2015 - 2016 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Ultra Classic / Electra Glide Ultra Classic Low
With few updates aside from paint since 2014 when the Electra Glide Ultra Classic saw the inclusion of the High Output Twin Cam 103™ engine, Reflex™ Link Brakes, new 49 mm forks and a whole slew of Project Rushmore updates for both rider and passenger comfort, the Electra Glide and its new-in-2015 sibling, the Electra Glide Ultra Classic Low are a touring platform for the long haul.
Continue reading for my review of the Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Ultra Classic and Electra Glide Ultra Classic Low.
2015 - 2016 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Ultra Classic / Electra Glide Ultra Classic Low
Engine:Twin-Cooled™ High Output Twin Cam 103™
After subjecting the bike to wind tunnel tests, Harley designed the batwing fairing and lowers to direct wind past your legs and around your head for less buffeting. That does two things: it makes it less fatiguing on long rides and you can actually hear the entertainment center, which you’re going to want to do. The standard EC is nice enough, but you have the option to upgrade to the premium entertainment center, the Boom!™ Box 6.5GT audio system with GPS and touchscreen; an awesome system for folks that spend a lot of time on the road.
One-hand opening of the hard cases and top case is nice enough, but one hand-opening of the cases while you and your passenger are seated is extra nice. Contoured controls make working the components on the instrument cluster easier without having to take your gloves off, and the Daymaker™ LED headlight and Daymaker™ LED fog lamps are extra bright to see and be seen in all light levels.
Those gorgeous Hard Candy Custom colors haven’t made their way into the Electra Glide paint booth yet, but we see lots of new colors and colorways in 2016. For solids, the Electra Glides come in Vivid Black with silver pinstriping, Superior Blue with blue and silver pinstriping, and new-for-2016 Billet Silver Burgundy with charcoal pinstriping. In the two-tone colorways, you have a choice of Amber Whiskey and Charcoal Pearl with gray and burgundy pinstriping or new-for-2016 Mysterious Red Sunglo and Velocity Red Sunglo with red and gold pinstriping. Custom colors are both new this year: the bold but still gorgeous Purple Fire and Blackberry Smoke with purple and charcoal pinstriping or Cosmic Blue Pearl.
Heavily built frames have always been a hallmark of Harley’s FLH/T bikes, and the Ultra Classic family is no exception. The stamped-and-welded backbone forms a hollow member with a strong, rectangular cross-section, and tubing forms the rest of the double-downtube, double-cradle frame, all in mild steel. A bolt-on subframe, forged rear fender struts and rectangular cross-section, dual-side swingarm finishes out the skeleton. It’s neither light nor subtle, but this ain’t that kind of bike.
The steering-head angle is set at 26 degrees, and an offset in the tripletree gives us a 29.25-degree rake and 6.7 inches of trail with a fairly compact 64-inch wheelbase. Factor in the three-inch wide front tire and the five-inch rear, and you have a very stable platform for long distance trips. Of course, you’ll pay for that stability a bit in the corners, and even though you can get almost 32 degrees out of it to both sides, its never going to corner like one of its chief competitors, the Honda Gold Wing for instance.
I mentioned before this was a heavy bike, and I wasn’t kidding. The 879 pound curb weight puts the Electra Glide Ultra Classic near the top of the spectrum, but the factory slapped on four-pot, 32 mm piston calipers to bind the dual, 300 mm discs up front and the single 300 mm in back. ABS comes as standard equipment across the board.
Large, 49 mm front forks are made to look even more massive by chrome shrouds peeking out below the batwing front fairing. Although they come with 4.6 inches of travel, rebound and compression damping are non-adjustable. Honestly, H-D is still behind many of the other big names, and needs to take a serious look at some adjustable front suspension components from Sachs or Öhlins to name a few. The rear, coil-over air shocks make for a plush ride with three inches of travel, and although they too have no other adjustments, it’s hard to beat the comfort of an air ride.
Harley used its Air-cooled, High Output Twin Cam 103™ to drive the Electra Glide Ultra Classic pair. Outwardly, this mill displays its H-D heritage in typical, 45-degree, V-twin fashion. Black-wrinkle paint sets off the polished cooling-fin edges and chrome covers, turning the engine into a showpiece, and not just a means of propulsion, but it’s far from all-show and no-go.
Hidden with the jugs are massive cylinders with a 98.4 mm bore and 111.1 mm stroke for a total displacement of 103.1 cubic-inches (1,690 cc). A quartet of external pushrods actuate the two-valve heads and serve as another spot for the factory to slap on some more chrome, because bling makes it go faster, ask anyone. (Wink, nudge.)
Though Harley does use liquid cooling on some of its products, the Ultra remains, thankfully, an air-cooled engine. Let’s face it, one can neither hide nor dress up a radiator, and it would simply ruin the look of this bike from the front. A sequential-port fuel-injection system meters the fuel and keeps the mileage reasonable for a big bike at 42 mpg. Couple that with a six-gallon fuel tank and I bet you the bike can go further between stops than you can, no matter how plush the suspension and saddle.
Although not recognized as an official sub-category, the term “power-tourer” certainly applies to the Electra Glide Ultra Classic. The mill cranks out 104.7 pound-feet of torque at 3,250 rpm, plenty of power for strong passes at highway speeds, and more grunt than the vast majority of twin-cylinder engines available today. Sure, it’s still a heavy bike, but the torque will definitely register on your heinie-dyno when you give it a twist. A hydraulic, slip-and-assist clutch couples engine power to the six-speed transmission, and it brings rear-wheel hop prevention and a lighter lever pull to the table for safer riding that’s more comfortable as well — for your left hand at least. As usual, a carbon-reinforced belt drive makes the final connection to the rear tire.
MSRP on the Electra Glide Ultra Classic and Electra Glide Ultra Classic Low in Vivid Black are $23,54 and $24,699 respectively. Add $600 for color options or $1,300 for custom colors. The security option that is standard on the Electra Glide Ultra Classic Low is an additional $395 on the base model and the premium radio upgrade on both bikes will run you $795 more.
When it comes to American-style tourbikes, Harley enjoys the distinct advantage of having influenced the genre since the very beginning, so of course its products meet the expectations of the domestic market. I decided to deny Harley this advantage in my head-to-head and pick a competitor that influenced the early development of the U.S. market nearly as much as H-D, of course I’m talking about Indian Motorcycles, and its full-dresser model, the Roadmaster.
There are more similarities than differences regarding looks. Of the latter, the Roadmaster carries the characteristic, Indian full-valence front fender that hides away much of the front wheel, where the Ultra Classic sports a cut-down fender that leaves the front wheel more exposed.
Minor variations in the front fairing, saddle and baggage can be found, but the most striking visual difference to me has to be the Desert Tan leather on the Roadmaster, which is rather striking after looking at black seats year after year. I maintain that Harley is still the King of Paint, but some of Indians colors are really attractive, and I expect to see even more nice finish work as Indian tries to edge H-D out of the number one slot.
Both bikes run big V-twin engines that pull double duty as the jewel in the setting, and as attractive as the Twin Cam 103 is, it isn’t as fine as the Thunder Stroke 111 that drives the Roadmaster. Cooling fins in the Thunderstroke rocker boxes and short, parallel pushrod tubes mimic the look of the old flatties, lending it a particularly dated air. The Thunder Stroke doesn’t just win the beauty contest, it takes the ribbon at the dyno as well with 119.2 pound-feet of torque at a low, 3,000 rpm. Suddenly, the 104 pound-feet of grunt from the Twin Cam isn’t nearly as impressive.
Harley scores a significant win in what is arguably one of the most important categories; price and I don’t get to say that everyday. The Electra Glide Ultra Classic starts at $23,549, quite a bit lower than the $27,999 sticker on the Roadmaster, and a difference that is sure to interfere with Polaris’ (lofty) goal of displacing Harley from its long-entrenched position. Guys? Less expensive sells better, m’kay?
My husband and fellow motorcycle writer,TJ Hinton, says “I have always imagined a day when I would settle down into an Electra Glide of some sort, and have opened coveted the full-dress Harleys of others, so I naturally like this newest version a lot, especially the seat height that’s much lower than it was when I first envisioned this particular daydream. Having said that, I took a gander at the Roadmaster, and I gotta say that if price were no object, I would certainly have it on my short list as well. One thing I am glad to see is that The Motor Company is finally paying attention to demands for performance, and really bringing its game up in recent years. I’m not talking about the Street or V-Rod motors, I mean the air-cooled, traditional powerplants like the 103 High Output and the Twin-cooled, Twin Cam 110, and it’s icing on the cake to stick a performance engine in a comfortable, touring chassis.”
“For me, the Electra Glide Ultra Classic is the benchmark for touring bikes. Instrumentation is easy to read, but then I am partial to analog gauges. I find them easier to take in at a glance. Younger folks with better eyesight might prefer digital displays and view the analogs as too yesterday.”
|Model:||Electra Glide Ultra Classic||Electra Glide Ultra Classic Low|
|Engine:||Air-cooled, High Output Twin Cam 103™ with integrated oil cooler||Air-cooled Twin Cam 103™ with Integrated Oil-Cooler|
|Bore:||3.87 in.||3.87 in.|
|Stroke:||4.374 in.||4.374 in.|
|Displacement||103.1 cu in||103.1 cu in|
|Fuel System:||Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)||Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)|
|Exhaust:||Chrome, 2-1-2 dual exhaust with tapered mufflers||Chrome, 2-1-2 dual exhaust with tappered mufflers|
|Wheels, Optional Style Type:||N/A||N/A|
|Wheels, Front Type:||Impeller Cast Aluminum||Impeller Cast Aluminum|
|Wheels, Rear Type:||Impeller Cast Aluminum||Impeller Cast Aluminum|
|Brakes, Caliper Type:||32 mm, 4-piston fixed front and rear||32 mm, 4-piston fixed front and rear|
|Fuel Economy: Combined City/Hwy:||42 mpg||42 mpg|
|Engine Torque (rpm):||3,250||3,250|
|Engine Torque:||104.7 ft-lb||104.7 ft-lb|
|Lean Angle, Right (deg.):||31.9||27.8|
|Lean Angle, Left (deg.):||31.8||28.6|
|Engine Torque Testing Method:||J1349||J1349|
|Primary Drive:||Chain, 34/46 ratio||Chain, 34/46 ratio|
|Gear Ratios (overall) 1st||:9.593||9.593|
|Gear Ratios (overall) 2nd:||6.65||6.65|
|Gear Ratios (overall) 3rd:||4.938||4.938|
|Gear Ratios (overall) 4th:||4.0||4.0|
|Gear Ratios (overall) 5th:||3.407||3.407|
|Gear Ratios (overall) 6th:||2.875||2.875|
|Length:||102.4 in.||102.4 in.|
|Seat Height, Laden:||27.3 in.||25.6 in.|
|Seat Height, Unladen:||29.1 in.||27 in.|
|Ground Clearance:||5.3 in.||4.6 in.|
|Rake (steering head) (deg):||26||26|
|Trail:||6.7 in.||6.7 in.|
|Wheelbase:||64 in.||64 in.|
|Tires, Front Specification:||BW 130/80B17 65H||BW 130/80B17 65H|
|Tires, Rear Specification:||BW 180/65B16 81H||BW 180/65B16 81H|
|Fuel Capacity:||6 gal.||6 gal.|
|Oil Capacity (w/filter):||4 qt.||4 qt.|
|Weight, As Shipped:||844 lb.||844 lb.|
|Weight, In Running Order:||879 lb.||879 lb.|
|Luggage Capacity -Volume:||4.7 cu ft||4.7 cu ft|
|Luggage Capacity -Weight:||N/A||N/A|
|Size:||4.3 inch||4.3 inch|
|Watts Per Channel:||25||25|
|Speaker Size:||5.25 inch/6.5 inch - P&A Upgrade||5.25 inch/6.5 inch - P&A Upgrade|
|Bass Port Rear Speakers:||N/A||N/A|
|Headset Specifications (if equipped):||16-64 ohms||16-64 ohms|
|MP3 - USB Connection:||N/A||N/A|
|SD Card - via USB Connection:||N/A||N/A|
|Jump Drive - via USB Connection:||N/A||N/A|
|SD Card, Flash Drive and MP3 - via USB Connection:||Supported||Supported|
|iPod Device Presets:||N/A||N/A|
|Configurable Mode Joystick:||N/A||N/A|
|Languages:||English (US/UK), German, Spanish (Mexico/Spain), French (Canada/France), Italian, European Portuguese||English (US/UK), German, Spanish (Mexico/Spain), French (Canada/France), Italian, European Portuguese|
|Hands-free Mobile Phone - via Bluetooth:||Standard||Standard|
|AM/FM/WB/SiriusXM (where available):||N/A||N/A|
|Voice Recognition Languages: Phone functions only:||English (US)||English (US)|
|Vehicle Information Screen (Air temperature, oil pressure and engine temperature):||N/A||N/A|
|Software Update via USB interface:||N/A||N/A|
|Text-to-Speech (TTS) Languages:||English (US)||English (US)|
|Bluetooth:||Phone/Media Supported||Phone/Media Supported|
|Lights (as per country regulation), Indicator Lamps:||High beam, running lights, front fender running lights, directional lights, neutral, low oil pressure, neutral, engine diagnostics, turn signals, security system (optional), battery, low fuel warnings, cruise control, ABS, gear indication, miles to empty display, fog/aux lamp indicator||High beam, running lights, front fender running lights, directional lights, neutral, low oil pressure, neutral, engine diagnostics, turn signals, security system (optional), battery, low fuel warnings, cruise control, ABS, gear indication, miles to empty display, fog/aux lamp indicator|
|Gauges:||Gauges: 10% larger speedometer and tachometer with 68% wider numbers; 28% larger fuel and volt gauges with 30% wider numbers; display features odometer, trip A, trip B, range to empty, clock and gear indicator; and larger telltale indicators||Gauges: 10% larger speedometer and tachometer with 68% wider numbers; 28% larger fuel and volt gauges with 30% wider numbers; display features odometer, trip A, trip B, range to empty, clock and gear indicator; and larger telltale indicators|
|Custom Color Option:||$24,849||$25,999|
|Hard Candy Color Option:||N/A||N/A|
|Cruise Control Option:||Standard||Standard|
|Premium Radio Option:||$795||$795|