In spite of recent gains by long-time rival Indian Motorcycle, Harley-Davidson remains the king of the American-style bagger/tourbikes. The brand and genre are inextricably linked with the American landscape, and the new Ultra Limited and Ultra Limited Low are perfect examples of why that is still true. This year sees the all-new, 107-inch, Milwaukee-Eight engine with nearly 114 pounds o’ grunt on tap along with improved suspension components and other, comfort-related improvements over the MY16 units. Naturally, this is in addition to all the tour-tastic yummy-goodness that made the Ultra Limited such a touring staple in the first place. Today I’m going to take a look at this pair to see what else is new and exciting, then we are going to see how it measures up against the Indian Roadmaster that I reckon will be its most direct competitor.

Continue reading for my review of the Harley-Davidson Ultra Limited and Ultra Limited Low.

Design

2017 Harley-Davidson Ultra Limited / Ultra Limited Low
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What we have here is a classic American cruiser, the result of decades of evolution and innovations in order to meet ever-changing popular demand. The front fender comes pared down a bit to leave the front wheel open and visible while the trim, badging and fender skirt make a strong connection to the past.

Right-way-up forks come with chrome beer-can covers to go with the rest of the bling around the Daymaker LED headlight, passing lamps and turn signals. The classic batwing fairing sports a full windshield— or a low-profile screen on the Low— with a fairing vent meant to relieve some of the vacuum behind the fairing when underway in order to reduce head buffeting and freshen the sometimes stale air that washes from beneath the engine up into the pocket. Plus, the fairing houses the instrumentation and a whole host of electronic goodies to include the 6.5-inch color touchscreen control for the Infotainment system, the forward pair of 5.25-inch speakers, and optional input features such as Bluetooth and a USB port for your pocket jukebox. The Infotainment system can be upgraded to include all-around, 6.5-inch speakers, satellite radio, navigation and weather alerts, so you can pretty much tune the capabilities to your specific needs. As for me, I can make an argument for needing all of it.

A slight difference in saddle shape contributes to the 2.1-inch height offset between the base model and the Low version, but both bear the deep bucket and broad butt pad common on Harley’s touring models. The rise to the stadium pillion seat provides a bit of back support, and the passenger gets a near-full back support with padding and armrests mounted to the front side of the Tour-Pak. Total luggage capacity is 4.7 cubic-feet, so you should have plenty of dry storage for weekend trips, or serious grocery-getting missions.

H-D’s “One-Touch” philosphy is in full effect with latches that can be opened with one touch, even when wearing gloves. A light bar along the rear of the Tour-Pak joins the taillight and turn signals for rearward illumination, and although none of them are what you would call “low profile,” this bike ain’t exactly an exercise in understatement, now is it?

Chassis

2017 Harley-Davidson Ultra Limited / Ultra Limited Low
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As always, the bones of the beast come made from welded sections of mild, tubular steel. Yeah it’s heavy, but at 900-plus pounds wet this is bound to be a heavy bike and the factory seems wholly disinterested in trying to pretend otherwise. Steering head geometry lends the bike a rail-like tracking stability with 26 degrees of rake and 6.7 inches of trail on a 64-inch wheelbase, but obviously, the trade off will be cornering agility. If you want a tourbike that will carve, I recommend you take a look at a Goldwing or maybe one of the remaining Victory models, ’cause this ain’t your ride.

Upgrades to the suspension include a pair of Showa stems with dual bending valve damping, and a handknob-adjusted preload function on the rear shocks that allow for up to 30% more preload. Cast-aluminum rims mount the 17-inch front hoop and the 16-inch rear finish out the rolling chassis with nice, wide contact patches. All-around, four-pot calipers bite dual front discs and the single rear with Harley’s Reflex ABS that prevents lockups and electronically balances braking effort. The factory says it will make you a better rider, but I’ve not ridden one long enough with this feature to prove or disprove that bold claim.

Drivetrain

2017 Harley-Davidson Ultra Limited / Ultra Limited Low
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As cool as all of the other new-for-2017 features are, the star of this show remains the all-new Milwaukee-Eight. A hybrid-cooled engine, the Mil-8 relies largely upon the air-cooling provided by the cooling fins, but it uses targeted water-cooling around the exhaust ports to draw the worst of the waste heat off one of the hottest spots in the plant.

The mill gets its name from the total of eight valves between the four-valve heads, and that extra breathing capacity pays dividends at the dyno. A 100 mm bore and 111.1 mm stroke gives the engine a total displacement of 1,746 cc with a 10-to-1 compression ratio. The factory moved the catalytic converter further away from the passenger this year, so less of that heat is felt by your backseater.

Electronic fuel injection works with the EFI to keep emissions low and milk the 43 mpg from the Ultras. If that sounds a little low, I would remind you that with the rider’s weight the rig weighs in at over half-a-ton, and it takes energy to push that barn-door fairing around. The good news is that there is energy o’ plenty with an output of 113.6 pound-feet of torque at an incredibly low, 3,250 rpm. This gives the bike one of the best roll-ons in Harley’s lineup, though you will feel the need to downshift to 5th gear to do it.

The six-speed tranny is geared for comfortable highway riding, but it’s a bit much for the engine to accelerate aggressively at speed in top gear. Oh, and it’s a good-looking lump as well, naturally. At this time, H-D has yet to make the jump to RbW, rider modes or traction control, but I reckon it won’t be long before the MoCo will have to have those features to remain competitive. We’ll see.

Pricing

2017 Harley-Davidson Ultra Limited / Ultra Limited Low
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As usual, the King of Paint breaks down pricing based on paint packages. The Ultra Limited rolls in Vivid Black for $26,999 with solid colors going for $27,599 , two-tones going for $28,049, custom colors $28,299 and even a special police-and-fire package for $27,387. A tad cheaper, the Low version rolls for $100 less across the board, but it doesn’t have the first-responder package.

Competitors

2016 - 2019 Indian Motorcycle Roadmaster
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2017 Harley-Davidson Ultra Limited / Ultra Limited Low
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Harley’s homegrown rival, Indian Motorcycle, has been flourishing under Polaris’ umbrella and is emerging as a definite threat to Harley’s sovereignty, especially since Victory’s demise will likely free up even more resources for Indian. I consider the Roadmaster to be the closest in design and reckon it will appeal to the same sort of buyer, so let’s see how they stack up.

The broad strokes are very similar between these two. They carry the same, classic, American-tourbike look, and both take steps to tie into their own deep roots. For Indian this means a full skirt on the front fender along with the trademark Indian-head ornament. The Roadmaster’s fairing has a bit more of a bubble shape to it, and it recesses the pimp lights rather than sticking them out there on a whiskerbar for a cleaner look than the Ultra presents, though the chrome panel above the light is a little gaudy if you ask me.

Moving from there toward the back, the two are like brothers from another mother with very similar seating and luggage capacity, though the Indians sport black quilted leather seats that come with contrasting white stitching; all except the Willow Green/Ivory Cream model that comes with tan leather/white stitching.

The Roadmaster comes with a power-adjustable windshield, and that’s nice for getting the height dialed in just right without having to pull out the checkbook. Both rides bear their own touchscreen instrumentation-and-entertainment centers with similar features to include a sound system that lets you share your tunes with the rest of the class, as it were. Bottom line here; these are both well-equipped, top-of-the-line, American-style tourbikes.

Big discs, four-pot calipers and ABS are common themes across the board. Suspension is a trade off with Harley sporting the Dual Bending Valve Forks, but Indian mounting air-adjustable shocks in back. Granted, the emulsion shocks on the Ultra provide a nice ride and the handwheel adjuster is easy to use, but there’s nothing like the ride you get from air in my book.

We certainly like our big V-twins, and these two are about as big as production V-twins get. Harley breaks the 100 cubic-inch mark with the 107-inch (1,746 cc) Milwaukee-Eight, but Indian packs a few more cubes into its 111 cubic-inch (1,811 cc) Thunder Stroke. Both are attractive engines, but I gotta say I love the flathead-esque touches the Thunder Stroke brings to the table. Indian’s displacement advantage gives the Thunder Stroke 111 a total of 119.2 pound-feet of torque at 3,000 rpm — more power and an even lower peak-power rev range than the Mil-8 with its 113.6 pounds o’ grunt at 3,250. Stump-pullers, both.

Indian actually manages to out price Harley across the board with a $28,999 sticker on the Thunder Black Roadmaster, a $29,599 one on the Burgundy Metallic and a $30,399 tag on the two-tone packages. Although Harley’s name power adds some value, so does Indian’s, and the brand is picking up juice to become the first domestic threat to H-D’s supremacy in this category of bike.

He Said

“I’ve always loved my Sporties, but always wanted one of these big touring jobs for long-distance work. The Ultra Limited/Low is exactly what I expected, and the new engine is a keeper even if the countershaft negates a good deal of the engine vibration many of us have become accustomed to and expect.”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, "So the flagship of Harley’s full dresser line gets a major overhaul this year along with all the touring and trike lines. The new Mil-8 engine is the crowning jewel on the new Ultra Limited. But, what if you aren’t into the full-dresser look and you’re looking at the Street Glide, but you want all the cool features of the Ultra? Get the Ultra and add the detachable Tour-Pak kit. It lets you remove the family-station-wagon look when you want the sportier solo ride. The ride on the Ultra is so comfortable. It’s is probably the most comfortable motorcycle I’ve ever ridden as far as being able to stay in the saddle for hundreds of miles at a clip."

Specifications

ENGINE:
Engine: Twin-Cooled™ Milwaukee-Eight™ 107 Engine
Valves: Pushrod-operated, overhead valves with hydraulic, self-adjusting lifters; four valves per cylinder
Bore x Stroke: 3.937 in. x 4.375 in. (100 mm x 111.1 mm)
Displacement: 107 cu. in. (1746 cc)
Compression Ratio: 10.0:1
Fuel System: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
Air Cleaner: Paper, washable
Lubrication System: Pressurized, dry-sump
DRIVETRAIN:
Primary Drive: Chain, 34/46 ratio
Final Drive: Belt, 32/68 ratio
Clutch: Hydraulically actuated 9 plate wet, Assist & Slip
Transmission: 6-Speed Cruise Drive®
Gear Ratios (overall): U.S.
1st: 9.593
2nd: 6.65
3rd: 4.938
4th: 4
5th: 3.407
6th: 2.875
CHASSIS:
Frame: Mild steel; tubular frame; two-piece stamped and welded backbone; cast
and forged junctions; twin downtubes; bolt-on rear frame with forged fender supports; MIG welded
Swingarm: Mild steel; two-piece drawn and welded section; forged junctions; MIG welded
Front Forks: 49 mm Dual Bending Valve
Rear Shocks: Premium standard height hand-adjustable rear suspension
Wheels: Contrast Chrome Impeller Cast Aluminum
Front: 17 in. x 3 in. (432 mm x 76 mm)
Rear: 16 in. x 5 in. (406 mm x 127 mm)
Brakes:
Caliper Type: 32 mm, 4-piston fixed front and rear
Rotor Type: Dual floating rotors (front), fixed rotor (rear)
Front (dual): 11.81 in. x .2 in. (300 mm x 5.1 mm)
Rear: 11.81 in. x .28 in. (300 mm x 7.1 mm)
Anti-lock Braking System: Standard
Suspension Travel:
Front Wheel: 4.6 in. (117 mm) (Low: 3.86 in. (98 mm))
Rear Wheel: 3 in. (76 mm) (Low: 2.15 in. (54.6 mm))
PERFORMANCE:
Engine Torque (per J1349) (North America): 113.6 ft. lb. @ 3250 RPM (154 Nm @ 3250 RPM)
Lean Angle (per J1168): Right: 32° (Low: 29°), Left: 32° (Low: 28°)
Fuel Economy (Combined City/Hwy): 43 mpg (5.5 L/100 km)
DIMENSIONS:
Length: 102.3 in. (2598 mm) (Low: 101.8 (2585 mm))
Overall Width: 37.8 in. (960 mm)
Overall Height: 56.7 in. (1440 mm)
Seat Height: Laden: 27.5 in. (699 mm)(Low: 25.6 In. (652 mm), Unladen: 29.1 in. (740 mm)(Low: 27 in. (685 mm)
Ground Clearance: 5.4 in. (138 mm) (Low: 4.6 in. 115 mm)
Rake (steering head): 26°
Fork Angle: 29.25°
Trail: 6.7 in. (170 mm)
Wheelbase: 64 in. (1625 mm)
Tires (Dunlop® Harley-Davidson® Series, bias blackwall front and rear): Front – D408F BW 130/80B17 65H, Rear – D407T BW 180/65B16 81H
Fuel Capacity: 6 gal. (22.7 L) (warning light at approximately 1.0 gal.)
Oil Capacity (w/filter): 5 qt. (4.7 L)
Transmission Capacity: 1 qt. (.95 L)
Primary Chain Case Capacity: 1.1 qt. (1 L)
Coolant Capacity: 0.8 qt. (0.75 L)
Weight:
As Shipped: 871 lb. (395 kg)
In Running Order: 908 lb. (412 kg)
Gross Vehicle Weight Rating: 1360 lb. (617 kg)
Gross Axle Weight Rating: Front: 500 lb. (227 kg), Rear: 927 lb. (420 kg)
Luggage Capacity: Volume 4.7 cu. ft. (0.132 m3)
ELECTRIC:
Battery (per Battery Council International Rating): Sealed, maintenance-free, 12V,
28-amp/hour, 405 cca
Charging: Three-phase, 48-amp system (600W @13V, 2000 RPM, 625W max power @13V)
Starting: 1.6 kW electric with solenoid shift starter motor engagement
Lights (as per country regulation):
Headlamp: LED 34-watt, 915 lumen low beam, 37-watt, 915 lumen high beam with switchable 20-watt, 1,220 lumen LED fog lamps. Total of 2,136 lumen output at low beam with fog lights.
Tail/Stop Lights: 8W/28W
Front Signal Lights: 8W/28W
Indicator Lamps: High beam, running lights, directional lights, neutral, low oil pressure, engine diagnostics, accessory, speakers, turn signals, security system, gear indication, battery, low fuel warning, cruise control, ABS, fog/aux lamp indicator
Auxiliary Lamps (except where prohibited by law): Two LED @ 20W each
Electric Power Outlet: Electric power accessory port in fairing and Tour-Pak®
GPS System: Boom!™ Box 6.5GT audio system with GPS and touchscreen
DETAILS:
Warranty: 24 months (unlimited mileage)
Colors: Vivid Black, Black Quartz, Billet Silver/Vivid Black, Mysterious Red Sunglo/Velocity Red Sunglo, Superior Blue/Billet Silver, NEW Black Hills Gold/Black Quartz, Charcoal Denim/Black Denim, Bonneville Blue/Fathom Blue
Price:
Ultra Limited: Vivid Black $26,999, Color $27,599, Two-Tone $28,049, Custom Color $28,299
Ultra Limited Low: Vivid Black $26,899, Color $27,499, Two-Tone $27,949, Custom Color $28,199

All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended. Image Source: harley-davidson.com, indianmotorcycle.com

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