The Germans are about to change your mind about scooters.
BMW has launched its first scooters in the Australian market – or as they like to call them, “urban mobility models”. They also call their SUVs Sports Activity Vehicles or SAVs! BMW just love to be different. And these maxi scooters – C 600 Sport and C 650 GT – are certainly something different.
For a start they cost much more than the current batch. The Sport starts at $13,990 ($17,844 in NZ) and the GT is $15,990 ($20,990). On-road costs are extra. That compares with the list price of the competitors – Honda NC700D Integra at $10,990; Yamaha T-Max 500 at $12,990 and the Suzuki Burgman 650 $13,290.
But BMW Motorrad Australia marketing manager Miles Davis points out that their learner approved (LAMS) scooters have ABS standard, on-board computer and sophisticated suspension.
The GT comes standard with daytime LED running lights, heated seat and grips, tyre pressure monitor and LED indicators all of which you can also add to the Sport in the high line optional package for $1250 ($1590 NZ).
An alarm system is available for both bikes at $505 ($644) and there is a wide range of accessories that include luggage, racks, Akrapovic muffler (non-ADR), sports seat, satnav, alarm and bigger/smaller windscreens. So you can really option these things up for big-time maxi-scoot-touring.
Miles admits that our maxi scooter market is small compared with Europe.
“But it will be interesting to see how the segment changes when we introduce a bike with sophisticated suspension, electronic safety features like tyre pressure monitors and ABS,” he says.
“Safety is important in this segment for people.
“It won’t be long before there are global laws making ABS mandatory on some segments of bike.”
The Sport is a “leaner” model aimed at the younger market and the GT is aimed at more mature riders.
At those prices it is difficult to see it attracting a lot of younger riders, but certainly the GT has the goods to attract older riders who feel their big tourer or cruiser is getting too heavy to wield around.
The GT even feels like a tourer or cruiser, especially with the forward footwells.
“These will be like the way BMW challenged and changed the SUV segment,” says Miles.
“The rider experience is more like a motorcycle than a scooter.”
He expects 90 per cent of buyers to pick all the options.
“It is our experience that our owners like their burgers with the works so they tend to choose all the options.
“We’re not expecting big numbers – under 100 in a full year – but many will be new to the brand.
“Since 2004 we’ve been expanding our range to bring in new buyers like with the S 1000 RR.”
Miles says the scooters also have the potential to attract car owners and they will actively market through their massive car data base, advertise in car magazines and sell the scooters at many BMW car dealerships.
Despite the different numbering in their model names, both scoots are powered by a 647cc parallel twin engineered by BMW techs in Germany and built in Taiwan by scooter and ATV manufacturer Kymco.
It’s exactly the same arrangement as BMW has employed for their G 450 X motocross bike.
Kymco also supplies the continuously variable transmission.
The naming anomaly is similar to the F 650 – G 650 fiasco, but it’s not unusual that the number designation does not follow engine capacity. BMW and Mercedes have been doing it for years, trading on popular designations to attract buyers even though the engine capacity is sometimes smaller or bigger than the name would infer.
Despite the drivetrain being produced in Taiwan and various components being made around the world, the scooters are assembled in their heritage-listed Berlin factory where all their bikes are made.
The engine is a smooth and grunty unit with 44kW of power and 66Nm of torque.
It has a double-overhead cam, four valves per cylinder and as expected from BMW, it burns lean with fuel consumption rated at 4.5L/100km at a constant speed of 90km/h.
On the national press launch down the beaches from Coogie in Sydney, through the Royal National Park to the Bulli Pass and back with a load of paunchy motoring journos skylarking as usual (including overtaking a Ferrari convertible in the national park), the scoots returned about 4.9L/100km according to the onboard computer.
That provides pretty decent inter-city range of more than 300km from the 16L tank.
The donk is slanted forward 70 degrees to keep the centre of gravity low and its 90 degree crank pin offset delivers quite a lusty croak to the rider, even though the stainless steel muffler and cat ensure passersby are not insulted by any exhaust noise nor choked by fumes.
It’s a lean and green urban machine.
But that’s only part of the story, which is why the press launch ventured out of the city.
These scooters run on 15-inch wheels, which is unusual in the scooter world and is part of the reason they ride so well over our pitted and pockmarked roads.
The front tyre is a 120/70 so it doesn’t track and the rear is a fattish 160/60 so there is plenty of corner grip and highway stability.
Added to the almost motorbike-style tyres is the sophisticated suspension with 40mm upside down forks and seven-step adjustable shock. It’s exposed to highlight its worth to the bike’s overall engineering and sits horizontally for lower unsprung mass and centre of gravity.
There is 115mm of travel front and back, and we used all of it on some of the bumpier sections through the national park.
Both will also cater for two-up duties with the shock adjustable for pre-load with a C spanner.
BMW says there is mechanically no difference between the two models, but it feels evident that there are different spring rates and valving.
Of course the Sport has a sportier feel while the GT is plush and cushy, thanks also to the comfy seat and extra 12kg of weight that helps it plough through the obstacles.
Sport turns into corners a little quicker than the GT but with a 15-inch front wheel neither feels vague.
There are also no issues with cornering clearance. The only time we got them to scrape was over a pretty severe dip mid-corner where the centre stand touched down.
Initially there is a creepy feeling as the CVT slips into neutral when you back off the throttle heading into a corner – especially downhill. However, you quickly get used to giving it a blip to re-engage drive and regain feel.
Neither scooter feels nervous around road imperfections thanks to the suspension and tyres, but also due to the wide handlebars.
The Sport is 790mm wide (877 with mirrors) and the GT 822mm (916).
This means it is less twitchy than most scooters, but it is still ok for filtering or lane splitting, which was the order of the day as we battled commuter traffic.
Brakes are simply stunning. Front brakes have a nice feel with good bite, but on a scooter it’s the rear brake that often provides more stopping power. I found it heartily strong with only rare need to stutter under ABS activation.
The designers must have taken some old sketches of the R 1200 RT and overlaid them on a scooter frame because it looks very much like the big tourer up front and down the back. It’s just that step-through area that’s different.
It is a very handsome and modern piece of urban machinery that is both attractive and practical.
Sport has a more streamlined and lean look with a shorter deeply raked windscreen while the GT looks heftier and affords more wind and element protection.
Both have floorboards as well as forward footwells for a choice between tourer and cruiser riding positions.
I found myself switching between the two – feet down for cornering and feet up on the front cowl for relaxed highway cruising.
Both seats are comfortable but the GT offers a sumptuous saddle with a high backrest that gives great lumbar support. Pillions will also enjoy the deep and wide padding, grab handles and floorboards on the GT. The Sport has rear flip-out footpegs.
Under the seat is plenty of room for a full-face helmet in both, although we found some helmets wouldn’t fit – it depends on the brand.
GT also has space for a backpack and other odds and sods, plus two small lockable gloveboxes up front.
Sport has a nifty “Flexcase” in the rear part of its underseat compartment. Push a button and the bottom drops down to accommodate another full-face helmet. It uses the space between the wheel arch and tyre, so there is a cutout switch to prevent you turning on the engine and riding off with a helmet stowed there. Clever.
But there’s always a compromise in any design.
The trade-off here with the big wheels, long suspension travel and cavernous storage is a high seat height.
Sport’s seat is 810mm off the ground and GT is 780mm.
Now you’d think that would deter women and shorter riders, but being step-throughs you can slide off the front of the seat and put both feet confidently on the ground when stationary or paddling around in carparks.
Despite the aluminium frame, they are not light at 249kg (Sport) and 261kg (GT), but the weight is low in the chassis and being able to slide off the seat helps wield it around.
Sport has different ergos to the GT with the rider close to the bars and feeling like they are riding on a touring motorcycle.
GT riders will feel more like they are riding in the bike – cruiser style – with a longer reach to the bars.
There is also greater wind and noise protection from the more elaborate body structure, bigger electronically adjustable windscreen, under-screen adjustable deflectors and body cowling.
Both allow the engine noise to serenade the rider with the Sport a little louder.
Neither allows any engine or transmission heat to invade the cockpit.
That means these scooters are rideable in winter and summer.
Sport’s windscreen is hand adjustable with large and easy to use wing nuts.
We found very little buffeting on the GT, but plenty on the Sport. Its windscreen is perhaps too long and flexible which has it waving in your face and creating a distraction. We’d opt for a shorty and sporty version.
There are some clever BMW touches in the practical design such as the brake that activates when the side stand is down so you can park it facing downhill, gloveboxes that lock when you switch off the ignition and seat heaters that can be operated by the rider with a button on the handlebars or by the pillion with a secondary switch on the seat.
There is also an on-board computer with all the usual comprehensive info about range, economy, temperature etc, but with the Sport’s attraction to youth and the GT’s capacity to tour, we’d also like an iPod/USB socket or perhaps even Bluetooth.
Sport comes in sky blue, white and silver to attract young riders while the GT comes in more sedate “Camry” colours of black, silver and burgundy.
I love a good scoot from time to time, but rather giving you my verdict on these BMWs I’ll leave it up to a couple of mature-aged riders who showed interest in the machines when we made the obligatory stop for coffee and a photo snap at Bald Hill on the launch ride.
These gentlemen were riding a large British tourer and a large Yank cruiser.
One described the scoots as “a soft or modern version of a cruiser or tourer” and his friend nodded in tacit agreement.
BMW C 600 Sport ands C 650 GT
Price: $13,990, $15,990
Engine: 4-valve, DPHC, 647cc, water-cooled parallel twin
Power: 44kW @ 7500rpm
Torque: 66Nm @ 6000rpm
Transmission: CVT, chain drive
Fuel: 95 RON, 16 litre tank, 4.5L/100km @ 90km/h
Suspension: 40mm USD forks, adjustable monoshock, 115mm travel
Dimensions (mm): 21255 (length), 877/916 (width with mirrors), 810/780 (seat), 1591 (wheelbase)
Brakes: hydraulic twin 270mm discs (front), 270mm single disc (rear), with double piston floating callipers, ABS
Wheels: 3.5 x 15; 4.5 x 15
Tyres: 120/75 R15; 160/60 R15