2012 BMW K 1600 GTL | Review

2012 K1600GTL

BMW Motorrad seems intent on obscuring their heritage, eager to blast the moniker of “slipper brigade” right out of the water. First they shock the world with a superbike. Now they’re challenging the established boundaries of what constitutes Luxury Touring with their stellar K 1600 GTL.

Officially a 2012 model (appropriately coinciding with the end of the Mayan calendar) the GTL is a completely fresh motorcycle born from a clean sheet in the engineering department of BMW. Like a Hollywood blockbuster there have been a series of leaks and presentations helped along by rumors and speculation, which have building for over a year; primarily that BMW was releasing an in-line 6-cylnder engine.

I had the opportunity to hear the engine last year in Germany. What a tease. The syncopation of six pistons lending their voice to a celestial chorus of combustion was almost criminal.

Well, I can now say I have ridden the K 1600 GTL. Few motorcycles can justify the 36 hours of one-way transit it takes to get to South Africa (what with connecting flights, lay-overs, taxi rides, etc.). Suffice it to say, it was worth it.

First things first; the 1649cc 6-cylinder engine is sublime. Theories of an in-line 6-cylinder providing the smoothest possible delivery of performance was driven home within a few miles of the start point of the ride. The BMW K 1600 produces 160 horsepower at 7,750 rpm.

The GTL produces so much torque (129 ft/lbs at 5250 rpm, 70% of which is available at a mere 1500 rpm) I found myself short-shifting, assuming the enormous pull meant I was closer to the sweet spot that I realized. When I looked at the tach I realized I was lumbering the thing at 4 grand.

Naturally I had to see what the engine was capable of so I nicked it down a gear and rolled it on. Holy c#@%! The engine builds power and speed with such smoothness of operation it makes the rider question the reliability of the speedo.

The power delivery is augmented by a ride-by-wire throttle valve, a 3-way ride mode (rain – road – dynamic), Electronic Suspension Adjustment (ESA) providing Comfort – Normal – Sport settings (available on the fly) and Dynamic Traction Control.

The wizardry is all provided via a left-hand grip ring controller allowing all this toying around without having to take your hand form the bars. The 6-speed transmission is absolutely seamless (none of the clunk to second gear the K 1300 was haunted by).

All of this exemplary performance has not been mistakenly misplaced in some bloated luxury tourer. A sportbike-inspired chassis (think S 1000 RR) renders a remarkably agile nature with the GTL. The claimed weight of 767 pounds wet (90% fuel capacity) is highly deceptive, with any inclination of a lumbering ride quickly assuaged with the first turn-in on a sharp corner.

There was a time that a sport touring motorcycle (let alone a luxury sport touring motorcycle) had me cringe with notions of slow handling. Not the case here. In fact the GTL, in the right hands, will easily cling to the rear fender of many sport riders on far less comfortable mounts.

Remarkably, the GTL allows a severe amount of trail braking deep into corners, with absolutely no tendency to want to stand up. This results in somewhat aggressive attacking of canyon roads. Combine the GTL’s superlative handling traits with the delicious scream of the 6-cylinder powerplant and you have the essential ingredients for a visceral aphrodisiac cocktail.

Credit has to be given to the engineers who managed to press six pistons into a plant that is just 22-inches wide, making it comparable to a 1000cc in-line 4-cylinder. The engine cases taper back to provide a very narrow mid-point (the juncture where the rider’s hips and legs rest, allowing clear paths to the ground for confidence and flat-footed stability at stops).

A market first, the GTL (and GT) will go down in history as the first motorcycles with an optional Adaptive Headlight. A complex arrangement of gyros and moveable mirrors provides a constant horizontal field of illumination on the road ahead despite lean angle.

Add to this stellar package the usual BMW accoutrements such as linked ABS, cruise control, heated grips and seat, then add the most advanced audio and communications system on two-wheels (including Bluetooth wireless and Sirius satellite, integrated for iPod, USB stick and pre-wired fro Navigator 4 GPS) and you have a virtual launch pad for collecting a lifetime of two-wheel travel adventures.

Truth be told, the 2012 BMW K 1600 GTL is so impressive in terms of ride-ability, it threatens to undo the staid and conservative perception of Luxury Touring altogether.

Available Spring 2011 as a 2012 model in royal blue metallic and mineral silver metallic, priced at $23,200 (Premium Package $25,845).

2012 BMW K 1600 GTL | Motorcycle Specs

  • Engine: 1649cc, 6-cylinders, 4 valves per cylinder
  • Bore/stroke: 72/67.5mm
  • Output: 118/160.5 kW/bhp
  • Torque: 175 Nm
  • Compression/fuel: 12.2:1 / premium unleaded (95 RON)
  • Carburetion: BMS-X
  • Headlamp: xenon low beam, halogen high beam
  • Clutch: multiplate wet clutch, hydraulically activated
  • Gearbox: constant-mesh 6-speed gearbox, helical-toothed
  • Frame construction: chill-cast, aluminum, extruded sections
  • Wheel control (front): wheel dual longitudinal control arm
  • Wheel control (rear): Paralever (single-sided swing arm), central spring strut, rebound/continuously variable
  • Brakes (front): two-rotor disc brake, Ø 320 mm, radial 4-piston fixed caliper
  • Brakes (rear): single-disc brake Ø 320 mm, 2-piston fixed caliper
  • BMW Motorrad ABS (partial integral)
  • Wheels: aluminum: cast wheels – front 3.50 x 17″, rear 6.00 x 17″
  • Tires: front – 120/70 ZR 17, rear 190/55 ZR 17
  • Total length: 2489mm
  • Seat height (without rider): 750-830mm
  • Unladen weight, incl. 90% fuel: 319kg (without pannier), 348kg (incl. pannier, topcase)
  • Permitted total weight: 560kg
  • Fuel tank capacity: 26.5 liters