The chassis is completely new, too. The twin-spar frame is 2kg lighter and for the first time in Honda’s history features a double-wishbone front suspension unit. The front is controlled by a single shock, rather than conventional forks. There’s a conventional Showa single shock on the rear, both are controlled electronically but are not semi-active.
Through the bends the new Honda shone and showed how poor the old bike was by modern standards. The new six-piston linked brakes are eye-poppingly strong. Considering they’re stopping 378kg, they’re really impressive, the big Wing remains stable and the ABS isn’t too intrusive. Some might not like the linked brakes are very effective on the big Wing.
Once away from the motorway the difference between the modes are more noticeable. There’s less sag and wallowing in the Sports mode. Even in the soft Touring mode the handling is impressive and far superior to the old model. The big Wing has lost a huge amount of weight and is now a bike again. The old bike was a comfortable method of getting from A to B, but now it’s actually a fun bike, which can be used and enjoyed.
Unexpected abilities from the standard machine
Yes, you’re aware this bike weighs 365kg (that’s 90kg more than a BMW R1250RT) and is as long as a canal boat. It’s no CBR650R. Yet the 1800 turns, holds lines and deals with spirited use with unprecedented ease.
With another 11 kilos lopped off compared to the Tour, the way the chassis flows down a fast, rolling A-road is glorious. The double-wishbone front end separates braking, suspension and steering forces, allowing full use of the strong front stoppers over a rippled surface without affecting the bike’s poise or ability to turn-in.
With weight carried low, it’s super-stable too. Ride quality in Tour mode is high, though with a definite sense of control, it’s the opposite of mushy. Switch to Sport and things become surprisingly... well, sporty.
Capacity has remained the same at 1833cc, but that is where the similarities end – it’s a completely new bike. There hasn’t been a huge hike in power, which some had expected. Instead it’s more compact, lighter and smoother than ever. In total 48kg has been saved from the bike and the engine alone is 6.2kg lighter. Just removing the old starter motor in favour of an Integrated Starter Generator system (ISG) saved 2.4kg.
The new engine is available as either a conventional 6-speed manual or 7-speed DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission), which automatically changes gear or gives you the option to change gear electronically without a clutch.
This is Honda’s flagship model and quality is impressive. The Gold Wing’s reliability is legendary, the motor is unstressed and should be capable of huge mileage.
There is no hiding the fact the new Wing is expensive, at just shy of £30,000 it’s considerably more than its closest competition. Even if you tick every accessory possible BMW’s six-cylinder K1600GT still comes in at under £25,000 and has more top-end power. It’ll be interesting to see how it compares when we run them back-to-back.
That said, cheaper versions of the 'Wing are available, with the £22,299 standard version making arguably more financial sense than the full fat tourer.
Although you lose the 50-litre top box, you still get 30-litre side panniers, alongside the same 1833cc engine, cast aluminium frame and electronic aids like traction control. The standard bike gets no preload adjustment or centrestand though.
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Where do we start, the list is huge. One of the criticisms of DCT is the lack of rider control at slow speeds, due to the lack of clutch. However, Honda have created a smart solution with a new ‘Walking mode’ that limits speeds to 1.1mph at the touch of a button. As with the old Wing, reverse comes as standard, and is easily controlled by the plus and minus buttons on the left bar.
The large screen is finally electronically adjustable, which previous Wing owners were praying for. There’s also the option of increasing the airflow to the rider and pillion by manually opening a small flap below the screen.
The bodywork and luggage are all new. Each pannier carries 30 litres of kit whereas the rear top case holds 50 litres. All the compartments can be locked via the keyless ignition and feature hydraulic dampers, which allow them to open and close with smooth, effortless ease. There are two further compartments up front; one centrally located, and the other on the right side. The old model’s rear pillion compartments don’t feature.
The cruise control via the fly-by-wire throttle can be set and adjusted on the move. Simply set your speed, adjust the screen to your required height, sit back in comfort and listen to your tunes via the four speakers. The clarity is impressive and you don’t need to have the volume cranked to the maximum at speed. The small compartment located just below the fuel cap is the perfect size for an iPhone or iPod, and comes with a USB connection.
The changeable rider modes are easy to select, and change the suspension, engine characteristics and rider aids. The changeable modes dramatically change the DCT. For example, in Sports mode the gears are held for longer and the system quickly and automatically cogs down a few gears if rapid acceleration is required. It’s the opposite in the Economical mode, it short-shifts to top gear and almost refuses to knock back a gear during aggressive throttle openings.
Apple Car Play is available for the first time, sat-nav comes as standard as does a heated seat and grips, even the pillion gets a heated seat.
Smaller screen for standard bike
The electric screen is controlled from the left switchgear and is around 40% smaller than on the Tour. It’s still big enough to almost completely remove wind noise at 70mph and generates a little negative back pressure when fully up, so you can swan about with your visor up.
What’s better with this bike is that there’s a bit of breeze in the fully-down position, which keeps the Wing feeling like a motorbike, without introducing buffeting. There’s also a pop-up spoiler to tailor airflow on top of the dash.