The mammoth, six-cylinder K 1600 GT is one of the best touring bikes
Leading European companies such as BMW Motorrad, Ducati and KTM are pulling back some lost ground, which means the two-wheeler market is in for some fun. At the forefront is the German major that has recently begun retailing its bikes in India via the CBU route. Amongst its numerous series of bikes under the G, F, R, K and S brands, the flagship product is easily the K 1600 GT super-tourer. This bike boasts of numbers that are rarely spoken of in the two-wheeler world. XXL in size, tipping the scales at 332kg and, brace yourself, a six-cylinder engine for power, this is one absurd bike in terms of its concept. We flew to Munich to get to grips with this massive Beemer in its home-turf.
The K 1600 GT occupies more than its fair share of road. Clever technology works adroitly behind the scenes, evident in how the tricky, adaptive Xenon headlight system works. Gyro sensors feel what the bike is doing and intelligently direct the middle headlight beam, which sits between a pair of dazzling white Xenon eyes, in the direction you need to look.
Dabbing on a button raises or lowers the wind deflector to isolate you from wind or rain. The rider can further tailor airflow by opening two flippers in the fairing to vent air straight at him, a boon when riding in torrid conditions common across India. Broad, fairing-mounted mirrors are simple to adjust, providing unshakeable rear view at all speeds.
There is remote central locking, and you can opt for satellite navigation as well as an audio system with your GT, including USB and radio connectivity, iPod and MP3 compatibility. Broad, clear-to-read instruments sit between four speakers, with twin circles giving you speed and a tachometer that goes red over 8500rpm. There's ample information to soak in on the colour Thin Film Transistor (TFT) display which includes the fuel reserves, gear indicator, odometer, trip gauges, clock, engine mapping modes and suspension adjustment icons.
The switches work with positive feel, high beam activated by clicking the flash button forward, away from the handlebar like in a car. These also activate cruise control, a hazard warning and engine kill, apart from the variety of riding mode options offered. There's also a novel, rotary wheel on the left, rotating in clicks to select menus, or pushing left and right to enter or exit a selection.
The BMW's 24-litre fuel tank offers nice inner thigh support and the K 1600 GT riding saddle gave me no reason to complain despite my spending long hours on it. The twin silencers are impressive with their six exit vents, as are this big Beemer's delectable alloy wheels. The K 1600 GT came with impressive quality panniers that effortlessly swallowed vast quantities of baggage, keeping everything safe and bone dry despite the harsh exterior conditions I encountered. These panniers also proved really simple to attach or detach from the bike — you can simply walk away carrying them as suitcases by their individual handles.
Sound German engineering, excellent overall quality, neat fit and finish and great materials all round are sure to do even the most discerning of K 1600 GT owners proud.
Let's shift focus to the most interesting part of the K 1600 GT. This becomes one of very few production motorcycles ever to use a six-pot powerplant. An engine width of 21.9 inches means this four valves per cylinder, liquid-cooled motor sits just marginally wider than a similar capacity, in-line four. This is achieved thanks to the undersquare cylinders being separated by no more than a whisker at 5mm, sitting tipped forward by 55deg, freeing up ample space for a stacked gear-train. And then the use of a dry sump to allow mounting the engine low all translate into making this the most compact six-cylinder engine BMW has ever pulled off. Fuel injection comes standard. The head and clutch covers are fashioned from lightweight magnesium alloy. You get ride-by-wire throttle control, and a selection between Rain, Road and Dynamic engine mapping modes. In addition, a shaft drive transfers power to the rear wheel, while traction control remains a paid option.
Throttle response is excellent, progressive for a bike making 160.4bhp at 7750rpm and smooth in every mode, with a sharp, perceptibly sharper edge when riding outside the ‘soft' rain mode. This is a really powerful bike with wads of torque available from low rpm, to a peak of 17.8kgm unleashed at 5250rpm.
The K 1600 GT clutch offers a well weighted, progressive feel at all times. Its gearbox shifts smoothly in the one-down, five-up pattern, with neutral easy to slot into. This is a flawless engine, in every sense. I've never ridden a better sounding, more rider-friendly motorcycle in the 150bhp-plus high performance league.
The nose is supported by a magnesium bracket that helps deliver light steering feel and quick turn-in, while hidden away under the fairing lies an aluminium alloy bridge-type spine. Suspension is BMW Motorrad's clever Duolever system with a single spring in front, the in-house Paralever shaft-drive arrangement holding fort at the rear. The front system works to deliver excellent, neutral steering feel, minimal dive under heavy braking and still delivers good road feedback for the rider to act on.
Rock-solid stability is a GT highlight, and the big cruiser supports you with stellar ride quality, apart from this being easily-tailored on the go. Electronic suspension adjustment gives you Sport, Normal and Comfort modes, apart from separate load settings that allow fine tuning when hauling a pillion or loaded panniers.
A fantastic engine, coupled with forgiving, predictable handling, makes the GT unrivalled as a really quick, long distance mile-muncher. The K 1600 GT isn't as heavy on fuel as one might expect and returned a consistent 20kpl over the days I spent riding it.
The K 1600 GT (Rs. 23.74, ex-showroom Mumbai), on sale now, is a bike that isn't made very often. It's by far the best touring bike one can have the pleasure of sitting in. If only BMW shows stronger commitment towards a market as important as India, and could somehow place a more earthly price-tag on this masterpiece.
Keywords: BMW K 1600 GT