BMW K1600GTL: not-a-car photos leak

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A straight-six engine, iDrive, adaptive headlights, angel eyes, full-color TFT display, traction control, contoured LED taillights, an iPod-compatible stereo and a huge ass trunk. Wait, what makes this a motorcycle again? These appear to be the first ever official photos of the BMW K1600GTL, seemingly leaked 10 days before the “bike” will be unveiled at Intermot Cologne. To make its new flagship tourer, BMW’s taken everything it knows about making luxury cars and knocked two wheels off. Is that a good thing?

BMW released most of the details on the K1600GTL and its ever-so-slightly less feature-rich brother, the BMW K1600GT back in July. That 1,649cc inline-six makes its peak power of 160bhp at 7,500rpm and peak torque of 129lb/ft at 5,000rpm, but crucially, 90lb/ft — 7 more than the S1000RR develops total — will be available just above idle at 1,500rpm. That means the K1600 should be capable of whipping you, your wife and the standard panniers and top box full of her luggage up to highway speeds at the merest whiff of throttle.

Straight-six engines are what BMW’s car division built its “Ultimate Driving Machine” image on, they’re incredibly smooth, very flexible and just completely addictive to use. At just 22 inches wide, BMW claims this is the narrowest straight-six engine in a motorcycle thanks to its narrow cylinders and long stroke. Of course, it’s the only straight-six engine in a current motorcycle and will probably remain so for quite some time. The supercharged VR6 engine — an arrangement that staggers the cylinders front to rear to reduce width — in the upcoming Horex VR6 is just 17 inches wide.

The engine is controlled by a ride-by-wire throttle equipped with three modes: rain, road and dynamic. “Rain” decreases power and blunts throttle response, which, in addition to the standard ABS and optional traction control, should make the K1600 exceptionally easy to ride in the rain. “Road” is optimized for decent performance and excellent fuel economy, while “Dynamic” sacrifices fuel economy for crisper throttle response and more aggressive acceleration.

The 55-degree forward tilt of the engine allows the aluminum beam frame to run over the top of it, which means the K1600 shouldn’t feel any wider to the rider than existing four-cylinder touring bikes. In keeping with BMW convention, that frame holds a paralever swingarm equipped with shaft drive and duolever forks at the front. BMW’s whizz-bang ESA II electronically adjustable suspension with world’s-first adjustable spring rate is optional.

So what we’ve got here is a fairly conventional big BMW touring bike with one hell of an engine, right? Yes, but there’s more. The K1600 is as much about its features as it is about its mechanical spec. And oh what features.

To us, the neatest feature is the adaptive headlight, which makes use of the lean angle sensor from the S1000RR’s traction control unit to determine lean and level the headlight to compensate. It also uses a rotating mirror to throw the light in the direction of corners. You can read more about the BMW adaptive headlight here, but we’ll embed the demonstration video below too.

Likely to be much more controversial is the inclusion of an iDrive like controller for the onboard computer. In fact, iDrive has proved so controversial with the brand’s car drivers, that BMW is calling the system a “multi-controller.” That “multi-controller” works just like iDrive, allowing you to scroll through a variety of on-screen menus by twisting, pushing and clicking. It controls a first-on-a-bike full-color TFT display which should be exceptionally bright, easy-to-read and, if BMW convention holds true, impossible to navigate. Secondary motorcycle functions and things like the integrated GPS navigation and the stereo are controlled via iDrive. You can read more about the BMW K1600 iDrive here.

It’s not just the luxury features that make the K1600GTL sound more like a 7-series than a motorcycle, BMW has deliberately referenced its car styling cues on this motorcycle. The “Angel Eye” halo running lights are one of the definitive visual features of BMW cars and the contoured LED taillights, which arrange the LEDs into flowing ribbons, help define the look of the new 5- and 7-series. There’s also a liberal use of roundels and chrome badges on both the rear and sides, again, just like on the brand’s cars.

The outgoing K1200LT, the model this new bike sort of replaces, retailed for $21,520. It’s likely that the K1600GTL will meet or exceed that price.

Wondering why there’s so many huge, hugely expensive bikes being released during a recession, one that’s managed to destroy the source of wealth (cheap credit) for older riders? Michael Uhlarik’s article, Bred Obsolescence, helps explain things.

In the gallery below you’ll find the rest of these leaked photos in addition to the design sketches and officially released images of the six-cylinder engine and other mechanical components.

  • RokabillySwagger

    Finally a bike for the person who thinks that a loaded Honda Goldwing is uncomfortable and a full dresser HD is too retarded and white trash. If the K1200 was insufficient, you have a real problem (and quite possibly are also compensating for something). All of that said, I’d ride the shit out of this if I had a stupid amount of money to spend on a motorcycle and lived in a fantasy world where I could ride 24/7 year round.

  • nicktp

    I’d buy it just for that headlight, it’s gettin’ me all excited. I’d have to swap the BMW badge for another round one (Yamaha maybe?) and hope nobody notices.

    • s0crates82

      hear hear!

      I hope it won’t be long before it’s reverse engineered by someone (the chinese shanzhai) and sold as a standard round headlight somehow.

  • brutus

    i dont like it at all. But to me motorcycles are for riding, not for fiddling with the electronics. I wonder how many 54 year olds the iDrive system will summarily kill?

    • s0crates82

      culling of the herd, man.

      the cops that’ll get these bikes will dig it, though.

      • slash5alive

        You won’t find this 54 year old near this land yacht. Looks like a remake of the old LT. I’d rather ride my Buell. As far as the culling of the herd; the young squids are already taking care of that.

  • pplassm

    I’m sure somebody wants this bike badly, and some will pay for it.

    I liked the original concept bike better, though. Who in America NEEDS this bike? Wretched excess at its best/worst.

    • mugget

      Who NEEDS the bike they have? Not many. For most people a motorcycle purchase isn’t a logical decision (there is almost certainly a bike available that will do what you need, cost less to buy and less to run), and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

      I sure don’t need a GSX-R1000 for my daily 40Km commute, but I sure do like it.

      • pplassm

        BS. I NEED at least on bike in my life. That ain’t it.

        That’s the opposite of it.

        • pplassm

          Krap. “one” not “on”.

          When are you guys going to get an edit function?

  • Mark D

    I think its a fine piece of engineering! The soul of motorcycling can be pondered upon by greater philosopher’s than me; I’m just impressed! Technology moves forward, always; we can either move forward with it, or not enjoy it!

    This simply seems to be the next logical step in the uber-tourer market. But what a step!

  • mugget

    Inline 6 across the frame? You’d want it to be small! :O

  • ferrix

    Get with the program – current iDrive has come a long way from the mess it was originally, to the point it is now one of the better such systems on the market! Bike version should be fine.

    • Wes Siler

      Yeah, the latest version of iDrive is finally intuitive and easy, mostly because they radically simplified the menus and movement options of the controller and put a lot of buttons back on the dash, which sort of defeats the whole original purpose of the thing. touch-screen systems like Ford’s Sync work a lot better and are so simple even someone old enough to afford a brand new car could figure them out.

  • Scott

    2010 GW retail price, $22,900.
    “frame paperwork [documents in 2007] 25,000 – 30,000 GL1800′s were delivered worldwide each year.” -foi

  • pplassm

    Great. I hope you guys buy a million of these things.

  • MichaelMM

    This thing will top out at just under $30,000. That is my full blown conjecture somewhat based on reality of the day. Still even if it does cost $30,000 it would make more sense than a $40,000 CVO Electa Glide. Not that the type of person who would go for the CVO (red-neck hitting the Power-Ball or a retired Marine Col. or above) would go for the K16.

    Still this thing is just starting to seem like a less convinient 7-Series. Though I am digging the lean sensing headlight!

  • slowestGSXRever

    The headlight cluster looks like an owl transformer. If I recall, that KTM also had a transformeresque light cluster too. I had better be able to ride optimus prime by 2012 or I’m gonna be pissed.