Ever since the first Gold Wing was introduced in 1975, the GL name has been seen as the zenith of full-fat touring motorcycles.
But the current model has looked tired compared to rivals from BMW, Harley-Davidson and Indian. This year's new Gold Wing is on the block and it’s gone on a diet, been stuffed full of new gizmos and had a power boost to boot.
Even better, we're going to get our hands on it, as we head to Austin Texas for the first ride next week.
What we know about the Gold Wing so far
- New 124bhp engine
- 6-speed manual or 7-speed DCT
- 44kg lighter at 379kg
- Electronic suspension
- Four new rider modes
Honda have that they set out designing the new Gold Wing with a blank sheet of paper. The overall goal was to make a much more rounded bike without losing the core principles of the bike and key to achieving that was reducing the size of it. The old Gold Wing was a huge great thing, with an enormous bulbous fairing that created a pocket of still air to encapsulate the rider.
The new fairing is smaller, and more aggressive looking, and channels the air through ducts rather than forcing it over the top. Honda say this new approach delivers a ‘pleasant cooling breeze’ to the riders while improving the fuel efficiency by 20%. This means Honda have been able to reduce to fuel tank to 21l (down 4l from the old model), while maintaining exactly the same range between fill ups.
The large windscreen has also gone, replaced by a smaller, electrically adjustable screen, although a large screen will be available, as well an adjustable wind deflector for the arms and fixed deflectors for the lower legs.
The shrink hasn’t stopped there – Honda have reduced the total luggage capacity after their research showed owners mostly used them for two to three day tours. The luggage is still sizeable though as the top box will swallow two full-face helmets and combined with the panniers, you’ve got 110l to play with.
The engine in the old Wing was knocking on a bit, ultimately dating back to 2001, and while the new engine has stuck at 1833cc, the rest is completely new. The basic architecture is still the same (horizontally-opposed flat six) but it’s now sporting four valves per cylinder. It’s also much more compact and Honda have even managed to knock 6.2kg off it. Peak power has improved slightly to 124bhp and peak torque is now 125 ft lbs, coming at just 4500rpm.
Following on from the Fireblade, the new Gold Wing has a fly-by-wire throttle, which brings a host of new features along with it. The throttle has four rider modes (Tour, Sport, Economy and Rain) that alter the power delivery and those modes are also linked to the traction control, suspension damping and braking system.
Honda say that Tour mode is the standard setting for comfort and power. It gives a direct 1:1 ratio between the throttle tube and the butterfly in the throttle body. Tour also puts the suspension and braking into default mode. Sport gives a 150% throttle ratio for improved response and acceleration, while the damping and rear brake lever are both firmed up. Economy is designed for easy cruising, so the throttle ratio is set to 60% (suspension and brakes remain standard). Rain mode turns the throttle right down, with between throttle ratio of 35-50%, while the braking remains standard but the damping is softened. Traction control remains active in all four modes.
For city riding, the new engine has an Idling Stop system, so after three seconds of idling the engine stops, only restarting when the rider twists the throttle. Honda say they’ve done huge amounts of work on this, so the difference when pulling away is almost imperceptible. If you really dislike the feature, it can be switched off at the the handlebars.
Paired with the new engine are two new gearboxes: a 6-speed manual and a 7-speed DCT. The sixth gear gives a taller top end compared to the old 5-speed box, so engine revs at crusing speed are reduced. The manual also has a new cam assist slipper clutch, so the feel at the lever is lighter while downshifts are smoother. Both bikes also have Hill Start Assist, which uses the ABS system to hold you when stopped on a gradient.
The DCT gearbox is Honda’s third generation and comes with a few features. The 7-speed gearbox uses two clutches: one for start up, 1st, 3rd and 5th – the other for 2nd, 4th and 6th. Like the current DCT bikes the Gold Wing will have Manual along with Drive and Sport modes. The DCT features a ‘walking mode’, that allows you to crawl the bike forward at 1mph or backwards at 0.7mph from switch on the bars. The reverse function on the manual gearbox remains unchanged. The shifting on the DCT models is also connected to the riding mode chosen, so Sport mode holds onto a gear until later in the rev range and also changes gear more aggressively. Economy mode has a gentle engagement, changing up earlier in the rev range and Rain mode also has a soft clutch engagement as well as slower shifting to avoid upsetting the rear tyre.
Chassis & Handling
Keeping everything in check is a brand new frame, with a whole new suspension system. The Wing’s new aluminium twin beam frame is 2kg lighter than the old frame and has shuffled the new engine 40mm further forward, to make the ride more stable. The really big change though is new front suspension.
The new Gold Wing uses a double wishbone suspension unit, with a central monoshock and a separate pair of steering rods (not a million miles away from the Duolever front end fitted to K-series BMWs). Honda say this new front end is 30% smoother than the old bike as there is no longer sliding friction from the fork tubes, while separating out the steering input is said to make the bike 40% nimbler (whatever that means).
As you might expect from a modern super-tourer, the suspension is now electronically adjustable. The rear preload has four settings (rider, rider and luggage, rider and pillion, rider and pillion with luggage) and both the front and rear damping changes to match the riding mode selected.
All these changes have added up to a significant weight saving over the outgoing model. The previous Gold Wing weighed 413kg wet while the new Gold Wing weighs 365kg wet. The Gold Wing Tour weighs 379kg wet and the DTC airbox version weighs 383kg.
Infotainment, GPS & Connectivity
Central to the Gold Wing has always been its expansive cockpit and that’s no different on the new model. Slap bang in the middle of the new dash is a brand new 7” full-colour TFT screen that houses all the infotainment, while most of the bike information (fuel, tyre pressure, riding mode etc.) is on various little screens dotted either side of the clocks. The connectivity itself has moved on too, so both Bluetooth and USB are supported, while iPhone users can now connect to the Gold Wing with Apple CarPlay. The audio system has been improved for increased clarity and passengers can control their own music with buttons on the top of the pannier. The GPS system has been updated too, so it now includes a gyrocompass so guidance even works inside tunnels, and basic GPS commands can be input too such as selecting ‘Home’ as a destination.
As you may imagine, the Gold Wing is now completely keyless. A fob is used to activate the bike and unlock the luggage – thankfully there’s a button on the fob, so you don’t need the ignition on to open and close the luggage.
The lighting is now all LED but not as you might expect it. The bottom half of the headlight uses five polishes lenses on either side, which creates a ‘Jewel-Eye’ low beam. At high beam the same LED pattern lighting creates a ‘stereoscopic impression’ (think Dambusters). The indicators are all LED too and self-cancel, based on inputs from the ECU.
Pricing & Availability
The new Gold Wing will be available in three versions, the base model will be the GL1800 Gold Wing, the Gold Wing Tour, which has a removable top box, and the Tour DCT, which will also be available with an air bag. For now there are no indications of price but the current model starts from £24,999 and the new one is unlikely to be cheaper.