Los Angeles provided a picture-perfect backdrop for BMW to introduce its 2013 C650GT and C600 Sport
“Urban Mobility Vehicles” to the U.S. media. Not only does the sprawling Southland with its 12-million-
plus inhabitants qualify as a “megacity,” California is the only state in the union that allows lane-splitting. Plus, the weather at the oceanfront Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica—launch point for December’s press event—was ideal, with a nearly cloudless sky and temperatures in the mid-60s. Who wouldn’t want to take a spin along the coast on a fancy German twist-and-go?
Already a hit overseas, these twin-cylinder maxi-scooters are a “grand experiment” stateside, says Hans
Blesse, VP BMW Motorrad USA. “Scooters are very practical animals. They live outside, they don’t get
washed or a lot of love. They’re utility vehicles. So, the target audience is different than motorcycles.”
In fact, early adopters are expected to be BMW automobile owners. “They know us, they love us and they’ll buy the newest BMW,” says Blesse. “We have over three million car customers in our database in the U.S. If one percent of them bought a scooter, we’d be done.”
BMW mapped out a diverse route that traveled south along Ocean Avenue, onto the classic wooden decking
of Santa Monica Pier, then to Venice and its maze of canals. From there, we hit the highway—Pacific Coast
Highway. A few slurs and at least one aggressively deployed middle finger suggested that not all four-wheel operators appreciated our steady between-vehicle progress while they sat motionless eating each others’ exhaust fumes.
BMW says the C650GT is heavier and longer than an R1200RT, but you’d never know it from the wide,
deeply padded saddle. Twist the throttle and revs climb quickly, hanging at 6000 rpm between 30 and 70
mph. The claimed-60-horsepower, Kymco-built, 647cc engine is mounted low in the hybrid tubular steel/
die-cast aluminum frame for a shin-level cg. Low-speed stability is faultless, and a push on the handlebar snaps the K-bike lookalike (sort of) onto the edges of its 15-inch radial rubber. You’ll be knocking on an indicated 90 mph before vibration begins to seep through the full-length floorboards. Top speed is said to be 109 mph.
Handling got a workout in the canyons of the nearby Santa Monica Mountains. While the GT’s suspension
is not as sophisticated as that of BMW’s top-of-the-line, ESA-equipped sport-tourers, it’s sophisticated
enough to set a pace that would leave other currently available-in-the-U.S. maxi-scooters in its wake. On
zigzagging Mulholland Highway, one journalist even zapped a Ducati 1199.
We were able to ride away from the event on a 650GT, and heavy rains in the days following the launch
highlighted the outstanding protection offered by the full-coverage bodywork and large, electrically
Base MSRP for the C650GT is $9990, which includes a multi-function display with an on-board computer,
a centerstand, sidestand with an automatic parking-brake actuator, power socket and non-linked, triple-disc ABS. According to BMW, the initial run (and most thereafter) of GTs will come with the $605 Highline
Package, which includes heated grips and seat, and a tire-pressure monitor, bumping price to $10,595.
Anyone who welcomes ease of mobility—easy to ride, easy to get through traffic, loads of underseat
storage—will appreciate what BMW is attempting to do with these UMVs. “For me,” says Blesse, “the
foremost message is this: The scooter puts time back in your life.”