Text: Neale Bayly • Photography: BMW North America
With a design philosophy to create a machine that has the functionality of a scooter and the riding pleasure of a motorcycle, BMW introduced their two new “Maxi-Scooters” recently in Madrid, Spain.
Centered on the same frame architecture and sharing a common power plant, the C 600 Sport and the C 650 GT come equipped with a quiet, smooth, water-cooled, parallel twin engine. Displacing 647cc and producing 60 hp at 7,500 rpm and 48 lb-ft of torque at 6,000 rpm, both machines perform like a midsize motorcycle. With a 270-degree firing order, a 90-degree crank pin offset, and twin balancer shafts, vibration is almost non-existent until you get close to maximum speed. The cylinders tilt forward at a 70-degree angle, which lets the engine sit low in the frame. This makes the scooter a step-thru and helps centralize mass for better handling and maneuverability. Electronic fuel injection is used, and double overhead camshafts operate four valves per cylinder. Burned gasses exit through a stainless steel exhaust, which contains a closed-loop catalytic converter and oxygen sensor that meet upcoming Euro 4 standards.
For new riders, the big advantage maxi scooters have over motorcycles is no clutch to master and no gears to shift. Instead, they have a conventional throttle and directly integrated CVT (continuously variable transmission) to drive the rear wheel. It also has handlebar-operated brakes. Once the engine is running, all you do is twist the throttle to go and squeeze the levers to stop. Aided by antilock, hydraulically operated disc brakes, maxi scooters are safe, fun, and easy to ride.
Attending the press test in a busy, European city allowed me to quickly appreciate this ease of operation as I dodged cars, buses, other scooters, and pedestrians with aplomb.
With both variations of the scooter to ride, I started on the C 600 Sport and was immediately impressed by the handling as we ducked and dived through the busy Spanish streets, changing direction with the lightest nudge on the bars. This sharp steering doesn’t come at the expense of high-speed stability when you get up to highway speeds; even at around 80 mph, the scooters remain composed, comfortable, and stable.
The Sport and the GT both use a tubular steel bridge-type frame, something more typically found on a conventional motorcycle. The single-sided swingarm houses the rear shock absorber, which is exposed for easy preload adjustments. Unlike a modern motorcycle, there is no damping adjustment. Both scooters use a nonadjustable, inverted fork up front; the standard settings worked well with my 175-pound weight. The new maxi scooters have lightweight, die-cast, 15-inch wheels and come wrapped in slick, low-profile Pirelli tires, part of the reason the scooters steer so quickly and hold their line in high-speed corners. For faster road riding, you have to use the back brake in tandem with the front on corner entrance to keep the chassis settled, but otherwise it’s just like riding a regular two-wheeler.
When I switched from the Sport to the GT, the difference was immediately apparent. The handlebars are wider, the seat lower, and it’s much more focused on touring with its adjustable backrest. It also weighs about 25 pounds more than the Sport. The larger, electrically adjustable windshield, more protective fairings, and space to add a luggage rack all give it a more substantial feel. There are also minor differences to the instrument cluster, although both machines use a large, round analog speedometer with a smaller digital display on the side for all the other relevant information. This consists of trip counters, a temperature gauge, fuel gauge, and a small area for engine rpm. There are also symbols for the heated equipment to show what setting you have chosen; to turn it on and off, or to adjust temperature, there are clearly marked buttons on the right-side switchgear. On the left-hand side is a button to check your trip meters or scroll through all of the options available on the digital display.
There are additional safety features, beyond the ABS, that benefit new and experienced riders. The engine won’t start with the side-stand down, and the machine can’t roll away if you are parked on a hill because putting the sidestand down applies the rear brake. To add fuel, simply turn the ignition key down and to the left, which opens a small door below the front of the seat. Turn the key to the right and depress it to open the seat, which lifts from the rear. Underneath, you will find enough storage for two full-face helmets on the GT. The Sport has its own unique, expanding Flex storage system, which can hold a full-face helmet and other items when the scooter is parked. Both maxi scooters have central locking and small compartments in the front fairing for additional storage of smaller items.
BMW’s new maxi scooters come with a complete line of accessories (tinted windshields and alarm systems are already available). You can add a luggage rack and topcase to the GT to extend its touring function, or spice up the Sport with performance-style Akrapovič exhaust. BMW makes a navigation system for both machines that attaches below the instrument cluster. With LED turn signals, an on-board USB charger, and a cell phone storage compartment, nothing has been overlooked. Powered by smooth, flexible engines and wrapped in sleek, stylish bodywork, these new scooters clearly lead BMW into the urban mobility segment of the two-wheeled world. With the C 600 Sport and C 650 GT, they did the job right the first time.
Distributor BMW Motorrad USA, www.bmw motorcycles.com
MSRP no price announced
Engine inline, water-cooled, 4-stroke, 2-cylinder 647cc, DOHC
Bore and Stroke 79×66mm
Ignition electronic ignition
Transmission continuously variable transmission (CVT)
Brakes Front/Rear 2×270mm front rotors, 1×270mm rear rotor, twin piston calipers; ABS
Curb Weight 550lbs (Sport)/ 575lbs (GT)
Wheelbase 1591mm (62.6in)
Seat Height 780mm (30.7in)
Fuel Capacity 4.23gal
Fuel Consumption na
C 600 Sport: Cosmic blue metallic matte, Titanium silver metallic, Sapphire black metallic
C 650 GT: Sapphire black metallic, Platinum bronze metallic, Vermilion red metallic