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- Written by Carole Nash Editor
- Created: 09 March 2011
Kevin Ash took BMW’s K1600GT for a spin to find out if it really is worth nearly £15,000 of your hard-earned.
It’s been a long time since we’ve had a motorcycle with a specification as exciting as the new BMW K1600GT’s.
The headline feature of course is the engine, an all-new 1649cc power plant with six cylinders arranged in line across the bike, producing a muscular 158bhp and huge 129lb.ft of torque. But that’s only the beginning, the bike is packed with high technology and clever detailing, all aimed at making this and its new stablemate the K1600GTL the definitive choice for touring riders.
The GT is the more sporting option of the two, and comes with panniers but no topbox, a leaner fairing and firmer suspension, although both bikes’ engines an transmissions are the same, as well as the basic chassis and suspension components.
Being a modern BMW, there are plenty of electronics to play with, including three-way engine mapping which lets you choose between Rain, Road and Dynamic modes, with Rain cutting out the slug of mid-range torque, Road having a softer power delivery and Dynamic giving it a more aggressive throttle response.
You get heated seats and handlebar grips as standard, and a new-style full colour information display (similar technology to a mobile phones’), cruise control, an electrically operated windshield and have the option of a full sound system (at a breathtaking £1,050), central locking for the panniers and two lockable fairing pockets, and BMW’s very effective electrically adjustable suspension (ESA, a much better buy than the sound system at £750). Further options include traction control and most intriguingly, an adaptive headlight system which keeps the headlight beam level when the bike is leaning into corners, and even points it into the corner you’re going around.
A first for me is that the night ride planned on the South African launch of the bike had to be cancelled because of an excess of baboons on the roads, but I did try the headlight simulator and the improvement over standard headlights is like... well, night and day. It comes as standard on the K1600GT SE model and is well worth considering for the major improvement in visibility.
The heart of the bike though is its engine, and as you’d expect from a six, it’s silky smooth. It also sounds fabulous, snarling and rasping so seductively as the revs rise it’ll probably be cited as mitigation in speeding cases. The bike is very fast of course, but not intimidatingly so due to its substantial 703lb (319kg weight), and in fact at lower revs the engine’s thrust is a little disappointing. While it’s smooth enough to be trickled down to idle speed even in the higher gears, opening the throttle doesn’t have it surging forward as you might expect. The meat of the power only really kicks in at 4,000rpm, which means on loaded up touring trips in mountainous regions, riders will find themselves working the gearbox more than they might have expected. It will top out at 155mph though, enough for any rider, and still pulls harder than most of its rivals, including the STX1300 Pan European and Kawasaki’s 1400GTR.
A hint of vibration does get through to the rider, as likely coming from the transmission as the chocolate smooth engine itself, but the mirrors blur a little as you’re riding due to harshness from the road rather than the bike. Overall though the sensation is one of a hugely sophisticated machine that feels like it could cross a continent every day.
It’s very comfortable for example, with a gentle forward lean that spreads your weight intelligently between feet, backside and hands, while the screen fends off most of the windblast with very little fussy turbulence – adjust it with your thumb to balance noise and protection, and most riders will find a good compromise.
The ride quality is very good, as you’d hope from a heavy tourer, although when ESA is fitted, in Sport mode it’s too harsh, and I found I went more quickly and smoothly in the softer Normal setting. Comfort is best at lower speeds, but in all settings the bike’s stability is exceptional. Thanks to the unique-to-BMW front suspension there’s very little dive under braking and as a result the bike can stop with tyre-shredding ferocity, controlled throughout by its excellent ABS anti-lock system.
It’s a well balanced machine too, only really showing its mass when you’re manoeuvring it while parking or making tight U-turns. The rest of the time, even trickling along in heavy traffic at walking pace, it has a very natural, easy feel.
Economy is good considering the capacity and number of cylinders, with BMW claiming 49mpg at a steady 75mph, and judging by the onboard computer I was getting around 42mpg in mixed riding on the test. This would give it a range of 220 miles, which is enough for most riders.
Well, that’s if they can resist howling that motor up through its rev range. It’s a delicious aural backdrop to an imperious feeling motorcycle, and while you’re in charge of this imposing machine you can’t help feeling that £14,965 for the base model really isn’t too bad at all.
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|Model tested||BMW K1600GT SE|
|Engine||Inline 6-cylinder, liquid cooled, dohc 24v, 1649cc|
|Power||158bhp @ 7,750rpm|
|Torque||129lb.ft @ 5,250rpm|
|Tank/Range||5.3 gallon (24 litres)/ 220 miles|
|Transmission||Six gears, wet clutch, shaft final drive|
|Seat height||31.9-32.7in (810-830mm) (options down to 29.5in (750mm)|
|Rake/trail||n/a°/ 4.19in (106.4mm)|
|Weight||703lb (319kg) (90 per cent fuel, no panniers)|