BMW K1600GT and K1600GTL - First Look

BMW officially unveils its six-cylinder touring bikes at Intermot.


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BMW in Cologne dominates INTERMOT with what is by far the most fascinating new bike there: The new super tourer K1600GT and K1600GTL, both powered by an impressive 1649cc inline-Six. At EICMA 2009, BMW unveiled the superbly sleek Concept 6, built around that same engine, but the production model, in two variations, has more realistically evolved into a very functional Grand Touring bike, possibly the epitome of all super-touring bikes.

At first sight, the overall design of the new BMW K1600GT and K1600GTL appear inspired by the most popular of all BMW GT bikes, the long-established R1200RT, in particular in the profile of the fairing and adjustable windshield. The fairing is also shows a very accurate aerodynamic design aimed at offering maximum comfort and protection against weather hostility, while maintaining more than adequate aerodynamic efficiency.

The bike’s cross section is massive, but by all means not excessive for a transversely mounted Six, and the front view offers a good dose of sportiness. The K1600GT comes equipped with side bags and in its standard setting comes with the seat set at 31.9 inches above the ground, adjustable to 32.7 inches. The K1600GTL features a topcase, inclusive of seatback for the passenger, and the seat smartly set at 29.7 inches above the ground.

Through this metamorphosis from Concept 6 to K1600GT/GTL, only the engine has remained unchanged. The inline-Six canted forward 55 degrees and brilliantly compact in relation to the displacement. It could not be otherwise. Over the years, BMW has remained the last defender of the superiority of the inline-Six over the V-Six (okay, there is also Volvo, but it is largely outnumbered and far less prominent in terms of ultimate sophistication and performance). The reasons at the base of this very firm standing is the well-known fact that the inline-Six is perfectly balanced in both primary and secondary order, thus it is perfectly vibration free, which is not the case with any configuration of V-Six, except the 180-degree, boxer type. In 2006, at 343 hp, BMW’s 3.2-liter M3 could take on any Porsche 911 3.8-liter of the time, and that tells you all about the ability of the BMW technicians at turning its Sixes into engineering masterpieces.

First Look: BMW K1600GTL


BMW did it again in the case of the K1600GT/GTL unit, which tips the scale at 226.5 pounds and, most important, is only 21.9 inches wide, about 3.9 inches narrower than any previous inline-Six installed in a production bike. To achieve this quality—fundamental to obtain a proper-handling motorcycle—the 1.6-liter Six is only slightly oversquare at 72.0 x 67.5mm and the center-to-center bore spacing is only 77mm, which means that the meat between cylinder barrels is only 5mm thick. Actual displacement is 1649cc, with claimed output of 160 hp at 7750 rpm and peak torque of 129 ft.-lb. at 5250 rpm. BMW underlines that 70 percent of the peak torque value is available at just 1500 rpm. To help produce these numbers, compression is 12.2:1 and intake is a manifold featuring a single, 52mm throttle body and six long runners.

The engine is an engineering masterpiece in term of both design and execution. Its crankshaft only weighs 28.4 pounds and the rods are compact and light, measuring 4.9 inches center-to-center, for a 1.84:1 rod-to-stroke ratio, adequate to minimize the side thrust on the pistons. Each tubular camshaft weighs at least 2 pounds less than solid ones of the same size. The integrated engine management system includes throttle-by-wire with three actuation modes: Rain, Road and Dynamic.

The chassis remain largely inspired to the original Concept 6 in that its massive, aluminum spars are solidly interfaced with the engine to form an ultra-rigid structure. Front suspension is by BMW Duolever modified parallelogram unit, while rear suspension is by BMW single-sided Paralever. The K1600GT/GTL spans a generous 64.1-inch wheelbase and, thanks to the extensive use of magnesium castings in the construction of both engine and chassis components, it keeps its weight within limits that are more than acceptable for a bike of this size, power and comfort: The K1600GT has a 702.6-pound curb weight, while the K1600GTL’s is 766.5 pounds. Remarkably, 52 percent of the static weight is biased to the front.

Safety appears to be a primary issue in the whole project that features a Brembo braking system based on three 320mm rotors teamed to a semi-integral ABS system, traction control, ESA II electronic suspension adjustment. Not all comes as standard equipment, and among the optional, the new Adaptive Light Control is a major step in the sense of safety in nighttime riding. These are xenon type headlights that modify their beam in response to the bike attitude in order to ensure maximum visibility and road awareness. It was about time. In U.S. and Canada, the K1600GT/GTL will be offered with optional satellite radio. U.S. pricing was not announced, but expect it, of course, to top BMW’s range.

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015 The BMW Concept 6 shown last year at Milan was the debut of BMW?s new inline-Six powerplant.

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