BMW has been striving to reconcile its dual image for years. On the one hand are luxurious sports cars, on the other, motorcycles with a reputation for being wheels for safety-conscious old men. That's changing with the new S 1000 RR and K 1600 LT.
However BMW is likely to confuse the public even further at the International Motorcycle Shows event in Long Beach, when its first scooters make their North American debut. Aimed at the Italian market -- the C 600 Sport and C 650 GT are agile enough to cut through city traffic but large enough for a weekend trip.
How they'll do in the U.S. is "a step in the dark," said Pieter de Waal, vice president of BMW Motorrad USA. Scooters aren't nearly as commonplace in the U.S. as they are in Europe, where gas is much more expensive.
BMW first dreamed up its maxi scooter concepts in 2007. It unveiled them to the public in Italy, in late 2010 and is manufacturing them in Berlin. The decision to go into production was based on "overwhelming support" from Italy, France and Spain, where BMW expects 70% of its scooter sales, De Waal said.
"A scooter buyer generally has one purpose: to go to work and back," De Waal said. "The challenge for us was whether we could make a scooter that would enhance our brand image."
Both new BMW scooters are powered by an inline twin cylinder engine that cranks 60 horsepower from its 647-cc engine and reaches a top speed of about 100 miles per hour. Neither require shifting because the transmission is continuously variable.
The performance-oriented C 600 Sport situates the rider on a taller seat with a flatter handlebar. Built for two, with a floorboard for the rider and footrests for the passenger, the Sport's windscreen is mechanically adjustable, its body shape more aggressive looking. A FlexCase under the seat expands to hold two helmets when the Sport is parked.
The C 650 GT seating is more relaxed, with a larger saddle, higher handlebar and adjustable backrest. Both the rider's and the passenger's feet rest on floorboards. The GT's windscreen is electronically adjustable.
The C 600 Sport and C 650 GT take many of their suspension and handling cues from BMW motorcycles, including an upside-down front fork and single swingarm. The wheels are large like a motorcycle's, with a wide tread and they also equipped with anti-lock brakes.
Like its motorcycles, BMW's new scooters have electronic fuel injection and catalytic converter. Fuel economy estimates haven't yet been released, nor have prices. De Waal estimates that the scooters will cost about $10,000 when they enter the U.S. market next fall.––Paul Duchene
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