Crossovers have become big in the motorcycle market, regardless of whether or not they have off-road ability. The concept of crossing over is relatively new to the scooter market. Until maxi-scooters came along, scooters were always town-bound, but suddenly comfortable highway travel was possible. Now, BMW has developed a super-scooter that's an executive jet in city environs but can also take on all-comers out of town. In fact, there's a pair of them, and one thinks it's a sportsbike while the other reckons it's a tourer. Both do a surprisingly convincing job of making their riders feel like they're piloting a sports-tourer on the highway. And they're both real characters.
The recent Thai launch of BMW's C600 and C650 scooters represents a first of sorts, certainly for the company, which has never before attempted a conventional top-flight scoot. The quirkly C1 scooter, complete with cover, was limited in its abilities. These new offerings are sufficiently quick out of build-up areas that they will trigger mobile speed camera devices. Yes, we have speed cameras in Bangkok now-a-days, but that's another story...
Why is BMW Motorrad making a super-scooter? It believes that the timing is right, what with rising fuel prices, increasing congestion in the big city and the burgeoning segmentation of the motorcycle market. Why not offer a two-wheeler that's the ultimate in comfort and versatility in the urban sector, where it will work most of tis life, but can also manager 300km day trips with motorcycle-like agility and ability?
Both of the new models share underlying mechanicals, not that you'd necessarily be aware of that by their model names. The entry-level version is the BMW C600 Sport, and the upper level variant is the BMW C650 GT. The bigger number here indicates greater specification rather than displacement, while the 'GT' nomenclature clearly indicates its secondary touring role. The Sport version is more pared back, slightly lighter and a bit quicker, though also offers generous weather protection.
Both BMW scooters are made in Berlin and are powered by a 647cc parallel twin engine. As is scooter convention, the gearbox is a continuously variable transmission (CVT), though the final drive is be enclosed chain, meaning low maintenance. Because of the twist-and-go nature of the scooters, the handlebar levers are for braking purposes, the left side operating the rear and the right side the front. Both feature ABS control, as do all BMW two-wheelers now-a-days.
The engine is good for 44kW of power and 66Nm of torque. The powertrain offers instantaneous and sprightly acceleration off the mark, as seen by BMW's quoted sprint time ot 100km/h of seven seconds. The fuel use is averaging at a claimed 4.8 liters for 100km.
The central concept behind both scooters is versatility. Each has weather protection that would shame some would-be touring motorcycles (the screen is manually adjustable on the BMW C600 Sport, electronically on the BMW C650 GT), and both run on 15-inch rims, meaning they're about as stable on the open road and over bumps as a regular middleweight, and change direction readily.
Helping the cause are upside-down front forks and an adjustable rear monoshock.
There are two main differences to open-road riding compared with a regular motorcycle. First, there' s not tank to grip, which takes only a bit of time to get you head around. And secondly, because of the CVT, there's little in the way of engine braking into corners, so you need to ensure the turn entry speed is well set before you lean the scoot over, though you can trail brake in on the rear if you've overcooked things. Otherwise, the BMW scooters corner rather well indeed, and that's partly thanks to the bigger bits, like the engine, gear and exhaust being positioned low. It holds a line dutifully, and good luck to you touching anything down in a corner. You can handily keep up with other motorcycles, providing they're not liter monsters ridden by dedicated sportsbike fanatics.