The United States National Highway System consists of 70 Interstates, nearly 200 U.S. Routes, and countless state and county highways. Motorcyclists navigating this dizzying web of blacktop typically turn to American-made, V-twin-powered tourers. From the mountains to the prairies to the oceans, these iron Clydesdales appeal to pavement-pounding roamers with lumpy exhaust notes and engine vibes that register on the Richter Scale.
Since 2012, BMW’s K 1600 series has presented a counterargument to that long-held tradition. Furnished with an inline-six engine and Duolever/Paralever suspension, the K 1600 nameplate has become a synonym for smooth. The Bavarians have bestowed generous updates upon the grand tourer in the past decade as well, but the 2022 model year marks the most significant refresh in the platform’s history.
All four K 1600 flavors (GT, GTL, B, and Grand America) return and BMW lavishes the lineup with travel-friendly goodies. The 1,649cc inline-six doesn’t just receive a Euro 5 stamp of approval but also gains BMW’s engine drag torque control as standard. Dynamic ESA (Electronic Suspension Adjustment) “Next Generation” with fully automatic load compensation only augments the K 1600’s steady-as-she-goes demeanor.
Blind corners meet their match in the K 1600’s LED adaptive headlight while BMW’s handsome full-color TFT proves that bigger is better in its 10.25-inch glory. Nestled in this cocoon of comfort and convenience, it’s easy to explore the U.S.’s tangled network of roadways. From Interstate 405 to U.S. 101 to State Route 154, we assessed the 2022 BMW K 1600 GT in its natural habitat. Here’s what we found.
BMW’s Duolever front end and Paralever rear suspension have always distinguished the K 1600 from its grand touring rivals. A Dynamic ESA “Next Generation” system furthers that distinction in 2022. The new automatic load compensation module now governs the rear end, endlessly adapting to the pilot’s inputs and changing rider/luggage configurations. Multiple sensors measure spring compression, acceleration, and braking to balance damping characteristics and maximize stability.
The system not only crunches the numbers in the background but never calls attention to its adaptive efforts. Seamless adjustments on the trot level the load discreetly, whether the K 1600 GT is barreling down the highway or blasting out of a corner. BMW pairs that shape-shifting rear suspension with a non-adjustable Duolever setup. Similar to the R 1250 GS’s Telelever front end, the Hossack-style unit utilizes a central spring strut but does away with the conventional fork tubes.
This unique suspension system prioritizes pliancy at the expense of precision, though. Gauging front-end grip, especially at lean, turns into a guessing game thanks to the Beemer’s disconnected feel and feedback. That vague response doesn’t stop the twinkle-toed tourer from tipping into corners with the speed and grace of an ice skater. Direction changes are swift and fluid, even if available traction remains a question mark. That’s not the only situation that trips up the Duolever unit, unfortunately.
Greater Los Angeles roadways are a patchwork of torn-up tarmac and low-grip super slab—all held together with tar snake seams. Faced with this piecemeal pavement, the Duolever front end squiggles more than a bowl of fusilli. The suspension steamrolls everything from potholes and bumps without hesitation, but minor road grooves and heavily-painted double yellow lines frequently send the fork squirming for purchase. Ultimately, the K 1600 can be downright dancerly (considering its size), as long as you don’t encounter assorted asphalt along the way.
It's safe to assume that customers considering a K 1600 plan on spending significant sums of time in the saddle. BMW knows this and equips the GT’s cockpit as such. The seat’s copious cushioning and multi-level heating keeps riders and passengers comfortable between fill-ups. It’ll be a while too, given the tourer’s seven-gallon gas tank. In addition to those comfy accommodations, the wrap-around fairing fully shields the operator from the elements.
Gallery: 2022 BMW K 1600 GT
The rider can even modify the wind protection to their height and preferences thanks to the electronically-adjustable windscreen. In the fully raised position, the cockpit’s as sheltered and still as the lee side of a mountain. The shield sends oncoming air clear over the user's helmet with just minor drafts kissing off the shoulders. Even the rider’s legs enjoy a break from the wind, tucking snugly behind the Beemer’s lower fairing.
Huddled in such calm confines, it’s easy to watch the odometer tick off the miles, but BMW’s acclaimed full-color TFT display puts even more information at the rider’s disposal. As opposed to the firm’s standard 6.5-inch dash, the K 1600’s iPad-sized TFT offers dual-pane configurations. Holding the left handgrip’s Wonder Wheel to the right initiates the layout, and users can cycle the secondary pane between vehicle information, navigation, radio, and music. The endless options don’t stop at the TFT’s borders either.
Dedicated buttons for the luggage locking mechanism, reverse gear, ride mode, electronically-adjustable windscreen, and auxiliary lights clutter the switchgear. Those crowded controls force BMW to relegate core features like handgrips/seat heating to four pre-programmable switches at the lower left fairing. Users can also customize each button’s function from 18 separate quick access options. In base form, the grand tourer’s already busting at the welds with features. Yet, the Bavarians bind the behemoth Beemer with even more upgradeable options.
BMW’s Premium Package piles $3,000 onto the K 1600 GT’s $23,895 sticker price, but the touring-oriented options make life a breeze on the open road. Features like keyless ride, an anti-theft alarm, and a central luggage lock yield both security and expedience. Gear Shift Assist Pro relieves the rider’s clutch hand while crash bars guard the enormous engine in a tip-over. Even the LED auxiliary lights prove their worth when night falls. Sadly, it’s hard to heap similar praise on the package’s Audio System 2.0 upgrade.
Crystal-clear fidelity highlights Beemer’s stereo system, but even at full blast, the volume never rises to obnoxious levels. Fellow motorists appreciate the K 1600’s considerate road manners around town, but those hushed tones struggle to reach the rider at speed. Once revs reach 4,000 rpm and velocity exceeds 50mph, the six-cylinder singer steals all the spotlight, drowning out the underpowered speakers. Short-shifting the six-speed gearbox minimizes the drivetrain din, but sacrifices passing power in the process.
Without the system automatically adjusting its volume to rising wind and engine noise, users can only truly enjoy their favorite tracks at intersections. On the freeway, forget about it. Only the shrillest falsettos pierce the cacophony of combustion and buffeting. Taken to the limit, Beemer’s sound system adds some color to surface street strolls, but with the K 1600 spending much of its lifespan on the open road, the speakers miss the mark.
Sometimes it’s worth saving the best for last, and BMW’s hulking six-cylinder lives up to its headliner status. Oil/water-cooled and packing 24 valves, the 1,649 six-banger is the definition of excess. Despite delivering 160 horsepower (at 6,750 rpm) and 132.7 lb-ft (at 5,250 rpm) through a helical six-speed gearbox and maintenance-friendly shaft drive, the wundermill remains approachable thanks to the K 1600 GT’s three different ride modes.
Road mode keeps the inline-six amicable with a progressive powerband and a gentle torque curve. Predictably, rain mode remains docile down low, but beyond its placid throttle action, the top end still provides a modicum of thrills. If you’ve got the need for speed, though, Dynamic mode is the best way to activate your adrenal glands. Throttle response is direct thanks to plentiful portions of torque throughout the rev range. The K 1600 packs 160 ponies and they’re at full gallop in Dynamic.
On the open road, the six-pot powerhouse munches miles with glee. Loping along at 70 mph, the TFT’s tach bar only reads 3,250 rpm in 6th gear. Downshift once and the engine barely bumps up to 3,750 rpm. In fourth gear, the revs hover around 4,500 rpm. Users can even ride at highway speeds in third gear, with the bulbous Beemer only spinning up to 5,500 rpm at 70 mph. In spite of its 1,649cc capacity and six cylinders, the mill’s power potential isn’t infinite.
Passing power is only optimal above 4,500 rpm. Don’t climb too high, though. By 6,000 rpm, the engine vibrations introduce themselves through the bars. Those minor shudders are negligible when pushing the pace in short stints, but no one wants those bad vibes harshing their touring mellow. For that reason, I defaulted to fourth gear for highway duty. That Goldilocks gear puts the rider at the perfect engine speed for snappy overtakes and cozy cruising. What’s not to like?
Starting at $23,895, the 2022 BMW K 1600 GT actually comes in a skosh under the 2020 model’s $24,045 price tag. The savings only stack in the customer considers the new standard equipment such as drag torque control, semi-active suspension, adaptive LED lighting, and a 10.25-inch TFT display. Of course, BMW also equipped the unit we tested with its Premium Package and optional floor lighting. After the destination charge, our K 1600 GT came out to $27,790. No small chunk of change by any means, but the feature-packed tourer certainly upholds the asking price.
A bewildering number of Interstates, highways, and backroads make up this beautiful country. Whether you find yourself moseying through the twists and turns or hitting the freeway at a high clip, the 2022 BMW K 1600 GT offers the ideal combination of touring prowess and agile footwork to handle anything the road throws at it. Munich’s beastly bagger may present the counterargument to the American-made V-twin tourer, but it’s hard to argue against it.