HARLEY-DAVIDSON SOFTAIL SLIM (2018 - on) Review

At a glance

Owners' reliability rating: 4.6 out of 5 (4.6/5)
Annual servicing cost: £420
Power: 86 bhp
Seat height: Low (26.0 in / 660 mm)
Weight: High (642 lbs / 291 kg)

Prices

New £16,045
Used £11,500 - £16,000

Overall rating

Next up: Ride & brakes
4 out of 5 (4/5)

One of the most nimble and easy of all the new Softails to ride, the new Slim is now also quicker and, thanks to improved lights, clocks and detailing, better equipped than ever, too.

Ride quality & brakes

Next up: Engine
4 out of 5 (4/5)

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.

The result of that added to the Slim’s continuing low-slung stance is probably the most nimble and easy of all the 2018 Softails to throw around. In short, if you want a light (ish), low, easy handling Harley Big Twin, the Slim, more than ever, is the one.

Engine

Next up: Reliability
4 out of 5 (4/5)

As with three other members of Harley’s new Softail family, the new Softail Slim 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.

Reliability & build quality

Next up: Value
4 out of 5 (4/5)

Along with the new frame, uprated engine and cycle parts and new equipment such as lights and clocks, the build quality of the new Softail Slim, 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.

Value vs rivals

Next up: Equipment
4 out of 5 (4/5)

Harley ownership never comes cheap and that’s certainly not changed with the updated and improved Softail Slim. That said, It’s also the one that also, arguably, has the most convincing, post-WW2 ‘bobber’ look, thanks to its unique combination of fat tyres and black wires, single seat, low bars and minimal chrome. It’s also a doddle to ride, thanks to its footboards is surprisingly comfortable over distance and, overall, if you want a big twin Harley bobber that’s an unthreatening, brilliant ride, this is the one.

Equipment

3 out of 5 (3/5)

As with the Heritage Classic, Harley has totally revamped the Softail Slim’s styling for 2018 as well. It’s effectively a minimalist, fat-tyred Harley big twin that’s been give the blacked-out, ‘40s ‘bobber’ look reminiscent of the originals created by post-WW2 US soldiers from war-surplus Harleys. As such, don’t expect much in terms of frills and luxuries. That said, it has been thoroughly improved thanks to the new engine and chassis along with new LED headlights, stylish new clocks and more. 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.

Specs

Engine size 1746cc
Engine type 45º pushrod V-twin
Frame type Tubular steel double cradle
Fuel capacity 18.9 litres
Seat height 660mm
Bike weight 291kg
Front suspension Showa telescopic forks, no adjust.
Rear suspension Monoshock, adjustable spring preload
Front brake 275mm disc, four-piston calipers. ABS
Rear brake 275mm two piston caliper. ABS
Front tyre size 130/90 x 16
Rear tyre size 150/80 x 16

Mpg, costs & insurance

Average fuel consumption -
Annual road tax £101
Annual service cost £420
New price £16,045
Used price £11,500 - £16,000
Insurance group 17 of 17
How much to insure?
Warranty term Two year

Top speed & performance

Max power 86 bhp
Max torque 107 ft-lb
Top speed -
1/4 mile acceleration -
Tank range -

Model history & versions

Model history

2012: introduced

2018: all new model

Other versions

None

Owners' reviews for the HARLEY-DAVIDSON SOFTAIL (2018 - on)

5 owners have reviewed their HARLEY-DAVIDSON SOFTAIL (2018 - on) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.

Review your HARLEY-DAVIDSON SOFTAIL (2018 - on)

Summary of owners' reviews

Overall rating: 4.2 out of 5 (4.2/5)
Ride quality & brakes: 4.2 out of 5 (4.2/5)
Engine: 4.8 out of 5 (4.8/5)
Reliability & build quality: 4.6 out of 5 (4.6/5)
Value vs rivals: 4.4 out of 5 (4.4/5)
Equipment: 3.6 out of 5 (3.6/5)
Annual servicing cost: £420
4 out of 5 Keeping it Real.
25 August 2022 by Stephen Robbie

Version: Softail Slim 103

Year: 2022

Having owned a wide range of different bikes and ridden many more: This is the first Harley I’ve owned. So feel I can be objective. Some of the HD quirks are frustrating. Not least how a pared-down bike can weigh so much! But love the Slim’s styling and its laid-back approach. On the right day: The ‘feel good factor’ is up with the best.

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5

Given the brakes a 4* The brakes are better than they look - Forget two fingers. But pulls-up well enough, even with the single front disc. So fine for this bike. Mine has ABS ( Harley call this Avanced Braking System). Note: There aren’t any usual ABS rotors on the wheels. There is a braking unit on the front downtube. Ride quality? 3* Fine on smoother roads. The hidden rear shocks can really thump over bumps. There isn’t much ground clearance on a Softail. Can probably be improved/ adjusted. But access to the underslung shocks is poor.

Engine 5 out of 5

You either like these engines or you don’t. No point in comparing them to your mate’s Bandit or to a any multi-cylinder bike. Compared to a large Japanese V-Twin? You get the feeling of more metal moving around. Vibes aren’t really a problem on a softail. A good solid motor, with decent torque and real world grunt. In gear roll-on performance is respectable and the 103 can easily punch above the legal limit. Plenty of character. My gearbox is better than I imagined. Neutral occasionally tricky to find. Overall gives a real sense of occasion.

Reliability & build quality 4 out of 5

I am not a long term owner. But all good, so far and starts first time, every time. A friend has a similar engine with 50K on it and has had few issues. Harley quality is a mixed bag: The finish tending to be good, where you can readily see it and poorer elsewhere. You need to look after a Harley. I love the fact I can get my Solvol out and that the Slim doesn’t have much chrome.

Value vs rivals 4 out of 5

Early days for me: My friends use independent specialists. Costs are reasonable and parts for the Twin Cams are easy to obtain. I’m sure the main dealers cater well, for those who want to maintain an HD service history. Insurance seems very reasonable. MPG is about high 30’s - early 40’s and giving it the beans makes quite a difference.

Equipment 4 out of 5

Doesn’t look like you get much. But the multi function switch gives a few options. There is a digital rev counter option, gear indicator, clock function and even a fault code display. Well behind my Triumph Scrambler 1200. But enough for this type of bike. HD indicators are frustrating - I’m left handed and struggle with the RH switch. But they are self cancelling. As mentioned: my bike has ABS. But some don’t. Headlight on the 103 Slim is halogen and adequate. I don’t feel post war styling and LED looks right. Rear indicators are combination units and do have LEDs! The Slim either has a pillion pad or rear rack. Mine’s single seat.

Buying experience: Bought from Southampton Harley Davidson. Received good service and my bike was well-priced. As a used approved bike I received 12 months warranty and breakdown cover.

4 out of 5 Softailng it
12 August 2022 by Brian

Version: Softail standard

Year: 2022

Great Engine bags of grunt, smooth sounds good to. Worst points bars to wide narrower and slightly lower bars improve low speed handling Parking etc. Weight is high though low centre of gravity.

Ride quality & brakes 5 out of 5
Engine 5 out of 5
Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5
Value vs rivals 5 out of 5
Equipment 5 out of 5

It’s a Harley full stop👍👍

Buying experience: Dealer all good.

5 out of 5
30 May 2022 by Snowbird

Version: Softail slim

Year: 2018

First Harley since thirty years ago, brakes better, engine much bigger and better, quality excellent. Very pleased but yet to negotiate the dealership service experience. Buying easy and swift, delivered for free an hour and half away.

Ride quality & brakes 3 out of 5
Engine 4 out of 5
Reliability & build quality 4 out of 5
Value vs rivals 4 out of 5
Equipment 3 out of 5
4 out of 5
06 July 2020 by bellcrank

Version: FLSL

Year: 2020

Annual servicing cost: £450

Power delivery, handling and ride position are excellent, and a pleasure to ride at any speed. Stock seat is rubbish, under moderate acceleration one can end up on the rear fender, already replaced with a step up Saddlemen. No passenger seat or pegs is a bummer as is the lack of heated grips. The seat has to be removed to alter preload

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5

Ride quality very good, brakes average

Engine 5 out of 5

Plenty of low down torque from the M8 provides staggering acceleration and means you don't always have to be in the absolute right gear

Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5

Build quality and finish is excellent, hardly any plastic in sight.

Value vs rivals 4 out of 5

Get around 45 mpg, insurance around £200 so not bad. It seems to me that these bikes have relatively low depreciation as I was initially looking for newish second hand, but ended up buying new with a decent discount which was cheaper

Equipment 2 out of 5

You don't get much!

Buying experience: From dealer, unseen during lockdown. Negotiated a £1,000 discount

4 out of 5 Very Happy with this Bike!!
17 May 2020 by Todd S

Version: FLSL

Year: 2020

Annual servicing cost: £400

Nimble, Torquey, great Flicability around cities, Plenty of Power for ANY style of riding. Very impressed with the Handling in the corner's for a Cruiser ;) ONLY thing I am NOT impressed with is the Seat is HARD on my Butt :( Needs a little more height at the backside to keep you in the seat when mashing the throttle ;)

Ride quality & brakes 5 out of 5

Suprisingly well for ONLY a Single disc but they made up for it with a 4-Piston Caliper ;)

Engine 5 out of 5

Just Nice and smooth power delivery . Putting even a Stage 1 (Air Cleaner *high breathing* & Slip On Mufflers w/Tune*) REALLY woke it up and gave it a Very nice driveability, biggest change was Sound ;) & Power from 2,000 rpm to 5,250 rpm is a nice increase from stock.

Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5
Value vs rivals 5 out of 5

Service Cost per year

Equipment 4 out of 5

The Seat is still my biggest complaint-TOO HARD and needed to be a little higher at the back to keep you on the bike when you Give full throttle ;) The Screamin' Eagle Ventilator Air Cleaner Kit was an excellent Upgrade for me, with the Screamin' Eagle Pro Street Tuner, and S&S Grand National Slip On Mufflers. Sounds GREAT and is everything you could expect from stage 1 build.

Buying experience: My Buying experience was a pleasant one, I purchased from Riverside Harley-Davidson- Riverside, CA Great People to see when you are ready to purchase a NEW or Used bike.

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