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BMW C 600 Sport / C 650 GT Scooters – First Ride

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Photo Credit: Arnold Debus

Mark Tuttle
March 28, 2012
Filed under BMW Motorcycle Road Tests: Reviews on BMW Motorcycles, Sidecar + Scooter + Trike Motorcycle Reviews, Top Stories

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If you live in a large city, it doesn’t take much thought to figure out why BMW is jumping into the scooter market now. Traffic congestion and parking restrictions are escalating, and in the new economy some of us just can’t afford to waste time with either—we need to get there, dang it, and ASAP. With their twist-and-go automatic CVT transmissions and knees-together, step-through seating, scooters offer a non-intimidating transition to the narrow nimbleness of powered, single-track two wheelers, returning freedom and mobility to the caged urban warrior—if he or she is willing to forgo the creature comforts of a car.

Of course, if mobility was BMW’s only motivation, it might have launched its new scooter line with a smaller, more fuel-efficient type rather than these two big  “maxis” (as they’re commonly called in Europe). After all, there’s at least one late-model car in the U.S. that bests the C 600 Sport’s and C 650 GT’s rated 49 mpg highway (their engines and drivetrains are identical). And while certainly smaller and more nimble than any car, at a claimed 549 and 575 pounds ready to ride with a 62.6-inch wheelbase, the Sport and GT are bigger than many motorcycles.

What the C maxis offer that a smaller scoot cannot is an exciting alternative for a customer BMW might otherwise lose. An RT or GS rider, for example, who for whatever reason needs a less top-heavy bike he or she doesn’t have to shift or swing a leg over—but who is not willing to give up the power, handling and exhilaration of a motorcycle.

When deployed, the sidestand engages the parking brake.

When deployed, the sidestand engages the parking brake.

After two days of riding the C 600 Sport and C 650 GT in and around Madrid, Spain, I can assure you that the owner of one would enjoy it a lot and give up little. Hiding under all of that plastic are really 647cc motorcycles with a claimed 60 horsepower and 49 lb-ft of torque at the crank—more power than anything with an automatic CVT transmission sold here save the Aprilia Mana 850. The two scooters accelerate briskly and cruise at high speed…like motorcycles. Strong triple-disc brakes with standard ABS stop large-diameter (for a scooter) 15-inch wheels at each end wearing Metzeler or Pirelli sport-touring tires, which help give the scooters agile steering and hard cornering ability…like a motorcycle. And standard or optional equipment such as adjustable windscreens—electric on the GT—heated seats and grips, trip computers, GPS navigation and more kit them out…like a motorcycle. Well, like a BMW motorcycle, anyway.

The Sport was called a 600 to make it seem lighter and sportier, yet underneath the bodywork the only differences between BMW’s two new scoots are a stronger seat subframe and Metzeler Feelfree tires on the plush, touring-oriented GT (a “maxi” scooter with “feel-free” tires, hmmm), while the Sport has Pirelli Diablo Scooter tires. Both are built at BMW’s Berlin, Germany, plant and are powered by a BMW-designed and engineered, parallel twin-cylinder engine manufactured by Taiwan-based Kymco, which has vast mega-scooter experience and production capacity.

Engine position and flat layout create a very low center of gravity.

Engine position and flat layout create a very low center of gravity.

The liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, 647cc, chain-driven DOHC (shim over bucket) twin is most notable for its long, flat layout with a 70-degree inclined cylinder bank, which gives the scooters a low center of gravity. It also has crankpins that are offset 90 degrees (rather than the usual 180 or 360) and ignition at 270 degrees for a sporty feel and sound, with dual counterbalancers to cancel vibration. A centrifugal clutch engages the CVT, comprising two pulleys connected by a thick V-belt. As engine speed changes, one pulley widens and the other narrows, moving the belt toward or away from the center of each and raising or lowering the gear ratio. Power gets to the rear wheel through a chain enclosed in an oil bath in the aluminum single-sided swingarm. We’ll have more details on maintenance later, but I did find out that the CVT belt needs attention and possible replacement at 20,000 kilometers, or 12,427 miles.

BMW BMS-E fuel-injection delivers the charge of mid-grade 89 octane from a 4.2-gallon tank just ahead of the scooters’ seats. A motorcycle-worthy aluminum bridge-type frame supports the engine as a stressed member, and there’s a stout male-slider fork up front and a horizontally mounted single shock in back that’s adjustable for spring preload. Both have centerstands, and sidestands that automatically engage the parking brake when deployed. This made for a bit of entertainment as we tried to jockey the bikes around in the hotel garage before for our first day’s ride—a “city tour” of Madrid, Spain’s capital as well as its largest and youngest major city at a mere 1,000 years old.

BMW says 70-75 percent of the C scooters will be sold in Southern Europe, for riding in cities like this.

BMW says 70-75 percent of the C scooters will be sold in Southern Europe, for riding in cities like this.

Appropriately BMW started us off on the C 600 Sport model, as the city tour turned out to be a demonstration of just how capable this scooter is of making minced jamon out of Madrid’s heavy and somewhat chaotic traffic. With one yellow-vested, motorcycle-mounted BMW guy in front and another behind, our gang of scooter journalists dodged, weaved and filtered among the cars, buses and dozens of solo and two-up scooter pilots, all seemingly fighting for the lead in Spain’s rat race. After 90 minutes we covered more of the city than the average car driver must see in a year. Scooters rule the streets and are everywhere, carrying everybody from businessmen and women (their suits protected from grime by accessory lap covers, even in the 80-degree weather) to daring young girls delivering pizza stowed in large top trunks on the back of tiny two-stroke scoots. BMW says that 70-75 percent of its sales volume for the Sport and GT is expected to be in Southern Europe, where this mode of transportation is the most popular outside of Asia.

While identical at their cores, the Sport shaves off 26 pounds of equipment and has narrower bodywork than the GT, so it can squeeze between cars and offers a firmer, sportier ride. Its  tall, protective windscreen is manually adjustable over about an 8-inch range and is very quiet when up; mirrors are simple affairs on tall stalks and the dual seat is narrower, though still quite comfortable. The Sport’s bars are lower and narrower as well, and leg room is tighter—my knees were still bent with my feet on the angled floorboards in front. The slimmer fairing’s pair of latching pockets are proportionally smaller than the GT’s too. A drop-down “Flex Case” in the Sport’s underseat storage allows just enough space for two full-face helmets when parked, but the Flex Case must be raised to ride. For the city commuter or where parking space is a problem, the Sport is probably a good choice.

More comfort, wind protection and storage are hallmarks of the C 650 GT.

More comfort, wind protection and storage are hallmarks of the C 650 GT.

When the road stretches out, as on our ride in the countryside and mountains around Madrid the next day, the C 650 GT is the way to go. Plush, comfortable and with lots more leg room, its fairing and electric windscreen provided generous wind protection in the cold, snowy mountains at 5,000 feet. The GT’s 60-liter underseat storage holds two full-face helmets, its wide dual seat has an adjustable rider backrest and the mirrors are bigger, adjust within and incorporate beautiful LED turn signals. Most importantly the GT’s handlebar is wider and higher and its seat a little lower, which makes it more comfortable and able to steer more easily and quickly, even though you can feel its additional weight once in a corner. Since I could maneuver it just as well if not better than the Sport on the mountain roads and don’t need to squeeze between anything except my jacket zippers where I live, the GT would be my choice for its comfort and convenience features.

Besides their smooth, brisk power, throaty sound and dynamic handling, the scooters’ high-end, functional suspension and non-linked, triple-disc brakes with standard ABS elevate these BMWs from dorky scooter to motorcycle serious. Both brake levers are adjustable (there’s no clutch lever or brake pedal, eh), instrumentation is comprehensive and the GT’s electric windscreen rises well over my head to form an almost still pocket of air behind. The options on our test bikes like heated grips and seats, GPS navigation and a tire pressure monitor worked well, and are just the beginning of a list that includes luggage, communication and alarm system, even an Akrapoviˇcćmuffler as well as three color choices for each. After this short test session my only concern is the seat heights, which at 30.7 (GT) and 31.9 inches put me on my tiptoes at stops, kind of a contradiction for much of their intended market. I imagine BMW will offer lower seats eventually, but none are on the options list. The GVWR for both is the same, so the Sport actually has the higher load capacity of 432 pounds, the GT 406.

Current pricing for the C 600 Sport and C 650 GT in Germany is 11,100 and 11,450 euros respectively, which sounds high, but the venerable Suzuki Burgman 650 Executive is listed at 10,290 euros for 2012 on Suzuki Germany’s website ($9,899 here). BMW expects its scooters to be “priced competitively with the U.S. maxi-scooter market,” though a production delay—perhaps due to the Japanese earthquake in 2011—and of course high European demand will keep them from coming here until the fall of 2012, so they will likely be 2013 models.

Wow, 2013—sounds like way in the future, doesn’t it? It’s easy for a fit motorcycle enthusiast who lives and works in the country or ’burbs to poke fun at scooters. From the point-of-view of an older rider who just wants to stay on two wheels or a city dweller who needs shiftless convenience, storage and agility, however, these motorcycle-like BMWs may represent the future.

BMW C 600 Sport / 650 GT Specs

Website: bmwmotorcycles.com
Base Price: TBD
Engine Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse parallel twin, DOHC, 4 valves per cyl.
Bore x Stroke: 79.0 x 66.0mm
Displacement: 647cc
Transmission: Continuously Variable (CVT)
Final Drive: Enclosed chain in oil bath
Wheelbase: 62.6 in.
Rake/Trail: 25.4 degrees/3.6 in.
Seat Height: 31.9 / 30.7 in.
Claimed “Road Ready” Weight: 549 / 575 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 4.2 gals., last 1.1 gal. warning light on
Claimed MPG: (89 PON min.) 49 at 62 mph

Sport’s steering is more linear and it holds a line better.

Sport’s steering is more linear and it holds a line better.

GT’s handling is quicker thanks to a wider, higher handlebar.

GT’s handling is quicker thanks to a wider, higher handlebar.

The C 600 Sport looks and performs more like a motorcycle than a putt-putt scooter.

The C 600 Sport looks and performs more like a motorcycle than a putt-putt scooter.

With 15-inch wheels and ample cornering clearance, the BMW scooters carve corners well.

With 15-inch wheels and ample cornering clearance, the BMW scooters carve corners well.

Sport's underseat storage holds two full-face helmet with the Flex Case deployed.

Sport's underseat storage holds two full-face helmet with the Flex Case deployed.

Drop-down Flex-Case in the Sport’s trunk enlarges its parked storage capacity.

Drop-down Flex-Case in the Sport’s trunk enlarges its parked storage capacity.

GT’s underseat storage holds two full-face helmets.

GT’s underseat storage holds two full-face helmets.

Both scoots have glove boxes, but GT’s are larger.

Both scoots have glove boxes, but GT’s are larger.

Angular exhaust emits a very throaty sound on both the Sport and GT.

Angular exhaust emits a very throaty sound on both the Sport and GT.

Triple disc brakes with ABS are standard on both scooters.

Triple disc brakes with ABS are standard on both scooters.

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Comments

22 Responses to “BMW C 600 Sport / C 650 GT Scooters – First Ride”

  1. Mickey Lotz on April 2nd, 2012 2:08 pm

    As an avid motorcyclist for the last 46 years I had always scoffed at scooters, that is until I test rode a current maxi version. I was so impressed I added one to the garage.Laugh if you want but these maxi scooters are the real deal. Now, if I plan on riding from Ohio to the Pacific Northwest (which I plan to do this fall with my wife) we’ll jump on our Honda ST 1300. If I’m going corner carving with my son on his Ducati Monster, I’ll grab the FZ-1. And if I’m going retro-cruising to breakfast with my younger brother on his Hinkley Triumph Bonneville, I’ll jump on my Honda 750 Nighthawk. However some rides have no intended purpose, I’m just going out for a ride. Usually within a hundred and fifty miles of home, and this is where the scooter shines for me. Just gas and go. Don’t have to worry about which gear I’m in. Stop for a lunch and throw the helmet under the seat. Pick up something from the hardware or grocery store and throw it under the seat. When I can no longer get my leg over the seat of the bike, I can easily see transitioning to a maxi scooter for all my riding. Good weather protection, plenty of speed, good handling, good brakes and plenty of underseat storage. For me, at 62, macho doesn’t mean what it used to.

    [Reply]

    Strongman Reply:

    I image aliens from another planet looking at our two wheeled vehicles and laughing at the distinctions we humans make. Two wheels, a seat an engine and handle bars. One you manually change gears. The other does it automatically.
    I think it comes down the level of intelligence.. The distinctions expressed almost always come from those with less cognitive abilities, Not all bandana, jean jacket wearing Harley riders or young twenty something sport bike riders are laughing at scooter riders.. but a big chunk of them are. These are the very people whose opinions matter the least.

    [Reply]

    Strongman Reply:

    The reality is, you do not find smart people scuffing at scooters.

    [Reply]

  2. Ken Mc on April 2nd, 2012 9:56 pm

    As a recent purchaser of a 2007 Suzuki Burgman 650 Executive, after riding a Honda GL 1500 for the last 16 years, I love the shiftless “twist and go” of the cvt. Though I do catch myself speeding because it is so smooth and quiet! The under seat storage is almost as big as the saddle bags on my wing. It is averaging 45 mpg with “spirited” riding. I did upgrade the forks with Racetech cartridge emulators, and Ikon rear adjustable damping shocks. I am having a blast with it. These are going to be the rides of the older (I am 57) generation who just want to ride and do not need a 900 pound 100 horsepower bike to feed their ego.

    [Reply]

  3. Norman on April 3rd, 2012 2:35 am

    As a former BMW750 owner, what is the price of the new BMW Scooter?

    [Reply]

    Robyn Reply:

    No pricing for the US has been announced yet. The earliest they will be launched is Sept/Oct 2012, possibly later.

    [Reply]

  4. Tim Colley on April 16th, 2012 12:42 am

    Suzuki must feel mighty proud! Ten years on since the 650 Burgman was launched and BMW has duplicated it in almost every detail. Engine capacity, tank capacity, luggage capacity, seat styling … the list goes on, with only minor improvements on the Suzuki original concept.

    Heaven help BMW when the Burgman 900 hits the market!

    [Reply]

    Fred M. Reply:

    You can talk about displacement all you want, but the BMW machines profiled here make power that Burgman riders can only dream of having.

    Comparing the suspension, ABS system, and chassis of the BMW C scooters to the Burgman 650 makes it obvious that we are talking about a whole new generation of bike with capabilities that put the Burgman to shame.

    Oh, imagine, an @ss-shaped seat! BMW must have copied the Burgman 650; never mind that the Burgman 650′s seat looks very similar to the Aprilia Atlantic 500 that preceded it to market by a year or more.

    Face it: The Burgman 650 is a warmed-over machine that’s long overdue for a ground-up redesign. Then maybe it can be competitive with these new BMWs.

    [Reply]

    Tom Reply:

    Well I’ve had the Burgman 400 and now I have the C650GT. I think the BMW is five-times better.

    [Reply]

  5. Dave on April 30th, 2012 8:01 am

    That’s a very nice Tmax that BMW has created.

    [Reply]

    Mark Reply:

    I agree, I saw a lot of similarities in the TMax in the pictures I saw. I just bought a ’09 hold over TMax after seeing this I am having a little remorse…

    [Reply]

    Fred M. Reply:

    I consider motor vehicles to be more than a fashion accessory, so styling takes a back seat to engineering and performance. A Zongshen is no Vespa and a T-Max is no BMW.

    [Reply]

  6. Art Lewis on June 13th, 2012 3:48 pm

    Having put 20,000 plus miles on my 09 Bergy Exec in 24 months, I’m looking forward to the GT650. However if they are serious about cvt belt replacement at 12,000 miles, I’ll pass. Ken Mc is correct about the suspension mods to be really happy with a Bergy. I’m averaging 50 mpg. I’ve been riding BMWs
    since 1982 and appreciate their attention to detail and safety. GT 650 should be great if they can extend belt service intervals, and keep the price around $10,000. With the weak Euro, they may be even lower and a better deal.

    [Reply]

    Strongman Reply:

    With brand new SUZUKI BURGMAN 650 EXECUTIVES being offered for less than $8000 with NO SET-UP/ FREIGHT CHARGES and Yamaha Tmax’s for thousands less than that…. BMW may have a tough time with a $10,000 scooter that will very likely perform more or less the same as the current Japanese big scooters.

    I just think it’s a terrible time economically speaking to introduce a $10,000 scooter to the American Market.. Especially considering that neither the sport or touring model seems to offer anything above and beyond the TMAX and BURGMAN except for price.
    I’ll wait for the comparison reviews before I say I told you so.

    [Reply]

    Fred M. Reply:

    Other than better performance, build quality, and resale value, the BMWs have nothing to offer over the dated Suzuki and Yamaha products.

    The C 650 GT weighs over 50 pounds less than the Burgman 650 Executive. You don’t think that’s a big deal?

    You remind me of the kids with Honda Civics who tell each other how their cars are every bit as good as BMWs.

    BMW builds products for riders who don’t have to count pennies. If you’re looking for a budget product, then don’t waste your time going into a BMW dealership. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for a higher-end product, BMW may appeal to you quite a bit.

    [Reply]

  7. Larry Loomis on September 10th, 2012 6:53 am

    Can you please provide information on the rain top or all weather top option I have seen in France? Thank you

    [Reply]

  8. david shrock on September 13th, 2012 8:08 pm

    when you talk about something for a whole year,,I think you would try to have them at the dealers before the weather gets to bad!!!

    [Reply]

  9. Manuel on September 21st, 2012 1:27 am

    The article says that the engine is designed by BMW and manufactured by Kymco. Then it hit me.. The C600 Sport has the same look and frame of a Kymco Downtown and the C650 eludes to the Kymco Xciting.. Is it possible they also used Kymco’s framework for these bikes?

    [Reply]

  10. john kulchyckyj on November 18th, 2012 4:51 pm

    do you think the new B.M.W. C scoots will hold a candle for the new and improved TMAX, i don’t know, time will tell. Sure the 2 new scoots from BMW are 600, and 650, but look at the weight of these 2 scoots, compare to the weight shaved off the tmax, i should imagine they break out even, except for extra safety, and low maintenance.

    [Reply]

  11. standley douglas on December 8th, 2012 2:43 am

    l own a 2007 burgman 650 standard and l went and test rode the BMW c650gt. Based upon my test ride, the burgman will run away from the bmw.
    l rode the BMW on interstate 5 for 5 miles and also rode it thru some slower traffic. The test ride lasted between 30 and 45 minutes. The BMW doesn’t smooth out until you are doing 70 mph at 5000 rpm, while the burgman is smooth from any slow speed to redline. The BMW final drive is a chain bath in oil , while the burgman ‘s final drive is gear drive. l am 6 foot and even with the BMW’s windshield raise to its highest the protection was poor on a windy day. The price for the c650gt was $12,600 before taxes and license. l was trying to see the big hp difference and l came away disappointed. The BMW had heated grips and seats,parking brake in the side stand and the frame is exposed under the seat.The headight was outstanding , along with the heated grips. The seat felt like seating on a Kymco 500. l felt like l was sitting on the BMW and sitting in the burgman.

    [Reply]

    Terry Reply:

    I own a 2006 burgman 650 it runs very smooth at any speed was thinking about a bmw c650gt down the road sometime but if it doesn’t run as smooth as a burgman i’m not going there.

    [Reply]

  12. Rider Magazine's Top 10 Motorcycle Stories of 2012 | Rider Magazine on January 2nd, 2013 4:30 pm

    [...] BMW C 600 Sport/C 650 ST Scooters—First Ride We took a test ride on these “maxis” scooters in Spain and found them to be larger than [...]

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