2012 BMW C 600 Sport Review
BMW redefines the maxi-scooter
BMW is hitting the scooter segment hard and heavy with the all-new C 650 GT luxury scooter and the C 600 Sport maxi sportster that will change the way you think about scooters.
The massively impressive thing about the BMW C 600 Sport is how stable the chassis is at high speed, I mean, this is a scooter but it has got high-speed stability like a motorcycle. Its 647cc inline-two-cylinder engine has enough power to propel it to speeds in excess of its 112-mph electronic governor. The engines in both C-class scooters allegedly develop 60 horsepower at 7500rpm and 48.7 ft-lb of torque at 6000 rpm when rated at their crankshafts. (We expect about 50 horses at the wheel – Ed.)
Riding a scooter in a big city like Madrid always means you’re first at each traffic light. The variable-ratio automatic transmission provides steady progress, but full throttle works best when sprints are needed to stay ahead of traffic. Things start to happen faster around 3000 rpm, but I would have preferred torque to have spun up quicker for an even faster reaction from a stand-still. Once underway there was ample response from the two-cylinder engine.
The C 600’s exceptional stability also pays off through fast, sweeping corners where normal scooters usually try to tie themselves into knots. This gives lots of confidence and the ability to carry lots of speed into and through the corners. The suspension is very firm for a scooter, so there’s none of that wobbly feel through corners or when braking hard.
ABS brakes come as standard, and BMW uses two 270mm discs up front. This should be enough in theory, but let’s not forget that the C 600 Sport weighs in at a porky 549 lbs and hence the brakes are not the strongest aspect of the new BMW scooters. I had no problems braking hard when mountain riding, but the binders have a lack of feedback and feel a bit spongy. No worries at all about safety; I just wanted stronger brakes or less bulk.
The seat is taller and narrower than the luxury sofa found on the 650GT. This is to emphasise the sportiness and additional sharper handling abilities of the Sport. It is still comfortable but not in the same league as the GT. The sportier seat gives more freedom to move about, and that’s the whole point with the C 600 Sport.
Under the seat is a relatively large storage compartment and something BMW calls Flexcase which enables additional storage space for an extra full-face helmet when the scooter is parked. An expandable membrane is responsible for the extra space, but this can only be used when parked (as the case touches the rear wheel when expanded), and the engine will not start when the flexcase is deployed. Two open-faced helmets can fit without expanding the Flexcase if they’re on the small side. It will easily swallow a big shopping bag and a full-faced helmet.
Due to the 70-degree forward inclination of BMW’s new parallel-Twin engine, the whole package is very flat but not flat enough to completely flatten out the area between the rider’s legs. BMW should have added a hook underneath the ignition key as seen on many scooters, as this would allow for a small bag or additional helmet to be carried should you have used the underseat compartment for something else.
The engine works as a load-bearing chassis element in conjunction with the tubular-steel bridge frame. Along with the transmission, the powerplant is quite a hefty unit weighing in at nearly 180 lbs in total. The scooter has a single-sided swingarm made of aluminum, but its large size looks anything but light.
The 31.9-inch seat height is 30mm taller than on the GT, which I feel already was a little bit too tall for this segment. At 6-feet tall, I’m just big enough to sit comfortably and have my feet straight on the ground at a standstill. Somebody shorter may have to lean to either side, and then the considerable weight of the whole thing comes into play. Should you do a tight turn around on a hill and make a mistake such as not using enough throttle, the scooter could easily succumb to gravity.
The sporty part of the Sport is brilliant. I have never enjoyed riding a scooter fast this much – it’s very close in enjoyment to riding a full-on 600cc motorcycle through the corners. As soon as that 647cc engine is spinning, there is lots of torque giving good corner exit speed. Due to the automatic transmission, you do ride differently to a motorbike, particularly mid-corner where you often have to let go completely of the throttle. It gives a peculiar feeling of cruising through mid-corner when in reality you are going as fast as you possibly can. You can’t use the engine to control speed, basically, and the brakes have to be used when you wouldn’t on a motorcycle. The nature of the CVT transmission makes the engine work in a reactive rather than progressive way.
The C 600 Sport wears Pirelli Diablo Scooter tires in dimensions 120/70-15 front and 160/60-15 rear. The width and profile is the same dimension as on most motorcycles but are on 15-inch aluminium wheels rather than 17-inchers.
The instrument console has a modern feel, and even revs are showed in a small digital graphic. There’s plenty of information, and I particularly enjoyed the outdoor temperature and miles per gallon feature. At top speed it showed around 5.1 litres per 100km (46 mpg), which isn’t bad at all considering the high speed with the windscreen in its upper position.
The fuel tank takes 4.23 gallons, and BMW’s solution in opening the fuel tank cap is very clever as you just push the ignition key and switch left to open it. Do the same towards the right and the seat opens. This enables you to stop at the petrol station and open the fuel cap without having to move.
The Sport’s three-position windscreen is only manually adjustable, and you can’t really do this whilst riding. The windshield on the C650GT is much more protective and is electrically adjustable. The Sport’s fairing is lighter and sleeker. Our test models had the sporty Cosmic blue metallic paint. Other options are the black metallic and silver metallic, which doesn’t complement the sporty look of the 600 quite as much as the blue.
BMW has done a very good job in creating its first bona fide scooter. Forget about the roof-equipped C1, as that was a bit of a crazy concept. The C 600 Sport is a proper scooter, BMW style. It’s very fast through corners and also outright on the motorway, with great stability only really found on motorcycles. The footboards that allow both sporty riding and a stretched cruising position is a great feature, and the Flexcase is another ingenious invention that adds to the practicality of the 600 Sport.
However, the C 600 Sport is a heavy machine for a scooter, and because of this its braking performance suffers. And, for some riders, its seat is a little too tall. The BMW C 600 Sport is a great scooter, but it’s not perfect.
Ed again - the C 600 Sport isn’t expected to hit U.S. dealers until this fall, arriving as 2013 models. Pricing hasn’t yet been announced, but we're expecting an MSRP around $10,000.