Split Sixes: BMW 740i and BMW K1600GT

A. J. Mueller

The straight, flat roads through nowhere continue, and the ambient temperature keeps climbing. Our machines are in their element, effortlessly disposing of the miles with relatively miserly fuel consumption. The 740i is rated at 17/25 mpg city/highway, and the K1600GT is showing an indicated average of 38 mpg. The temperature will eventually hit 117 degrees, at which point riding a motorcycle is akin to standing in front of the world's largest hair dryer, and yet all three of us are fighting for seat time on the bike. In many ways, it is as comfortable as the cocoon of the 7-series. When your right wrist flags and the blast furnace sears, just flick on the cruise control, motor the adjustable windscreen to its upright position, and crank up the volume on the satellite radio. The sound quality from the four speakers mounted in the instrument pod diminishes greatly above 70 mph, though, so we're kicking ourselves for not bringing a Bluetooth-equipped helmet.

These roads also leave plenty of time for mastering the K1600GT's iDrive-like multifunction controller, which naturally comes with its own steep learning curve. A plastic ring rotates around the handlebar, just inside the left handgrip. Spin it to scroll up or down and tap the ring sideways to make a selection from one of the many screens managing the Bluetooth, radio, iPod, and suspension. Just as iDrive did ten years ago, the multicontroller dumbfounds us for the first twenty minutes, requires an unreasonable amount of attention for the next two days, and then becomes totally intuitive.

The final leg into Vegas leads us up US-95 where the endless sight lines and 75-mph speed limit beg for big speed, but we chicken out at 100 mph. That's plenty fast compared with the slow crawl we're soon doing along the Vegas Strip. The K1600GT bristles at moving so slowly in the heat. It is nowhere near as agitated, though, as the homeless guy who catches sight of Murphy's helmet -- which has a nude showgirl painted on it -- while we're stopped at a red light. The guy's back hunches over, his neck juts forward, and he squats as if he's fending off a bloodthirsty pit bull. His arms pump like he's driving a stake into the ground with fists clenched and thumbs thrust downward as he condemns Murphy to a fiery afterlife for promoting sex. Being a principled crazy in Vegas must be exhausting work.

Speaking of crazy, get a load of Lake Las Vegas, where we head to escape the Strip. Seventeen miles from Las Vegas Boulevard, some eternal optimist dreamed up a man-made lake surrounded by 9000 homes and luxury resorts. Or, at least, that's what Lake Las Vegas was supposed to be when it was painstakingly planned in the 1990s as a second-home community to rival Palm Springs. It would be glamor to the Strip's glitz, but the gimmicks were no more sophisticated than Elvis impersonators, miniaturized landmarks, and the possibility of winning big. Lake Las Vegas delivered celebrity (Jack Nicklaus-designed golf courses), a manufactured sense of place (architecture mimicking Italy's Lake Como), and the life you probably couldn't afford (when credit disappeared, so did the buyers). In the past three years, the 3600-acre community has been dogged with corporate bankruptcies, business closings, and residential foreclosures. The complex is pocked with spreads of dry, gravelly nothingness next to perfectly manicured green grass. It's difficult to imagine a triumphant comeback for Lake Las Vegas, even as we dream of a greener economy. Just keeping things afloat is taxing. The annual water bill to keep the opaque green lake topped up under an unrelenting sun? Two million dollars.

We pay our share with a night at the discount-priced former Ritz-Carlton hotel, and the next morning we're back in the saddle. Northshore Road, which curves and dips through the orange rock formations around Lake Mead, is our first real driver's road since we left LAX. Both the 740i and the K1600GT turn in effortlessly and transition from left to right with predictable progression. At 703 pounds, the K is a porker of a motorcycle, but it defies its mass in much the same way that the 4344-pound sedan does. Like the 7, the K1600 has an electronically adjustable suspension, but we couldn't discern the nuances among the three settings. No matter. In any setting, the ride is planted and the handling sharp. This feeling of control leads to confidence, which leads to a singular mind-set of bike and road, goading us to reach for all 158 hp at 7750 rpm.

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