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Motoring: BMW Motorrad branches out
“I think you’re going to like it,” the other Rob from BMW said.
He seemed pretty sure of himself. But then, BMW has never been short of confidence, especially when it comes to performance.
Although BMW Motorrad (their motorcycle division) has historically been associated with boxer-twin reliability and a legendary lineup of adventure bikes, they have branched out broadly with new products.
The S1000RR and HP4 bikes are giving Japanese supersports a run for their money while K1600 models are rivaling the Honda Gold Wing that previously dominated the full-size touring class.
And now it’s scooters.
Last year, BMW Canada launched a brand new two-scooter lineup—the C600 Sport and the C650GT.
Both share an identical underbody and chassis, the same suspension and enough components from the motorcycle parts bin—upside-down 40 mm forks, ABS disc braking, 15-inch alloy wheels—to morph these maxi-scooters into potent performers.
And don’t let the naming throw you off. In BMW style, it is only vaguely indicative of displacement. Both models also share the same fuel-injected 647 cc engine. But the two flavours of scooter have been designed for different audiences.
The C600 Sport had been aimed at riders with a real sporting jones. It is slimmer, starker and lighter (by 12 kg) with less bodywork. It has a manually adjustable windscreen and lower handlebars that combine with a higher seat (810 mm), creating a more aggressive riding position, along with less passenger accommodation (rear pegs and a smaller pillion).
The C650GT tested here, places greater emphasis on comfort and touring capability.
The tubular steel bridge frame architecture makes this more of a step-over scooter than a step-through but, once you’re on, the seating is comfy with a small backrest hump for the rider and a wide cushion and floorboards for the passenger. Actually, it’s so roomy I couldn’t feel my wife sitting behind me.
The handlebars are higher than on the C600 Sport model, for a nice upright position. The still relatively high 795 mm seat height will have some toes stretching for the ground but the plus side is a high viewpoint over cars and traffic.
Starting the engine requires an accompanying squeeze on one of the brake levers (left for rear brakes, right for front). The 2-cylinder water-cooled inline DOHC four-valve engine (designed by BMW, built by Kymco) awakes instantaneously.
The motor makes 60 hp at 7,500 rpm, and 49 lb/ft of max torque at 6,000 rpm and an 8,500 rpm redline. Top speed is 175 km/h, although the other Rob confided that he managed to peg the speedo to the 180 km/h pin, tucked behind the windshield on a downhill highway run during the European launch program.
My goals were somewhat less ambitious and I was happy as the C650GT squirted away with enough power to almost belie its substantial 261 kg curb weight.
All that weight has been designed down low however, and it doesn’t take long for that low centre of gravity to show itself in nimble and responsive handling.
Power is transferred smoothly through a CVT transmission.
My combined mix of riding covered country roads, highway runs, a short two-up trek and some urban chores.
After 270 km, the fuel light came on, indicating that I was into the four-litre reserve. I tanked up with 12.4 litres (premium, ouch) for a combined fuel economy of 4.6L/100km. That would translate into an easy 350 km range on the 16-litre tank, especially with a little less emphasis on throttle-twisting enjoyment.
Plenty of get-and-go requires some slow-down-and-stop, and the C650GT is fitted with dual 270 mm disc brakes with double-piston floating calipers up front and a single 270 mm disc with double-piston caliper at the rear. Dual-channel ABS comes standard on both models. A separate rear caliper parking brake automatically engages when the side stand is kicked down.
Bumping up touring comfort, the C650GT offers more protective paneling than the C600 Sport model. An electric-powered windshield is button operated from the left grip.
I’m a little too tall for this windshield, so I kept it lowered, aiming the slipstream at my neck rather than having it buffet my helmet. But average-sized riders will find ample range of adjustment. Two moveable wind deflectors below the windscreen also offer some varying degrees of airflow and weather protection.
There are two glove boxes with surprisingly flimsy doors. The left side box locks when the ignition is turned off. The main storage is under the seat where 60 litres swallows two full-face helmets (if you position them just so) and/or a variety of items. It also comes with a LED interior light and accessory 12V power point.
The cockpit features an instrument cluster with analogue speedo in centre, and bar graphics for the fuel gauge to the left, tach to the right.
Also included are a clock and onboard computer readouts monitoring exterior temperature, fuel consumption, oil level, average speed and date. My optioned-up tester showed grip-heater levels and a tire pressure control indicator as well.
At night, this gauge package is illuminated in “easy-to-read orange”. Yeah, well, it needs a little multi-coloured jazzing up, if you ask me.
But those are minor nitpicks. The other Rob was right. I did like the C650GT.
In fact, I love all kinds of motorcycles but every time I drive a scooter, I’m struck by how the get-on-and-go riding ease, maneuverability and automatic operation, makes the traditional motorcycle dance of hands and feet shifting and braking seem like an some outdated ritual of dated yestertech operation.
And, although buyers can find cheaper, similarly powered motorcycles instead, the BMW C650GT ($10,999) is competitively priced compared to other scooter contenders in roughly the same class—the Suzuki Burgman 650 Exec ABS ($11,099) and the Yamaha TMAX ($10,499).
The C650GT is not BMW’s last word on future of scooters. Within a year or so, they will be unveiling a C Evolution electric scooter that, at this point, boasts a 35 kwH engine, 100 km range, 3 hour charge time and 120 km/h top speed.
But, for now, the C650GT touring maxi-scooter, and its C600 Sport sibling, combine to offer two flavours of urban mobility, with practical levels of utility and passenger comforts, along with long haul highway touring competence.
Engine: 647 cc two-cylinder, four-stroke, eight-valve, liquid cooled engine (60 hp, 49 lb/ft)
Fuel Economy: As tested 4.6L/100km (comb)
Transmission: CVT with chain drive
Wheelbase: 1591 mm
Suspension: Front upside-down 40 mm fork (115 mm travel); Rear single-sided swing arm (115 mm travel)
Brakes: Front two-rotor disc brake, diameter 270 mm, two-piston floating caliper; Rear single disc brake, diameter 270 mm, two-piston floating caliper
Tires: Front 120/70ZR15; Rear 160/60ZR15
Seat Height: 795 mm
Curb Weight: 249 kg
Fuel Capacity: 16 litres
Colours: Sapphire black metallic, Platinum bronze metallic, Vermilion red metallic
Price: $10,990; As tested $11,660 includes Highline Package with heated grips, heated seats and tire pressure monitor ($670).