The Flagship Tourer Is Once Again A Worthy Contender

Honda is well into its fourth decade of Gold Wing production now, and needless to say, it’s now a much different world than the one for which its most recent vintages were designed. A younger buyer is clearly in the factory’s sights with this updated version of its venerable GL line. Reduced bulk and updated looks are just the bait; the hook lies in the renewed focus on performance. Sure, the ’Wing has always cornered less like a dresser and more like something from one of the sportier categories, but the Red Riders managed to improve further on that point by shedding nearly 100 pounds off the overall weight with the same low center-of-gravity. The all-new engine comes in the typical flat-six configuration and 1,833 cc displacement with 124.6 ponies just waiting to be called upon. What else has Honda done to try to make the ’Wing something other than “my grandfather’s bike” to the younger buyers? Read on and find out.

Continue reading for my review of the Honda Gold Wing and Honda Gold Wing Tour.

  • 2018 Honda Gold Wing / Gold Wing Tour
  • Year:
    2018
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    Flat 6
  • Displacement:
    1833 cc
  • Price:
    23500
  • Price:

Design

2018 Honda Gold Wing / Gold Wing Tour
- image 742320
I've seen Christmas trees with fewer lights on it; this instrument panel tells you everything you need to know, plus some things that probably haven't occurred to you.

Leaner in nearly every way, the new GW sports a similar mug up front with an array of lights set into a wide V pattern across the entry of the front fairing, but the new family sports LED bulbs that allow for smaller, cooler-looking light shapes while maintaining a safe and legal level of illumination. A trimmed-down, electronically-adjustable windshield comes with ample ventilation in order to help smooth out the air at the point of reintegration for a head-buffet free riding experience for both rider and passenger. Naturally, the Tour model comes with a full-length screen while the base ’Wing sports a cut-down windshield that changes the character of the bike immensely.

Beyond that, the head-on view is similar in design to its predecessor, if not proportion. The turn signals come integrated with the mirrors just like the previous gen, even though the mirrors themselves come with a fresh design that seems to double as some sort of spoiler. Tucked away under the protection of the windscreen is an instrument cluster that could rival that of a small aircraft. Front and center we find a 7-inch, TFT LCD screen braced by a pair of analog clocks for the speedo and tach. Imbedded across the top of the dash are a series of idiot lights with cluster data feeds on a pair of LCD displays at the bottom sides. All pertinent info is represented here, to include a Tire Pressure Monitoring System, and that’s always nice to have for peace of mind. Seriously, I’ve seen Christmas trees with fewer lights on it, and this instrument panel tells you everything you need to know, plus some things that probably haven’t occurred to you.

The top-down view of the 5.5-gallon fuel tank is as inglorious as ever, and the saddle carries a minimal rise to the pillion for near-level seating. Here, we have the divergence in design and purpose between the two versions of this new GL1800. The Tour model comes complete with the customary hard panniers and top case that doubles as a passenger backrest while the base model is more of what you would call a boulevard bruiser, which is to say, a bagger as opposed to a full dresser. Yeah, it’s less in the way of storage, but it conforms to a look that has recently exploded in popularity in an effort to pull in the younger buyers.

At the rear end, the broad trailing edge is clean and elegant with stylish tail lights and a low-profile plateholder on the fender. One unusual feature of note would be the square exhaust system. It’s odd looking, but Honda makes it work.

Chassis

2018 Honda Gold Wing / Gold Wing Tour
- image 742322
The factory took the frame back to the drawing board for tweaking and tuning in order to engineer in the stiffness and flexion that contributes to supple handling and stability under cornering loads.

A twin-spar frame forms the standing structure. The factory took it back to the drawing board for tweaking and tuning in order to engineer in the stiffness and flexion that contributes to supple handling and stability under cornering loads. The steering head holds the front end at a jaunty 30.5-degrees with 4.3 inches of trail and that legendary Gold Wing handling, ie: stable in the straights and sportsbike-like in the corners.

The front suspension is a curious, double-wishbone arrangement that uses a single Showa shock in lieu of the standard hydraulic fork front end. Out back, a Pro Arm, single-side swingarm and Pro Link shock floats the rear with 4.1 inches of travel to go with the 4.3-inch travel up front. On top of that, the Tour comes with an Electronic Preload Suspension feature that brings effortless compensation for changing passenger and cargo loads to the table. That’s right, no dirty knees.

Wet weight falls somewhere between 787 pounds at the bottom and 842 pounds at the top, so it takes a lot of brakes to haul it down. Honda has it covered with a pair of 320 mm discs up front and a 316 mm disc in back with its electronically controlled combined ABS on overwatch. A pair of radial-mount, six-pot calipers anchor the front with a very definite bite, and a three-piston calipers slows the rear, so you’ve plenty of brakes and the backup systems to use them with confidence.

Model: Gold Wing Gold Wing Tour
Front Suspension: Double Wishbone Type; 4.3 inches travel Double Wishbone Type; 4.3 inches travel
Rear Suspension: Pro Arm® single-side swingarm with Pro-Link® single shock; 4.1 inches travel Pro Arm® single-side swingarm with Pro-Link® single shock plus four electronicallyadjustable preload settings; 4.1 inches travel
Front Brake: Hydraulic; dual 320mm discs Hydraulic; dual 320mm discs
Rear Brake: Hydraulic; single 316mm disc Hydraulic; single 316mm disc
Front Tire: 130/70R-18 130/70R-18
Rear Tire: 200/55-16 200/55-16

Drivetrain

2018 Honda Gold Wing / Gold Wing Tour
- image 742328
Overall performance puts the family in power-tour country. Sure, it takes a lot of oomph to pull a ride like this out of the hole, but Honda makes sure you have that much and plenty more.

The engine got a redesign mainly in an effort to reduce its overall size. Not only did the factory accomplish that goal by eliminating 29 mm from the overall length, but they also pared off 13 pounds in the process. Part of the weight savings comes from the unicam valvetrain that shares not only a cam, but a single lobe for each of the two intake-exhaust valve pairs, and part of it comes from the aluminum cylinder sleeves. That’s right, aluminum cylinder sleeves that deliver exceptional cooling performance, but I have to wonder about the wear to be honest. One of the niftier new things is the two-way starter/alternator unit that performs the first of those tasks, then the second for an all-in-one device that completely eliminates another device.

The engine has a square layout with a 73 mm bore and stroke for a total displacement of 1,833 cc and a 10.5-to-1 compression ratio that will have you at the premium pump. A ride-by-wire throttle controls the induction through a 50 mm throttle body, and it enables some of the nifty subsystems such as the cruise control, Hill-Start Assist, and for the DCT-equipped models, walking mode with reverse. Never break a sweat trying to Fred Flintstone around a parking lot again. The Dual-Clutch Transmission comes with seven speeds to keep you in the usable powerband through automatic, clutchless shifts, and on the six-speed manual, a slipper clutch protects against excessive backtorque causing the dreaded wheel-hop on hard downshifts. Overall performance puts the family in power-tour country with 125 pounds o’ grunt and 124.6 ponies to call upon. Sure, it takes a lot of oomph to pull a ride like this out of the hole, but Honda makes sure you have that much and plenty more.

Model: Gold Wing Gold Wing Tour
Engine Type: 1833cc liquid-cooled horizontally opposed six-cylinder 1833cc liquid-cooled horizontally opposed six-cylinder
Bore And Stroke: 73mm x 73mm 73mm x 73mm
Induction: Programmed Fuel Injection (PGM-FI) Programmed Fuel Injection (PGM-FI)
Ignition: Full transistorized Ignition Full transistorized Ignition
Compression Ratio: 10.5:1 10.5:1
Valve Train: SOHC; four valves per cyclinder SOHC; four valves per cyclinder
Transmission: Six-speed including overdrive (DCT Models: Seven-speed automatic DCT, plus reverse and walking mode) Six-speed including overdrive plus electric reverse (DCT Models: Seven-speed automatic DCT, plus reverse and walking mode)

Price

2018 Honda Gold Wing / Gold Wing Tour
- image 742336
Honda offers five variants on the GL1800 platform, starting at $23,500 and going up to $31,500.

Honda offers five variants on the GL1800 platform, and each come with their own level of trim and price tag. At the bottom, the base model ’Wing with the bagger look will set you back $23,500. Go for the DCT version and that creeps up to $24,700. Moving into the Tour models we’ve got the manual-shift Gold Wing Tour at $26,700 with the Tour DCT at $27,700 and the Tour DCT Airbag that’ll set you back $31,500.

Model: Gold Wing Gold Wing Tour
Model ID: GL1800B (DCT: GL 1800BD) GL1800 (DCT: GL 1800D, Airbag: GL1800DA)
Warranty: Three Years, Transferable, unlimited-mileage limited warranty; Up to 8 years extended coverage available with Honda Protection Plan Three Years, Transferable, unlimited-mileage limited warranty; Up to 8 years extended coverage available with Honda Protection Plan
Colors: Candy Ardent Red, Matte Majestic Silver, Pearl Stallion Brown Candy Ardent Red, Pearl White, Pearl Hawkseye Blue (airbag model: Candy Ardent Red/Black)
Price: $23,500 (DCT: $24,700) $26,700 (DCT: $27,700, Airbag: $31,500)

Competitor

2017 - 2018 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Ultra Classic
- image 722955
2018 Honda Gold Wing / Gold Wing Tour
- image 742345
Powerwise, both are to be respected, but Honda wins out in the engine electronics department as well as the stump-pulling department for a greater technical appeal.

While the BMW K 1600 GTL and Kawasaki Venture were certainly attractive competitors, I decided to go straight to the king of American tourbikes with the Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Ultra Classic. The base Gold Wing Tour will be our competitor, so let’s get to it.

Looks are subjective, and I must confess that I come with a predisposition for the looks of the Harley. That said, the Red Riders didn’t veer quite far enough into the cool zone in my opinion, but all that matters is what you think of the looks. Honda isn’t trying to copy or reproduce an American style, but it does compete in the same market so it offers a similar layout and riding posture, even if the general aesthetic has a different flavor.

Harley leads the way with a fork-mounted fairing rather than a frame mount like the ’Wing, and while the windshield is vented to combat the head-buffet effect, it comes fixed in place and non-adjustable. Harley’s instrumentation falls a little short of the (somewhat overdone) Gold Wing, but the touchscreen infotainment display adds an element of functionality Honda doesn’t offer. It’s a tradeoff.

Passenger comfort is a front-burner issue on both bikes, and storage/touring capacity is also high across the board. The MoCo runs a classic front end with Showa’s hydraulically-damped telescopic forks that come non-adjustable, but with the Dual Bending Valve technology that delivers a better-than-vanilla ride. Harley breaks even with the brakes too. A Linked Brake system balances braking effort between the rear caliper and dual front calipers with ABS protection, much like the ’Wing. Powerwise, both are to be respected as Harley brings 1,753 cc and 111 pound-feet of torque to the table against 125 pounds from the ’Wing, but Honda wins out in the engine electronics department as well as the stump-pulling department for a greater technical appeal.

In an unusual turn of events, Harley beats Honda at the checkout with a $25,299 tag on the top paint packages versus $26,700, and while it’s fair to say that at those prices a grand or two more or less isn’t likely to sway a buyer, it’s rare for H-D to come in lower than anyone.

He Said

“It’s still a ’Wing and it still ain’t my thing, though I will admit that I just recommended one to my father who is in the market for a larger tourer, and preferably one with reverse. So I guess in my eyes it’s still a grandfather’s bike. Will the younger buyers respond? We’ll see...”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, "I was never a big Honda fan, but I well remember the original Gold Wing in 1975. It was a little UJM standard, not nearly the big touring ship that it is now. Honda made some changes for 2018 — some subtle and some huge — that really bring the Gold Wing back in as a contender in the touring market. If you looked at the Gold Wing in the past and were not impressed, it might be time to take another look."

Specifications

Model: Gold Wing Gold Wing Tour
ENGINE:
Engine Type: 1833cc liquid-cooled horizontally opposed six-cylinder 1833cc liquid-cooled horizontally opposed six-cylinder
Bore And Stroke: 73mm x 73mm 73mm x 73mm
Induction: Programmed Fuel Injection (PGM-FI) Programmed Fuel Injection (PGM-FI)
Ignition: Full transistorized Ignition Full transistorized Ignition
Compression Ratio: 10.5:1 10.5:1
Valve Train: SOHC; four valves per cyclinder SOHC; four valves per cyclinder
DRIVE TRAIN:
Transmission: Six-speed including overdrive (DCT Models: Seven-speed automatic DCT, plus reverse and walking mode) Six-speed including overdrive plus electric reverse (DCT Models: Seven-speed automatic DCT, plus reverse and walking mode)
Final Drive: Shaft Shaft
CHASSIS / SUSPENSION / BRAKES:
Front Suspension: Double Wishbone Type; 4.3 inches travel Double Wishbone Type; 4.3 inches travel
Rear Suspension: Pro Arm® single-side swingarm with Pro-Link® single shock; 4.1 inches travel Pro Arm® single-side swingarm with Pro-Link® single shock plus four electronicallyadjustable preload settings; 4.1 inches travel
Front Brake: Hydraulic; dual 320mm discs Hydraulic; dual 320mm discs
Rear Brake: Hydraulic; single 316mm disc Hydraulic; single 316mm disc
Front Tire: 130/70R-18 130/70R-18
Rear Tire: 200/55-16 200/55-16
DIMENSIONS:
Rake: 30.5 degrees 30.5 degrees
Trail: 109mm (4.3 inches) 109mm (4.3 inches)
Wheelbase: 66.7 inches 66.7 inches
Seat Height: 29.3 inches 29.3 inches
Curb Weight: 787 pounds. (DCT: 800 pounds) 833 pounds. (DCT: 833 pounds)
Fuel Capacity: 5.55 gallons 5.55 gallons
Miles Per Gallon: TBD TBD
DETAILS:
Model ID: GL1800B (DCT: GL 1800BD) GL1800 (DCT: GL 1800D, Airbag: GL1800DA)
Warranty: Three Years, Transferable, unlimited-mileage limited warranty; Up to 8 years extended coverage available with Honda Protection Plan Three Years, Transferable, unlimited-mileage limited warranty; Up to 8 years extended coverage available with Honda Protection Plan
Colors: Candy Ardent Red, Matte Majestic Silver, Pearl Stallion Brown Candy Ardent Red, Pearl White, Pearl Hawkseye Blue (airbag model: Candy Ardent Red/Black)
Price: $23,500 (DCT: $24,700) $26,700 (DCT: $27,700, Airbag: $31,500)

References

2017 - 2018 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Ultra Classic
- image 722944

See our review of the Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Ultra Classic.

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

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