2013 BMW C600 Sport/C650 GT
Estimated MSRP: $10,000
Available:Late Fall/Early Winter 2012
Cute as the original classic 1950s scooter may be, you wouldn’t want to take one out on the highway. But you could take a new BMW maxi-scooter across the country, if you felt like it.
They have almost everything a premium/luxury scooter has, except for a clutch and the need to shift gears yourself, plus a few things no motorcycle has, including an automatic parking brake that engages whenever the side stand is kicked down.
Under the fairing of either model (the C600 is the sportier-looking variant) sits a fuel-injected 60-hp, 647-cc twin-cylinder engine working through a continuously variable automatic transmission, for twist-and-go performance.
These scooters can definitely keep up with traffic — and get an estimated 50-plus mpg doing it, too. BMW sees them as bridging the gap between secondary road-only scooters and standard motorcycles, which can be intimidating to people who haven’t mastered the art of the clutch — or prefer not to bother with it.
Both models feature full-fairing with windscreen for excellent protection from the elements (slightly larger on the more touring-minded C650) and of course, they’re both “step-throughs” rather than “climb ons,” as traditional motorcycles are. Seating position on either scooter is also more upright and relaxed than the typical bike’s, as these machines are designed for comfortable cruising, not peg-scraping cornering.
And “comfortable cruising” means amenities such as optional heated seats and grips, as well as a powerful 558-watt alternator to power plug-in accessories such as cellphones and GPS units.
2012 Ducati 1199
BASE PRICE: $18,000
So how about a 1199-cc twin that makes almost 200 hp — strapped into a bike that weighs just over 360 lbs?
Its name is Superquadro, and it’s the heart of the 2012 Panigale superbike.
The 1199-cc DOHC 90-degree twin features a higher redline (10,750 rpm), more bore (112 mm), and less stroke (60.8 mm) than the previous-gen 1198 engine, with much larger intake and exhaust valves. Throttle control is computer-controlled and ride-by-wire, with multiple rider-selectable programs.
The six-speed transmission is new, too. It uses a conventional wet clutch (immersed in engine oil) with slipper feature rather than the previous dry clutch — deemed necessary to safely handle the immense power output of the Superquadro engine during high-speed downshifts.
In addition to these technical improvements, there is also a new chain/gear drive for the famous Ducati Desmodromic valvetrain, replacing the previous belt-driven system. This ought to mean less in the way of routine maintenance.
The new Superquadro engine sits in the ultra-lightweight composite carbon-fiber frame of the 1199 Panigale, where it stands ready to accept challenges from all comers.
In Rosso red, naturally.