There are certain machines that have a strong connection with specific power supplies, which gives them a unique personality that appeals to enthusiasts. Examples of this include the combination of Ram heavy-duty trucks with Cummins diesel engines and Chevrolet Corvettes with small-block V-8 engines. Another notable example is BMW, which has long been associated with the naturally aspirated inline-six engine type, which became a prominent feature of the German automaker’s lineup in the 1980s.
BMW’s smooth and rev-happy straight-six engines eventually gave way to turbocharged engines, which offered more horsepower but lacked the distinctive personality of their naturally aspirated counterparts. While BMW still produces an inline-six engine without forced induction, it is only available on their motorcycles.
The BMW K1600’s 1.6-liter engine is a perfect example of the naturally aspirated six-cylinder engines that used to power BMW vehicles. This motorcycle engine features four valves per cylinder and two overhead cams, delivering smooth power up to a redline of 8500 rpm.
The 160-hp straight-six engine is positioned transversely within the small chassis of the K1600 motorcycle at a 55-degree angle, similar to the base of a rear-facing chaise longue. This unique design includes a toothed gear between the second and third cylinder throws, which is different from conventional placements. The bike also has a transversely mounted six-speed sequential transmission, with a shaft connecting the output to the rear wheel.
While cars are tested more frequently than motorcycles, the K1600 is a standout model. It offers features such as traction control, heated seats and grips, power windows, electric reverse, anti-lock brakes, and an adjustable LED headlight. However, the article emphasizes the importance of disconnecting from distractions, including the stereo, while riding a motorcycle.
Inline-six engines are known for their smooth sounds and perfect balance, making them ideal for long-distance travel. With the K1600’s transmission’s no-lift shifting technology, there is no need to engage the clutch once the motorcycle is in motion.
Among the K1600 lineup, the GT model is the sportiest option. However, there are other variants that cater to different preferences, offering a more comfortable passenger seat, additional storage, or a relaxed cruising position with forward foot pegs. One criticism is that the saddle bags, while lockable and removable, may not be sufficient for storing a helmet or carrying a bag with a full-size laptop.
With a substantial powertrain contributing to its 782-pound curb weight, the K1600 GT has a commanding presence on the road. Despite its weight, it handles exceptionally well. The GT model is priced at less than $30,000, making it an attractive choice for those planning a transcontinental journey.
In conclusion, the article advocates for the return of the naturally aspirated inline-six engine to BMW’s lineup, even if it is limited to a special M car. The author believes that a single twist of the K1600 GT’s throttle is enough to make a compelling case for such a revival.