Our Review of the BMW K1600GTL

The BMW K1600GTL is the queen among BMW Motorrad touring motorcycles.

Big and relatively heavy (but much lighter than any other bike of the same class, the K1600 is available in two different versions: K1600GT and K1600GTL. Both versions have identical mechanics and bodywork; the GTL differs from the GT only in the following details:

  • top speed electronically limited to 220 km/h (137 mph) instead of 250 km/h (155 mph)
  • larger windshield
  • higher, set back handlebar
  • lower, one-piece seat
  • larger pegs, placed more forward
  • softer suspensions
  • top box as standard with integrated passenger backrest
  • colors

The operation proved quite clever, as these few changes are enough to give the two versions a quite different character. Actually, the K1600GT is more on the sporty side and was born as a replacement for the K1300GT, while the K1600GTL is more comfortable and clearly addressed to the customers of the K1200LT and of the Honda Gold Wing.

Riding position

The rider’s position on the K1600GTL is much more touristy than on the K1600GT and is similar to that of the old K1200LT and Gold Wing. The saddle, broader and more comfortable, is set to 75 cm (29,5 in). The footrests are larger than those installed on the GT and set more forward on the bike. The handlebar is extended farther backwards. In a few words, it is like on a scooter, and, compared to the GT, you gain a lot from regarding control of the bike at standstill, without loosing much in sensitivity while riding.

The large mirrors are mounted on suitably broad arms protruding from the fairing. Since they are set high and wide, they do not interfere with the mirrors of cars and allow a wide and stable rear view in all conditions.

Passenger

On the K1600GTL he passenger sits higher than the pilot, on a wide saddle and with enough room for legs, and has two large handles. This results in a very convenient location and an excellent view. The saddle is equipped with heating independent from that of the pilot and operable with a control on the left. The passenger enjoys a wide backrest embedded in the top box.

Load capacity

The declared capacity for the top box is 49 liters, while the side cases are unofficially 33 liters each. They are sturdy and easy to use, both in opening/closing as well as in mounting/unmounting. The exception is the top case, which is not designed for quick release and so it is a bit more cumbersome to remove. The ignition key obviously opens all the cases.

The K1600GTL also has two small locked bays at the leg shield fairing.

A central locking system of suitcases and bays is available as an option. It is operated by remote control or by a handlebar button.

Maneuvering

The K1600GTL is much more maneuverable than the K1200LT, which is undoubtedly a good result for a straight six 1600. The credit definitely goes to the engine, particularly compact and greatly tilted forward, so as to significantly lower the center of gravity. The main stand is well made, and requires an effort similar to that needed to park a K1200S and much lower than that required by a K1300GT. The decision not to equip the bike with an electric stand or the reverse gear then can be endorsed.

The side stand is quite practical, but it holds the bike in an almost vertical position, which does not facilitate parking on side slopes.

Control while sitting is relatively easy, despite the extra weight, thanks to a very low saddle and advanced footrests that do not interfere.

Engine

The six-cylinder in-line 1649 cm3 is obviously the centerpiece of the K1600GTL, both because of the extensive success of BMW cars in the area, and because six-cylinder bikes with have always been rare. Currently, the only other example on the market is the boxer that equips the Honda’s Gold Wing, F6B, and F6C models.

Once started, the first surprise is the speed with which the rpm increase, extraordinary and typical of a sporty four-cylinder. Aggressiveness is further enhanced by the sound, magnificent – of course – and far more malicious than expected, even similar in tone and temperament to that of an E46 BMW M3, thanks to a pair of three-hole silencers rather open even in the standard version. A couple of Akrapovič mufflers is available on request, but they do not appear to be necessary, aesthetic considerations aside.

Despite all this sportiness, once started the engine revs round and fluid, with vibration almost non-existent throughout the arc of operation, from idle – about 900 rpm, corresponding to 31 km/h – up to the limiter set at 8500 rpm.

Torque is truly remarkable; the long gears ratio damps its effect a bit, but just look at the progression of the speedometer to confirm it. The peak is beyond 5000 rpm; below this threshold, the shot is obviously lower, but that does not mean that the engine is weak. Far from it! The acceleration that results from pulling the gears is considerable, similar to that of a K1300GT, but what impresses most is the pickup without using the gearbox, decidedly superior in any ratio and such as to impart a truly remarkable riding fluidity, unmatched by any other motorcycle, except the 1800 cc Gold Wing.

The result is a truly unique behavior, that combines an impressive exploitability of the engine at low and very low speed with a high rev behavior which is not extreme, but still exciting and completely unknown in any other touring motorcycle.

With an engine like that, more than with any other bike, the gearbox becomes substantially a driving style regulator: in sixth speed, acceleration is obviously limited, but it is still good enough to allow a pleasant tourist pace since 30 km/h, even at full load, while downshifting you get gradually more and more grunt, that in lower gears reaches levels that can seriously worry many sport bikes riders.

Similarly with the S1000RR, you can choose among three different engine modes: Dynamic, Road and Rain. Beyond that, the bike features optional DTC (Dynamic Traction Control), also derived from the race replica of the House, which prevents rear wheel skidding and wheelies.

This system is very progressive and its intervention is accurate – although it remains a bit invasive under certain conditions, for example by giving full throttle on the pedestrian crossings, where it slightly delays the restoration of torque – and also takes into account the tilt of the bike, reducing the maximum torque capacity as the motorcycle leans.

In Dynamic mode, the engine fully expresses its potential: the torque curve is the maximum possible, the throttle response is immediate and the DTC (if installed) allows a certain amount of drift, but never excessive.

The Road mode should give a softer engine response and a more conservative intervention of DTC.

In Rain mode the torque is limited and more regular at all engine speeds and the throttle response is even softer. DTC intervenes much sooner, which is very useful on wet surfaces.

Let’s be clear: the engine torque is such that even in Rain mode the bike is responsive and is perfectly capable of calling into question the DTC; I am sure that a good share of its buyers could keep it set in this way without losing an iota of their driving pleasure.

Transmission

Gearbox maneuver is good, even in sporty riding; the lever, not soft, but not too hard, is dry and precise, with a rather short pedal travel. A peculiarity is that it likes less than other gearboxes shifts without using the clutch, resulting more often than usual in refusing to disengage the gear.

The gear ratios, quite regularly spaced from each other, is quite long, and requires a bit of clutch work on start. These are the real top speeds at limiter (8500 rpm):

1. 103 km/h
2. 141 km/h
3. 175 km/h
4. 210 km/h
5. 249 km/h (theoretical)
6. 293 km/h (theoretical).

On the K1600GTL the top speed is  electronically limited to 220 km/h. In sixth at 130 km/h the engine purrs at about 3800 rpm.

As always on recent BMW models, the engagement of a lower gear, especially first gear, is characterized by a noticeable “clunk”.

The shaft drive has a little on-off clearance, accompanied by a clear and dry “clack”, due to the various flexible couplings.

The anti hopping clutch is surprisingly soft, more than the 4 cylinders of the House, and is also resistant in sporty riding, the engagement is precise, but a bit sudden.

Suspensions

The K1600GTL is equipped with the same suspensions system already seen on other K transversal engine models: anti-dive Duolever front and Paralever rear.

As with the other models so equipped, the front suspension Duolever is designed so as to sink in braking a bit more than a Telelever suspension, but less than a conventional fork. Similarly to the Telelever, it retains the advantage of maintaining the trail virtually unchanged even in the case of an emergency braking, resulting in great stability.

However, the greater degree of sinking compared to the Telelever system enables reliable communication between the front wheel and the driver, and this allows for very sporty driving, fast and profitable.

The bike is equipped with the optional ESA II (Electronic Suspension Adjustment), which allows you to electrically adjust the suspension through the Multi-controller. When stationary you can adjust the preload (rider only, rider with luggage, with passenger), while at any time (or rather, having tinkered with the Multi-Controller to find the relevant menu) you can choose a setting between Sport, Normal and Comfort, which correspond to different damping adjustments from hard to soft.

Brakes

The K1600GTL is equipped with three 320 mm discs, supported by the Continental Teves ABS system that equips, from MY 2007, all BMW R and K models. This system is based on two conventional brake circuits, front and rear, each operated by its lever/pedal. The integral braking is achieved through the electric ABS pump, which activates the rear brake when the front brake lever is pulled, suitably modulating the power depending on the circumstances. In the case of a pump failure, the integral braking and ABS operation is lost, but all the brakes power remains 100% available.

Motorcycles equipped with this system – and the K1600 is no exception – can be guided in all circumstances using the front brake only, even while taking a curve, as there is no self-righting tendency, while you can use the rear brake pedal to better control the trajectory in tight curves and hairpins.

Braking is very powerful and very progressive and the K1600GTL remains perfectly stable even on emergency braking and even in the wet, which is really surprising, given the large mass. In fact, the motorcycle brakes at least as well as a K1300 and much better than a K1200LT, thanks to the smaller mass and, above all, to markedly wider tires. The resistance to fatigue is considerable and proportionate to the mass of the motorcycle, also thanks to the enormous rear 320 mm disc. Moreover, thanks to the long wheelbase and the low center of gravity, braking distances are at the highest level for a motorbike and certainly equal to or better than those of any race replica.

Handling

The K1600GTL is very precise, responsive and nimble, not only in relation to its mass, but absolute; acceleration and braking are excellent, but maneuverability is even more impressive, really incredible and no doubt comparable to that of a K1200S.

All this is obtained by keeping the granite stability at high and very high speeds typical of BMWs, present even with the suspension set on Comfort. How the engineers of the Bavarian house can get such a result with such a heavy bike is a mystery, but the result is easily seen (and easily felt) by anyone.

But the most impressive thing is the ease with which you can go from a neutral behavior to a pronounced oversteering, simply by releasing the huge torque available. In most gears, a throttle opening during a curve results in a net, but perfectly manageable increase in the drift of the rear wheel , perfectly controlled by the DTC system.

This change in attitude can however also be easily controlled with DSC switched off, thanks to the balance of the chassis, the progressivity of the motor and the throttle accuracy.

All these features, combined with engine power and the long wheelbase, allow you to quickly reach and maintain prohibitive speeds in perfect suppleness, the real appreciation of which is dulled somewhat by the very comfort of the ride and the easy progression of the six-cylinder engine.

The control in town and at low speeds is easy, despite the weight, thanks to the handlebar with great leverage and the low seat.

Comfort

The wide and well made seat, the rider’s position, the tranquility infused by the finely-crafted chassis and the electronic aids, and the suspensions, which are soft, but not saggy, together they make this one of the most comfortable motorcycles ever.

The air protection ensured is certainly great, but in the low position the edge of the windscreen is about level the driver’s eyes, while raising it produces a slightly deformed view which is further distorted when it rains.

The K1600GTL is equipped with two aerodynamic flaps, which are hinged at the rear and placed along the top edge of the fairing sides. Each can be adjusted in closed or open position. Once opened they direct a remarkable amount of air against the driver’s chest, generating a fairly uniform and pleasant stream, very useful when it’s hot. We recommend to keep both flaps in the same position, because otherwise at high speed the bike tends to line towards the side of the open flap.

Highlights
  • Powerful and docile engine with a wonderful sound
  • Exceptional pickup in high gears
  • Excellent braking, powerful, durable, safe and stable
  • Excellent handling and stability
  • Great comfort
  • Adaptive headlights
  • Flaps for summer ventilation

The BMW K1600GTL is available in all our Tours.

One thought on “Our Review of the BMW K1600GTL

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *