BMW 2017 K1600GT Sports

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To start and then end the review with a positive, firstly the Shift Assistant Pro is just amazingly good and leaves all previous iterations in the museum. You can relegate the use of the clutch to moving off and stopping, so seamless is the ability to shift up or down at almost any throttle setting or bike speed. Previously there was always a need to have throttle opening parameters ‘just right’ to get a smooth shift in other models I have ridden but they now look very dated compared to this latest development.

The K1600 has been around for nearly seven years now and remains the best sports tourer (GT version) or tourer (GTL) on the market. A huge torque band from the 1649cc engine means that only 500rpm off idle you are getting the benefit of 70% of the available torque; with the electric/fly-by-wire throttle this is just a minor wrist movement. For a ~320kg bike to achieve a 3 second 0 – 100kph acceleration and then go on to equally rapid mid range numbers is a testimony to this magical Bavarian product.

The list of Australian-standard gizmos would fill a page of this magazine, but much of what was unique in 2010 is now found across the BMW Motorrad range: standard switch clusters started on the K16 and almost all Motorrad bikes have the ubiquitous ‘wonder wheel’ to control various functions. The ability to reset modes at the touch of a button started with the K16, as did the layout now common across the fleet.

One that is still unique to the K16 is the gyro-stabilised low beam headlamp, which maintains the beam horizontally when cornering and vertically when accelerating/decelerating. The first allows the beam to light up the road around a curve regardless of the bike lean angle, the latter prevents the low beam flickering up or down and dazzling other road users which meets ADRs for HID Xenon headlamps. Allied to the optional BMW driving lights, night time riding is far better than most other models plus the LED ‘Owl Eyes’ can be set to super bright as a Daytime Running Light to give a better chance of being seen and avoided if the driving lights are not optioned.

Heated seats and grips are standard as is the adjustable screen (which auto parks when the ignition is off), keyless ignition, GPS ready (but not the GPS, Navigator VI is the latest model), panniers capable of taking your helmet when needed or enough gear for a week away, tyre pressure monitors, central locking at the touch of a button, two power sockets, etc etc. The alarm system is standard and armed via the keyless remote, activating both the electronic immobiliser and the audio alarm system. Tyre pressure monitor is also standard and has compensation for ambient temperature plus a warning should you lose pressure in the case of a puncture. As if all that isn’t comprehensive enough; how about ‘pullaway assistant’? The hill start assist enable via a pull on the front brake puts pressure into the rear brake to hold the bike until either another pull on the brake lever, or an increase in the throttle to pull away from the stopped position; just the job when holding at the lights on a hill or moving off from a tricky spot.

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The ABS is the bees knees; the very latest Bosch integral ABS includes sensors for pitch, roll and yaw giving one (if not the) best braking systems on the market today. It will even manage an emergency brake when leaned over in a corner, but don’t expect it to overcome the laws of physics! A couple of random emergency stops, one on a damp road, gave quite impressive stops of about 21 metres from 80kph and 30 metres from 100kph, GPS speeds used and not the speedo. The ABS feedback was imperceptible from the handbrake and just a tad of pumping through the footbrake, but for normal use the linked brakes work extremely well with handbrake application only. Linked (partially integral) braking works impeccably with the application of just the front brake lever controlling front and rear brakes proportionally according to the Bosch IMU; you certainly get what you pay for on this bike. The brake lights have now matched the BMW car line with the light flashing under heavy braking plus setting on the hazard flashers when the bike is below 10kph in a panic stop.

Handling on the K16GT belies the actual size: listed as a massive 332kg on road with 90% fuel and more than 2.3 metres long you would expect to be mounted on a fairly staid steed. Far from it; this bike can not only lift its skirts and fly but will corner as if on rails, with impeccable manners. Having done some 225,000km to date on my various K16GTs I have had some fun times, none more so than on closed roads with big sports bikes disappearing in the rear view mirrors along demanding twisties. Conversely, the bike will give mile after mile (OK, kilometer after kilometer) of comfortable, relaxing touring just eating up the distances leaving the rider refreshed and ache free at the end of thousand K plus days. I have an annual 1,000km day on Victoria’s alpine roads mid winter through demanding turns that would challenge a litre sports bike, all without stress or strain. Much of this is due to the high specification Dynamic Traction Control (DTC), Electronic Suspension Adjustment (ESA), ABS and refined suspension design, all of which combine to make an average rider into a good rider, and a good rider into an excellent rider!

Reverse gear is a new option introduced for 2017, as the size and weight of the GT and GTL when fully loaded can be a challenge. Tacked on to the left side of the gearbox, this can readily be identified by the extra bulge of the gearbox cover, which unfortunately intrudes onto the rider’s left foot in some circumstances. Operation of the reverse is reasonably simple having selected R (for reverse, strangely enough) on the left cluster the rider then presses the starter switch and waits for the RPM to increase to about 1900 at which stage the gear engages to get the bike going backwards. It will be an option that will certainly appeal to the larger GTL riders with passenger and lots of luggage, maybe not so much to a rider of this model as the GT Sports is less likely to be so heavy in normal use.

The new 2017 model has an increase in fuel capacity, up from 24lt to 26.5lt, which is a handy 50km extra range under normal riding. Usually a rider should expect about 5lt/100km, which has been my experience, one up without panniers; that is my preference and a rider with panniers plus more weight could expect about a 10% increase in fuel burn to 5.5lt/100km. Recommended fuel is 95RON, and the bike is approved for E10 (10% Ethanol) if you can find 95RON with that spec. But why would you treat this magnificent specimen of 21st Century technology to anything but the very best fuel available? As a keyless model, even the fuel cap has no key and various interlocks prevent it from being opened unless the bike is stationary with the ignition switched off; with a timeout so that it cannot be opened after the bike is left parked.

The test bike has the lowest available screen in the K1600 range, all of which are adjustable while riding. The GT Sport (this test) has a quite low screen and at the highest setting it remains low enough to give almost a naked bike airflow. Going up the range the GT has a much higher screen capable of good weather protection, and the largest screen comes with the GTL and is one to be ‘looked through’ at the highest setting. All have a neat parking when the ignition is switched off which locks the access door to the GPS, then on startup and pull away the screen will rise to the last used height.

Another change introduced on this year’s model is to the ESA damping choices. Whereas previous models have allowed Comfort, Normal or Sport the new 2017 choice is reduced to Road or Dynamic: spring preload remains the same with a rider, rider plus luggage or two-up with luggage. Riders with experience of earlier models would only notice the small disadvantage of the reduction in damping choices, but on rough roads it used to be handy to be able to dial down to a Comfort (Soft) setting and smooth out the ride. This doesn’t seem to be achievable with the new settings, but the sophistication of the overall setup never ceases to amaze me.

As mentioned at the start there is yet one more positive: BMW Motorrad has fitted dual horns to the 2017 K1600 range and you can forget about aftermarket replacements for the ‘old’ scooter horns. Well done for listening to the riders, hopefully this improvement will find its way across the Motorrad range.

A great bike which continues to lead the Motorrad range and sets a benchmark in sports tourers which remains unmatched after seven years of production.

John Eacott #46350

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