2012 BMW K1600GT & GTL

By Tim Carrithers, Photography by BMW

BMW essentially invented modern motorcycle touring, so you didn't think Munich was going to let Honda's flat six own the first-class cabin forever, did you? Introduced at a suitably high-performance soiree amid the gear-headed splendor of Jay Leno's astounding Burbank, California man-cavern, the six-cylinder K1600 GT and GTL prove BMW is back in the luxury touring business in a big way.

Our man Roland Brown gave us a cursory peek of what's coming from BMW's top-secret research & development headquarters, and now we have real pictures and juicier details. Both bikes are powered by an all-new 1649cc dry-sump inline-six, capable of cranking out an alleged 129 lb.-ft. of torque at 5250 rpm. Both ride on Duolever front and Paralever rear suspension and pack a staggering array of innovative technology in addition to all the little luxuries we've come to expect.

The GT version is slated to replace the current K1300 sport tourer as Munich's flagship macht schnell sport tourer. Exemplifying the Euro-touring ideal, the new GT is laid out to cover a lot of ground in very little time. Meanwhile, the GTL is optimized for opulent two-up travel, complete with top-box, softer rear suspension, a lower, wider seat, 7.0 gallons of fuel to the GT's 6.3 and more electronic gee-wizardry than you can shake an iPhone at. All that adds up to 767 lbs. ready to ride. That's about 130 pounds lighter than the lightest Gold Wing and 64 lbs. heavier than the sportier K1600GT.

Forget the bewildering buttons on most luxo-tourers. The K1600 uses a more intuitive Multi-Controller dial inboard of the left grip to cue various systems and a 5.7-inch TFT cockpit screen between the circular speedo and tach to show you what's going on. Using electronics developed on the S1000RR Superbike, optional Dynamic Traction Control lets you choose from three modes: Rain, Road and Dynamic, for traveling in the aforementioned macht schnell mode. The most comprehensive audio system yet attached to a motorcycle incorporates the obligatory Bluetooth technology.

Perhaps the most genuinely brilliant idea attached to any motorcycle is right up front: an adaptive Xenon headlight array that helps you see around corners after dark. Dynamic self-leveling circuitry automatically compensates for passenger/luggage weight and chassis pitch. Optional roll-angle compensation uses data from the traction-control gyros to keep the central HID element tracking through the corner instead of lighting up all those weeds on the outside.

BMW isn't talking price quite yet, though they will say the 2012 K1600 bottom line will be surprisingly competitive given all the bright ideas onboard when bikes materialize in dealerships this spring.

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