2014 BMW K1600GTL Exclusive - First Ride

BMW ups the luxury quotient of its remarkably capable big tourer.

2014 BMW K1600GTL Exclusive on-road action shot

Regular Cycle World readers know we love the BMW K1600GTL, the six-cylinder Bavarian that snagged Ten Best awards as our Best Touring Bike in 2011, 2012, and 2013. What's not to like? This bike, based on an aluminum frame with a magnesium front structure, is sophistication on wheels, a long-distance traveler that's equally at home gobbling up superslab or attacking twisty bits with a composure that's almost unreal for a nearly 800-lb. machine.

Now, for 2014, BMW has upped the luxury quotient with the new K1600GTL Exclusive, which, at $29,950, costs three grand more than the standard GTL. What’s that extra money get you?

A fair amount. The Exclusive is essentially a GTL equipped with the Premium Package, plus a host of other new hardware (and software), all considered standard equipment. Put simply, BMW says the Exclusive, which is built with the US market in mind, has "the most comprehensive equipment level ever on a BMW motorcycle."

2014 BMW K1600GTL Exclusive static side view

No argument here. Visually, that begins with four coats of Mineral White paint from BMW’s car operation, plus sidecases, topcase, and rear part of the front wheel cover all done in a matte magnesium color (these parts are black on a standard GTL). The radiator cowl is painted metallic silver, and the fuel tank boasts a brushed aluminum center cover along with a locking keyless cap. Chrome is also used all over the place—on the mirror bezels, speaker trim, handlebar ends, reservoir covers, engine protection bar, even on the exhaust headers, heat shield, and silencer.

Also notable is the Exclusive’s new rear seat. It’s wider and longer than the standard GTL’s, and it’s fitted with a more comfortable backrest that extends all the way down to the lower part of the topcase. Better yet, the upper backrest is now heated, and fold-down armrests, an accessory on the standard GTL, are standard equipment on the Exclusive.

There are also a few of what BMW calls “industry firsts.” Two of these—a radio antenna integrated into the top case, and backlit analog gauges that are easy to read in direct sunlight—certainly have their value, but the Hill Start Control is a true rider aid. When stopped on an uphill grade, the 793-lb. Exclusive (that’s claimed wet weight, with a full tank of fuel) naturally likes to roll backward. But with a firm pull (and release) of the handbrake lever, the rear brake engages to keep the big BMW from rolling back. Then, just as you put the bike in gear and release the clutch, the brake automatically releases and you’re on your way. HSC, which has an indicator light on the dash, works well, but BMW stresses that it should not be confused with a parking brake.

2014 BMW K1600GTL Exclusive adaptive xenon headlight

Other new hardware exclusive to the 2014 BMW K1600GTL Exclusive includes an adaptive xenon headlight (with a halogen high beam) and LED daytime running lights. Hardware derived from the K1600GTL option list includes engine protection bars, liners for the panniers and top case, plus central locking (with alarm), and ESA II electronic suspension adjustment.

On a long-distance ride from Southern California to Monterey and back, I got a good taste of the Exclusive, enough to confirm all the plaudits that my colleagues at Cycle World have slung at the GTL these past few years. The electrically adjustable windscreen creates a beautifully quiet, buffet-free cockpit, and the 1649cc inline-6, canted forward 55 degrees and weighing only 226 lb. (replete with clutch, gearbox, and alternator), is a gem. It revs like a sportbike motor, it boasts excellent fueling (even while trundling around in parking lots), and from 6,000 rpm up to the 8,500-rpm redline, this oversquare dry-sump powerplant wails like a Porsche GT3. You'll want to do this time and time again. Lastly, this big BMW relishes curvy pavement, hiding its substantial heft once rolling and beautifully carving the sweeping turns of, say, Carmel Valley Road. All the while, the brakes, with four-piston calipers acting upon twin 320mm front discs, haul the bike down with quickness and composure.

Any flies in this luxurious BMW’s ointment? A couple. At 6-foot-4, I’m a bit cramped on the Exclusive. The stock seat height is a low 30.7 inches, to help the bike accommodate shorter riders, but my legs were simply a little too bent for lasting long-distance comfort. Making matters worse, the saddle does not allow any fore or aft adjustment of your seating position, which would help a lot on a long trip. A taller seat, with a height of 32.0 inches, is available, and I’m eager to give it a try.

2014 BMW K1600GTL Exclusive side view action photo

Also, although we are huge fans of this narrow, 21.9-in.-wide engine—which we’d love to see mounted in some experimental Mini Cooper—the act of taking off from a standstill on the K1600GTL Exclusive is not a dignified dump the clutch and go proposition. Rather, because this smooth six-cylinder mill revs so snappily, so ferociously quickly, you have to be hyper careful with the throttle to not overrev the engine when you’re modulating the clutch. That stated, we can’t forget that the K1600GTL has been designed as a sporty tourer, and a heavier flywheel feel might detract from the deliciously crisp throttle response that so many of us praise.

As for my experience with the BMW K1600GTL Exclusive, it was a ride to remember. Although I didn't put the back seat to use, Road Test Editor Don Canet reports that his girlfriend found it very comfortable on their recent trip to Las Vegas. In my 600 miles of riding, much of it on highway at speeds ranging from 50 to 70 mph, the bike averaged about 50 mpg. I also appreciated the narrow feel of the bike, while occasionally listening to Sirius satellite radio (a one-year subscription comes with the bike) and toggling among the Rain, Road, and Dynamic Riding modes. For me, Road felt just fine, although one man told me he switches to Rain mode whenever he rides two-up to improve his smoothness. Lastly, with the Exclusive's keyless ignition, you just keep the key in your pocket, press the ignition button, and start the bike with a press of a button. It's simple, it's carlike, and after a long day in the saddle, I was glad to stand but not exhausted, a testament to the sophistication and good design of this long-distance BMW. At $29,950, the K1600GTL Exclusive is by no means inexpensive, but it's a rare machine, a drippingly opulent luxury hauler with the manners of a sportbike.

SPECIFICATIONS
|2014 BMW K1600GTL Exclusive
PRICE|$29,950
ENGINE TYPE|1649cc liquid-cooled dohc inline-6, 24 valves
BORE & STROKE|72.0mm x 67.5mm
COMPRESSION RATIO|12.2:1
FUEL DELIVERY|EFI
TRANSMISSION|Six-speed
FINAL DRIVE|Shaft
FRONT SUSPENSION|BMW Duolever, 4.9 in. of travel
REAR SUSPENSION|BMW Paralever, 5.3 in. of travel
FRONT BRAKE|Dual 320mm discs, four-piston calipers
REAR BRAKE|320mm disc, dual-piston caliper
FRONT TIRE|120/70ZR-17
REAR TIRE|190/55ZR-17
LENGTH|98.0 in.
WIDTH|39.4 in. (across mirrors)
HEIGHT|57.7 in.
SEAT HEIGHT|30.7 in.
WHEELBASE|63.7 in.
RAKE|62.2°
PAYLOAD|432 lb.
FUEL CAPACITY|7.0 gal.
CLAIMED FUEL ECONOMY|43 mpg
CLAIMED RANGE|Over 300 miles
CLAIMED WET WEIGHT|793 lb.
COLORS|Mineral White

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Static front 3/4 right-side view.

Static front 3/4 left-side view.

Front wheel.

Headlight.

Left-grip controls.

Instrument panel.

Name badge.

Engine (right-side view).

Exhaust muffler.

Seats.

Passenger seat.

Side bag.