2012 BMW K 1600 GT & GTL | Intro

2012 BMW K1600

Seemingly directly on the heels of transforming the sportbike category with their stellar S 1000 RR this past year, BMW has its sights set firmly on revamping the sport touring and luxury touring segments of motorcycling.

North American journalists got their first view Stateside of the much anticipated 6-cylinder 2011 BMW K 1600 GTL the other night at Jay Leno’s garage.

The new motorcycle (which will be produced as the GT and the GTL) is emboldened with a 1649cc inline 6-cylinder engine that is transversally mounted in a beefy, sportbike-inspired perimeter chassis.

The Motorrad (motorcycle) division put BMW’s extensive history of engineering and developing in-line 6-cylinder automobile engines to good use. BMW engineers felt a 6-cylinder platform would provide incredible torque, gorgeous sound (especially at high revs) and, perhaps most importantly, silky smooth delivery.

This theory is reinforced in the BMW K 1600 with an exemplary 160 horsepower (at 7750 rpm) with a maximum torque rating of 129 ft/lbs (at 5250 rpm)-of which 70% is available at an astonishing 1,500 rpm. Adding credence to these performance-oriented stats is a compression ratio of 12.2:1.

Surprisingly, due the efficiency of the 6-cylinder configuration, the K 1600 claims better miles per gallon (MPG) than the K 1300 GT.

BMW is careful not to label the GTL as a luxury-touring motorcycle, preferring to coin the term “top tourer,” which is intended-quite rightly-to conjure a sportier persona. A great deal of work went into ensuring the new K bikes would ultimately be fun to ride, which was targeted by going to great lengths to save weight and keep the bike slim.

The new BMW engine is a little less than 22″ wide, making it comparable to most in-line fours. This was achieved with a separation of just 5mm between cylinder sleeves (0.197th of an inch).

The limitations of metals technology would have made this unthinkable twenty years ago. The entire engine, with gearbox, clutch and alternator, weights just 226 pounds. These statistics point toward a highly maneuverable and agile large capacity motorcycle that promises to behave more like a sportbike than a distance bike.

BMW is working to distinguish the two motorbikes, preferring to market the K 1600 GT as more of sporting experience, with emphasis on a single rider (although it will handle a passenger quite sufficiently).

The GT is designed to cover a lot of distance in a short amount of time. The GTL fills the role as a more appealing choice for two-up riding, promising to deliver superior comfort while remaining relatively sporty.

The new K bikes possess ride-by-wire throttle valve operation with a 3-way ride mode for power delivery (rain – road – dynamic) as well Dynamic Traction Control. Design cues are new school BMW, with a fairly aggressive wedged fairing and side cut-aways that reveal the engine in a bold stroke of masculinity.

A big item is the industry first Adaptive Headlight, which utilizes an auto leveling mechanism that maintains a constant field of light on a level horizon despite lean angle or pitch due to braking and accelerating. Aside from the new 6-cylinder powerplant, this is what I’m most interested to test.

The BMW K 1600 GT and GTL will be available late Spring of 2011 as 2012 models. Pricing as of press time was listed merely as TBD.

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One of the few moto journalists based on the East Coast, Ron Lieback joined the motorcycle industry as a freelancer in 2007 and is currently Editor at Large at Ultimate Motorcycling. He is also the author of 365 to Vision: Modern Writer's Guide (How to Produce More Quality Writing in Less Time).