After five generations and 43 years constantly in production, Honda has rolled out the sixth evolution of its flagship tourer, the GL 1800 Goldwing. Based on a redesigned six-cylinder boxer, the new model sheds a lot of weight, shrinks in dimensions and introduces a new double-wishbone front suspension.
The Goldwing has always been a special model in Honda's line-up, ever since the first generation was introduced in 1975. Starting out as a naked roadster with a 1,000-cc four-cylinder boxer, it gradually grew to a six-cylinder, 1,800-cc grand tourer. Always equipped for luxury and comfort, it wasn't shy to technological evolution either, becoming the first motorbike outfitted with Honda's prototype airbag system.
The 2018 model was unveiled at the 45th Tokyo Motor Show, introducing a motorcycle that is unmistakably a Goldwing, yet sports enough changes to constitute the sixth Goldwing generation.
Honda changed almost everything, starting out with the engine. It is still a 1,800 cc flat six, but it is smaller in size, lighter, and is positioned farther towards the front. Its cylinder dimensions shifted to the absolutely square 73 x 73 mm, in place of the previous 74 x 71 mm configuration. Just like the latest VFR's V-four engine, the heads feature a single camshaft in Unicam set-up, hosting four valves per cylinder, as opposed to the two of the previous model. The Unicam head was first introduced in the CRF 450 single-cylinder engine, using the singular camshaft to operate the exhaust valves via roller rocker arms, while the inlet valves are handled with finger-follower rocker arms.
Despite it being tuned to conform to much stricter emission norms, the 2018 GL 1800 produces more peak power, reaching 93 kW (125 hp) at 5,500 rpm and a hefty 170 Nm (125.4 lb-ft) at as low as 4,500 rpm.
The motor is now handled by electronic throttle-by-wire and is equipped with an idle stop function that shuts down the engine after three seconds in idle, thanks to Honda's Integrated Starter Generator, which fuses the generator and starter motor into one component. The electronic arsenal of the engine also includes four riding modes (tour, sport, economy and rain), selectable traction control, hill start assist (HSA) and cruise control.
The Goldwing can be outfitted with either the standard six-speed manual gearbox, or Honda's dual clutch automatic transmission (DCT). Offering seven speeds, the third generation DCT comes equipped with a Walking Mode, allowing for the bike to move both forward or in reverse at very low speeds – 1.8 km/h (1.1 mph) and 1.2 km/h (0.7 mph) respectively. It will certainly come in handy when parking or unparking on a steep incline.
The 2018 model sports a new aluminum twin-spar frame and new suspension, headlined by the double-wishbone front system. Honda did away with telescopic forks, and replaced them with a Hossack-type rig that fits a Showa shock absorber between two wishbone arms. At the rear we find a new Pro Arm single-sided swingarm incorporating the shaft drive, and a single Showa unit.
The damping characteristics of both front and rear shocks are controlled electronically with stepper motors contained within the units. The rear shock's preload adjustment is also electronically adjustable, as the rider can select from an intuitive load-based set of four options from soft to hard – just like BMW does it with its ESA system.
The brakes include two radially mounted six-piston calipers at the front and a three-piston at the rear, equipped with Honda's Dual Combined Brake System and ABS. Part of this system is the HSA, where the ABS modulator actuates the rear brake caliper for up to three seconds regardless of rider input, in order to facilitate starting on an uphill slope.
Honda designed the new Goldwing to be smaller and lighter, and this process resulted in shedding some 48 kg (106 lb), for a total kerb weight of 365 kg (805 lb). The motorcycle is visually smaller as well, and Honda suggests that it is so much more aerodynamically efficient that it uses a smaller fuel tank with no actual consequence in the bike's range.
The new fuel tank is 4 liters (1 gal) smaller for a total capacity of 21 l (5.6 gal), and the average fuel consumption is announced at 5.6 l per 100 km (42 mpg), so in theory the Goldwing can still manage 375 km (233 mi) on a tankful.
Honda's tourer will hit showrooms in February 2018, luxuriously equipped with smart key system, a 7-inch TFT screen with Bluetooth and Apple CarPlay connectivity, electrically adjustable screen and sound system. It will be available in two versions, the standard Goldwing and the Tour with higher screen and rear top case.
Retail prices in the US start from $23,500 for the base model and $26,700 for the Tour. Both can be ordered with DCT transmission, and the Tour variant can also be outfitted with the optional airbag system.
Get a taste of Honda's new uber-tourer in the following video.
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