By David Soderholm
I know what you’ve been thinking. “Man I love that new K 1600 GTL, and I’d buy one, but it doesn’t have enough standard features.”
Well, BMW has answered your calls. For a paltry sum of $29,950 ($30,445 as tested), the finest, most luxurious, best performing, most feature-laden touring motorcycle offered to the public could be yours. Meet the new K 1600 GTL Exclusive, an amazing sunset chasing motorcycle that appeared ready to warp me through time and over road more comfortably and dynamically than anything I’ve ever ridden.
To create the “Exclusive” for 2014 BMW started with a standard GTL and added just about every option previously available for it and then some. Standard GTL-E features included over and above the regular GTL options list include: special “Mineral white metallic three layer” paint treatment (stunning btw), chrome and brushed aluminum accents, upgraded instruments, hill start assist, keyless ride control for the steering lock, ignition, fuel tank lid and alarm system, radio foil antenna, enlarged touring seat, heating element for the passenger backrest with integrated armrests, LED additional headlight, a second brake light and ground effects lighting. The only additional options are: low / high seat, high windscreen, Akropovic sport silencers, BMW Motorrad Navigator V and a third power socket.
To say you are receiving a loaded, highly advanced and engineered motorcycle for your 30 large is an understatement. I only had enough seat time on the GTL-E to scratch the surface of everything it could do. I have never been on a
motorcycle that makes the “here and now” change to the “then and there” so effortlessly. Pick a destination, any destination of any distance connected by roads, and the GTL-E will take you there in utter comfort and luxury. I can confidently say that you will arrive at your destination fresher and less stressed on this luxury tourer than on any other form of two wheeled transportation around.
Surprisingly, it’s not just about comfort and luxury with this K bike. What really makes the GTL-E so delicious is that it also has inherited a thing or two about the sporting end of the motorcycling spectrum. This “touring bike” can flat out boogie on a twisty road. Combine the previously mentioned luxury with its surprising sporting abilities and you have one versatile and excellent duel personality motorcycle. How did BMW pull this off? I’m glad you asked.
Let’s start with the engine. It’s completely unique to BMW at the moment – a 1649cc inline-6 powerhouse. Being an inline-6, it has perfect primary balance and creates a riding experience like no other. It revs with great alacrity uncharacteristic for a “touring” bike. From the saddle this means you have a revvy, torquey, smooth engine that powerfully pulls from the basement to the top of the rev range. It’s an intoxicating and emotionally engaging engine to use and listen to and even settles into a silken distant purr at highway speeds. It has multi-maps (Dynamic / Road / Rain), gets great mileage (42 mpg), and has great fuel injection response. It’s a flat out great engine – period.
Moving onto the chassis brings more high tech delights. BMW fitted the GTL-E with ESA-ll for optimum suspension adaption to all operating environments and vehicle loads. This requires you to first select one of three different spring preloads. These can only be changed when sitting still. It changes both the spring rate and preload in one combined and electronically coordinated step. From there you move onto the desired damping settings. These can be changed on the fly and offer a marked difference in perceived ride characteristics. Flip it to “sport” and it really buttons down the chassis for twistier sections of road. Change it to “comfort” and sail down the interstate in cushiony comfort. It’s simple to use, takes less than 10 seconds to adjust, and can completely change the 1600’s personality. BMW matches it all up perfectly through any of the nine combinations available. Luckily, regardless of what the rider has done with the adjustments, at no time does this technological marvel feel anything less than fully under firm Teutonic control.
The cockpit and controls bring more technological innovation. On the dash you’ll find a bright 5.7-inch TFT display flanked by the speedometer and tachometer. The information from the TFT display is very extensive. All the electronics, audio and heated options are controlled through the display panel. Using the rotary controller on the left handlebar makes it all pretty easy after some adjustment time. There is redundant radio controls located on the lower left panel of the cockpit area for you to use without scrolling menus. The audio options are broad, including AM/FM, Satellite, Bluetooth, MP3, iPod and Weather-band. You’ll never be without tunes with this thing.
All the audio options in the world won’t matter if you can’t hear it because of wind noise. With the cockpit of the GTL-E you’ll never worry about that. Wind management is exceptional. If it’s cold, shut all of the air out by cranking the screen up. If it’s warm and you need more air with a quiet cockpit, open the innovative side wings. This brings in copious amounts of turbulent free air to your torso to cool you off. It all works great, with minimal buffeting and gives you multiple options to match all weather and temperature conditions.
Let’s face it. The original K1600 GTL was a high tech touring force that put other manufacturers on notice. With the Exclusive version, none of that has changed. It’s still amazing and all of the techie and software things work smoother and more refined than the original. Add in all of the goodies that BMW has thrown in to the “E” and you have the equivalent of adding the Kirsch to the Schwarzwälder Torte – making a delicious thing even better. Wer möchte Nachtisch?
Find ‘Your World’ on the BMW K 1600 GTL Exclusive
“It’s your world,” the waitress at my favorite café says when I place my substitution laden breakfast order. On the BMW K 1600 GTL Exclusive, it is your world, exactly the way you like it. This motorcycle has it all.
Most of the comments on the GTL-E’s appearance were that “It doesn’t look like a BMW.” BMW’s two-wheel business recently has, styling-wise, reinvented itself in a bid to appeal to a newer audience. Even its classic products have a flashier, edgier look to them. The GTL is no exception and its styling incorporates many of the same aesthetic visual cues present on some of the other sportier machines in the BMW stable. This bike’s color scheme of silver, beige, chrome, and black works together in a high-end luxury car way. Because of its size, and its many different and interesting angles, the Big Bavarian gets lots of looks from a wide range of people.
Even in the largest of vehicles, like those huge mining trucks, there must be a relationship in scale to the human that is using the machine. Every rider control interface on the GTL-E well placed and human proportioned to make this massive machine seem much more manageable.
Seating is also manageable. Whether your feet are on the ground or on the pegs, the GTLs’ narrow waist certainly helps fool you into thinking its a much smaller bike. Even at 794 lbs. road ready, it feels light in every way … except when pushing it around in the garage.
If you own a BMW automobile, certain things may seem familiar, like the “Power” button to start the engine, or the strong influence of heads-up control systems in the placement of all hand controls, or the auto leveling headlights. Call it corporate character.
Being the flagship model, this bike has more electronic toys than Best Buy. Mode selections for everything under the sun (suspension settings, power modes, sound system, etc.) are easy to access after you train your fingers exactly where to
go so they don’t bump another button on the control dense bars. Whoops … your radio station is gone.
In a crazy juxtaposition for staid BMW, the GTL-E has a ground effect lighting package that stays lit for a few minutes after you shut the bike off. Owners who’d rather not advertise have the ability to disable this feature.
The GTL-E ticks all the boxes. From the luxury car seamlessness of the digitally precise cruise control to the fitted pullout luggage liners to the central locking on the whole bike via the proximity key fob. True luxury, after all, is not needing to expend the energy to turn the bike off after you are done with it. Just walk away.
Electric windshields are old news now, but are still fun to play with, and effective for mixing up different air flows in the cockpit; manual pinball flapper-like fins on both sides divert great streams of air onto your body when instant cooling is needed; and, at speed in the rain, the all encompassing touring fairing protects you from any wetness except maybe a few drips on your fingers.
Engines are a big part of what gives a motorcycle its feel and character, and what makes this bike special is its 1600cc straight six. BMW has a long history with performance inline sixes. The power comes on in an unrelenting, brutal, and quickly mounting fashion that only an inline six engine configuration produces. Another inline six characteristic is eerie balanced smoothness. Because it is a 1.6-liter engine in a motorcycle, it makes serious under-stressed power that is available in any gear, all the time. This makes for a wide and extremely dense power band, and a perfectly refined Grand Touring power plant.
Everything can be handled with the power available between idle and 3000 rpm. It nonchalantly pulls from idle in 5th and settles in all day at 80mph. It has so much torque from idle that it tricks you into shifting at 3000 rpm but redlines at a seemingly atmospheric 8000 rpm. If for some reason you do find it necessary to shift, the transmission is precise in an almost sport bike kind of way. The pairing of gear ratio choices and the broad sized torque spread really merge in 4th gear at above highway speeds – pulling like a train with absolutely no signs of letting off and with still thousands of silky smooth revs to go.
Even though this is the GTL and not its sportier sibling, the GSL model, it is still plenty sporty for any use you will encounter on a public road. It is equally at home when utilized as a luxury tourer or sport tourer. Steering pressure is similar to what you would need on a 500cc size machine. So light, in fact, at the end of my time with the bike, I was still over shooting my steering inputs.
As for what keep your wheels moving in the right direction, the ESA II suspension is fantastic. Why not have three different suspension settings easily controlled by your finger? All three settings feel drastically different and are specific to different uses. You will use them all. Mostly hidden from sight, the GTL has BMWs’ Telelever front suspension. One of the greatest compliments I can give it is that I didn’t realize that I was riding a Telelever equipped bike until I looked.
While not a radial design, the brakes are powerful and easily up to the task of slowing things down. ABS is something you’ll want on a bike this size, comes standard, and proves unobtrusive.
As a Rider Coach, I can safely say that, in all handling situations, this bike effortlessly exceeds the abilities of most riders. Ultimately, everything about this motorcycle is so easy to operate; it is almost hard to remember you are riding BMW’s biggest bike.
So, what are K 1600 GTL Executive’s flaws? Is it strange to admit that there aren’t any? It is as refined for its intended purpose as it can be. In all aspects, the GTL-E is such a highly refined package, it is easy to take it for granted and forget that every experience on the motorcycle, from the clutch release to the note of the exhaust, was neurotically obsessed over and is tremendously calculated.
My new breakfast at the café proved healthier albeit a bit more spendy than what I’m used to. Refinement is never inexpensive, but BMW has certainly capitalized on it to produce a brilliant riding machine. Thanks to Leo’s South for providing the bike.