BMW Motorrad ushers in a new era for sport-touring riders with the fast, fun and versatile K1200GT. Based on the enigmatic K1200S
and K1200R platform, the K1200GT offers up all the performance you could possibly need from a touring machine while simultaneously providing creature comforts that will endear it to Beemer aficionados as well as those not yet afflicted with a taste for BMW's Teutonic quirkiness.
BMW North America chose the rugged red-rock desert of Northern Arizona as the backdrop for the U.S. launch of this latest addition to the super-sport-touring class. The K1200GT is stacked with components and numbers that look great on paper. Topping the list is a motor that produces a claimed 152 horsepower, EVO Paralever rear suspension, Duolever front end and a rock-steady aluminum composite chassis wrapped in aerodynamically-friendly bodywork. After spending a day at the controls of the new K, I can honestly tell you that getting from Point A to Point B with saddlebags full of sundries has rarely been so much fun.
Our test mules were fully-loaded units with nearly all the optional bells and whistles installed, such as the Electronic Suspension Adjustment (ESA) system ($775), heated seat ($270), heated hand grips ($200), cruise control ($310) and On Board Computer ($215).
Of all those potential options, ESA might be the most important option you can pick up for this or any BMW, so make sure to pony-up the cash for this one. Being able to select from three pre-determined settings (Normal, Sport and Comfort) that alter front rebound along with rear rebound and compression is so convenient and rider-friendly that I predict more companies will follow suit in the near future. For now, however, you'll have to ride BMW if you want to experience it for yourself.
Kenny threw the new K1200GT around the curvy roads of Northern Arizona during the BMW North America press intro. Utilizing the 1157cc motor found in the K1200R, the GT has had its powerplant tuned a little different, to earn the Gran Turismo moniker.
Powering this technologically-sophisticated cycle is basically the same single-intake 1157cc in-line four-cylinder motor found in the K1200R, but with torque-biased cams and injection mapping in the ECU that reduces peak horsepower from the R's 163 hp to 152 horses. BMW claims the GT spits out a couple extra lb-ft of torque (96 lb-ft) over the K1200R, and that it does so 500 revs sooner at 7750 rpm.
At the rear wheel, our dyno measured the power of the dual-intake 2005 K1200S at 143 hp and 82.7 lb-ft of torque. Since the GT should closely approximate those torque numbers, it's interesting to compare them with the reigning Super-Sport-Touring class king, the Yamaha FJR1300. With 141cc extra displacement, the Yamaha out-torques the Beemer with 87.8 lb-ft of twist, importantly coming in about 2000 rpm sooner than the K1200S does. However, the FJR's top-end punch of 122.5 hp will fall a bit short of the GT's expected 130 ponies at the rear wheel, even if the Beemer's peak will arrive about 2000 rpm higher than the FJR's 7000-rpm peak. We'll know more about how these goliaths compare when we put the K1200GT up against both versions of the FJR in an upcoming comparison test.
The GT's fuel-injected engine feels great for sport-touring duty thanks to loads of mid-range power and spot-on fuel-injection mapping. The tuning for torque at the expense of top-end power results in a mellower ride. It accelerates hard and the power is very linear, starting just shy of 3000 rpm and pulling all the way up to the 10,000 rpm redline. However, touring types likely will never need to push it quite that hard because all the speed you'll ever need is easily attained by rowing through the 6-speed gearbox with the throttle about three-quarters of the way open. There is a noticeable amount of driveline lash from the shaft-drive unit, but the mellow application of clutch and throttle will keep it pretty much in check. BMW appears to have found a fuel-injection solution that works quite well, since the GT system felt flawless during my time in the saddle. Smooth is definitely the operative word when you're talking about the K1200GT.
The GT compromises top-end power and peak hp numbers for improved mid-range power and bumped up torque figures compared to the K1200S. The new engine formula equates to a smooth and steady base from which to build an excellent sport-touring bike.
Handling and comfort are critical components of any sport-touring bike, and they just so happen to be a couple of the K1200GT's strong points. The frame houses the laterally-mounted motor low in the chassis, which keeps the bike's center of gravity low and in turn helps with the neutral feeling when transitioning the bike from side-to-side. Combine that low CG with the innovative Duolever front suspension and EVO Paralever shaft-drive unit at the rear, the GT offers up a superbly stable ride on the highway or twisty canyon roads. Conservative steering geometry of 29.4 degrees of rake and 112mm of trail match that of the other new K bikes.
For riders who are finicky about the riding position, there is 1.6 inches of height adjustment in the bars, plus the standard seat is adjustable from 32.3-33.0 inches; there's also an optional lower seat that brings the range 0.7 inch closer to the ground. Unlike some previous BMWs I have ridden, like the GS and K1200LT, I could actually touch the ground with ease on the GT.
On the long stretches of highway leading through the acres of cinders that make up the San Francisco Peaks volcanic fields on the way past Sunset Crater and on towards the Painted Desert, the K12GT was ultra-stable. It was equally sure-footed in the many sweepers near the end of our trip through this desolate yet beautiful wasteland. I started off with the ESA system on Normal on the way out of town but switched to the Sport setting on the canyon road outside of Sedona. This provided a very notable improvement in how the bike tracked through the twisties.
The GT delivers power to the back wheel via the almost Beemer-standard shaft drive, with just a handful of the BMW lineup sporting alternate drivetrains.
Sure, I may have been pushing the bike as far as the Metzeler Roadtech Z6 tires would allow, but then you expect nothing less from us, do you? The Sport setting makes the bike feel less spongy and more planted during side-to-side transitions, which helps to inspire a bit more confidence when you're manipulating a substantial bike around 25 mph switchbacks. (On our scales, the GT weighs in at 631 pounds, tank empty.) On the opposite end of the performance spectrum, the Comfort setting is a great choice for improving the freeway droning riding experience by smoothing it out. The Comfort option is even more plush than the Normal setting that provides a nice buffer between your body and the imperfect budget-deprived highway surfaces that we are forced to ride on these days.
Beyond the superb suspension is a cozy cockpit from which to pilot BMW's latest uber-tourer. At the rider's disposal is an array of goodies aimed at making the riding experience enjoyable. The first line of defense is the on-the-fly-adjustable windscreen. An easy-to-reach toggle switch on the left handlebar allows for about a half foot of movement to yield the perfect amount of relief from the elements. The cruise control, dimmer switch, horn, left blinker and the all-important ESA all join the windscreen toggle on the left side bar. On the other hand is the switchgear for the heated grips, starter, kill switch, blinker, blinker kill switch and the On Board Computer (BC).
As expected, the new Beemer gets an A in comfort and handling. Depending on the terrain, the ESA (Electronic Suspension Adjustment) has three settings from which to choose: Normal, Sport, and Comfort.
The innocent-looking BC button toggles through all the functions of the On Board Computer. By default the LCD display screen that is nestled neatly between the white analog-faced speedometer and tach offers up a fuel and temperature gauge and clock, but the extras are merely a click or two away. Outside air temperature (including a black-ice warning), dual tripmeters, odometer, distance until empty (range), oil level warning and average fuel consumption information are all available at the push of a button. What you do with that data is up to you.
All those extras really cap off what is already an excellent touring platform, even if you by some chance only purchase the base model, because it still comes with three of the most useful features: Saddlebags, ABS and an adjustable windscreen. The additional protection provided by the windscreen in the maximum-upright position will certainly provide added relief while riding in inclement weather. I preferred the screen down because I enjoy the wind in my face more so than the boring silence it offered at full mast. The detachable saddlebags will hold plenty of necessities, or if you prefer, storage space for a full-face helmet. An easy-to-operate locking and release handle make removing and installing the bags fairly simple. Everywhere you look there are reasons to like the all-new K1200GT.
It was very easy to get complacent on this bike because you're so well protected from the elements. The motor is very smooth and, if you have the optimal suspension setting selected for the road conditions, it feels like you're barely moving when in reality, you're about a quarter turn of the throttle away from triple-digit speeds.
The new GT won't disappoint gadget-minded riders, as it sports more than its fair share of electronic bells and whistles. Foremost of the electronic goodies is the OBC (On Board Computer), which provides plenty of useful information to the rider.
Slowing a bike this big and this fast is no easy task, so BMW has equipped the K1200GT with power-assist brakes and Integral ABS brakes as standard equipment. This set-up works great now that I have come to grips with the feeling of the power assisted binders after a couple years of riding an assortment of BMWs outfitted this way. There's not much feel at the lever compared to traditional brake systems, but once you get the 'feel' for it, you'll learn to appreciate it.
One lesson about the BMW power-assist brakes I've learned over the last couple years is that when you turn the bike off the brakes have about 10% of their stopping power. So, when you pull up to a scenic outlook, don't turn the bike off and coast to the edge, as it makes things a wee bit scary. If you're maneuvering the bike in a parking lot or on a sloped driveway, you may want to fire it up for a little peace of mind, because the brakes are nearly non-existent when the bike is off.
MotorcycleUSA.com's Editor-At-Large Neale Bayly, along with myself and the majority of other journalists on hand, all seemed impressed with the overall package that is the K1200GT. Words like 'smooth,' 'flawless' and 'perfect' were tossed about at every stop, and rarely did anyone have less than an ear-to-ear grin when they removed their helmets. I have very few negatives to point out on the GT. But, of course, there are gripes.
Roomy saddlebags come standard on the GT and are spacious enough to hold a full-face helmet.
The case cover on the right side of the motor sticks out and is an unfortunate obstacle that wedges your right foot between it and the brake lever. I worked around it by placing my foot on the outside of the peg, but I kept wondering how it would affect a rider with boots larger than my size 9s. With my toes hanging out in during the canyon-carving portion of the ride, my toe slider got a good workout.
There are a few other quibbles. As mentioned earlier, the driveline lash is noticeable, although not too bad for a shaft drive; the power brakes take a little getting used to; and there's a bit of vibration that seeps through the bars at around 70 mph.
On a more positive note are the sometimes overlooked components that can make or break a bike of this caliber. The mirrors remain clear and offer an unobstructed view at any speed. There's a center-stand that makes performing regular maintenance on the bike a little easier - or changing a tire, as we found out on our R1200GS. There is an additional small lockable storage area in the right side of the bodywork suitable for a wallet, cell phone or house keys and such. The 6.3-gallon fuel tank carries enough juice to keep you on the road for at least 250 miles, considering that the average fuel consumption reading I took off the bike was 44 mpg and BMW claims it's capable of getting up to 49 mpg. Those numbers are right on-par with what we discovered during our test of the K1200S.
If the standard features on the GT, which include the adjustable windscreen and gigantic saddlebags, aren't enough, there are further options available to push the dollar figure up over the $20,000 mark.
If this bike sounds remotely interesting to you, then make sure to go to your local dealer and take a look. The bike's design really seems to polarize people's opinions. Some think it is easy on the eyes, but others are more critical of the large surface area of the lower cowling and the unusual appearance of the front suspension. There's no mistaking that it's a BMW.
If you prefer to go without the optional gizmos, the base GT retails for $18,800. The fully-loaded version like we tested here runs in the neighborhood of $20,600. It's available in three color combinations: Dark Graphite Metallic, Crystal Gray Metallic and Deep Blue Metallic, all of which look great under the Arizona sunshine. There are plenty of options that will allow the bike to be custom suited to your needs as a rider, so if sport-touring is your thing, then the GT is worth consideration.
For those who require a more sporting edge in their touring adventures, the K1200S with optional luggage might be and option, too. The S feels outright faster and costs $3000 less, but once you tack on the ABS, a $1000 option and saddlebags will cost about $800, the Gt starts making even more sense. Plus you'd have to forgo luxuries like the GT's adjustable windscreen and handlebars for the right to boast about having a few extra ponies on tap.
Our first impressions tell us the 2006 K1200GT is one of the best sport-touring machines available, but we're not ready to call it the best. Not just yet. When you consider how well a bike performs on its own, sometimes its shortcomings can be overlooked. For that reason, we like to follow up our first ride impressions with some real world testing that is sure to reveal the true nature of the beast. That's why we have the heavily revised 2006 Yamaha FJR1300 lined up for a head-to-head showdown with the new kid on the block during our first critical test of the summer. Stay tuned!
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