- Long-distance cruising just changed for ever
- Honda shaves weight and size from King of the Road
- High-tech gearbox, better aero effect, extra luggage space
TOKYO, Japan – The true King of the Road, Honda’s Gold Wing, has been re-designed from its wheels up to be sharper, smaller and lighter – but still with its flat six-cylinder engine.
That awesome power unit – a flat six similar to those used on Daddy Hondas for at least four decades – now has four valves per cylinder and an electric throttle, and makes 92kW at 5500rpm / 170Nm at only 4500, fed from a 21-litre fuel tank to keep things moving at 5.5 litres/100km.
The bike has four riding modes, selectable torque control and hill-start assistance – though why anybody licensed to ride a bike such as this should need help on a hill is beyond The Corner’s comprehension.
The new chassis uses an aluminium-beam frame and double-wishbone front suspension. The shock-absorbers can be adjusted for load and road and the windscreen has electronic adjustment.
A smart key and Apple CarPlay are standard, along with an entirely new third generation of Honda’s dual-clutch transmission with seven gears – and, of course, reverse.
The changes, Honda says, have come about in recognition of demographic changes affecting the motorcycle marking so the bikemaker’s development team elected to “make a radical departure from what would have been the normal update trajectory”.
So, the 2018 Honda GL 1800 Gold Wing is all-new: “It still has an evocative flat-six engine that delivers an avalanche of torque and power and is still our flagship premium tourer, loaded with features that allow two people to ride in style.
“Yet it’s smaller and much lighter but also much more agile – very much a true ‘rider’s motorcycle’.”
Honda says the Gold Wing should be available through the brand’s ‘Honda Dream’ channel from April 2018.
Honda believes the more-compact Wing will attrace a new generation of younger riders, given that it is said to be “as happy on the urban commute as on the open road – it’s now a bike for all reasons, rather than just one”.
Yutaka Nakanishi, the GL1800 Gold Wing’s project leader, said of the new machine: “We wanted the Gold Wing to maintain its luxury but be a much more ‘rounded’ motorcycle – a machine as useful around the city as touring.
“We also wanted it to be more exciting so it is now sharper and lighter and carries all the technology and software a modern rider could want.
“Now, just as back in 1975, it remains the Honda flagship. We’re very proud to have started this new chapter for our brand.”
The new ‘Wing will be available as a base model and as a Tour, the latter equipped with a top box and offering a version equipped with a double-clutch manual/auto transmission and crash bag.
“Depending on model, as much as 48kg has been saved compared over the previous model.”
The engine has lost none of its power, torque and “addictive delivery”. Throttle-by-wire has been added along with TOUR, SPORT, ECON and RAIN riding modes. Torque control will maintain rear-wheel traction while the suspension damping and combined brake system will self-adjust depending on drive model.
“The performance improvement,” Honda says, “has been matched by greater levels of relaxation. The stylish aerodynamic fairing channels air around the rider and the electric screen adjusts for preference – the seats promise all-day comfort.”
Three colour choice are available:
- GL1800 Gold Wing – matte silver
- GL1800 Gold Wing Tour – Candy Red
- GL1800 Gold Wing Tour with dual-clutch and crash bag – Candy Red/Darkness Black and Darkness Black metallic.
- ‘Vastly improved’ heat and air management
- Electric adjustment for windscreen angle and height
- Cruise control
- Luggage capacity for touring, top box takes two full-face helmets
- 18cm TFT display for satnav and audio information
- Apple CarPlay allows iPhone users to connect
- Full diode lighting and auto-cancelling indicators
- Smart-key control adds convenience for ignition
“The bike’s new ‘face’,” Honda says, “is daringly forward-slanting – combined with the compact fairing , it presents an energetic front signature.
“The previous bike’s large fairing was designed to provide a pocket of still air behind it; the new approach is to channel airflow around the rider and pillion, effectively providing a pleasant cooling breeze. The reduced aerodynamic drag also helps to reduce fuel consumption.”
Gone, too, is the large windscreen; in its place is a smaller electric screen operated from the left handlebar. “It provides excellent wind protection (with the rider and pillion closer to it than before), Honda says, “yet also sense of space and freedom.”
Options here include a larger screen, fully-adjustable deflector for arms and upper body, and fixed deflectors for the lower legs and feet.
CRUISE-CONTROL HAS EVOLVED
From a seating perspective rider and pillion are separated, much like the old model – the rider can enjoy riding the bike, while the pillion can sit back and enjoy the ride. The rider’s seat shape is comfortable and supportive while allowing movement – to enjoy the Gold Wing’s new dynamic – and easy ground reach.
The new Gold Wing’s cruise-control has evolved; the set is now shown in the bottom left area of the speedometer.
On manual transmission models just squeezing the clutch or brake, or twisting the throttle will cruise-control. The DCT variant (in auto mode) after completing deceleration with the cruise control system in operation – and resuming the previous speed – the Gold Wing returns to the preset with an appropriate shifting schedule.
Before designing luggage, Honda says, it researched owners’ use of their Gold Wing. That led to less total luggage volume as most were ridden for shorter two- or three-day tours – so, no need to carry much luggage.
The rear top box of the Tour versions, combined with the panniers, gives 110 litres of storage. A case rack is an option for the top box
Various low-contrast colours with dark tones light the instrument panel. A ring with a metal texture surrounds each dial together giving depth and a calm, cool image.
The Wing has wheelbase of 1695mm. The previous model weighed 413kg wet; the new is 365kg wet. The Tour weighs 379kg wet and the DCT and airbox version weighs 383kg wet. The engine is 6.2kg lighter.
THE FOUR MODES
TOUR mode is the base setting for comfort and power. It gives a direct 100% opening ratio between throttle grip and throttle body butterfly, with ‘default’ damping and front/rear brake force distribution.
SPORT serves up the highest throttle to butterfly ratio and delivers strong acceleration, with firmer damping and rear brake lever pressure.
ECON offers the lowest fuel consumption and easy cruising, with lower throttle to butterfly ratio and default damping and brake force.
RAIN turns the dial down to suit wet/slippery conditions, with lowest throttle to butterfly ratio, default brake pressure distribution and soft suspension damping.
HSTC, in all four riding modes, constantly allows controllable acceleration in slippery conditions.
“The sound and feel of the Gold Wing’s engine,” Honda says, “has always been its calling-card. While the new dual exhausts maintain the internal structure of the old model – two internal chambers plus a resonance chamber – the glass wool has been removed to save weight.
“To complement the engine’s deep bass signature the exhausts now emit a powerful throb, without excessive noise. The cross-sectional areas of the exhaust pipes has been reduced 20% for two of the six cylinders, bringing about the change in sound volume and depth.”
The new Gold Wing’s DCT, handily, has a two-km/h forward Walking Mode.