Comparative test of the BMW K 1200 TL against the Honda Gold Wing GL 1500 SE

Comparative test of the BMW K 1200 TL against the Honda Gold Wing GL 1500 SE


"Wos d´Japana kenna, des kenna mia scho lang," muttered the Bavarian and created the BMW K 1200 TL.

Quote from the Honda driver’s manual: "This motorcycle is a unique adventure, a challenge. You will drive through the wind and be connected to the road by a vehicle that reacts more sensitively to your commands than any other … The reward is freedom. "We have dreamed of this all winter: freedom, adventure – discover the world. Not knowing in the morning where you will end up in the evening. Gondola through wild rock landscapes, past abyssal gorges, down to the deep blue sea. Street cafes under palm trees, sunglasses on, lean back, take a deep breath – everyone slips down my back.
But because we remain affluent citizens with a three-day beard and leather suit, the two luxury liners come in handy for us: Honda’s six-cylinder Gold Wing and the brand-new full dresser from BMW – the K 1200 LT. Clear direction of the two: the North American market with dead straight, endless highways to the horizon. And what good are the 0.5-ton trucks in the old world?
Mount up. What an upholstered suite. Already nice and fluffy on the Honda, even more cozy on the BMW and heated at the push of a button. Even better: the suite in the second row. Heating for the backrest and seat on the LT, armrests and height-adjustable running boards for the Honda passenger, it couldn‘t be more comfortable.
The voluminous panniers are also ideal for togetherness. If you don’t necessarily want to travel with a sun flesh and hat case, there is enough storage space. With the Honda, the case system is opened via a smart central locking system on the top case and after loading – snap – simply pressed shut. BMW relies on one-handed operation of the lids, which unfortunately no longer works as the inventor intended when the suitcases are full and require multiple-handed pushing and squeezing so that the locks click securely into place.
From the driver’s point of view, the handlebars, switches, buttons and levers are magnificently arranged – after an intensive study of the detailed manuals, all of them can be used. A playground for audiophiles should not be missing. Radio and CD changer in the BMW or cassettes in the Honda cockpit entertain on-board staff and passers-by via powerful external loudspeakers. Also entertaining is the sonorous humming of the internal combustion engines installed lengthways. Honda with an imposing hissing six-cylinder sound, and even with the in-line four, the Bavarians managed to transform the uniform sound into a throaty rattle. The advantage of BMW: The engine is ready to go straight away without having to fumble around cold starting.
The magic word is balancing. The BMW in particular requires a strong, tall chauffeur with a strong sense of balance when maneuvering and turning. Nothing works here by itself. Because the K 1200 LT trembles nervously with the wheelbarrow-like steering iron during turning maneuvers and in tight bends, called "parking lot shimmy" in test jargon, the colossus can only be maneuvered with dedicated physical effort. This act should be mastered – or practiced.
Although a proud 38 kilograms heavier, the Gold Wing conveys a certain lightness in this discipline, which consists of a low center of gravity, lower seat height with a narrow tank area and stable steering behavior. A clear plus point for the casually performed pirouette in front of the ice cream parlor. Nice to know that both heavyweights can be maneuvered out of a very staggered position by means of an electric starter-operated reverse gear.
Drive. The insecurity and the panic of almost half a ton of motorcycle are gone. The Honda glides easily through the landscape, swinging at a moderate pace, undeterred by patches and faults, through the winding pass roads of the Moorish Mountains north of St. Tropez. The Brocken obediently obeys the commands from the command bridge and rattles fine lines in the asphalt with the running boards. 423 kilograms – who would have thought?
The BMW driver has a little more trouble to correct the sometimes stubborn course deviations of his steamer. The narrower and bumpier the slope, the more unstable the K 1200 LT sways through the labyrinth. Improvement occurs when the extremely narrow front tire, which is marked by strong profile washouts after the end of the test, is inflated with 2.8 instead of the recommended 2.5 bar air pressure. And another remarkable experience: with cold tires, the tendency of the BMW to roll was significantly more pronounced than with warm tires and a correspondingly flexible carcass.
If the pace is increased, the results are reversed. When it comes to long, fast corners, the Bayern-Kurier surprises with amazing handling qualities and tempts people in a hurry to sharpen corners in a sporting manner. Rolling and rocking, the Honda captain can only follow the speed of the BMW with a very energetic ride and, as a precaution, cuts the tow.
But the low effort on the BMW handlebars shouldn’t hide the fact that the 385 kilograms push hard. Curves of all kinds, especially those leading down into the valley, can only be mastered stress-free with both thick ships if the load is slowed down at the right speed and turned gently but precisely. Speaking of brakes: Here the question arises, why, of all things, BMW is equipping its overweight battleship with an immensely powerful, doughy deceleration system that is inferior to the grayed Honda combi brakes even in terms of controllability. The only plus point for the Bavarians: the standard anti-lock braking system.
Accelerate from a standstill, and immediately the 1.5-liter boxer from the Honda makes huge cheeks, hisses forward vehemently, but runs just over 6000 rpm into the limiter. The connoisseur doesn’t care, he is happy with the XXX Nm torque and the vibration-free running of his smooth six-cylinder. The flanged five-speed gearbox shifts as unobtrusively as the cardan drive can handle load changes and shifting operations. A joke: the fifth gear, designated as overdrive, which revs up at top speed.
BMW proudly proclaims the perfect decoupling of the engine and chassis, but the vibrations find a secret path into the chassis in some speed ranges. Very annoying and loud snarling is evident in the range around 5000 rpm. It’s a good thing that the K-motor, which has been trimmed for torque, produces plenty of thrust below this mark. Shifting becomes a minor matter, and with the still clumsy gearbox, it’s not that much fun, especially since gears four and five sometimes refuse to connect with power during a sprint.
After the excesses of driving dynamics – this is also part of the test – we return to the elementary questions of luxury travelers. The windbreak, for example. A clear advantage of the BMW: the continuously adjustable disc, which actually offers a solution for all speed ranges. Trimmed to TÜV-compliant dimensions, turbulent gusts of wind violently shake the driver’s helmet behind the stunted Golg Wing window. 130 km / h is enough in the long run. Right. Because with 11.6 liters per 100 kilometers at 160 km / h constant speed, the fun stops anyway. And whoever embarks on a top-speed adventure with the GL 1500 will get it. At the latest when there are bumps or wind turbulence caused by vehicles driving ahead, in this case Bavarian vehicles, the GL 1500 breaks with its good-naturedness and swings around in rough swings.
Congratulations to Munich: not only that the 1200 injection engine is satisfied with significantly less fuel than the Honda six-pack, the travel monster can also be driven to top speed without too much excitement.
Because comfort is a top priority, the Honda technicians rely on air suspension that can be regulated via the on-board compressor. Depending on the load, more or less inflated, the Gold Wing lives up to its name and swings slightly undamped. Only the stucky fork and the extremely stiff Dunlop tires behave boisterously and jolt the handlebars and front end on bumpy slopes. Reverse game on the BMW Tourer. Here the heavy Paralever rocker in connection with the board-hard Brigdgestone rubbers rumble loudly and uncomfortably, while the bow-side Telelever system ensures peace and order.
D.he French Provence is bathed in red evening light, the coastal road has been swept empty, and all of the meticulous testing can now remain stolen from us. Big gear, just let it purr, enjoy, take a deep breath. Tea cute little hotel on the beach appears somewhere. Nice host with good food, good wine and a motorcycle in the shed. An eight year old BMW K 100 LT. A bottle of the finest red for a test drive with the new one? We hit.

Work where others go on vacation: Provence

While bobble hats are sold at exorbitant prices in Palermo, the polar icy cold also drives the Spaniards from streets and squares, and the Mediterranean coast turns into a winter landscape. The whole Mediterranean coast? No, a small spot, besieged by well-to-do people, is spared from the clinking foothills of Lara and Martina. And this is exactly where our journey through the warm air of Provence starts. Saint Tropez, the Mecca of the rich and beautiful overcrowded in summer, exudes Mediterranean calm and serenity in early February. You sit in the harbor (photo on page 15), stroll through the alleys – or stroll through the varied landscape on your motorcycle. Down to L`Escalet (photo on page 13), where fishermen and divers graze the coast or over the curvy mountain ranges through the Moorish Mountains to Toulon. Endless curves and hardly any traffic in winter, this route is one of MOTORRAD’s popular test routes. A real highlight: the Col l`Espigoulier (749 meters, photo on page 16) with a sensational view of Marseille (photo on page 18). Via Brignoles and Aups you reach the Grand Canyon du Verdon, one of the most imposing throats in Europe. Without thermal clothing, it becomes rather uncomfortable here, because we are approaching the snow line in the Maritime Alps. Via Draguignan we reach the coastal road, swing again into the mountains and swing via la Garde-Freinet back onto the headland of Saint Tropez, which is mostly spared from cold mistral winds. Unfortunately, the test team does not have much time, appointments, appointments …. In no time at all, the big ships in the 7.5-ton truck that hums back to Stuttgart at a leisurely 90 km / h overnight. Unload, evaluate test sheets, and then the slides are already on the light table. The text goes out two days later. MOTORRAD booklet 5 is ready.

BMW K 1200 LT

1st place Big and mighty, the LT enters the stage and puts the Gold Wing legend in their place. After all, she’s not the youngest anymore. In terms of driving stability and cornering, the fat BMW is now the boss, but it also has small weaknesses. There are full points for the economical injection engine, the most comfortable equipment since the invention of the (two) wheel and, last but not least, a modern exhaust gas cleaning system and the standard ABS.

Honda Gold Wing GL 1500 SE

2nd placeDespite the imposing six-cylinder engine, a comparatively playful maneuvering operation and sovereign cruiser feeling, the Honda has to give way. Too high consumption and too unstable at top speed, the luxury tourer loses points. What remains is a still fascinating cruise ship that made history for a reason. For ten years the Gold Wing ruled highways and strolling miles, now it is number two. What the hell?

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