Let’s keep this simple. The BMW C 600 Sport is a midsize sport motorcycle in a scooter form factor. Yet this split personality is no Jeckyll & Hyde dichotomy at odds with its identity. Instead, these two symbiotic aspects of the C 600 Sport’s character are what make this cross-bred two wheeler remarkable. By purposefully blending segment-leading performance with scooter convenience, BMW has done a cannonball into the maxi scooter market pool.
I had the opportunity to spend two days with the BMW C 600 Sport last week riding around all the best parts of Los Angeles, California. In that time I cruised the streets and canal bridges of Venice Beach, I lane-split through honking throngs of bumper-to-bumper car traffic, I carved double black diamond canyon roads, and I blasted down the California freeways and the Pacific Coast Highway. I threw everything the road has to offer at the C 600 Sport, and it shrugged it all off like an olympic sprinter walking to the mailbox. ScooterFile Senior Editor, Eric Almendral, is spending an extended review time with the C 600 Sport, so he’ll have a more in-depth review for us in the coming weeks. For now, here are my initial impressions of BMW’s new foray into scooters.
Focused on performance
At 647cc, the C 600 Sport shares an engine class with the top of the normal maxi scooter displacement range. The Suzuki Burgman 650 comes to mind. Yet while the two bikes are similar in weight, the BMW is intended for a different kind of riding life. Where the Burgman is most often perceived by scooterists as a long haul touring machine, BMW intends the C 600 Sport to compete more directly with Yamaha’s TMax sport scooter. While the C 600 Sport’s big brother, the C 650 GT, does have the Burgie in its sights, both machines have a performance focus one could only expect from BMW. This performance focus makes both bikes decidedly motorcycle-like, something that from a traditional scooterist’s point of view, positions the C 600 Sport somewhere fairly new in the market. It’s not a touring machine, although it could easily be used as such. Instead, it’s really more of a muscle scooter.
The C 600 Sport’s parallel twin drivetrain makes 60 horsepower, which is more than enough to motivate the bike’s quarter ton of mass. This scooter is fast, and I mean properly fast. Not just “scooter fast” like a Genuine Blur SS220i or my Honda Elite 250. As quick as these smaller bikes are at speeds below 60 mph, the BMW C 600 Sport makes speed seemingly without effort all the way up to its top speed of 109 mph. While this might sound gratuitous at first, all that power serves a rather practical purpose. With significant acceleration available with just the flick of my wrist, I was able to put the C 600 Sport anywhere I wanted it in the flow of traffic. Be it stop-and-go city traffic, mid-speed highway navigation, or high-speed freeway sprints, this scooter was powerful in more than one sense of the word. Powerful in that it instantly made speed, but powerful also in that it gave me the utmost control over where I was in traffic.
Because of the CVT transmission in the C 600 Sport, all the power it’s able to deliver can be accessed without any delays for shifting gears and no possible user error with the clutch. Joining speeding freeway traffic was a breeze, even from a dead stop. Gaps in traffic I don’t attempt on my 1,100 cc motorcycle were no trouble for the C 600 Sport. It’s truly a grip-it-and-rip-it machine. Yet all of that power is delivered with the utmost smoothness and predictability. If those 60 hp sound intimidating, believe me when I say they’re not. The throttle response was crisp and precise. The drivetrain responded by delivering exactly the amount of power I’d asked for. And because it’s still a CVT, there’s no worry about giving it too much throttle and breaking loose the rear wheel. BMW has done a fantastic job setting up this transmission, which holds the engine right in its output sweet spot (RPM) from 30 mph all the way up to 70 mph. So in that speed range, I had instant access to basically everything the BMW could give me, and it could give me a lot. That’s not gratuitous. That’s power you can use.
Superb handling and braking
The suspension setup on the C 600 Sport felt very BMW. It’s comfortable, if just slightly firm, and tuned for superb handling. As I snaked my way through the canyon roads of the Santa Monica mountains, I found my own limits far before finding the BMW’s. This is thanks to sport motorcycle style upside-down front forks and the typical BMW single-sided rear swing arm. The C 600 Sport has an impressively low center of gravity thanks to how they’ve packaged the engine, the suspension and the chassis components. This didn’t just make it stable and eager to turn in on the winding mountain roads.
This BMW will all but stand up on its own at low speeds. At speeds where most scooters require the dragging of one foot or the other, the C 600 Sport would stroll confidently. U-turns and parking lot maneuvering were effortless. Threading in between stopped and slow-moving cars (a particularly wonderful Californian affordance) required almost no handlebar gyration to stay on track. Coming to a straight stop at a stoplight, I can imagine the occasional tip over from a rider who would simply forget to put his or her feet down. The balance of the bike side-to-side as well as back-to-front is something into which BMW obviously put a lot of thought and engineering effort. The payoff is a scooter of utmost stability, with no leaning bias one way or the other.
In person, the C 600 Sport was smaller than I expected from its photographs. So much smaller that I was surprised to see a pair of disk brakes on the front wheel. It’s a disk rear as well and BMW has fitted the C 600 Sport with ABS as standard. As one would expect, this BMW stops extremely well. Lever feel on the front brakes is nice and responsive, allowing for confident stopping, and both levers are adjustable. Big brakes are a must on this scooter, not because of its size, but because of its weight and its power.
The ABS system’s ability to arrest this big scooter provides the perfect safety balance to all this machine’s power. BMW understands as well as anyone that proper braking is just as important as horsepower to create a complete performance package. These brakes were never grabby, but perfectly responsive and predictable. Yet don’t let that sound like they aren’t powerful.
The C 600 Sport could easily brake harder than my own ability to hold myself back from the handlebars. Using the bike’s upper, forward floor boards became a necessity during spirited riding. This position let me better brace my legs against the rather impressive braking force generated at both hands. At one point, I had to put the C 600 Sport’s brakes to emergency use on the PCH to avoid a merging van. A quick tug from two fingers on each hand had me and the bike a full car length behind the action before the oblivious driver could even finish his ill-considered maneuver. At least he waved after.
In terms of feel, the C 600 Sport feels about 75% motorcycle in terms of its riding dynamics. With 15″ wheels, it’s definitely more sport motorcycle than scooter in terms of its suspension and brake setup. Yet that’s not a criticism. It just is what it is. The bike is still terrifically responsive, and given its size and weight, I don’t think I’d want it to be as twitchy as it would be on smaller wheels.
Good looks, convenient technology and clever features
Being a BMW, the C 600 Sport is focused not just on performance, but also on premium technology and features. The fit and finish are as tight and precise as one could ever expect from plastic body panels. Our test machine bore a set of terrific iridescent, satin blue body panels in a color BMW calls Reef Blue. It’s a color exclusive to the C 600 Sport, with five colors offered in total across both C scooters. In general, photographs don’t quite do justice to how good looking this machine is in person. It’s currently the only bike in the maxi scooter space that sports a truly unique and attractive exterior — and I include the BMW C 650 GT when I say that. The C 600 Sport is a handsome machine that inspires an aesthetic envy the bloated spaceship shapes of other maxi scooters just can’t compete with.
The ergonomics were comfortable and the seat was a good balance between firm support and soft comfort. With two floor board positions to choose from, it was easy to find a sustainable body position. Switches and touch points were solid and attractive, but I had a couple of niggles, which I’ll get into later. Beyond the ergonomic basics, the C 600 Sport also featured some rather clever details.
On the left hand control is a button labeled INFO, which cycles the C 600 Sport’s digital gauge display through various information readouts including:
- Real-time mpg
- Average mpg
- Tire pressure front and rear (in psi)
- Average speed
- Outside temperature
- Oil level status
- Today’s date
I was especially impressed by the availability of tire pressure and oil level status. Being able to check my tire pressure and oil level on the dash is the kind of useful luxury feature I’d happily pay good money for. The other two spend-worthy features of the C 600 Sport were found on the right hand control:
- Heated grips
- Heated seat
You read that correctly. Heated grips and a heated seat on a scooter. On its face, that sounds ridiculous, but once the California sun had set and the desert temperatures dropped 20º, I was thrilled to have both. They actually became my favorite thing about the C 600 Sport. I now want to retrofit these to ever two wheeler I own.
Another clever aspect of the C 600 Sport is its under-seat storage. Tipping up the seat (which is conveniently supported by a pneumatic cylinder), I found storage space deep enough for a my XXL full face helmet in the front section, and about half as much again in the rear section. Yet this is where the C 600 Sport gets extra clever.
BMW has designed an expandable storage pouch called the Flexcase that opens like an accordion out of the floor of the under-seat storage. It all but rests on top of the rear wheel. This pouch was just big enough to hold my XXL helmet. The pouch must be collapsed and snapped back up into place before the bike will start again, but having dedicated helmet storage regardless of what else is already in the under-seat storage is a pretty significant design home run for BMW in my opinion.
As if that weren’t enough, the C 600 Sport also features a pair of lockable cubbies in the dashwork that are big enough for gloves, sunglasses, documents, etc.
If there’s one technological feature the C 600 Sport is missing, I’d vote for cruise control.
Overall, the C 600 Sport is remarkable, but not perfect. The engine note doesn’t sound half as mean as the bike looks. The exhaust sounds much more like an angry mower than a muscle bike. What’s more, because the CVT is holding the bike at a constant RPM through most legal road speeds, this BMW sounds labored the whole time, even though it isn’t.
For such a premium machine, the C 600 Sport had a few cheap-feeling details. The turn indicator switch felt sloppy in comparison to the other switches onboard and knobs for the manually adjustable windshield had a decidedly “storage tote” feel to them. Functional, and I’m sure durable, but not at all as nice as many of the other details on this scooter.
There’s one design detail on the C 600 Sport that’s rather unfortunate in its, well, let’s go ahead and call it a failure. This scooter uses the ignition cylinder to open both the under-seat storage and release the cover for the gas cap. Push the key in and turn it one way for the under-seat storage and the other for the gas cap cover release.
Trouble is, if you turn the key hoping for the seat release, but instead open the gas cap cover, the cover will tip partially open. Because this cover passes through the front of the seat, if you try to then open the seat before first closing the gas cap cover, you can actually break the cover. It won’t cause gas to leak or do any practical damage, but it’s a bad design.
A $10,000 price tag
When I asked ScooterFile readers on Twitter what they wanted to know about the BMW C 600 Sport once I had my hands on one, the first question was a big one. Why is it so expensive? With an MSRP of $9,590, the C 600 Sport is actually less expensive than the Burgman, yet about $1,000 more expensive than the TMax, it’s named competitor. Given the BMW C 600 Sport’s performance, its standard ABS and plethora of creature comforts, its pricing seems downright aggressive. I’d say the BMW is definitely $1,000 more bike than the TMax (impressive though it be). Our test model reported a mixed-use fuel-efficiency of 44.6 mpg. This included city riding as well as about 100 miles of high-speed freeway use. The TMax claims 47 mpg on its best days, even though the BMW has 16 more horsepower.
For most, nearly $10k is too much for a motorcycle, let alone a scooter. Yet I’d argue that if I were going to spend $10k on this scooter, I’d at least be getting my money’s worth. It’s a rather specialized machine with a laundry list of features and performance accolades. Is it for everyone? Of course not. Can you get a lot of scooter for a lot less money? Absolutely. You can get a lot of motorcycle for less money too. What you can’t get at any other price, however, is a bike with the BMW C 600 Sport’s combination of power, handling, ease-of-use, convenience and features. It’s a high price, but I can’t argue that it isn’t an appropriate price.
Who is this scooter for?
BMW built the C 600 Sport specifically to disrupt the maxi scooter space in terms of performance and premium features. After my two days aboard this scooter, I’d say they’ve succeeded. It’s a remarkable, capable machine and were I in the market for a maxi scooter, I’d have trouble taking a Silverwing or even a TMax seriously. The burning question is though, who is this bike actually for?
I’ll be going more in-depth on BMW’s strategy for both of the C-class scooters in a coming feature, but for now I’ll say this: I think that the BMW C 600 Sport is going to appeal primarily to motorcyclists. It’s introducing scooter practicality and ease of operation into the motorcycle space. It’s creating an appealing, premium offering for returning, or even new riders — especially new riders who already own a BMW automobile. Yet while BMW does aspire to attract current scooterists interested in a larger scooter, what’s being offered is much closer to the motorcycle end of the experience spectrum. As a scooterist and a motorcyclist, this is fine with me. Yet if the average Vespa GTS or Genuine Buddy owner wanted a motorcycle, wouldn’t they already have one?
The two days I spent with the BMW C 600 Sport were utterly spoiling. I was spoiled for comfort, convenience and performance. I could go anywhere, outrun everything around me and be comfortable doing it. That’s what happens when you build a sport motorcycle into a scooter. For the time being, BMW has disrupted the maxi scooter market, but major players like Aprilia and Honda are right on their tail. Will the BMW C 600 Sport be able to outrun them? We’ll see.
Stay tuned for Eric’s in-depth review in the coming weeks.