Astute observers will see clear genetic markers from the earlier V-Rod rangeby Allyn Hinton, on LISTEN 04:04
Harley-Davidson unleashes a new Sportster design on the market, the Sportster S, and let me just say right out of the hole that this ain’t your daddy’s Sporty. This is something completely new for The MoCo.... well, almost anyway. Astute observers will see clear genetic markers from the earlier V-Rod range, and the more cynical of those might be tempted to call this a rebranded version of a discontinued model. Let’s dive into the details and you can make your own determination.
The new Harley-Davidson Sportster S in the details
This is exactly the kind of innovation that will allow Harley-Davidson to be competitive in non-traditional markets.
It’s notable that the released model looks so similar to the concept. Makes me wonder if Milwaukee could have rolled it sometime in the last three years instead. I guess we’ll never know. All-around LED lighting strikes a modern tone that pairs well with the overall design. It runs a liquid-cooled engine, and so the resultant radiator assembly conceals the lack of the traditional downtube/cradle section. Yep, much like the preponderance of sportbikes around the world, the new Sportster S relies on the engine as a stressed member to displace a large chunk of the frame to slim things down and drop a little weight. In this respect, the Sportster S clearly departs from the double cradle that underpins the V-Rod, and this brings with it some subtle changes in the finished look.
As for the electronics, this Sportster brings a level of sophistication that was simply unheard of a few short years ago. It starts with a classic-looking four-inch round gauge that boasts a color TFT screen for the instrumentation and doubles as the rider interface for the higher electronic functions, of which there is no shortage. Corner-sensitive versions of both the ABS and traction control comes stock, as do the trio of Ride Modes that binds them. Of course, there’s a fourth profile that serves as a blank canvas for your very own customized riding experience.
A Bluetooth connection networks bike with phone for turn-by-turn navigation, and there’s a USB-C port to power/charge your device. I’ll admit to a bit of shock at the level of fandanglery the factory bestowed upon this new Sportser model, and let me just say that this is exactly the kind of innovation that will allow it to be competitive in non-traditional markets.
The Sportster S powered by the new Revolution Max 1250T
This is the first repower of the Sportster line that has, since 1986, relied on the Evolution-era engine.
Ah yes, let’s not forget the engine. The all-new Revolution Max 1250T – same engine as in the new Pan America 1250 – further separates this new model from its forebears. It rocks liquid cooling with a DOHC valvetrain – both for the first time on a Sportster model – in a decidedly oversquare layout with a 4.13-inch (104.9 mm) bore and 2.85-inch (72.3 mm) stroke. Yeah, that’s the reversal from the norm, but it’s also why this newest Sporty boasts a whopping 121 horsepower with 94 pound-feet of torque that will beat the pants off any production Sportster going all the way back to the original in 1957, and its predecessor the K-Model that first rolled in ’52. It’s worth mentioning that this is the first repower of the Sportster line that has, since 1986, relied on the Evolution-era engine that was, admittedly, starting to show its age.
Things have been jumping over at Harley, with a new boss and a new direction to shore up sagging sales numbers, and this is a perfect example of the kind of tech The MoCo needs to embrace if it wants to survive in this increasingly tech-driven market. MSRP on the new Sportster S starts at $14,999.
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