First Look: 2012 BMW K1600 GT & GTL

Über Tourers

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 upscale soiree amid the gear-headed splendor of Jay Leno's astounding Burbank, California man-cave, the six-cylinder K1600GT and GTL prove BMW is back in the luxury-touring business in a big way.

Our European Correspondent Roland Brown gave us a cursory peek at what's coming from BMW's top-secret R&D; headquarters (MC October 2011), 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 suspensions and pack a staggering array of innovative technology in addition to all the little luxuries we've come to expect.

Slated to replace the current K1300GT as Munich's flagship _macht schnell _sport-tourer, the GT is laid out to cover a lot of ground in very little time. The GTL is optimized for opulent two-up travel, complete with top box, softer rear suspension, a lower, wider seat, 7 gallons of fuel (compared 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 lbs. lighter than the lightest Gold Wing and 64 lbs. heavier than the GT.

Forget the bewildering buttons on most luxo-tourers, the K16s use 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 spokesmen aren't talking price quite yet, though they will say the bottom line will be surprisingly competitive given all the bright ideas onboard when bikes materialize in dealerships this spring.

The K1600GTL aims to carve itself a large chunk of the U.S. touring market with first-class accommodations for two and more athletic handling than the average land yacht.