Since its launch, the Honda Gold Wing’s ambition was never a secret. It aspired to be the best long-range touring motorcycle capable of crossing continents with ease. The naked 1000cc machine from 1975 has evolved into a phenomenal touring machine, setting the benchmark year after year. The Gold Wing has been very much on its own journey, growing in physical size and displacement over the decades, all the while creating an enduring and unrivalled reputation for luxury, quality and comfort.
The most recent iteration of the Gold Wing however has decided to take on a radical departure from what would be a traditional update trajectory.
So for 2018, the GL1800 Gold Wing takes a new direction and is brand new from the wheels-up. It still has an evocative, flat six-cylinder engine that delivers an avalanche of torque and power, and it still remains Honda’s flagship premium tourer, loaded with features that allow two people to ride in style. Yet it’s smaller, much lighter and much more agile – very much a true ‘rider’s motorcycle’.
And as a result the new Gold Wing’s appeal is broader, reaching out to a younger generation of motorcyclists that may have overlooked – or simply not been aware of – the previous design. As happy on an urban commute as it is the open road, the Gold Wing is now a bike for all reasons, rather than just one.
Sharing a common engine and chassis platform, the new ‘Wing will be available as the base model GL1800 Gold Wing, and as a ‘Tour’ edition with top box, which will also offer a version equipped with DCT and air bag. Depending on the variant, up to 48kg has been saved compared to the previous model.
The engine and chassis have been designed together, to move the riding position forward and create a much more compact motorcycle. The aluminum beam frame is constructed around the link front fork, which allows the engine to come further forward – as the front wheel moves up and down in a more vertical plane – while providing high-quality suspension control and front-end stability thanks to its stiffness and reduced friction. Suspension damping can also be adjusted electrically.
Throttle By Wire has been added, with 4 rider modes; TOUR, SPORT, ECON and RAIN. Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC) maintains rear wheel traction while the suspension damping and Combined Brake System (CBS) alter depending on mode selected. Hill Start Assist (HSA) and Idling Stop add ease of use and improve fuel efficiency.
The manual transmission is now 6-speed, while the new Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) features 7-speeds, with clutch feel, shift speed and rpm range of up/downshifts tailored specifically to each riding mode. It also features a creep forward and back function. The manual machine employs the same reverse system as the previous design. New features like the smart key system, Apple CarPlay and Bluetooth connectivity bring even more convenience.
The previous Gold Wing featured an expansive design and attitude. The new Gold Wing is a completely different proposition and replaces the relaxed lines of the outgoing model with a more honed, athletic ethos. Key words the Honda team used during development were ‘Refined Shape, Taut Styling’.
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 has also helped improve fuel efficiency.
Gone too is the large windscreen; in its place a smaller electric screen, operated from the left handlebar. It provides excellent wind protection (with the rider and pillion closer to it than before) yet at the same time a sense of space and freedom when required. Screen angle and height adjustment is step-less. Available as options are a larger screen, a fully-adjustable deflector for the arms and upper body and fixed deflectors for the lower legs and feet.
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 7-inch full-color TFT liquid crystal display screen provides infotainment-related information (for the audio and navigation systems) as well as managing the HSTC and suspension adjustment. Information is displayed in differentiated segments in a very functional order, so the rider can get all the relevant data with the minimum of eye movement.
The Gold Wing is now compatible with Apple CarPlay, the first motorcycle in the world to have this feature. Bluetooth connectivity has been adopted and a USB cable can also be plugged in. The navigation system is displayed on the 7-inch full-color TFT liquid crystal display screen in the central area of the instruments and now includes a gyrocompass, which means guidance is continued even inside a tunnel. Cancellation of any waypoint or ‘go home’ instruction operation while riding is now possible.
The all new double-wishbone front suspension reduces sliding friction from bump deflections and steering input that a standard telescopic fork creates as the stanchions travel up and down in the fork leg; the new Gold Wing front end is 30% smoother. Bearings are used in all shaft bush areas for steering and suspension stroke, further reducing friction. Damping level is also adjusted electrically relative to the riding mode selected by the rider. Stepper motors housed within the front and rear shock absorbers move needles to control oil flow, tailoring damping force for the riding situation.
To realise the handling ambitions of the new chassis the 1,833cc engine too has been redrawn. Still as a horizontally-opposed flat six, but now with four valves per cylinder rather than two, much more compact in size and 6.2kg lighter.
Peak power of 125hp arrives @ 5,500rpm, with peak torque of 170Nm delivered @ 4,500rpm. The combustion chambers are now a 4-valve ‘pentroof’ design (rather than a 2-valve ‘bathtub’) with the inlet ports designed to promote ‘tumble’ flows inside the cylinders thus improving efficiency. The piston skirts wear a molybdenum coating to reduce friction.
A single throttle body has replaced the dual throttle bodies of the previous design, with revisions to the diameter and thickness of the intake manifold to save weight. There are two air intake ducts sited front left and right rear. The sound and feel of the Gold Wing’s engine has always been its calling card. While the new dual exhausts maintain the internal structure of the old model – 2 internal chambers plus a resonance chamber – the glass wool has been removed to save weight.
Honda’s unique Dual Clutch Transmission is a natural fit for the new Gold Wing engine and development revolved around DCT as the base. This is the third all-new generation of the system and the first to have 7-speeds, specifically designed for long-distance cruising; it’s also extremely smooth and fast shifting. And lighter than the 5-speed manual transmission fitted to the previous design.
DCT delivers consistent, seamless gear changes up or down and very quickly becomes second nature in use. It uses two clutches: one for start-up and 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th gears: the other for 2nd, 4th and 6th, with the mainshaft for each clutch located inside the other for compact packaging. Each clutch is independently controlled by its own electro-hydraulic circuit. When a gear change occurs, the system pre-selects the target gear using the clutch not currently in use. The first clutch is then electronically disengaged as, simultaneously, the second clutch engages.
The result is a consistent, fast and seamless gear change. Furthermore, as the twin clutches transfer drive from one gear to the next with minimal interruption of the drive to the rear wheel, any gear change shock and pitching of the machine is minimised, making the change feel direct as well as smooth.
The Gold Wing is truly the king of long distance touring and the latest version also promises to be a good urban machine, to some extent. Prices start from AED 110,000 and go all the way up to AED 135,000 depending on the model you choose.