First U.S Ride: 2012 BMW K1600GTL – Road Test Review

photography by Rich Cox

2012 BMW K1600GTL left side actionWhen upbeat reports started hitting the Interwebs from the very first evening of the BMW K 1600 GT/L world introduction in South Africa in February, including some from our road test editor on the scene, we were elated. The new six-cylinder bikes were not just good, they said, they were “Game Changers,” and had an “Unsurpassed level of sophistication and refinement.” Another great bike is always good news. The next day brought even more superlative language and enthusiasm about the K 1600s online. Then, as motoscribes began to trickle home and write, post and print more detailed stories from the intro, the K 1600s took on an air of not just great, but unequaled and perfect in every way, even a “Second Coming” for motorcycling’s luxury-touring segment.

Uh-oh, I thought, I’ve seen this before. Something can happen to moto­journalists when they snap on the belt in a Business Class seat, off on an exotic boondoggle complete with the keys to the first ride on an OEM’s latest and greatest bike. Glowing reports emerge from intros in Europe and other far-flung places that are later toned-down or even wholly contradicted when the motorcycles are put through the reality of stateside gauntlets in solo or comparison tests (in BMW’s case, the K1300GT and K1 come to mind). One of our staff would never succumb to such intro brainwashing, but nevertheless we decided to follow-up with a U.S. test of the fully kitted K 1600 GTL right away, including confirmation of its supposed miraculous light weight and stupendous power on the Rider scale and dynamometer.

2012 BMW K1600GTL
Well-equipped cockpit includes Multi-Controller on left bar, which makes menu selections for audio, suspension, heated grips, etc., a snap.

After those tests and 500-plus miles here both two-up and solo, I’m happy to report that not only does our road test editor have impervious scruples, the BMW K 1600 GTL is flat amazing. Almost every word of Greg Drevenstedt’s report (online at and in the May 2011 issue) is stingingly accurate, particularly his description of the bike’s power, handling and braking. Here on the Jett Tuning Dynojet dyno it blasted out 134.9 horsepower and 114.3 lb-ft of torque at the rear wheel, right in keeping with BMW’s claims at the crank after accounting for frictional losses. Combined with a 776-pound wet weight for the Premium-package-equipped model, the K 1600 GTL has the best power-to-weight ratio in the luxury-touring class by a wide margin. The new six-cylinder sounds and feels just as good as described, too, and our fuel economy on the specified 89-octane stuff here in California was quite good at 40.2 mpg average, giving it a more than 280-mile range from its 7-gallon tank.

The bike lives up to its billing in many other areas as well. While not as broad as some other bikes in the class, the GTL’s fairing provides excellent wind and weather protection, and on a warm day only a moderate amount of engine heat reaches the rider’s left leg. Flip-out wind deflectors can be aimed to direct blasts of cooling air to the rider’s midsection, and fully raised the electric windscreen provides a quiet ride for rider and passenger (though you will have to look through it). Lowered for looking over it (when it’s covered with bugs, in the rain or in corners, for example) you’ll still need earplugs, but it doesn’t create much turbulence.

Four full-face helmets fit in the luggage as promised, with two on their sides in the top trunk, which is mounted on a well-designed luggage rack. The power central locking with remote on the Premium GTL is a giggle, and even without it a key is not required to open or close the cases, and all come off easily.

2012 BMW K1600GTL right side beauty
Ample luggage capacity, comfort for two, power and sporty handling make the K 1600 GTL an easy choice if all four are important to you.

Ergonomics are on the comfortable yet sporty side for a luxo, with slightly higher, more rearset footpegs than others but an upright seating position and a wide, comfortable seat that is very low, making the bike easy to paddle around (a good thing since there’s no reverse). Anyone with an inseam longer than my 29 inches will probably want the no-extra-cost taller seat for more legroom. Contrary to some initial reports the passenger accommodations are well shaped, too, with a plush seat and backrest that are supremely comfortable for long rides. The grab handles are mostly blocked by the seat and too low, however, and the topmost pad seems superfluous (and unsightly?). Functional rearview mirrors are on stalks that fold inward and the bike is fairly easy to push around, with easy-to-deploy center- and sidestands. Instruments, menus and switches are all well-placed, comprehensive and even fun to use. I found that a Garmin Zumo 660 fits perfectly in the GPS carrier and turns on and off with the ignition, but you’ll need the BMW Navigator unit to control it from the handlebar.

Disappointments are few. We don’t see much in the way of standard tipover protection, which could get quite costly with all of that pretty plastic, though we didn’t push the bike over to disprove it. While the sound system is great, there are no rear speakers and audiophiles will need headsets to capture music that is otherwise unintelligible from the front-only speakers at high speed. There aren’t any passenger storage compartments that are accessible while underway, and the two front locking fairing pockets are small. Some driveline lash and clunky, long-throw shifting intrudes at times, and riding loaded and two-up we’d like a little stronger engine pull starting out from a stop, the only time the revvy, light-flywheeled engine lacks torque. We’d also like to be able to change power modes (Dynamic, Road and Rain) with just the handlebar button instead of also having to pull in the clutch. And while the GTL has far better stability than the K 1200 LT ­at speed or a walking pace, two-up it can still feel a little unpredictable coming to a stop until you’re well practiced.

2012 BMW K1600GTL pockets
Small locking pockets flank the lower fairing.

We had our first chance to sample the Adaptive Xenon headlight with this test bike, and it also exceeds our expectations. Although you can really only see the dynamic leveling in action at a stop—while using the Electronic Suspension Adjustment to adjust preload or when a passenger climbs on or off, for example —in corners the white, bright little golf-ball-like Adaptive headlight seems to predict your intentions and magically reaches well ahead around the corner, like a slice or hook shot. Supplemented with the high beam and the auxiliary fog lights on our test bike it’s almost like riding in daylight.

While it may not be the Second Coming (my understanding is that if and when that takes place it will be on two legs rather than two wheels), a fast, sporty version of luxury motorcycle-touring heaven is definitely coming to dealerships very soon, and it’s called the BMW K 1600 GTL. We’ll have a test of the GT version and the expected comparisons with both in future issues.


2012 BMW K 1600 GTL Specifications

Base Price: $23,200

Price as Tested: $25,845 (Premium package)

Warranty: 3 yrs., 36,000 miles

Website: BMW


Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse, in-line six

Displacement: 1,649cc

Bore x Stroke: 72.0 x 67.5mm

Compression Ratio: 12.2:1

Valve Train: DOHC, 4 valves per cyl.

Valve Adj. Interval: Varies, computer monitored

Fuel Delivery: BMS-X EFI, 52mm throttle valves

Lubrication System: Dry sump, 4.75-qt. cap.

Transmission: 6-speed, hydraulically actuated wet clutch

Final Drive: Shaft, 2.75:1


Ignition: BMS-X Computer Controlled

Charging Output: 580 watts max.

Battery: 12V 19AH


Frame: Cast-aluminum-alloy twin-spar main frame w/ engine as stressed member & aluminum subframe; Paralever single-sided swingarm

Wheelbase: 63.7 in.

Rake/Trail: 27.8 degrees/4.2 in.

Seat Height: 29.5 in.; optional high seat: 30.7 in.

Suspension, Front: BMW Duolever w/ Electronic Suspension Adjustment (ESA II, as tested), 4.5-in. travel

Rear: Single shock w/ Electronic Suspension Adjustment (ESA II, as tested), 5.3 in. travel

Brakes, Front: Dual discs w/ radial opposed 4-piston calipers & partial integral ABS

Rear: Single disc w/ 2-piston caliper & ABS

Wheels, Front: Cast, 3.50 x 17 in.

Rear: Cast, 6.00 x 17 in.

Tires, Front: 120/70-ZR17

Rear: 190/55-ZR17

Wet Weight: 776 lbs. (as tested)

Load Capacity: 459 lbs. (as tested)

GVWR: 1,235 lbs.


Fuel Capacity: 7.0 gals., last 1.9 gal. warning light on

MPG: 89 PON min. (high/avg/low) 42.7/40.2/37.8

Estimated Range: 281 miles

Indicated rpm at 60 mph: 2,750



  1. While the bike seems outstanding, I bought an new 99 KLT and after a while the built in problems began to surface, rear drive failures and others that were never truly addressed by BMW. The problems I had at least occurred under warranty. I traded it in at 56k miles.I can’t help but wonder what problems will be built in that won’t show up right away.

  2. Everyone is jumping the gun on BMW 1600 GTL. I’ve been test riding it for quite awhile. It is a terrific machine, and I do prefer it to my Wing. But it does have issues. Below is an outline that I prepared and sent to BMW Motorcycles.


    1. Audio System:

    A. Not loud enough, at cruising speeds. The speakers distort, badly. I know that you think most people will use the bluetooth helmet speakers.
    Not really, most of my friends prefer the bike’s speakers. At higher speeds, the tweeters overly emphasize the high range. The music becomes ugly and distorted.
    (1) Please consider a larger pair of speakers and upgrade the amplifier.

    B. The FM tuner is not sensitive enough.

    C. iPod Compartment:
    (1) Too close to the engine; it gets overly warm inside, and there
    is no ventilation. That results in an iPod overheating; it than stops functioning, properly. The iPod becomes useless.
    (a) I tried leaving the door open; it did not help.
    (b) I tried removing the foam; it did not help.
    (c) I did both at once; it did not help.
    (2) The problem could be the connector, also. Who knows? A problem does exist, however.
    [1] This iPod works perfectly, in my car. It works on my Goldwing. So, the issue is with the 1600 GTL.

    2. Engine:

    A. The engine is loud, overly loud. I, after a few rides, started using foam
    earplugs. That negated the music coming from the speakers.
    (1) Engine noise gives the audio system a lot of competition; noise gives it too much competition. This is a very important issue.
    (a) My Goldwing puts out less than half that amount of noise. I do not require foam earplugs. But it is an older model, and I am ready to trade-up to something else.
    [1] I don’t want another Wing, because they have gotten too big. For me, the 1600GTL is a good size. I like it.

    B. Automatic / Computerized Choke:
    (1) I think the automatic choke runs too rich for too long. The exhaust pipes become black from carbon, and they cannot be cleaned properly. No one has an effective cleaning product.
    (a) I have driven many demos. All of them have this issue; perhaps, a minor adjustment can be made.

    3. Rider’s Seat:

    A. The bike’s seat isn’t very comfortable; it needs more padding.

    B. An upper back support would be a nice option, for long range and multiple day rides. Then, I can lay-back and drift away – get that altered level of consciousness (sort of like a runner’s high).

    4. Rear Saddlebags:

    A. They are too far forward. Everyone who took a test ride hit them with a boot heel. The bags do not have to be recessed very much, just a smidgen or two.

    5. No Reverse:

    A. I know that you are trying to keep the weight down; but there are times when reverse is necessary. Riding double with full bags makes walking the bike backward very difficult – the bike is going to go down.
    Situations like that do occur.

    6. GPS Is Too Small:

    A. This is a motorcycle, not a car. The unit cannot be seen. A bike rider can only scan the unit; he cannot give the unit an extended look.
    (1) Glare from bright sunlight makes the unit’s video indiscernible.
    [1] A higher resolution screen is necessary.

    B. The Audio instructions are of a low quality – they are loud enough, but the audio is a low quality. At times, the instructions cannot be understood.

  3. it is a new 1600 cc and anything in it’s first year has kinks. sad to say, i will wait another year for the problems to be addressed, and hopefully fixed.

  4. Considering all of the problems with BMW bikes that have been ongoing for many years, I can’t imagine that this bike will be any different.

    As for the company addressing and eliminating the issues that show up on the first-year models – good luck with that!

    The Beemerco took about a decade to even admit that their final drives were a problem at all, let alone do anything to try to fix the underlying issues.

  5. Here’s the problem.. I am Perfect Height.. that’s 5’3″ on a good day ..
    So when a shortarsed person like me wants to get a BIG bike like the GTL, I have an issue with even the ‘low’ 750mm seat height and the relationship that makes with the footpegs and foot controls. NOT to mention , I can barely get my tippy toes onto the ground!! So??? can the bike be lowered so that the seat height is closer to 700mm and the footpegs remain a fair distance from the foot to the knee as I have recently had totally replaced..( the knee) that is .,
    I had an R 1200 C cruiser up until a few months ago.. Want the 1600GTL soooo bad !! but is there a way for it to be made ‘ perfect height’ for my ‘ perfect height ??”

  6. Gorgeous bike,saw one in person.only thing tis this is too high tech,complications are sure to being the sealed chain,its all geared.i would love to get one,as it is a great machine.but frightened by the high price,and techo mojo to fail.


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