Honda returns to its roots with the production of a leaner and meaner Gold Wing for 2018. Forty-three years in the making, Big Red’s premium luxury touring motorcycle promises more power, comfort, and convenience— returning to the original M-1 prototype’s sporting concept. But does it deliver?
Editor’s Note: Be sure to read and watch our 2018 Honda Gold Wing Preview article and video for added technical details. This Part 1 write-up revolves around our initial riding impressions during a weather-shortened, single ride day press event in Austin, Texas. Stay tuned for Part 2 later this week in which we report on the powertrain and creature comforts.
Magic Carpet Ride
From the beginning, ride quality has always been a focal quality of the Gold Wing. And the 2001-2017 Gold Wing’s ride is as good as it gets, or so we thought. As it turns out, Honda had an ace up its sleeve, and its taken things to another level. The replacement of the old telescopic fork with double wishbone front suspension elevates comfort to levels we’ve never experienced on any motorcycle.
The setup glides over pavement, sheltering the rider and passenger from ill effects of the road. Whether rolling over tar strips, semi-truck whoops or G-outs. Visually you can see it working with the steering tie-rods moving up and down at various speeds based on the condition of the asphalt.
Yet somehow, it maintains a level of connectivity—the good, analog kind—keeping you engaged with what’s beneath. Whether at speed or inside a parking lot steering effort is so light that it goes unnoticed—kind of like your significant other quietly arranging your bed sheets each morning.
Considering most of ride covered straight Texas pavement, deep lean-inducing corners were few and far between, but the suspension readily ate up the ones we encountered offering natural handling with pleasing action in the vein of a good conventional fork-equipped setup. We’re keen to log more cornering miles as our initial sampling leaves us with a pleasing taste.
Although the front suspension gets the limelight, the rear suspension was also refreshed, operating through an updated Pro-Link setup and coil-spring equipped Showa shock absorber. Electronic preload adjustability allows you to modify spring tension based on preference or vehicle load. We preferred its highest setting—evident by the illumination of two riders and luggage in the right-hand side LCD. Adjustment is push-button simple but must be made with the engine running in a stationary position.
The suspension’s damping setting is tied to each of the four riding modes (Sport, Tour, Econ, and Rain) but given our limited time, we were unable to assess its capabilities. We’ll discuss the riding modes in more detail in the following segment.
Leaner and Meaner
Tipping the scale at 833-pounds (in Tour configuration with either six-speed manual or seven-speed DCT transmissions), the Gold Wing Tour has lost 86 pounds. It’s still no featherweight, requiring a degree of strength to maneuver at walking speed, two-up. Thankfully, the Tour model continues to offer an easy-to-use and push button electric reverse that seemed a smidge quicker than before.
Visually it’s clear that Big Red’s top notch touring rig is more svelte, with a claimed improvement of nearly 12% in the aero department. Styling is more aggressive than before— a nod to its new-found sport aptitude. The muscular Flat-Six engine along with oversized sportbike style radial-mount brakes poke out from either side further expressing power and mechanical pedigree. We’re especially fond of the front and rear end with its bold and beautiful LED lighting. The nose’s “Wing line” appears like a sleek airfoil when viewed head on from the front.
It’s added slimness is equally apparent at the helm. Wind protection remains top notch with an unspoiled pocket of air when the windscreen is lifted to its maximum position. If you desire that “wind in the hair” feeling, the electronically adjustable windshield happily obliges. On a side note, if the windscreen isn’t tall enough for your liking, Honda offers a taller option as an accessory.
The front suspension— with its more upward trajectory (opposed to a conventional telescopic fork’s diagonal motion) let engineers to shift the engine and riding position forward while moving the foot controls rearward. The seating position feels more natural with apt proportions between each control. As expected, the support of the saddle, and its general comfort factor is top notch without a hint of displeasure during our weather-shortened, almost 200-mile ride.
With its elevated handling prowess and suspension compliance along with more natural feeling ergonomics, the new Gold Wing is worth taking a demo ride on for these features alone. Stay tuned for our Part 2 review where we dive into what’s really going to impress you about the new Gold Wing.