1999-2008 BMW K1200LT

Smart Money

By Tim Carrithers, Photography by BMW

A decade after its debut, BMW's 135-mph luxury suite remains the only viable foil to Honda's GL1800 Gold Wing. And like most other offerings from the Munich works, the KL1200LT approaches long-distance travel from an oblique angle. The last BMW K-four with its crankshaft parallel with the chassis rather than perpendicular to it, the 1171cc Flying Brick is essentially a 1996 K1200S engine tuned to favor torque over horsepower. Telelever front suspension and the familiar Paralever shaft-drive system out back add up to road manners that are more motorcycle than motor home. Factor in relatively generous cornering clearance and you can inhale twisty pavement in a hurry.

ABS makes stopping the 866-pound leviathan easier-especially in the wet--though servo-assist brakes generate more power than feel. From the servo-adjustable windscreen to an optional CD changer that takes up most of the right saddlebag and integrated luggage capable of swallowing gear for two, everything about the LT says you can take it with you. Despite a two-position adjustable seat-complete with optional heater-the BMW sits higher than the Wing. Tall riders will be happier than short ones. And though the Honda's 1832cc flat-six is stronger, a comparably equipped LT is 60 lbs. lighter. Tall gearing means dispatching slower traffic requires a downshift or two, but the automotive-looking cockpit is dead-smooth at 80 mph in fifth. Slow down a bit and you can put 300 miles between fuel stops.

The 2005 model arrived with 16 more horsepower and a long list of improvements and amenities, including hydraulics capable of lifting a fully-loaded LT onto its centerstand with the push of a button--truly miraculous at the end of a 750-mile day-along with a brighter headlight, flat-screen dash display and improved trip computer. The lever near the left footpeg that engages reverse is another minor miracle. There are, however, a few potential sore spots to watch for. According to the assembled wisdom at www.bmwklt.com, the shift linkage is potentially fragile and rear-view mirrors can pop loose on rough pavement. The speedometer can read optimistic by upwards of 10 percent. Early single-map Motronic units let the engine stumble in hot weather. Low battery voltage can cause a sticky starter relay. Since later models are less commonly afflicted, a clean, nicely optioned '05 may be the best way to park a little affordable opulence in your garage.

Transcontinental luxury travel for two.

Never race a Gold Wing for pink slips.

Watch For
Noisy brakes, loose/broken shift linkage, difficult/inconsistent starting and low-rev stumble on hot days.

The only impediment to global Gold Wing domination.

1999 $8370
2005 $13,460
2007 $16,630


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