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All-new Gold Wing flies high

By Liz Keener

New engine, chassis, technology highlight ’18 model line

Honda’s 2018 Gold Wing has been redesigned from the engine to the chassis to a variety of new technology features, so the OEM’s employees knew they had to unveil the machine in a big way. 

In late October, Honda revealed the model to a select group of media, dealers and Gold Wing enthusiasts atop the MOXI Museum of Exploration and Innovation in Santa Barbara, California, in an event that also included a ride aboard Amtrak’s Coast Starlight train from Los Angeles and a stay at the Hotel Californian in Santa Barbara. 

The unveil was worth the pomp and circumstance, as there are so many advances from 2017 to 2018 that Honda considered naming the bike something other than Gold Wing. Alas, the OEM kept the Gold Wing name as the bike carries the heritage of the GL models that came before it. 

“We wanted our new Gold Wing to maintain its luxury but to be a much more ‘rounded’ motorcycle — a machine as useful to its owner around the city as it is out on tour and more exciting to ride than ever,” Mr. Nakanishi, large project leader for the 2018 Gold Wing, said in a statement. “So we started from a blank piece of paper and made the Gold Wing smaller and lighter and added all the technological hardware and software the modern rider could wish for. Now, just as in 1975, it remains a flagship model for Honda — and we are very proud to start this new chapter for such an important name.” 

The 2018 Gold Wing lineup was launched in front of media, select dealers and Gold Wing enthusiasts on the rooftop of the MOXI Museum of Exploration and Innovation in Santa Barbara, California. Photo by Liz Keener/Powersports Business

2018 Updates

The 2018 Gold Wing comes in two versions — the Gold Wing and the Gold Wing Tour. The Gold Wing Tour offers saddlebags and a top case, a tall electrically adjustable windscreen, electrically adjustable suspension and front and rear speakers. DCT and DCT Airbag iterations of the Tour are available. The standard Gold Wing model has saddlebags but no top case or the rear speakers that come with the top case; it has a shorter electric windscreen; and the suspension preload is adjusted manually. A DCT version of this model is also available. The standard Gold Wing also does not include: Honda Selectable Torque Control, electric damping-adjust, a center stand or heated grips. 

Improvements to the 2018 Gold Wing line start at the engine, which is more compact, lighter and more fuel efficient. With the manual six-speed transmission, it loses 13.7 pounds versus the 2017 model, and it’s 29mm shorter in the front section. It’s also been placed forward in the chassis for better weight distribution. The new engine, coupled with aerodynamic improvements and an overall weight loss of nearly 90 pounds, combine for better fuel efficiency, allowing Honda to include a 1.1 gallon smaller gas tank on the bike. 

In addition to the six-speed manual transmission, a seven-speed automatic Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) is available, and it offers a forward/reverse Walking Mode. 

Dealer Ricky Floyd tests out the new features on the 2018 Gold Wing Tour. Photos by Liz Keener/Powersports Business

The 2018 Gold Wing also has sportier handling, better low-speed maneuverability and high-speed stability. The double-wishbone front suspension makes the bike more comfortable and steering easier. And the rider and passenger sit 36mm further forward with better airflow thanks to new air-guiding ducts and the electric windscreen. 

When it comes to technology, Honda has brought a throttle-by-wire system to the Gold Wing, offering four riding modes: tour, sport, econ and rain. The Gold Wing also has Hill Start Assist and a finely tuned cruise control system, and the Tour model has Honda Selectable Torque Control. Honda is also the first in the industry to bring Apple CarPlay technology to its motorcycles, as the iPhone-friendly system appears on the 2018 Gold Wing. All the new technology can be run by new controls and viewed on a 7-inch, full-color, Thin Film Transistor liquid-crystal display. 

Dealer reaction

Honda invited a few of its top-performing dealers to the global unveil, and they were impressed. 

Scott Pletcher of Track ‘N’ Trail in State College, Pennsylvania, said he saw, “A lot of good changes it definitely needed.”

One feature that he took note of is the new Smart Key that allows the rider to start the engine of the bike only with the Smart Key in his or her possession, eliminating the need to find the key and insert it into the ignition. 

Ricky Floyd, owner of Sunrise Honda in Searcy, Arkansas, and Shawnee Honda Polaris in Shawnee, Oklahoma, said the new technology would also attract customers into his dealerships.

“The navigation system is nice. ABS on the model is nice. The tall windshield is nice, Apple CarPlay. I just like the lighter weight,” he said. “It’s nice that you’re getting better fuel mileage as well.”

Honda has introduced a sportier Gold Wing to the 2018 lineup, without a top case, starting at $23,500.

Both men believe the new Gold Wings will move well, once they arrive in dealerships in February. 

“I think a lot of past customers are going to trade in their bikes for it,” Floyd said. 

Pletcher added, “They haven’t changed it in so long; everybody’s ready for new ones.”

Honda’s marketing of the new Gold Wing models will be aimed at existing customers, those who left Honda for other brands and those new to touring. Two video ads were previewed during the unveiling, and both show younger couples riding the new Gold Wing together. 

“Some of those ads are a little different, trying to generate a little interest from a younger buyer, so it’ll be interesting to see if it works, “ Pletcher said. 

The Gold Wing Tour and Gold Wing Tour DCT is available in Candy Ardent Red, Pearl White or Pearl Hawkseye Blue. The Gold Wing Tour will have an MSRP of $26,700-$27,200, while the Gold Wing Tour DCT will run $27,700-$28,200. The Gold Wing Tour DCT Airbag comes in Candy Ardent Red/Black with an MSRP of $31,500. 

The standard Gold Wing and Gold Wing DCT is available in Candy Ardent Red, Matte Majestic Silver or Pearl Stallion Brown. The Gold Wing is priced at $23,500-$23,800, and the DCT version is $24,700-$25,000. 

 

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