2018 Honda Gold Wing
Honda releases new Gold Wings about as often as the Cubs win the World Series, so with the news that a truly all-new super luxury tourer is really here — the current bike’s replacement was rumoured in both 2011 and 2017 — the industry is definitely taking notice.
Honda’s Dual Clutch revolution rolls on
Most apparent is that, while mechanically similar to the outgoing Wing, the 2018 is far more technically advanced. Oh, it is still powered by a Porsche-like flat six — there were rumours of a hybrid four — but the transmission is now a seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual and there’s a novel new suspension system up front.
Though commonplace in automotive circles, dual-clutchers are still a novelty in the motorcycle biz, with Honda being virtually the only manufacturer to develop automated manuals for production motorcycles. First introduced on Honda’s parallel twin econbikes, the DCT finally came into its own in the recently released and well-received Africa Twin. More sophisticated than the beta versions, Honda’s latest, third-generation DCT trannie will be perfectly mated to the Gold Wing, offering seamless automated shifts in full auto mode while allowing toggle-operated manual gear selection when full Banzai attack mode — yes, some Gold Wings are ridden that hard! — is called for.
Compliments to BMW
Speaking of full-on road carving, the new Wing is even better equipped to strafe backroads than its predecessor thanks to a Hossack-style front suspension. The new front “fork” is very reminiscent of BMW’s Duolever that graces the front end of the company’s tourers.
Essentially an automotive double-wishbone system rotated 90 degrees, the Gold Wing’s new system, besides being more physically robust, separates the braking and suspension duties allowing better wheel control (the current model can dive dramatically under heavy braking). The now single-shock front end is also, on uplevel models, computer controlled, altering damping upon demand.
But the main reason Honda chose the dual-wishbone system is that it helps aerodynamics. How does suspension help wind flow, you ask? Well, while a traditional telescopic fork moves backwards as well as up when the wheel hits up a bump, the new Gold Wing’s front tire only moves vertically. That means the engine can be moved forward without fear that the front tire will ever hit the bodywork. Combine that rapprochement with a 1.1-inch reduction in the length of the new 1,833-cc four-valve version of the Wing's classic flat-six engine and it allows the rider (and passenger) to be moved almost three inches closer to the fairing. And moving the human(s) closer to the windscreen reduces turbulence, which allows for a narrower fairing. It's an aerodynamic two-fer that improves both comfort and fuel economy. Despite boasting five percent more horsepower — thanks to those new four-valve heads — and carrying 1.1 gallons less fuel, the 2018 Wing has the same overall range as its predecessor. All thanks to a novel suspension system.
A thoroughly modern land yacht
Other modernities abound. For instance, because the demographic for big tourers is rapidly aging, the 2018 has a reverse gear, allowing you to crawl backwards at less than 1 mph. DCT models will even creep forward (at just over 1 mph) to allow easier back-and-forth parking. This is all accomplished, again on the DCT model, by using the engine for power. Manual transmission models will reverse — but not creep forward — using the electric starter/generator for motivation.
There are also plenty of new high-tech features. Besides the expected ABS, there are four riding modes — Tour, Sport, Econ, and Rain — which, on the higher end models, also adjust suspension damping front and rear. Separately, an electronic rear spring adjustment allows you to choose from multiple preload settings from single rider with no luggage to two riders with full luggage. Higher-end models also get traction control — Honda’s Selectable Torque Control — and there’s even a Hill Start Assist system for when you’re taking off up a steep incline.
There’s a new telematics system with a fancy automotive-style rotary nob that provides access to the options on the new seven-inch TFT screen. Apple CarPlay is available; Android Auto is not, but plans are afoot to incorporate it. Additionally, there’s a nifty keyless entry system that automatically locks the bike — and saddlebags — when you walk away.
So new, in fact, is the 2018 grand tourer that is has been (sort of) renamed. What we currently know as the Gold Wing has been re-monikered as the Gold Wing Tour while the similarly-updated F6B, Honda’s increasingly popular “bagger” version, is now called the Gold Wing. The Gold Wing — nee F6B — starts around $23,500 while a fully-loaded Gold Wing Tour DCT Airbag will set you back about $31,500.
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