Motorcycle Racing News 2012 BMW K1600GT / GTL Comparison

2012 BMW K1600GT / GTL Comparison

BMW Touring Motorcycles

Last month I went to South Africa to ride BMW’s all-new, and much anticipated K 1600 GT and GTL 6-cylinder machines (the review for the GTL, the luxury version of the new touring machines, can be found here).

This particular review focuses on the basic difference between the GT and the GTL. Although the two bikes share a chassis and motor, they are significantly different when it comes to persona. This is attributable to the rather simple ergonomic differences of handlebar and footpeg placement.

The basics of what the K 1600 (GT and GTL) possess has been thoroughly covered in several write-ups here on For those that haven’t seen them or need refreshing, here’s a re-cap of the basic workings and figures:

The bikes are seated with the world’s lightest and most compact six-cylinder engine in a production motorcycle. Transversely mounted, the 1649cc in-line 6-cylinder engine is comparable in size to a 1000cc 4-cylinder plant. The engine produces 160 horsepower at 7,750 rpm with a maximum torque output of 129 ft/lbs at 5,250 rpm (of which 70% is available at just 1,500 rpm).

Equipped (optional) with the world’s first Xenon adaptive headlight, the system utilizes an auto-leveling mechanism to maintain a constant field of illumination on the road despite lean angle.

The BMWs also feature ride-by-wire throttle valve operation with a 3-way ride mode for power delivery (rain – road – dynamic) as well Dynamic Traction Control and Integral ABS.

The most advanced audio and communications system on a motorcycle are featured on the BMW touring machines: Bluetooth wireless and Sirius satellite, integrated for iPod, USB stick, and pre-wired for Navigator 4 GPS. A left-hand grip controller allows operation and adjustment of settings without the rider having to remove their hand from the handlebar.

The rear top box on the GTL notwithstanding, the GT and GTL are pretty much identical save for a slight difference in handlebar and peg placement. On paper I didn’t think the difference in measurements between the two bikes would constitute such a dynamic change in character.

But it does. Dramatically. Just 2-inches of forward sweep on the handlebars of the GT, combined with a 2-inch, 45-degree upward rearward movement of the pegs, creates a radically different riding position.

The engineers write it up as “proactive riding position” in the press materials, but in actuality the GT’s forward handlebar and rearward pegs renders a very sporty perch atop what is, ostensibly, a somewhat large touring motorcycle.

What is achieved with this seemingly minute difference in the triangle of ergonomics; seat, pegs, handlebar, is a profound transformation. The GTL-a relatively luxurious, albeit surprisingly sporty long-distance touring machine-blossoms into a surprisingly aggressive sport tourer in the GT version.

And although the weight difference is very slight, the more upright seating position of the GT provides a confidence for the rider that mentally sheds the pounds-especially when navigating extremely slow traffic and lane-splitting scenarios.

For this reason, the GT makes better tracking sense of its sportbike-inspired chassis. The bike’s responsiveness, in both terms of engine and chassis, will have experienced riders trail braking deep into corners and finding rewarding lean angles.

All in all, BMW engineers have managed to produce two distinct motorcycles out of the base package of the K 1600. This is not to say the GT gives up much in the way of long distance comfort, it doesn’t.

Here is a machine that seems intent on covering large distances in short amounts of time. However, any of the wiggly blue and red lines on the map branching off the Interstate are all fair game for the K 1600 GT, should the desire strike to get in some spirited riding.

Don’t let the small measurements fool you. Those precious few millimeters in the pegs and the bars prove themselves out to be wildly transformational in the attitude of the GT and GTL. If at all possible, if you’re looking at the GT, you may want to demo a GTL, and vice-versa. Chances are you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the options this opens up for your choice.

Presented as a 2012 model the BMW K 1600 GT (available in light gray metallic and vermilion red metallic) retails for $20,900 (Premium Package $24,540).

Ron Lieback
Ron Lieback
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 Online Editor at Ultimate Motorcycling.

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