Harley-Davidson doesn’t come out with a new engine very often, so when they asked if we wanted to borrow their brand new fresh off the boat Ultra Limited, we had a bit of a fist fight in office on who gets to ride it first. It’s not just the Harley fans that get excited; it’s the whole motorcycling world in general. Almost all big manufacturer has something in their stable to try and upset Harley-Davidson’s dominance in the cruiser and the touring segment. Me personally, I’m an endure rider but even I can’t help myself when it comes to admiring a well done up Harley-Davidson tourer.
Let’s come back to the new engine. What’s the big deal you may ask. Well, to begin with, there are two variants of this new engine, well, three actually. The Ultra Limited and Road Glide Ultra get the liquid-cooled variant while the rest of the touring segment gets the air/oil-cooled version. The CVO versions get the third variant, which is a massive 1870cc mill.
Given that this new engine will be in production for almost a decade to come, Harley has built this engine ground up. It gets 11 per cent more torque versus the outgoing 103 Twin-Cam engine which displaced 1687cc. Harley also claim more power but give out a number, they never have. The company is only quoting 151Nm of torque at an impressively low 3250rpm. Moving on to the details, this new engine features four-valve cylinder heads, twin spark fuel-injection system, dual spark plugs, a single chain-driven camshaft, a slipper clutch and better heat management.
Blessed with this new engine, the Ultra Limited is Harley’s ultimate touring machine. A flagship that demands complete attention whether it’s moving or parked. Making its presence felt at 410kg wet weight, there’s no mistaking the Ultra Limited. For Harley-Davidson riders, the Ultra Limited is the purest touring bike that exists on the face of the earth, period.
As standard it comes with an entertainment system called BOOM!, featuring a massive LED full-colour screen which features a digital radio, Bluetooth, navigation, mobile integration, and stereo aux connection for your phone or iPod.
It is nothing short of a lounge on two wheels. While it can ferry you to your nearest café and back with the most luxurious offerings, what it is really meant for is crossing continents while you’re sipping on your tall, non-fat latte with caramel drizzle. The seat is snug and well cushioned, the handlebars sweep back and make you feel comfortable the moment you get on the bike, and there’s a huge top box which can take two lids or a massive rucksack with room to spare, and panniers.
Being a flagship, it surely does make Harley proud. Maintaining it’s old school image, the Ultra doesn’t fall short of any modern conveniences. Apart from featuring ABS and traction control, from the fantastic infotainment system that comes standard, it also features the responsive handling of the all-new dual bending valve front suspension and easily adjustable emulsion rear shocks. It’s impressive stopping power comes from Reflex dual disc linked Brembo brakes with ABS. It also packs some serious lighting all around with its beautiful Daymaker LED headlamps and fog lamps, brighter Tour-Pak luggage carrier lighting, brighter turn signals and brake lights.
How does it feel? That’s what most of you want to know. Does this new engine take something away from Harley’s iconic rumble or that familiar idle vibration? No. It still vibrates just enough in its rubber-mountings, and has that trademark Harley potato-potato sound. If anything the sound is richer and deeper. A lot of that is because the new engine runs quieter than the 103 Twin-Cam, meaning you hear more exhaust noise.
Touring is all about raking in those kilometres hour after hour and Harley-Davidson’s big changes to the 2017 Ultra Limited have taken an already comfortable and feature packed flagship and increased its level of performance and comfort. Even though I’m not a die-hard Harley-Davidson fan, I want one. If you are, and if you’re looking to move on to a new tourer, nothing should stop you from getting one of these.
Photography: Laura Huntley