridge-typeFront suspension: BMW Duolever (4.9 inches travel)Rear suspension: BMW Paralever (5.3 inches travel)Front brakes: Dual-disc, four-piston, 12.6 inch with ABSRear brake: Single-disc, two-piston, 12.6 inch with ABS; linked front-to-rearSeat height: 31.9 - 32.7 inches (GT), 29.5 inches (GTL); lower seat heights available as no-cost extraCurb weight: 703 pounds (GT), 767 pounds (GTL)Maximum speed: 124 mph0-100 km/h (62 mph) acceleration: 3.2 seconds (GT), 3.4 seconds (GTL) Who Should Buy the 2012 BMW K 1600 GT and GTL? Performance-oriented riders looking for state-of-the-art motorcycles capable of traversing ultra long distances with ease. 08 of 08 Specifications, Who Should Buy the 2012 BMW K 1600 GT and GTL? Photo © BMW Specifications Price: K 1600 GT ($20,900); K 1600 GTL ($23,200)-- see The Goods, Part II for package info(Engine: 1,649cc inline 6-cylinderFuel requirement: Premium unleadedOutput: 160 bhp @ 7,750 rpm, 129 lb-ft @ 5,250 rpmTransmission: 6-speed with hydraulically actuated clutchFinal drive: Enclosed driveshaftFuel capacity: 7.0 gallons, including 1 gallon reserveFuel economy at 56 mph: 52 mpg (GT), 51 mpg (GTL) Fuel economy at 75 mph: 41 mpg (GT), 40 mpg (GTL)Chassis: Cast aluminum, bridge-typeFront suspension: BMW Duolever (4.9 inches travel)Rear suspension: BMW Paralever (5.3 inches travel)Front brakes: Dual-disc, four-piston, 12.6 inch with ABSRear brake: Single-disc, two-piston, 12.6 inch with ABS; linked front-to-rearSeat height: 31.9 - 32.7 inches (GT), 29.5 inches (GTL); lower seat heights available as no-cost extraCurb weight: 703 pounds (GT), 767 pounds (GTL)Maximum speed: 124 mph0-100 km/h (62 mph) acceleration: 3.2 seconds (GT), 3.4 seconds (GTL) Who Should Buy the 2012 BMW K 1600 GT and GTL Performance-oriented riders looking for state-of-the-art motorcycles capable of traversing ultra long distances with ease.