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2013 BMW C 600 Sport & C 650 GT First Ride

Wednesday, December 19, 2012
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2013 BMW C650 GT and C600 Sport First Ride Video
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Contributing editor Gabe Ets-Hokin hops aboard the 2013 BMW C 650 GT and C 600 Sport for a ride around the hills of Southern California. Check it out in the 2013 BMW C650 GT and C600 Sport First Ride Video.
If BMW—a brand always associated with high-end, performance-oriented premium cars and motorcycles—were to build a scooter, what would it be like? Well, it wouldn't be the cheapest on the market, that's a safe guess. But you could also safely assume it would be technologically advanced, have lots of luxury-oriented features, be incredibly refined and engineered and be fast enough to hold its own in any sort of paved environment.

And you'd be right. I was so intrigued about BMW's new scooters that I put in a 19-hour day flying down to LAX, riding the C 600 Sport and C 650 GT in the Malibu mountains and then riding one 400 miles home to Oakland in the dead of a cold winter night just for the opportunity to ride one.

And off the top of my head, I can't think of a better scooter—or motorcycle—to have done it on.

We all got a pretty detailed tech briefing of the two scoots from Bryan Harley, but BMW North America had us sit down to listen to Product Manager Sergio Carvajal tell us a little more about how and why BMW brought these bikes to market.
BMW has wanted into the scooter market for a long time (remember the C1 and C1-E electric prototype ?) for a very good reason: it's big—huge—and will only get bigger for many reasons. As it is, 40 million scooters a year are sold around the world, according to Carvajal, and demand won't decrease anytime soon. The growth of the "mega city (built-up areas of 10 million residents or more)" sees more and more people heading to urbanized areas from rural ones, increasing traffic density as a result, which leads to limited access for cars—and more demand for two-wheelers. But oil prices are triple what they were 10 years ago, emissions standards tighten up all the time, and there's a demand for "sustainable urban mobility."

Wide bars and 15-inch radial tires offer responsive and predictable steering.
Wide bars and 15-inch radial tires offer responsive and predictable steering.
The BMW automotive group—with Rolls Royce, Mini, BMW and Husqvarna included—sees BMW Motorrad as the "center of competence for mobility concepts," expected to spearhead the push to merge (or maybe just blur) the gap between cars and single-track vehicles, combining the best features of both. BMW's new "Urban Mobility" line—a new product grouping buttressing Sport, Touring, Enduro and other lines—will add more new models in the future. But why scooters? Well, Carvajal says, they're fun, they're cute, they're non-threatening, easy to park, easy to ride and convey a feeling of freedom to users and onlookers alike.

Onlookers who may turn into buyers. BMW's market research indicates there's strong interest in its scooters. New riders, BMW-loyal customers who may be looking to replace or supplement a heavier, bigger machine, returning riders looking for something friendlier to come back to riding with, small scooter riders looking to move up to a faster bike, and the ever-desirable 'conquest,' motorcycle and scooter owners from other brands looking for a premium product.

And there's no doubt this is a premium product. The motor is a 649cc liquid-cooled, counterbalanced DOHC Twin that Carvajal says offers "best in class" performance: 60 horsepower at the crank. That's good for a 0-40 time of four seconds, and a 109-mph top speed, BMW claims. It's not just powerful, it's compact and easy to service, with the drive chain running in an enclosed oil bath. The CVT transmission means it's a twist-n-go, but it's tuned to maintain constant rpm between 30-70 mph for maximum efficiency and response.

Even after 400 miles  our tester was still comfortable aboard the BMW scoot.
ImBoth the C 600 Sport and C 650 GT have some heft, but the low placement of the engine and gas tank make maneuvering much easier.
The chassis is straight forward but up to the task. It's a tube-steel bridge-type frame, with the motor mounted solidly to aid rigidity. The front end is a sturdy-looking 40mm inverted fork with dual triple clamps. In back, the cast-alloy single-sided swingarm is suspended by a laydown monoshock, adjustable for preload. Standard ABS beefs up the dual two-piston calipers and 270mm front discs; another 270mm disc is in back. The cast wheels mount 15-inch radial tires, a 120-section in front and wide 160-section in back. Wheelbase is a lengthy 62.6 inches.

That's where the two models diverge. The C 600 Sport has a more aggressive riding position, the trunk, fairing and windscreen are smaller and it's 26 pounds lighter than the 575 pound (claimed wet weight) C 650 GT. The GT gets a bigger fairing with power-adjustable windscreen and a massive 60-liter-capacity trunk. The Sport's trunk is smaller, but has a "Flexcase" bottom that swings out to give it more capacity when the bike is parked.

Why is the Sport called a 600 when both models actually share the same 649 mill? "Why don't you go ask the Germans?" responded Carvajal, and after the laughs died down, he explained that there was a plan to give the 600 an actual 600cc powerplant, to further differentiate the two bikes as well as to connote the Sport with 600cc sportbikes. But then Yamaha upgraded the Euro-model TMAX, so both rides got the same mill so the Sport could stay in front. Why the designation wasn't changed to 650 will probably remain one of life's mysteries, but we all have more important things to worry about, don't we?

GT is touring-oriented  gets a larger fairing  trunk  seat and windscreen.
GT is touring-oriented, gets a larger fairing, trunk, seat and windscreen.
Sport has a more aggressive riding position  smaller fairing with sharper styling.
Sport has a more aggressive riding position, smaller fairing with sharper styling.
Tech brief was ended, so it was time to start my 460-mile day. The first 30 miles would wind through Santa Monica, Venice Beach and then the Coast Highway to Malibu, the kind of crowded, stop-and-go traffic where scooters thrive. Hopping aboard my bronze 650 GT test unit sat me on a very comfortable, if gigantic ride. A large tunnel makes it a little harder to mount than a scooter, but still much easier than a motorcycle. Hoisting it upright, I notice its heft, but since it's a scooter, with the motor and gas tank down low, it's very manageable.

Around town, it's more maneuverable than a car, even a tiny one, but you won't mistake it for something smaller. Both these machines are ocean-going yachts compared to the nimble cigarette boats that are the 200cc and smaller scoots, discouraging the wanton antics I usually engage in around town. There's no doubt you're on a big, powerful vehicle that demands reserve and respect. The clutch doesn't engage until 2200 rpm and the gearing is for the Autobahn, so it's not as quick off the line as I expected, though nobody will call it 'slow' around town. The brakes are very good, especially if you use both front and rear, and the ABS is very useful, limiting rear-wheel skids and ensuring a quick, safe stop on all kinds of pavement. The suspension works well soaking up bumps, helped by the motor being mounted amidships and not on the single-sided swingarm as it is with most scooters—that huge powerplant would be a lot of unsprung mass otherwise. Wheeling around town is fine, but it's not in its element.

The winding mountain roads above Malibu show off both the Sport and GT's capabilities. Steering is very good with the wide bars, radial tires and well-engineered steering geometry. The Sport has the edge in the fun-to-ride category—the smaller bodywork and lower bars make it feel smaller and more manageable than the GT—but both scoots are good in the twisty bits. Both models offered up more cornering clearance than I dared use, and the motor is great too—responsive and nicely fuelled, it deliverers plenty of oomph to pass plodding cars with ease, even uphill at a good clip. This is a fast scooter by any metric, with as much power as you'd need for touring, even laden with a passenger and luggage to the 406-pound load limit on the GT (or 432, surprisingly, for the Sport).

The 650 GT has a host of amenities to allow for comfortable touring.
The 650 GT has a host of amenities to allow for comfortable touring.
That's right: touring. The GT is a very good tourer. Sixty liters of stowage (illuminated with an LCD lamp), plus two locking glove boxes (the left one has a handy12-volt outlet tucked inside) rivals some sport-tourers I could name. The seats on both bikes are not just broad, supportive and nicely padded, they're heated with the so-called optional High-Line package that includes heated seats, grips and tire-pressure monitor. I say so-called because it'll be hard to find these bikes without the $605 package; 98 or 99 percent of the bikes shipped will have it, Carvajal told us. The windscreen on the GT was very good: optically correct and sturdy, it sent the wind quietly over my helmet, and at five-foot-seven my vision was just below the top of the screen. Accessory screens are available, as is a big top case, performance Akrapovic exhaust and other goodies.

After 350 miles on long, straight, cow flop-redolent I-5 I was bored, cold and sleepy, but otherwise comfortable. The seat and long floorboards allow the rider to adjust positions to alleviate sore butts and the bars put your hands and shoulders in a good posture. The backrest is three-position adjustable to give the tall folk more room, and the grip and seat heaters have 'auto' settings that keep your palms and back-end just the right temperature (luckily, I was able to wire up my Powerlet heated gear to keep my other important bits warm as well).

My only touring complaint was range. Carvajel told us the bike returns 53 mpg—but that's at 56 mph and who rides that slow? Not me. At a steady 75 indicated, I burned about 37 mpg and wasn't able to put more than 150 miles on one of three tripmeters before the low-fuel warning flashed. BMW claims a 200-mile range for the 4.2-gallon tank: I don't have the patience or wrist control to do that.

Both the C 600 Sport and C 650 GT have some heft  but the low placement of the engine and gas tank make maneuvering much easier.
The BMW C 650 GT starts at just over $400 dollars more than the C 600 Sport.
This is the part of the show where we tell you how much it costs and how much we liked it. The GT is $9990 and the Sport is $9590—add $605 for the Highline package. Not cheap, but priced right around other mega-scoots like the Burgman Exec ($9899, 2012 model) or the Honda Silverwing ($9270, 2012 model). You get a lot of features for that 10 large, with a very powerful engine and really good handling wrapped up in a touring-oriented package that will be a very good choice for someone looking for a long-distance capable ride that's just somehow easier in every way than a traditional motorcycle. And for you nay-sayers who are doubting BMW"s success in the scooter—ahem, urban mobility—market, Carvajal tells us BMW dealers have been selling the bikes since the end of the summer and they're moving out the door as fast as they can order them.

What will a BMW scooter be like? I think more people than you'd expect will be finding out that answer first hand—sooner rather than later.
BMW C 600 Sport & C 650 GT First Ride
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BMW C 600 Sport & C 650 GT Specs
The C 650 GT starts at just over  400 dollars more than the C 600 Sport.
Engine: Liquid-cooled in-line twin, 4-stroke
Bore x Stroke: 79 mm x 66 mm
Compression Ratio: 11.6:1
Fuel Delivery: Fuel-injection
Clutch: Centrifugal clutch
Transmission: CVT
Frame: Tube-steel bridge type
Front Suspension: Upside-down fork, 40 mm diameter, no adjustments.
Rear Suspension: Cantilevered 'laydown' monoshock, adjustable for preload.
Front Brakes: 270mm discs with 2-piston calipers; ABS
Rear Brake: 270mm disc with ABS
Wheels: Cast aluminum 3.5 x 15 front, 4.5 x 15 rear
Tires: Pirelli Diablo Scooter 120/70-15, 160/60-15
Curb Weight: 549 lbs(Sport); 575 lbs (GT); 540 lbs
Wheelbase: 62.6 in.
Length: 87.3 in.
Steering Head Angle: 64.6 deg.
Trail: 3.6 inches
Seat Height: 31.3 in.
Fuel Capacity: 4.2 gallon
MSRP: $9490 (Sport), $9990 (GT)
Colors: Titan Silver Metallic, Sapphire Black Metallic, Cosmic Blue Metallic (Sport), Matt Sapphire Black Metallic, Vermilion Red Metallic, Platinum Bronze Metallic (GT)
Warranty: Two year, unlimited mileage
Gabe's C650 Gearbag
Even though BMW touts above 50 mpg  our tester found that highway speeds reduced miles-per-gallon to about 37.
  • HJC RPHA-10 Helmet
  • Aerostich Roadcrafter Light one-piece riding suit
  • Helimot Buffalo Pro gloves
  • Puma OFBs (old freakin' boots)

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tjameson   February 1, 2013 07:01 AM
I recently had the opportunity to view the C650GT on a dealer's show room floor. I am also 5'7" as the reviewer states and had great difficult with the seat height. I could only reach the floor while being on my tip toes. I do not think that would be safe maneuvering in stop and go traffic. It is a beautiful machine; but until the seat height is addressed I dont think I will be a serious buyer.
bikerrandy   January 20, 2013 12:10 PM
As a comparison I tour on a Piaggio 400 MP3, getting 64 mpg @ 65-70 mpg. It doesn't have all the "extras" this BMW has but it get's the job done just fine and comfortably. The MP3 is belt drive vs. this BMW is belt(small) and enclosed chain drive. The BMW belt is so small I wonder how long it will last. My 400 will do 90 mmph. if needed.
bmwkidwise   January 12, 2013 04:41 AM
You failed to mention that these scooters have Kymco motors in them. If I wanted a Kymco scooter, I would go and buy a Kymco scooter. I am very disappointed with BMW's economic decision not to do their own R&D and create a German motor for their own scooters. Hey BMW, why don't you grow some balls and develop your own motors, screw economics!
joecburke   January 11, 2013 07:05 PM
First, a critique on the review: it would be nice if you compared this test ride against other vehicles of the same type. Comparing it to other touring bikes makes no sense, it's obviously meant for other purposes. Thanks for mentioning (as an aside) the chain drive (its not in the spec list), that is important. Also good to note your physical size as we want to know your riding comfort at a certain size, but would have been nice to have someone totally different stature's comments as well, since you are 5'7" perhaps someone 6'. Now the bike: I own an '08 Suzuki Burgman 650 scooter so the BMW GL650 interests me, but I would never get a chain-drive bike again, too much maintenance (and durability question) compared to the Suzy's shaft-drive. Also, even with a heavy throttle-hand I get 50mph with the Burgman, why go to a bike that does so much worse than that? Lastly, I predict that BMW will whittle these two down to a single model, there's not enough difference to support two different bikes. Suzuki, Yamaha and Honda all do great business with a smaller version at about 400cc, in addition to the 500-650 class of scooter.
Poncho167   December 26, 2012 02:35 PM
Good luck with this. At $10,000 and it can't even get 50 mpg? What's the point.
gregsfc   December 26, 2012 11:09 AM
If I had dropped 10Gs on anything with 2 wheels, especially something called a scooter, and then only achieved 37 mpg, I might just ride it off a cliff. My 4-wheel vehicle returns an average of 46 mpg. I bought a PTW to improve on that. I'm getting 70 mpg on a more modest, highway capable scooter, which is only barely acceptable in my mind, considering what one gives up for 2-wheel travel. I would love to one day upgrade to a larger, more weather-protective model like the BMW Cs, but If companies like BMW are going to offer mobility alternatives to cars, they're going to have to start adding some technologies that save fuel. Just think, if I had one of those Cs, I would lose fuel economy when I rode the scooter instead of the car. That's insane!
Piglet2010   December 21, 2012 03:58 PM
If I did not already own a Honda Dullsville, I would seriously consider one of these Beemer scoots. Also good to know that I am not the only person to ride a scooter in a Hi-Viz and gray (opposite of Gabe's, however with Hi-Viz primary and gray ballistic panels) Roadcrafter Light.