PH2: BMW K1600 GT
Can you really have too many cylinders? BMW's uber-tourer thinks not...
The joy of six
The K1600 GT is all about torque, thumping out a massive 112lb ft at 5,250rpm. But this only tells half the story. The peak is at this point, but the GT has more grunt than a 70s porn star and by 1,500rpm it is making around 80lb ft. When you ride a touring bike you want to be lazy, and with this much torque on offer you can be incredibly lazy on the GT - and that's all down to the in-line six motor.
The bike I rode had a set of aftermarket road legal Akrapovic cans fitted, something that enhanced the truly outstanding sound when the in-line six started to spin. At 6,500rpm the whole engine's note changes and it screams until it hits the 8,500rpm redline. It's bloody wonderful and totally unlike a touring bike. But it's not all plain sailing.
A touring bike has to be comfortable. Secondly, it has to have a decent tank range as there is no point in having a comfortable bike that needs filling up every few miles. Thirdly, it has to handle well and, finally, have a motor that doesn't require constant attention. I don't mean servicing attention, I mean needless gear changes every time you want to overtake a car or accelerate out of a restricted limit zone. With all that torque on offer, the BMW certainly ticks this box and the GT averaged 45mpg with a tank range of close to 230 miles, which is certainly acceptable.
Yes it's a big old bus, but the GT carries its 319kg extremely well and at low speed is remarkably balanced and easy to control. Through faster bends the weight pins the bike to the road and, for a full dress tourer the BMW is certainly sporty and lacking any of usual wobble of bigger bikes, thanks in part to the excellent electronically adjustable suspension. Push a few buttons and the ESA firms-up the ride, a few more buttons and it is back to soft and forgiving. Ah yes, electronics...
We have a few moans about the K1600, most of which stem from the sheer number of gizmos on board. The bike we tested had cruise control, heated grips, radio (which can be heard at 80mph!), a heated seat, GPS, active suspension, fuel modes and about a million-and-one other techy bits, most of which are operated via the onboard computer system.
Despite being extremely well thought out and clear, it can be a constant distraction. Trying to turn up the temperature on the heated grips involves scrolling through three or four different screens and you have to wonder just how much of the info available is actually of any use. On a bike you want to know how much fuel you have left, how fast you're going, what gear you're in and that's about it. Annoyingly, the analogue speedo is a bit cluttered and most of the time it's easier to read your speed from the GPS display!
For destroying the miles the GT is superb. It's extremely comfortable, rapid and can even corner with some degree of sporting ability. The electronics are annoying, but that's just the way things are going. If you want all the bells and whistles you need some way to control them and it's better through one screen than to have a million buttons like a packet of spilt M&Ms on the dash. At £15K without all the gizmos the GT ain't cheap, but it is also one hell of an impressive bike.
Engine: 1,649cc, six-cylinder
Power: 130hp at 7,800rpm
Torque: 113lb ft at 5,200 lb ft
Top Speed: 140mph (est)
Weight: 319kg (wet)
MPG: 45mpg (tested)