2012 BMW K1600GTL vs. 2012 Honda Gold Wing Shootout [Video]

The heavyweight luxo-touring fight of the decade

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Split Decison

When the Honda was parked safely in my garage and the BMW in Pete’s, we both collapsed in our respective beds to catch up on much needed sleep and dream about Mike Tyson beating up motorcycles. The next morning we tallied the scores.

Did the K16 defeat the indefatigable Wing? Hardly. What it succeeded in doing is enriching the options from which touring bike enthusiasts have to choose. In our humble opinion BMW did something far better than simply create a better motorcycle, they created a bike that strengthens the sport of motorcycling.

2012 Luxury-Touring Shootout

In other words, if you’re staring down an Iron Butt Rally or simply crisscrossing the country by way of a combination of Interstate blacktop, the venerable Gold Wing remains the most comfortable long-distance, straight-line mileage gobbler on two wheels. Honda’s dealer network also eclipses that of BMW, which could save a lot time and headache in case of a roadside breakdown.

If you’re on a six-month motorcycle vacation and the only straight lines marked on your map are the shortest ones connecting various mountain ranges where you plan on spending most of your time carving corners, the K1600GTL is the better choice. But you’ll have to pack lighter.

What’s inevitable is a ground-up redesign of the iconic Gold Wing, as we believe the 2012 iteration may be a stop-gap measure before an all-new version debuts in a future year yet to be announced. It’s unclear how Honda will retaliate against this new competition from BMW, whether it plays to the GL’s strengths or tries to compete directly with BMW’s sportier machine.

2012 Luxury-Touring Shootout

While reducing the Gold Wing’s weight and upping its horsepower would be beneficial, regardless of its competition, we feel it would be silly for Honda to chase BMW for the best performing luxo-tourer and stick with what the Gold Wing does best — delivering unmatched comfort in long-distance, two-wheel travel.

Let BMW carve a niche for retiring sportbike owners with touring tendencies who revel in the challenge of bending a big touring bike through repetitive corners, while those who want to pound out big mileage crossing state lines will enjoy the Wing’s offerings.

It’s a better world for all motorcyclists with both these bikes in it.

By the Numbers
Honda Gold Wing
Observed Fuel Economy 34.3 mpg
Retail Price as Tested $25,899
Audio Comfort Navi XM Package • Satellite-Linked Navigation System
• XM Radio
Observed Fuel Economy 35.5 mpg
Retail Price as Tested $25,845
Premium Package • Safety package (Xenon adaptive headlight, dynamic traction control, tire pressure monitors
GTL Luxury Package • LED fog lights, ESA II, power central locking system, anti-theft alarm

Related Reading
2012 Honda Gold Wing Unveiled
2012 Honda Gold Wing Review - First Ride
2012 Honda Gold Wing Review - Video
2012 BMW K1600GTL Review
2012 BMW K1600GT and GTL Six-cylinder Unveiled
2009 Luxury Touring Shootout

View all Photos PHOTOS & VIDEOS

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2012 Luxury-Touring Shootout IMG_0792
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2012 Luxury-Touring Shootout IMG_9830
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2012 Luxury-Touring Shootout IMG_0898
2012 Luxury-Touring Shootout IMG_9841
2012 Luxury-Touring Shootout IMG_9841
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