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.