BMW G 650 XCountry


Bone China

Pared back and slim – and part Chinese

This may sound silly, but the bike I’ve ridden that felt closest to the XCountry was the original DT-1 Yamaha.

Yes, I know it wasn’t anything like the BMW technically but it felt like it; it was the first bike I’d ever sampled that was tall, light and slim and yet quite powerful and that made me feel as if I could do anything at all with it on tar or dirt.

Not that you’d be spending a lot of time in the dirt on the XCountry, I suspect. This is pretty much the two-wheeled version of the “soft roader” 4WD that will spend most of its life on the tar. Not because it isn’t competent, but because there are much cheaper and “harder” enduros that will do dirt duty more effectively. The XCountry is for all-round enjoyment, not hard dirt bashing.

Despite its unassuming, pleasant nature, however, the G 650 XCountry has found itself at the centre of some considerable controversy.

BMW used to buy the engine from Rotax, and still does for the XChallenge and XMoto. But the XCountry’s comes from China. Built by giant Chinese motorcycle manufacturer Loncin, the engine is identical with the Rotax in general specifications but has very few interchangeable parts. And there have been some concerns about Chinese quality.

BMW Australia’s Alexander Corne told me BMW is doing a lot of business in Asia as a response to movements in the exchange rates.

“Loncin is manufacturing this engine to strict BMW quality standards,” he pointed out. “BMW has applied all the same benchmarks as it does to all its engine operations. We are confident the engine will be fully accepted and enjoyed by our customers.

“We are purchasing a high-tech power unit from Loncin. We believe that the quality counts far more than the origin.” The Loncin factory has an entire assembly line dedicated to the XCountry engine.

Corne was also keen to lay to rest rumours that other engines or even complete bikes would follow.

“We currently have no plans to shift any further products or assembly programs to China,” he said.

The final noteworthy aspect of the XCountry is the price. In the class you can buy a Suzuki V-Strom 650 (equipped with ABS at no extra cost) for $10,490 and currently a runout Triumph Scrambler with a 900cc engine will cost only $11,990 (even the full RRP is only $13,990). That makes the $12,300 price tag on the XCountry (plus $1265 for the ABS) look a little steep, even though it seems that BMW Australia has already sharpened the pencil for this model, perhaps because of savings on the engine: the supermotard version, the G 650 XMoto with an Austrian-built engine, will set you back $15,250.

In Germany, BMW recently dropped the price of the XCountry by €1000. I don’t know if that has already been incorporated in the Australian price.

Of course you don’t get the neat styling, badge and the cachet that comes with it if you buy a Suzuki. Among the many bikes I’ve ridden recently, this and Harley’s Nightster are the two I’d seriously consider buying … except for the price, in both cases.

Model: BMW G 650 XCountry
Price: $12,300 (plus $1265 for ABS, and plus on-road charges)
Warranty: Two years, unlimited distance
Power: 39kW @ 7000rpm
Torque: 60Nm @ 5250rpm
Engine: Liquid-cooled, single-cylinder, four-stroke, four valves, DOHC, fuel injection and digital ignition
Bore x stroke: 100 x 83mm
Displacement: 652cc
Compression: 11.5:1
Transmission: Five-speed, wet multi-plate clutch, final drive by chain
Suspension: Front, 45mm upside down telescopic fork, travel 240mm. Rear, single shock, preload and rebound damping adjustable, 210mm travel.
Dimensions: Seat height 840-870mm, weight 148kg (dry), fuel capacity 9.5 litres, wheelbase 1498mm
Tyres: Front, 100/90 S 19. Rear, 130/80 S 17
Frame: Bridge-type steel section with bolted-on aluminium sections
Brakes: Front, 300mm disc with two-piston floating caliper. Rear, 240mm disc with single-piston floating caliper.
Top speed: 170km/h
0-100km/h: 5 sec
60-100km/h: 5 sec
Fuel consumption: 3.6 litres per 100km, premium unleaded
Theoretical range: 264km
Colour: Black and silver
Verdict: Wallet ready?

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