BMW Scooter First Ride: 2013 BMW C650GT

BMW steps up its game with this "Urban Mobility Vehicle."

BMW C650GT - action 3/4 view

2013 BMW C650GT - action 3/4 view

Los Angeles provided a picture-perfect backdrop to introduce the 2013 C650GT and C600 Sport, two BMW scooters we've been itching to take for a spin.

“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 C650GT - left-side view

2013 BMW C650GT - left-side view

The BMW 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 c_g_. 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 adjustable windscreen.

Base MSRP for the BMW 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.”

BMW C650GT - action right-side view

2013 BMW C650GT - action right-side view

BMW C650GT - action left-side view

2013 BMW C650GT - action left-side view

BMW C650GT - action 3/4 view

2013 BMW C650GT - action 3/4 view

BMW C650GT - left-side view

2013 BMW C650GT - left-side view

BMW C650GT - front wheel

2013 BMW C650GT - front wheel

BMW C650GT - headlight

2013 BMW C650GT - headlight

BMW C650GT - instrument panel

2013 BMW C650GT - instrument panel

BMW C650GT - floor panel

2013 BMW C650GT - floor panel

BMW C650GT - swing arm/rear wheel

2013 BMW C650GT - swing arm/rear wheel

BMW C650GT - exhaust

2013 BMW C650GT - exhaust

BMW C650GT - rear storage

2013 BMW C650GT - rear storage

2013 BMW C650GT - press launch introduction

2013 BMW C650GT - press launch introduction

2013 BMW C650GT - press launch at Fairmont Miramar Hotel

2013 BMW C650GT - press launch at Fairmont Miramar Hotel

2013 BMW C650GT - press launch maxi-scooters

2013 BMW C650GT - press launch maxi-scooters