The First Class Escape Artist
How you get away makes all the difference.
By Bill Heald

When you’re in a hurry to change your surroundings, nothing lets you exploit the freedom of the open road like a motorcycle. Had a big fight with your significant other? One surefire remedy is to put the problem in your bike’s mirrors and make it as small as possible. But don’t think using one of the most compact conveyances on the road means your great escape needs to be a crude, minimalist experience. In fact, with BMW’s rather extraordinary K 1600 GTL, you can have all the comforts of the finest sports sedan, while still enjoying the physical interaction with the traveling experience that only a motorcycle can provide.

How is this possible, you ask? Simple. BMW has been diligent at making its motorcycles excellent long-haul companions since the company’s inception, and it builds models for long-distance escapes whether the roads are paved or utter crap. When the K 1200 LT was introduced in 1999, it marked BMW’s entrance into the überluxury-mega-touring class that had been dominated for ages by the Honda Gold Wing. The Beemer offered the same kind of amenities as the Honda but was a sportier mount, and great fun to hustle down twisty back roads, despite its considerable size. Having spent a fair amount of time in the saddle of this motorcycle on long trips, it was hard for me to fathom what improvements the bike really needed.

The First Class Escape Artist The First Class Escape Artist

But I’m not BMW. Its new flagship is a clean-sheet creation; a motorcycle with the same number of wheels as the old LT but re-created in every other aspect. Where once an inline four lay flat in the engine room, now we have an inline six that is upright and mounted transversely, where it pumps out 160 horsepower. Even at 1,600 ccs, this is a surprisingly compact mill, and tuning can be altered at the push of a button (with Rain, Road, and Dynamic modes). Also adjustable via a switch on the handlebar is the suspension setting, when the Electronic Suspension Adjustment (called ESA II) system is selected as a factory option. This is a brilliant solution to fine-tuning the ride dynamics to the road conditions, while also addressing the widely varying loads that big tour bikes face (especially if you suddenly decide to bring a companion with you).

Speaking of bringing things with you, a wealth of luggage space is available, thanks to two big pannier cases, plus a capacious topcase. You can get a model without the topcase (the K 1600 GT), but trust me, it’s the most versatile cargo container on any tour bike. ABS brakes, heated grips and seat, adjustable windscreen, cruise control, an onboard computer, and Bluetooth-integrated sound system are all standard, and additional options include an adaptive headlight that compensates for the bike leaning in turns, a navigation system, and Dynamic Traction Control. Power, handling, capacity, and luxury are all blended together like in no other big bike out there, making this stellar BMW the ultimate getaway ride.

SPECIFICATIONS
Engine type Liquid-cooled inline six
Bore x stroke 72 mm x 67.5 mm
Displacement 1,649 cc
Fuel system BMS-X engine management
Transmission Six speed
Front suspension Double longitudinal control arms
Rear suspension Paralever single shock
Front brakes Dual 320-mm discs, ABS
Rear brake Single 320-mm disc, ABS
Front tire 120/70-ZR17 radial
Rear tire 190/55-ZR17 radial
Fuel tank Seven-gallon capacity
Wheelbase 63.7 inches
Seat height 29.5 inches
Dry weight 767 pounds
Base price To be determined
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