From the first ride CW got on the K1600GTL at the South African press introduction to the exclusive first testbike we received in the U.S. to the last few feet we rode the bike while loading it on BMW’s truck after more than 10,000 miles, we were amazed at the ease, security, comfort and speed with which this luxury (sport) tourer conducted itself. Or is that the way we conducted it and how it never complained?
Whatever the case, we liked the bike more and more as the miles piled on.
“I have had one since September and traded in a 2008 H-D Road Glide. The K1600GTL is an amazing machine. Everyone uses the words “smooth, powerful, responsive, quiet” to describe this motorcycle. Though they are accurate descriptors, they fail to encompass how enjoyable and effortless this machine is to ride. It has been an entirely different, amazing riding experience for me and I’m never settling for less.”—Christopher Clapp
Morgantown, North Carolina
The 1649cc inline-Six is incredibly smooth, powerful and completely flexible, yet it averaged a respectable 38 mpg despite repeated thrashings. We never wanted for power or refinement. The chassis, too, offered flexibility, comfort and performance unmatched in the touring category.
Our Premium-package machine included most of the desired amenities standard (heated grips/seat, Adaptive Headlight, Bluetooth, stereo, ESA II push-button-adjustable suspension and more), but we did add a few things.
BMW accessory Akrapovic slip-on silencers sounded better than stock (without being too loud at cruise) and were quite a bit lighter. But the $2615 asking price is steep, especially considering the net gains of only 3 horsepower and 2 foot-pounds of torque.
The BMW Navigator IV GPS by Garmin ($800) was next. It’s an excellent unit that integrates nicely into the dash and can be controlled by touchscreen or the multifunction wheel on the left handgrip.
Finally, we had to do something about the 24-inch-tall stock windscreen because there were virtually no positive comments in the logbook. Problems? With screen fully lowered on its electric adjuster, the top edge cuts the rider’s natural line of sight, regardless of his height, and buffeting was also a common complaint. Raised three-quarters of max was the sweetest spot for airflow, but most testers didn’t like looking through the screen on winding roads. To remedy this, we ordered a Cee Bailey’s Aircraft Plastics 22-inch-tall replacement ($210) that features a different top-edge shape and overall contour. Results were great for rider and passenger: no line-of-sight issues when lowered and less buffeting all around, but still plenty of protection when fully raised.
FROM THE LOGBOOK
Don Canet: This well-broken-in GTL shifts a bit smoother than the new GT testbike I’d recently ridden. On a backroad trek to Laguna Seca with my 10-year-old son Cameron, I found it easy to ride smoothly (particularly in Road power mode, although we used Dynamic on the sporty sections of the route) and never had an issue butting helmets with Cam.
Mark Hoyer: ESA II suspension is the best touring luxury I’ve tried. Take my stereo, my Bluetooth, my heated seat (not my grips!), but don’t take my electronically adjustable suspension. Two-up to Palm Springs? Load up, spin the iDrive-like control wheel to make your selections and, bam!, chassis attitude is perfect. While the Comfort setting is bit light on damping, Normal and Sport are ideal.
Matthew Miles: Power and handling are incredible, particularly for a motorcycle of this size and weight. But what’s won me over on dark nights when I’m bombing home on the 405 are the apex-targeting xenon headlights. Conventional lights won’t cut it for me anymore.
In the consumables department: The engine never required oil between 6000-mile changes, and we replaced the rear brake pads ($93.82) at 5468 miles. We’d done lots of fast, two-up/loaded riding and relied heavily on the rear brake, accelerating wear. The bike left us with the original front pads in place.
We burned up two sets of OE-fitment Metzeler Z8s ($467). Rears were toast at about 5000 miles, but we pushed the fronts well past 6K. Steering was neutral (getting less so as mileage rose) and grip was very good. The tires fitted last were Dunlop Roadsmart IIs ($514). Steering was slightly heavier at slower speeds but cornering grip at deep lean was improved; the RS IIs also offered more feel and confidence when we were pushing hard. Wear seemed to be at least on par with the Z8s, but we didn’t get to finish off the Dunlops before BMW repo’d the bike.
“I bought my K16 in March last year and rode 8000 miles by October. Amazing bike. Rode 4000 miles on one trip from northeastern Pennsylvania to Sturgis, South Dakota, in July. Nine to 12 hours on the road a day during the hottest week of the year. It was 104 degrees riding through Ohio! Great comfort and amenities but rides like a sportbike. ABS and handling is soooo good, I sold my Triumph Tiger 1050 and Yamaha VMax! Highly recommended. Worth the price of admission.”—Vince Kelly
Submitted via Facebook
Niggles? The crooked factory GPS mount. We dug in behind the fairing to try to straighten the pop-up unit but had no luck. Kind of annoying, particularly on an expensive bike. Also, one of the chrome strips on the saddlebags began to peel off in the first few thousand miles. It was fixed under warranty.
We finished at 10,815 miles, and it would have been more if BMW hadn’t sent its agents to pry the bike out of our heated-grip-warm hands. The K1600GTL isn’t just one of the great touring motorcycles ever made, it’s one of the greatest motorcycles of all time.
Price as tested (2012): $25,845 Current Blue Book value (not inc. options): $23,280 Warranty: 3 yr./36,000 mi. Engine: liquid-cooled, four-stroke inline-Six Bore & Stroke: 72.0 x 67.5mm Displacement: 1649cc Valvetrain: dohc, four valves per cylinder, shim adjustment Fuel injection: Single 52mm throttle body Weight: Tank empty 753 lb. Weight: Tank full 797 lb. Fuel capacity: 7.0 gal. Wheelbase: 63.8 in. Total miles: 10,815 Miles since last report: 4938 Average fuel mileage: 38 mpg Repair costs: $0 Maintenance costs (incl. tires): $1614.71