Having just ridden the new Indian Pursuit, I was eagerly anticipating the Bavarian interpretation of a heavyweight bagger with a backrest. One may quip that the opposed-twin of the R 18 Transcontinental may better represent that particular segment. But the R 18 B model with a backrest doesn’t have the name Grand America embossed on its Option 719 diamond-stitched leather seat, nor does it come stock with highway floorboards. The K 1600 GA may spin three times as many pistons in its smaller displacement (1649cc) motor and lighten the scales by more than 100 pounds compared to the Indian, but a bagger—albeit a sporty one with a backrest—it remains.
Once underway, there’s no denying the K 1600 GA’s Autobahn heritage and lust for speedily blurring its way through curvaceous countryside scenery. The Grand America Package ($5,200) includes, among many other items, BMW’s Gear Shift Assist Pro. Providing clutchless upshifts and downshifts, this technology is usually reserved for motorcycles destined for track days, but it’s a welcome addition to this performance tourer. Also included in the GA package is the top case/passenger backrest combo, which is the defining difference between the GA and the K 1600 B model. Selecting the Bagger Package on the B model basically gives you the GA model, minus the top case and a few other residual amenities.
For 2022, all K 1600 models boast a new engine control unit (ECU) that gets the in-line six-cylinder to its claimed peak horsepower 1,000 rpm earlier than the previous model (160 hp at 6,750 rpm vs. 160 hp at 7,750 rpm), while producing three more lb-ft of torque at the same rpm (132 lb-ft vs. 129 lb-ft at 5,250 rpm). Pretty impressive stuff, considering there were no mechanical changes to the motor.
And oh, what a motor it is. Inline sixes are cool by default, especially when mounted across the frame of a motorcycle. Even though BMW positions the GA as the cushiest of the K 16s, I’m having trouble believing anyone rides this bike slow. Making that engine sing and fully engaging its performance is the essence of why BMW built it in the first place.
Helping you indulge in such antics is the addition of a new engine torque control unit that’s meant to help smooth any rear wheel chatter by increasing engine rpm for a millisecond when needed. It may seem like overkill on a bike already outfitted with a slipper clutch and dynamic traction control, but any little bit helps on a bike weighing a claimed 816 pounds wet and costing north of $30,000.
Measuring 1.75 inches short of a foot, the K 16’s new TFT display replaces all the analog gauges of last year’s model. It’s not a touch screen, but—according to BMW—that’s on purpose for safety reasons. With BMW’s oh-so-useful handlebar-mounted multi-controller, there’s no reason for it to be a touch screen. After connecting all your smart devices, the BMW interface takes over, allowing you access to music, phone calls, navigation, and other features. Missing, however, is Apple Car Play or Android Auto connectivity—an odd oversight.
A Motorcycle First
According to BMW, the Meteoric Metallic paintwork on my test bike is the first time the process of durable water transfer (aka. hydro dipping) has been used on a production motorcycle. I’m only familiar with the process from videos that have come across my Facebook feed, so it’s pretty cool to see it being implemented on a motorcycle. The graphic used for the GA is the same for each bike, but the body parts using the process are hand-dipped so none are exactly the same.
Choosing the Option 719 Meteoric Dust 2 Metallic paint on BMW’s website was frustrating for me, because when I made that selection the Option 719 Bench Seat is automatically added. Not that there’s anything wrong with the seat—on the contrary, it’s a quality item with the aforementioned stitching and embossing. It’s just too short for my taste. At 29.5 inches, the Option 719 seat shares the same seat height with the stock seat, but the short distance between the seat and footpegs creates enough of an uncomfortable bend in my knee that I was extending my feet forward to the highway floorboards whenever possible. Choosing the high seat (a zero-dollar option) on the bike configurator portion of BMW’s website automatically negates the hydro dipping paint scheme. My local BMW dealer assured me there was a way for them to order the GA with the paint scheme and seat of my choice.
It felt a little strange navigating a twisty mountain road with my feet positioned high and forward instead of low and beneath, but after a while I grew to really like the semi-recumbent riding position. Switching gears or applying the rear brake required relocating my feet back to the standard footrests, but as soon as the action was complete, my feet were back on the floorboards. Too bad BMW didn’t outfit the GA with forward controls. A heel-toe shifter, anyone?
That Front Shock
Every time there’s a gap from the last time I rode a BMW with a duolever front end, there’s a period of reacquainting myself with the vague front-end feedback the suspension system provides. But after 50 miles, trust built back up and so did my appreciation for the subtleties, such as the minimal front-end dive when braking hard. The bike maintained its composure without being forced to choose between comfort and performance suspension settings.
And, speaking of suspension, the GA comes standard with Dynamic ESA Next Generation electronic suspension that automatically adjusts preload settings. For a bike that can one minute be loaded with two riders and luggage before being ridden solo from the cabin back into town to retrieve forgotten sunglasses, this technology is a wonderful thing.
Positioned right above the large TFT display is a new, air-conditioned smartphone charging compartment. The compartment is large enough to fit a wide variety of phones, and while it does charge your phone it does not connect the phone to the bike. That is accomplished via Bluetooth. Cooling the phone is necessary because hidden away inside the compartment, it can easily overheat when the motorcycle is using the BMW Connected app to run its navigation. Once everything is downloaded and connected, the whole system works well with the extra benefits of recording and logging your rides and keeping track of pending bike maintenance.
One big design flaw is the inability to access the phone compartment once the bike has been shut off and after the windscreen automatically lowers into its resting position. This happened to me a lot because remembering to remove my phone prior to switching the bike off upon arriving at my destination just isn’t the natural order of doing things.
This motorcycle is loaded with so many features and benefits, things that just a few years ago were the cutting edge. They are easily overlooked because of the exponential growth and adaptation of technology. The omission of adaptive cruise control was a little surprising, considering the K 1600 is BMW’s technology showcase model. The reason behind it is supposedly the lack of real estate in the front fairing area to house that particular tech, plus having to reconfigure the bike’s linked braking system. Oh well. I guess there’s always the next redesign, but by then adaptive cruise control won’t be so new.
Passenger Perspective from Maria Roderick
As the wife of a moto-journalist, I’ve been a passenger aboard countless motorcycles. I’ve endured passenger accommodations, ranging from the tiny pad called a seat on sportbikes to ultra deluxe seats complete with back and armrests. For anything longer than a Sunday afternoon ride, though, I prefer the luxury of a motorcycle built with passenger comfort in mind.
From a passenger standpoint, I personally don’t understand the bagger concept. I realize they look good to most, but it provides less passenger comfort even though it is a touring motorcycle.
This particular BMW, though, is one of my favorites. It simultaneously provides me the comfort I desire on a long trip while allowing my husband to enjoy tossing it from side to side like he does a sportbike when we’re riding through the mountains. He mentioned that the backrest was outfitted with upgraded stereo speakers. Perhaps so, but I think music sounds much better streaming directly to the speakers in my helmet.
I’m a petite woman and never get cramped on a big bike like the K 1600 GA. I have enough room to move around on the seat, and plenty of legroom. Sometimes, I asked Tom to adjust the windscreen if I felt the wind tossing my helmet around. Otherwise, the only thing I wished this BMW had were the optional armrests that are available as an accessory.
2022 BMW K 1600 Grand America
+ surprisingly comfortable highway-mounted floorboards, the quick-shifter, wonderful performance
– handlebar looks strange, tight seat-to-footpeg distance, no adaptive cruise control
Distributor: BMW Motorrad
MSRP: $27,465; $33,140 as tested
Engine: Liquid-cooled, in-line, 6-cylinder
Power: 160hp @6,750rpm; 133lb-ft @5,250 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed, helical gearing, shaft final drive
Weight: 816lbs (claimed)
Seat Height: 29.5in
Fuel Capacity: 7gal
Fuel grade: Premium
Colors: Meteoric Metallic, Meteoric Dust 2 Metallic