Review: BMW C600 Sport
For just a second, imagine you’re a motorcycle enthusiast. For some of you, this won’t be very difficult, and for others it may be a stretch. You love the feeling of being on two wheels, the freedom it provides, the escape from the stress of your day; no phones ringing in your ears, no kids screaming at you, no over-demanding customers to deal with. When you ride, it’s just you, a machine with a seat on it, the wind in your face and the hum of your engine. Who needs a shrink, when you have a motorcycle, right?
What type of motorcycle were you thinking of when you read that above statement? Was it a superbike like the Aprilia RSV4? How about an adventure bike you could ride around the world like the BMW R1200GS? Was it a loud-as-hell, straight-piped Harley? I’m guessing that most of you have thought of bikes that on some level fall into one of those categories. How about a scooter, though? Not so much? Well I’m going to go out on a limb, and probably ostracize myself from the motorcycle community in the process by saying it, but I like scooters. A lot. And for the last two weeks, I’ve been laughed at for not only riding the BMW C600 Sport, a scooter, to work, to car shows, and through the canyons, but also enjoying the hell out of it. Hit the jump to find out what it is about BMW’s first maxi-scooter that tickles my fancy.
Having had several thousand miles of experience on BMW motorcycles, I know a BMW bike when I see one. The quality of these bikes is unbelievably good in comparison to other makes, even more so than in their cars. The switchgear, gauge cluster, materials, and ease of use are all excellent. It’s full of luxury touches too, from the two-helmet storage under the seat, the “dashboard” storage compartments for my garage door opener, and multi-stage heated seat (with independent controls for front and rear) and handgrips. There are gauges for exterior temperature, fuel range, tire pressure monitoring, oil level, and of course the requisite speedometer and tach. Out front, there’s an adjustable windshield to keep drivers of all heights free from fighting the wind at speed.
And speed there will be, because (despite the slightly confusing nomenclature), it’s got a 650cc engine making 60 horsepower and 49 lb/ft, sent to the rear wheel via CVT transmission and centrifugal clutch. That’s TRIPLE the horsepower of a Vespa 300 GTS Super Sport, their fastest model. Given that the C600 Sport only has to move 522 lbs, it has, give or take a tenth, the same power to weight ratio as a 2013 Ford Mustang GT (8.7 lbs/hp). It will run a low 13-second quarter mile on its way to an unbelievable 109 mph top speed. Remember, we’re talking about a scooter here. My first year on two wheels was spent on top of a 50cc Vespa that would maybe do 50 mph downhill. I would have never thought a vehicle could offer that level of practicality with entry-level sportbike performance on top.
Like other motorcycles, the C600 Sport makes urban commuting fun, especially in a place like Los Angeles where lane splitting is safe and legal. Take, for instance, my standard morning commute from my home in Playa del Rey, CA to my office at Gotham Dream Cars in West LA, a distance of 6.8 miles. In a car, in morning rush hour traffic, this takes anywhere from 27 to 38 minutes (welcome to LA, people). During my two weeks with the C600, I averaged a commute time of 10 to 14 minutes, without breaking any laws, and while returning nearly 50 mpg. The instant torque combination of the large displacement engine and the CVT transmission makes pulling away from traffic at a light as simple as twisting the throttle, and while there’s gobs of power, it never feels like the C600 is going to get away from you. The suspension and oversized (for a scooter) 15” wheels soak up LA’s awful tarmac like a fine luxury car, with a good balance of suspension travel (4.5”) vs. weight. And though 522 lbs is rather heavy for a non-touring bike, it only feels its weight in the tightest of corners, which can be found in the hills of Malibu.
Yes, I took the C600 Sport canyon carving. Yes, pretty much everyone laughed to themselves at my expense as I cruised by the Rock Store. And yes, a crazy person on a Panigale passed me on the way up the Snake. But the final, and most important “yes” is that yes, I enjoyed the hell out of that Sunday, and surprised a few people along the way. The C600 Sport has some real performance chops to it, which a fleet of about ten Harleys learned as I cruised by them down Encinal Canyon. Thanks to the CVT, it’s always in the right gear pulling out of a corner. Thanks to the 10.6” 2-piston ABS brakes, it can scrub speed safely and quickly. I even got it a little sideways during a particularly scary “rock-avoidance” maneuver, and the C600 really does have the handling abilities you’d expect from something with a much shorter wheelbase or a lighter weight.
So while the C600 Sport really does straddle the gap between motorcycle and scooter, between fun and practicality, between performance and ease of use, very well, there is one thing that will keep me from purchasing such a machine: the price. The C600 Sport is seriously expensive for a scooter, at $9,500, enough to buy a used scooter and a used sport/city motorcycle, each of which is better at specific tasks than the C600 Sport. A Vespa 125cc is lighter, smaller, more maneuverable around the city, and more efficient, and a 600 cc Sport Bike offers more grip and more performance for the dollar. Plus, you don’t feel nearly as silly riding either of those around. Nevertheless, if you need one bike to do it all and aren’t particularly image conscious, you should definitely stop by a BMW Motorrad dealer and take one for a ride. Hopefully, you’d end up as surprised as I did.
BMW Motorrad provided the motorcycle, insurance, and a tank of fuel for this review. Photos courtesy BMW.