In BMW’s return to the scooter world, they’ve brought two machines: the C 600 Sport and the C 650 GT. We’ve already published my initial thoughts on the C 600 Sport, but it’s only half of the BMW scooter equation. At first glance, there isn’t a whole lot to set the two machines apart. Despite the numbers in their model names, both scooters feature BMW’s 649cc parallel twin, CVT and chain final drive. Both machines have BMW family faces and share the same brilliant chassis, braking setup, and creature comforts like heated grips and seats. The C 650 GT is, in many ways, simply a deluxe version of the C 600 Sport. Yet despite the short list of differences between the two machines, the two machines each display a unique riding character that should definitely be kept in mind by anyone choosing between them.
The short list
Let’s get those differences out in the open. Here’s what you’ll find on the C 650 GT that differs from the C 600 sport:
- Larger front fairing with adjustable wind deflection
- Power adjustable windshield
- Considerably larger under-seat storage (does not include the Flex Case system)
- The C 650 GT is about 30 lbs heavier
- A different seat, featuring an adjustable driver’s back rest on the saddle
- Continuous passenger foot boards, as opposed to just rear pegs on the C 600 Sport
- Altered engine output optimized for mid-range power and overall smoother power delivery
- Slightly higher handlebar position for a more upright seating position
- Front turn signals integrated into the mirrors
Those differences all point to an alternate focus for the C 650 GT. This is much more the touring machine of the two. Specific care has been taken to provide added wind protection, more onboard storage, smoother long-distance power delivery, and more driver/pillion comfort. Strategically, BMW isn’t positioning either of their scooters as touring machines, even though that’s how scooterists have traditionally thought about bikes of this size. Instead, both C-class scooters are regarded by BMW as commuting vehicles. In making the C 650 GT more touring-oriented, I guess they’re trying to either account for longer, passenger-inclusive commutes, or they’re conceding to a certain amount of touring usage in practice, if not in official terms. In the context of BMW’s larger touring motorcycle offerings, it’s understandable that they’d have a more narrow definition of what “touring” means.
A significant difference in feel
During our initial press evaluation of the C 600 Sport and the C 650 GT, I’d started on the 600 Sport. Then part way through our demo ride, each of us switched to the other machine. Hearing the initial presentation about the two machines, and how much they had in common, I expected both bikes to be more or less the same. I was wrong. Pulling away on the C 650 GT, the different tuning in the engine’s power band was immediately noticeable. While still powerful, the delivery of that power was smoother, much less aggressive, and seemingly more oriented toward mid-range grunt. The C 650 GT’s more significant wind deflection made it feel like it was definitely punching a bigger hole in the oncoming air. Not sluggish, but more planted and stable, actually. The whole bike felt significant and civilized in all the ways the C 600 Sport felt punchy and aggressive. That 30 lbs or so of extra weight over the C 600 Sport seemed to be sitting squarely in the middle of all that extra aero — right over the front wheel. This only added to the bike’s overall planted feel.
Yet for all its subdued character, the C 650 GT was still a performer. On those winding California canyon roads, that BMW was every bit as capable as its more performance-oriented sibling. Braking was progressive and powerful. Knowing I had ABS to lean on, I could ride hard down the straights, all but stand on those brakes then dive the bike into the curve. Terrific rider feedback meant that I could feel the bike’s limits well before actually approaching them. In a way, I enjoyed carving the canyons a little bit more on the C 650 GT than I did on the more spry and flickable C 600 Sport. That says less about either bike than it does about my own preferences. I’m just not a ride-at-the-limit kind of guy. In fact, the pack of moto journalists rocketed ahead of me, diving even deeper in to the corners and carrying more speed than I cared to on those unfamiliar roads. This let me take the roads at my own pace and really sit back and enjoy what the C 650 GT had to offer. As a highly capable sport cruiser, I really don’t think I could do better on either motorcycle or scooter. It was as fun as it was forgiving — equally at home riding aggressively or throttling back for a mountain cruise.
Besides the weight and power delivery, there were two main differences between the C 600 Sport and the C 650 GT that really stood out while I was riding the GT. The first was the power adjustable windshield. In conjunction with the added wind protection on the C 650 GT, wind protection was significant. For anyone under 6′ in height, the combination would have you riding in near silence completely free of wind buffeting. This would surely be handy in inclement weather. Sure, the C 600 Sport windshield is adjustable, but not while you’re riding. It also doesn’t have the support of all the additional aero on the front of the C 650 GT.
The second key difference was the seat. Although the adjustable back rest is surely a great feature for shorter riders, I was a bit too tall for it, so preferred the simpler, more flexible seat on the C 600 Sport. The seat on the GT seemed firmer also, which was counter-intuitive for a more touring-oriented machine. This, among other reasons, had me glad to switch back to the C 600 Sport when the time came.
As our group of journalists talked over lunch, we’d each had the opportunity to ride both machines. Two patterns quickly emerged when the significant differences between the two scooters were discussed. Firstly, nearly everyone preferred whatever bike they started on. I fell into this camp myself. I greatly preferred the seat, the looks and the overall snappier experience of the C 600 Sport. Those who started on the more subdued C 650 GT wanted to go back. The consensus as to why was itself a pattern in the group. Basically, for those who preferred the C 650 GT, it was because it “felt more like a motorcycle” than the C 600 Sport. Maybe that’s why I preferred the C 600 Sport — because it was the more scooter-like of the two.
In the end, my preference is of little value until I show up at a BMW dealer with money. Yet I imagine that if you’re reading this, it’s because you have some interest in either machine. I couldn’t begin to sway you toward one bike or away from the other. They’re both terrific machines and, in my opinion, the most interesting thing happening in the large scooter space right now. What I can advise is that if you’re interested in either machine, you owe it to yourself to ride both. The differences between the two run much deeper than the feature list. They each have a distinct character and the differences are significant enough that there really wasn’t anyone in our group with any ambivalence about the two models. Just as many preferred the the C 650 GT as preferred the C 600 Sport, but for nearly everyone who rode both (myself included), they had a clear favorite. Mine remains the C 600 Sport, but who else out there has ridden both? What was your preference? Let us hear from you in the comments below.