BMW K 1600 GTL

You have to part with a number of car-related luxuries if you decide to undertake a road trip on a motorcycle rather than in a four-wheeled vehicle. BMW’s new über tourer, the K 1600 GTL, aims to ease the transition from one to the other. It’s a tricky balance, but the Bavarian bike executes it perfectly.

The BMW’s three load compartments are large enough for a weekend away and the top box can easily hold a full-face helmet. Furthermore, the pillion has the best seat in the house thanks to a big, squishy pew and a wide, high backrest.

A stand-out feature is the standard-fit touchscreen sat/nav at the top of the instrument panel. Below this is another screen that displays trip-computer information, fuel range, settings for the ESA (electronic suspension adjustment) system, tyre-pressure monitoring, audio system and much more.

To navigate between these functions, the rider uses a controller ring sited on the left handlebar that operates in a similar manner to the manufacturer’s iDrive system in its passenger vehicles. With some practice, it becomes simple to control this luxury tourer’s various settings, even while riding.

The position of the windscreen can be electrically adjusted to match the rider’s height. The higher it’s set into the wind stream, the clearer the rider and pillion can hear the BMW’s powerful audio system, which is equipped with auxiliary and USB ports. Cruise control is also standard.

On the road

Swing your leg over the equally comfortable rider’s seat and straighten the bike, and you’ll immediately notice how much lighter and nimbler it feels compared with its main rival, Honda’s larger, heavier Goldwing.

On the open, flowing roads of the Boland, and with the ESA system set to comfort mode, the GTL proved absorbent but never floaty. Changing these settings to normal or sport sees the suspension firming up for improved control.

I rarely found the need to rev the six-cylinder engine past 4 000 r/min (after all, 70 per cent of the maximum torque is available at 1 500 r/min). In fact, you can pin the throttle in any gear from as low as 1 000 r/min and the GTL accelerates in a controlled, linear fashion. However, should you choose to use the entire rev band, the engine sings in perfect pitch.

Take its size and mass into account, and this 1600 feels nimbler and more manageable than we expected. It doesn’t feature an electric reverse gear such as the Honda Goldwing’s, though, so care needs to be taken when parking the bike.

That said, it’s more luxurious and advanced, and rides with more control and compliance. During the cold spell that gripped the Western Cape in September, I wouldn’t have been comfortable on any other bike. With the heated seats and grips switched on and tunes streaming through the powerful audio system, the transition from car to bike was easy.

Notebook comments:


WL: A technological tour-de-force that makes touring so enjoyable.

NL: The most comfortable, capable and luxurious touring motorcycle I have come across.

Fast facts

Engine: 6-cyl, liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, DOHC

Displacement: 1 649 cm 3

Power (kW/r/min): 118/7 750

Torque(N.m/r/min): 175/5 250

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