Comparison test six-cylinder megatourer

Comparative test: six-cylinder megatourer

BMW K 1600 GTL versus Honda GL 1800 Gold Wing

Riding confidently on the torque shaft, discovering new worlds in a highly comfortable and navigation-guided manner – modern Great tourers not only expand your horizons, but also your awareness. The latest trip: BMW K 1600 GTL.


Photo show: BMW K 1600 GTL and Honda GL 1800 Gold Wing in the MOTORRAD test.

This story begins surprisingly. Not in the much-quoted underground parking garage, but two floors higher, at the reception. One day shortly after the lunch break, an energetic, grizzled gentleman in his prime stands there and asks MOTORRAD fleet manager Rainer Froberg to speak to him. They met at the trade fair in Cologne, liked them straight away, and liked powerful machines. And he now has the finest reading material on the subject for him. Christoph Dimter, 59-year-old Porsche retirees and frequent motorcycle enthusiast with a pronounced preference for dynamic travel chairs (Kawasaki 1400 GTR), has been intoxicated for months and wants to share it with others.

His drug: the new BMW six-cylinder. The 1600 pursues him, never lets go of him: "I wrote everything down. I imagined how I ride this motorcycle, how the row six purrs under me with its perfect mass balance and still pushes brutally from the lowest speeds. How he yells out above, everything goes to the ground and yet never seems strained. The whole thing is a dream." In Dimter’s case, one over four A4 pages.

Comparative test: six-cylinder megatourer

BMW K 1600 GTL versus Honda GL 1800 Gold Wing

Six-cylinder megatourer part 2


One goal, two paths: The BMW and Honda approaches are fundamentally different.

We had made jokes in Stuttgart. So many buttons (on the Gold Wing), such a killer display (on the BMW). It’s like in a car. Now it was clear: No, it is not. Even behind these mighty windows you get wet. With the typical air vortices, even from behind. But that’s not the worst, the worst is that there is no windshield wiper. Or better three. One on the outside of the window, one on the inside (for the drops that detach from the upper edge of the window and are pressed against the window by the vortex from the inside) and one for the visor, because the lack of airflow cannot push the drops to the side.

The result in both cases: visibility through three drop fields is zero, especially when the oncoming traffic is dazzling. Only one thing helps – a slice lower. On the BMW easily and continuously at the push of a button on the left end of the handlebars, cumbersome on the Honda. Stop at the next rest stop, knock over the ancient toggles on the right and left in the paneling, drive the window down with targeted blows on the upper edge of the window, gag it and continue. Estimated time expenditure: like when changing horses at the stagecoach. At least it stays drier on both of them from the waistline. The Honda even has small baffles in the bow of the fairing that can be adjusted by means of a Bowden cable, which keep the splash water away from the feet. On both touring bikes, heated grips and heated seats also help, on the K 1600 they can be operated using a button, adjusting wheel and menu navigation at the end of the handlebar, while the Honda has two adjusting wheels to the right and left of the ignition key.

Of course, real comfort does not arise under these conditions. Especially not on the Bridgestone-tyred Gold Wing, which staggers over the wet bitumen strips like some Klitschko challengers through the first lap. Which is not only due to the tires, but also to the pronounced sensitivity to longitudinal grooves of the fat Honda, which does not stop at even tiny heels. The BMW, however, is sovereign. Their Metzeler Z8 beats in wet areas and on edges just as calmly as the significantly shorter chassis with a 1618 millimeter wheelbase (Honda: an incredibly long 1690 millimeter).

But now back to the here and now. Out of the rain, down from the motorway, into the cornering paradise of the French Massif Central. Day two, the nightmare turns into a dream, the clothes are dry again. And the BMW mutates from a deep-draft travel steamer to a nimble sports boat, while the Honda remains a liner.

"Fan-tas-tic", enthuses Christoph, whose six-cylinder frenzy had in the meantime cooled down a bit, "this landscape, this route, this engine, this chassis." He means the BMW. "As soon as it rolls, its weight is forgotten. I really don’t know how they do it in Munich. In any case, this motorcycle drives like a bicycle."

Well, he tends to exaggerate. But the fact that he first pays homage to the chassis instead of the engine throws a significant light on the essence of the Bavarian luxury tourer. Of course, the independent straight six will always be in focus. But it is quickly lost sight of the fact that the fat K 1600, whether in the GT or GTL version, has more to offer than just an exotic drive. All those who still struggled with the moderate straight-line stability at high speed on the autobahn will say to themselves: If that’s the price for this surprising greed for curves, the fine responsiveness of the suspension elements (especially the front, BMW-owned Duolever front suspension) and that safe feeling even at a deep incline – we pay it.

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Rear views: fully integrated luggage compartment (Honda), detachable case (BMW).

As a result, whenever we are off the highway, the following will happen: When the BMW drives in second place, it hangs jostling in the rearview mirror, filling the format. If it is ahead, on the Gold Wing you have all the effort to follow halfway. Not because there is an adolescent race going on here. But because the K 1600, in addition to many extras (for example the famous ESA, the chassis that can be adjusted to all requirements and load conditions at the touch of a button) simply has a higher basic speed built in than the Gold Wing. As standard, ex works.

No wonder, because the Honda has a completely different philosophy. Already at the entrance to the curve grinds protestingly with the notches, shortly afterwards with the engine guard and the crash bars touch down. Even here, in the long country road curves of the wonderful mountain world between Mende and Toulouse, which is characterized by idyllic village roads and not too narrow valleys, the loud Honda scraping echoes through

Forest and meadow, while the front BMW driver is still in warm-up mode. One waits, the other rushes. No tour group gets that in the long run, so change roles and vehicles. Honda in front, BMW behind. Now, instead of the dull babbling of the boxer, Christoph should finally enjoy himself on the row six. If you want to get intoxicated by the silky smooth running of the engine, you should let yourself be pulled by the excessive torque. Should live his dream.

By the way: That works very well on the Gold Wing too. The fat 1800 hangs squeaky clean on the accelerator, bubbling in full, pushes energetically from the lowest engine speeds, and carries its mighty displacement acoustically in front of it, as otherwise only American eight-cylinders can. It comes from the depths of the room – and actually runs as smoothly as you would expect from the Reihensechser from Munich. Vibrations are practically never felt, the power output couldn’t be more linear, the deep boxer bass calms even hectic spirits. The two-valve engine is calm in person.

With the BMW engine – you can already guess it – this surprisingly only applies to a limited extent. First of all, a gentle tingling sensation is always noticeable in the K-1600 engine, even if it hardly gets stronger over the considerable width of the speed range (red area at 8500 rpm). And secondly, the balanced nature of the Honda boxer with the highly compressed in-line six-cylinder (BMW 12.2: 1, Honda 9.8: 1) contrasts with a real hot spur, the character of which changes radically between 4000 and 5000 rpm. Then the robust pusher becomes a brilliant sports engine, the power and torque explosion of which begins almost exactly where the Honda engine is already breaking down. When the wiry 1600 kicks off, roars, revs up at lightning speed, regardless of which gear – that’s something. But: It degrades the full thrust in the lower speed range to the existence of an extra. After all, the six-in-a-row is also at boxer level in terms of measurement technology. It just doesn’t feel like it.


Modern times: the BMW driver controls everything via the left-hand end of the handlebars without taking his hand off the handlebars.

Despite a similar configuration, very different moods. If there was still a need for proof: Day three of the tour and one or the other Pyrenees pass around Biarritz prove it. And leave the veteran touring rider amazed. "You only have to observe yourself once. On the K 1600 you inevitably begin to mutate into a Rossi. We have 350 kilo BMW! You let the engine roar up to 7000 rpm, although it is not necessary at all. You enjoy the unbelievably good, finely adjustable and effective brakes, turn over and angle. It just takes you captive", enthuses Christoph, whom the GTL is now more and more under its spell after almost 2000 kilometers (see page 16). In other words: he is more and more willing to enjoy your strengths – and to forgive your greatest weaknesses. Because one thing is clear: someone like him, who was responsible for the gearbox in the Porsche racing department for years, will not accept the performances of the K-1600 gearbox as god-given. Especially not when he has just discovered his racing driver’s heart on the fine Pyrenees passes: "While it was the loud singing of the primary drive and the howling of the gear wheels in the partial load range on the autobahn and country road that really got on my nerves, here it is above all the switchgear itself. As in the worst BMW times. First the terrible impact from first gear, then a loud clong with every gear change."

Christoph talks himself in a rage. And he’s right. You can – and will – expect more from a high-tech bike like the K 1600 GTL in this price range. At least the level of the ten-year-old Gold Wing, whose transmission is not a model for smooth operation, but can be shifted much quieter and completely dispenses with the tram-like background noise of the BMW.

Day four, the last stage of our trip to the southwest. Between Santander and Ferrol, motorway stages alternate with wonderful coastal roads, Spain has an almost Irish ambience, the super tourers can be really super tourers again and cruise relaxed. We think about the somewhat too passive seating position on the BMW, the handlebars of which force the driver to lie far back. Find out that even on the comfort armchairs from BMW and Honda, the bottom hurts after driving for ten hours. And that his better half, Heide, would otherwise sit on the Honda a bit more comfortably on every tour. Note that the Gold Wing, with its average half a liter higher consumption, always has to go to the pump first and that both engines (as well as, in view of the displacement, number of cylinders and power?) Are no savings miracles. And to sum up, there seems to have been at least ten years between the new K 1600 GTL and the Gold Wing. Then the crucial question: "And, Christoph, has the six-cylinder rush gone? Are you down from the wave?""No not at all. On the contrary. That was a wonderful trip and we’re only halfway through. I look forward to every kilometer home. You also?"There is nothing to add.

MOTORCYCLE touring evaluation / test result


BMW K 1600 GTL and Honda GL 1800 Gold Wing.

 Max points  Bmw  Honda Touring engine characteristics  30th  28  27
Draft  20th  18th  14th
Handling  20th  14th  10
Driving stability  20th  13  11
Steering precision  20th  16  12th
Slopes / ground clearance  20th  14th  9
Chassis reserves  20th  18th  13
Braking behavior / travel  30th  25th  17th
Driving comfort  30th  25th  23
Long-distance seating comfort. Driver / pillion passenger  40  30th  34
Wind and weather protection  20th  18th  18th
Touring equipment  30th  30th  28
Luggage system  30th  25th  23
handling  20th  9  11
Consumption / range  30th  15th  12th total  380  283  262

There will never be the perfect tourer. But the BMW is relatively close. At least in terms of driving dynamics and equipment (maybe a bottle holder is still missing). Of course, that entails a loss. For example in handling or consumption. The gap between the Honda is relatively clear. She is also a great luxury tourer. But only for the leisurely pace.

Touring winner: BMW

Test results:

1. BMW K 1600 GTL
Even in the luxury GTL version, the new BMW is a modern tourer with a fascinating engine and a top-class technology package. If only it weren’t for the transmission.

2nd Honda GL 1800 Gold Wing
Even after around ten years of construction, the Gold Wing is still America’s version of the big trip. But slowly a retread would do well.

Technical specifications


BMW K 1600 GTL.

BMW K 1600 GTL


Water-cooled six-cylinder four-stroke in-line engine, two overhead, chain-driven camshafts, four valves per cylinder, bucket tappets, dry sump lubrication, injection, Ø 52 mm, regulated catalytic converter, 740 W alternator, 12 V / 19 Ah battery, hydraulically operated multi-disc oil bath clutch, six-speed gearbox, Cardan. Bore x stroke 72.0 x 67.5 mm,
Displacement 1649 cc, compression ratio 12.2: 1
rated capacity 118.0 kW (161 hp) at 7750 rpm
Max. Torque 175 Nm at 5250 rpm

landing gear

Bridge frame made of aluminum, double longitudinal control arm made of aluminum, double-jointed single-sided swing arm made of aluminum, central spring strut with lever system, adjustable rebound damping, double disc brake at the front, Ø 320 mm, four- piston fixed calipers, disc brake at the rear, Ø 320 mm, two-piston fixed caliper, partially integral brake system with ABS. Cast aluminum wheels 3.50 x 17; 6.00 x 17, tires 120/70 ZR 17; 190/55 ZR 17, tires tested by Metzeler Z8.

Dimensions + weights

Wheelbase 1618 mm, steering head angle 62.2 degrees, caster 106 mm, spring travel f / r 135/115 mm, seat height * 750 mm, weight with a full tank * 357 kg, payload * 203 kg, tank capacity 26.5 liters.
Warranty two years
Service intervals 10,000 km
Colors red, gray
price 21,850 euros
Price test motorcycle1 24,750 euros
Additional costs around 262 euros


Honda GL 1800 Gold Wing.

Honda GL 1800 Gold Wing


Water-cooled six-cylinder four-stroke boxer engine, longitudinal crankshaft, one overhead, chain-driven camshaft each, two valves per cylinder, bucket tappets, wet sump lubrication, injection, Ø 40 mm, regulated catalytic converter with secondary air system, 1100 W alternator, 12 V / 18 Ah battery, hydraulically operated Multi-disc oil bath clutch, five-speed gearbox with reverse gear, cardan shaft. Bore x stroke 74.0 x 71.0 mm, displacement 1832 cm3, compression ratio 9.8: 1
rated capacity 87.0 kW (118 hp) at 5500 rpm
Max. Torque 167 Nm at 4000 rpm

landing gear

Bridge frame made of aluminum, telescopic fork, Ø 45 mm, single-jointed single-sided swing arm made of aluminum, central spring strut with lever system, adjustable spring base, double disc brake at the front, Ø 296 mm, three-piston floating calipers, disc brake at the rear, Ø 316 mm, three-piston floating caliper, solid-
integral braking system with ABS. Cast aluminum wheels 3.50 x 18; 5.00 x 16, tires 130/70 HR 18; 180/60 HR 16, tires in the test Bridgestone front G 709, rear G704

Dimensions + weights

Wheelbase 1690 mm, steering head angle 61.0 degrees, caster 109 mm, suspension travel f / h 140/105 mm, seat height * 750 mm, weight with a full tank * 421 kg, load * 181 kg, tank capacity 25 liters.
Two year guarantee
Service intervals 6000 km
Colors brown, black, white
price 31,300 euros
Additional costs around 250 euros

MOTORCYCLE measurements


The performance diagram of the two megatourers.

If there was any more proof required – here it is. The four-valve BMW in-line six and the six-cylinder boxer from the Honda with two valves have different characters. The wheat is separated from the chaff at just over 4000 rpm. The BMW engine revs up unrestrained, where the Honda drive slowly ceases its efforts. The result is the superior performance of the BMW (see left). The BMW is also clearly ahead in terms of consumption and range.

Top speed

Manufacturer information  (km / h)
Bmw  220
Honda  200


 0-100 km / h  0-140 km / h  0-200 km / h (sec)
Bmw  3.1  5.4  11.7
Honda  4.2  8.8  31.3


 60-100 km / h  100-140 km / h  140-180 km / h (sec) Bmw  4.0  4.2  4.9
Honda  5.5  6.5  9.9

Fuel consumption

Country road  (Liters / 100km) Bmw  6.3
Honda  7.5

Theoretical range

Manufacturer information  km Bmw  457
Honda  391

Tour information


The tour at a glance.

Stuttgart-Ferrol in north-west Spain-Stuttgart: Even on the shortest route drawn here with the way back via central Spain, Andorra and along the Mediterranean Sea, this means a tour of 5000 kilometers. Since we only had a total of seven days for this trip and joined the MOTORRAD tire test team, this meant a relatively high proportion of the motorway (75 percent) and almost 750 kilometers a day, which is simply not feasible on a country road tour.

For those who have more time, however, the tour offers a fantastic motorcycle area in the French Massif Central (between Lyon and Toulouse), in the Pyrenees, on the Spanish Atlantic coast between Biarritz and Ferrol and in the Cantabrian Mountains between Ferrol and Leon , before the magnificent Pyrenees (Andorra is not an insider tip, however) invite you to boldly swinging curves and return via the motorway.

Interview with Christoph Dimter


On the beach there is a break and an assessment.

MOTORCYCLE:  Well Christoph, the Atlantic is ahead of us, a lot of kilometers behind us. Time for a first conclusion? Are you still fully on the six-cylinder trip?
Dimter:  Sure, more than ever. Although I have to admit that the number developed differently than I had imagined. You know I’m a torque freak. I dreamed of high gear and low speed. And now I’ve caught myself turning the BMW off every now and then.

MOTORCYCLE:  Then you didn’t like the Gold Wing boxer?
Dimter:  Yes, yes, of course. A great engine. It runs smoothly, has a mechanical and acoustic smoothness of the highest quality and a uniform performance development at a lower speed level. I would also like to see some of that at BMW.

MOTORCYCLE:  That’s the way it is in life. You can not have everything.
Dimter:  You are probably right. Seen in this way, the BMW engine with its mixture of a lot of power, a lot of torque, its fine acoustics and the high running smoothness is already close to ideal. However: I would have liked a longer overall translation. This is a tourer after all!

  While we’re at the point of wishing: What are you still missing??
Dimter:  You know what’s coming now. The transmission is an absolute impertinence, you say that yourself. The load change behavior at low speeds in high gears is a shame. Klong, klong – that sucks in the long run. Also really bad: the howling of the primary drive. This is still audible even at 140 km / h and even drowns out the engine. And the clutch comes late on a very short way. But you get used to it.

MOTORCYCLE:  That was it with ranting?
Dimter:  Okay, the throttle response could be more spontaneous. Maneuvering is really hard work and a real imposition for little people. And – between us – the thing actually needs a reverse gear like the Gold Wing. But that was probably too undynamic for BMW.

MOTORCYCLE:  Keyword Gold Wing. How is your comparison to the BMW??
Dimter:  The Gold Wing is America. Built in America for America. It fits there too. I’ve been there myself with one. A fascinating, but good touring engine in a good chassis. The response behavior of the spring elements is moderate, as is the integral brake. At least if you compare it all with the BMW. Then you realize that the Honda has been around for a few years and urgently needs to be renovated. BMW is currently state of the art. Even compared to my beloved 1400 GTR.

  Hey, you’re not coming down at all. Then buy one!
Dimter:  Should I be honest? I have already. I signed with the BMW dealer last Friday. However, it will be a GT, which is a bit more dynamic. Normally I would have waited another five years until any teething problems were cleared up and the gearbox was renovated. But I’m 59 now, I can’t wait for that at BMW.

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