ARRIVAL IN TEXAS on a balmy 66-degree Monday afternoon. By 7 a.m. Tuesday, the roads were icy, and the day’s ride canceled. Texas shut down. Eighteen hours later,the rain and snow retreated and the roads thawed enough to ride. A lovely 36-degree Wednesday afternoon. Our planned 400-mile route cut to a 10-mile loop around the hotel property, crossing exactly zero potentially icy bridges.Fortunately, the road leading to the hotel was long, twisty and hilly; a great place to test the new Gold Wing.
WE RODE BACK AND FORTH FOR 90 MINUTES, giving the photographers ample opportunity to catch a shot. Turnaround stops provided ample time to play with the Wing’s various features, between each pass.There are four ride modes: the anemically under powered ECON, purposeful RAIN, everyday smooth TOUR and finally the twitchy-throttled SPORT. Response was noticeably different in each, which means there is a time and place to use all four.
THE OVERBEARING TRACTION CONTROL SOLUTION is merely electronic throttle control, which is amplified by the less aggressive ride modes. It can be, and quickly was, disabled.Suspension also featured four electronically adjustable preload and damping settings. One-up, one with luggage, two-up and two with luggage. The lowest setting wasn’t as “couchy” as expected, and the highest was firm enough to ride with an elephant. Most of the day was spent swapping between the middle two settings, riding one-up.The new double-wishbone suspension might resemble and be inspired by a Hossack or BMW Duolever, but Honda pointedly stated it was its own design, and avoided mentioning any competitors in this space by name. Suffice it to say, the front end handles much better than the outgoing GL1800, particularly at low speeds. There is little feedback in the bars, zero flex and the travel is vertical—the wheel moves straight up.The vertically-actuated suspension and more compact engine allowed Honda to move the entire rider position forward, which makes for a more comfortable cockpit.
INSTEAD OF BEING WRAPPING IN THE BUCKET SEAT of the outgoing model, positioning is more on top, allowing rider movement in the saddle. Pillions spoke of comfort on the rear, as well, noting only that the stylized handholds are positioned too low. Fortunately, they are easily removed with two bolts. Expect quick aftermarket alternatives. Armrests are optional.The most impressive update is the instrumentation and user interface (UI). The old Wing looked like a 1960s sci-fi movie, with infinite lights and buttons on every possible surface. The worst part was many of those buttons were down by the knees, making their use difficult,if not unsafe, while riding. The new interface features an Apple Carplay and Bluetooth compatible, bright 7-inch TFT display, surrounded by analog speedo and tach—classy. Almost every function can be controlled by switch gear on the right and left bars—awesome!
THERE ARE ONLY 11 total non-handle bar push buttons, plus a joystick, directly below the electronic keyfob-actuated ignition. The joystick and three of the buttons are immediately redundant, as the same controls are readily available atthe left thumb. That leaves a trio of buttons to preset your preferred odometer,travel and fuel data (on an LED to the left of the speedo), and a couple more to set the four-level heat of the seat and handgrips (LED to the right of the tach).The optional Home link garage-door opener can fill two more, leaving one button slot for who knows what’s to come. I suggested a pillion ejection seat.Honda informed me that wasn’t one of the more than 50 available accessories available at launch. Yes, you can still get a CB, but not a CD (or eight-track). Reduced storage is probably the leading concern for existing owners. As one tester said, “Get over it.”
MODERN GEAR is smaller and most Wingers pack light these days. If space is a concern, you probably already tow a trailer, have converted to a trike or have ejected your pillion, anyway. Since we didn’t get to give the new ST1800, err GL1800, err 2018 Gold Wing Tour a full 400-mile test, we’re already working on Honda to get a long-term loan from the press fleet, so we can give it the full MCN treatment. Suffice it to say, this ain’t your grandpa’s Wing.There are five models, starting at$23,500 for the manual transmission, non trunked bagger, up to $31,500 for the air bag equipped DCT Tour package. Farkles not included.