The focus of the new Softail family is the all-new Softail frame (so-called as it hides the rear suspension giving a classic hardtail ‘look’) which now uses an inclined single shock, Yamaha LC style, in place of dual shorter units previously mounted beneath the transmission. The new tubular steel double cradle is also claimed to be substantially lighter, stiffer and comprise far fewer components. Three different head angles, two shock lengths and two widths of swing arm are also employed in a modular approach to create the eight different models.
With the Deluxe, this stronger, lighter frame (overall weight saving is an impressive 33lbs) means the handling is notably more taut and lithe than before.
As with three other members of Harley’s new Softail family, the new Deluxe now uses the four-valve, partially oil-cooled ‘Milwaukee Eight’ 107ci V-twin, as introduced in its 2017 touring range, and modified for Softail use via a new oil cooler subtly positioned between the downtubes. Plus, as they’re rigidly mounted in the new Softail frames (in the tourers they’re rubber mounted), they also come with two, not one, balancer shafts.
Along with the new frame, uprated engine and cycle parts and new equipment such as lights and clocks, the build quality of the new Deluxe, and indeed all the 2018 Softail family, has been noticeably improved. The jury necessarily has to remain out on reliability as it’s simply too early to say as we write. However, with the powertrain being based on that of the proven ‘Project Rushmore’ touring family and quality seemingly raised throughout, we’ve little cause for concern.
Harley ownership never comes cheap and with prices starting at over £12K that’s certainly not changed with the updated and improved Deluxe. That said, it also goes better, handles better and while Harleys of yore were often criticized for feeling as if they were hewn from cast iron that’s certainly no longer the case. And with this new Deluxe, they’re shinier and slicker than ever, too.
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With the Softail Slim and Heritage Classic now going for a more post-WWII ‘40s ‘bobber look, that leaves the Deluxe as the only ‘50s-inspired cruiser in Harley’s range. Reassuringly, though, it does it better than ever. The whitewall tyres, wire wheels and lashings of chrome ‘look’ is retained but with new tank, oil tank, striking new LED lights and new clocks, it’s delivered better than ever. The uoprated engine and chassis are bonuses on top. OK, there’s still no electronics and little by way of luxury but it is a classy machine and Harley have noticeably raised their game.