Honda’s 2018 Gold Wing Tour Is Passenger Approved

A two-up test ride offers double the riding impressions

2018 Honda Gold Wing
If passenger comfort is a concern, the Gold Wing Tour deserves your consideration. Your significant other will thank you.Kevin Wing and Brian J. Nelson

Given the passenger seat on most of the bikes I bring home, it’s usually pretty hard to convince my significant other to go for an all-day ride, especially if it’s cold out. After one look at the lounge-like chair on the new Gold Wing Tour, however, my wife Loren was actually excited for our test ride in chilly central Texas, and she found the controls for her heated seat before I’d even fired up the King Wing’s flat-six. For more than four decades now the Gold Wing has been one of the most comfortable places to spend time on two wheels, and for 2018 it gets even better.It starts, as you might expect, with where you park your butt. The pleated and bolstered captain’s chairs of the previous generation are gone, but after riding a 2017 model and a 2018 back to back we didn’t miss them, and we certainly don’t miss them looking like grandpa’s recliner. I prefer the softer foam of the new seat, and the way the narrower forward portion makes it easier to put your feet down at stops. There’s also a revised riding position that’s a little less awkwardly upright. Loren, petite as she is, thought the previous-gen seat was just too big, voting the 2018 setup best because it left less of a gap between me and her. She voiced the same sentiment when we rode BMW’s K1600GTL and R1200RT, preferring the more compact layout of the RT since it made her feel more secure.

2018 Honda Gold Wing seats
No more mega butt bolster and no more pleats mean the new Wing’s seat looks a lot less like Captain Kirk’s command post on the Enterprise. Even though they’re smaller and less elaborate, the seats are in fact more comfortable, at least for us. Five-level adjustable heat is a standard feature on the Tour, as are heated grips.Kevin Wing and Brian J. Nelson
2018 Honda Gold Wing
After speaking with Honda engineers, I was surprised to learn that the unique “double wishbone” front end wasn’t a mandate for the new model. Rather, it was the result of a desire to move mass forward to improve handling. The Hossack-like setup provides near-vertical wheel travel, allowing the engine to be moved forward 29mm for a more sportbike-like weight balance.Kevin Wing and Brian J. Nelson

Improvements continue with the aerodynamics and the ease with which you can adjust airflow on the new bike. You might think that the 2018 Wing's smaller windscreen and narrower fairing wouldn't block the wind as well as before, but you'd be wrong. Through the miracle of wind-tunnel testing the new bike actually offers smoother currents around the rider and passenger. Plus, there's now a rocker switch that lets you dial in the windscreen height without having to unlock latches and physically push and pull on the shield like you had to in years past. That's a big convenience. Loren and I noticed our Shoei Neotecs getting batted around less on the new model no matter what position the screen was in, and I liked the fact that at full extension you actually look through the windscreen on the '18, not across the top of it.

2018 Honda Gold Wing
Better handling was a big objective for the 2018 model. By shifting weight to the front wheel, steering response improves. To that end, the seats were slid forward nearly 1.5 inches. At the same time the footpegs were moved back and the handlebar slid forward, adjusting the riding position so it’s a more relaxed, yet still very upright posture.Kevin Wing and Brian J. Nelson
2018 Honda Gold Wing windscreen
An electric windscreen sweeps through several inches of travel. At full extension it towers over the cockpit to provide a very still pocket of air for both the rider and passenger. A new airfoil atop the dash can be deployed to channel some breeze at the rider.Kevin Wing and Brian J. Nelson

Another difference between the two models is the ride quality. Big bikes tend to soak up bumps pretty well anyway, but the Honda really feels like it’s floating down the road. The vigorous up-and-down motion of the tie-rod ends on the new double-wishbone front end, besides bouncing enough to be distracting, make it clear the suspension is very busy even if doesn’t feel that way at the grips. And while one rider I spoke to thought the new front-end setup felt vague, I was impressed with how light and precise the steering was and surprised by how far over you could bank the big bike before hard parts began to drag. It’s not as sporty as BMW’s K1600GTL and the electronically adjustable suspension (rear preload only) doesn’t hold a candle to the German D-ESA semi-active suspension, but the Gold Wing is still an agile land yacht that’ll eat up corners.

2018 Honda Gold Wing
This big girl can dance! Handling is pretty outstanding for an 833-pound rig. The bike has light steering, loves to lean, and holds a line with zero bar input. The bike’s new exhaust system leaves a lot more of the headers and cylinder exposed compared to the previous bike.Kevin Wing and Brian J. Nelson
2018 Honda Gold Wing dash
The dash is the Gold Wing’s most-improved area. Where there used to be a field of buttons, dials, and levers, there are now painted panels and a large TFT screen. A pretty impressive cluster of buttons still adorn the left grip, but the overall interface is greatly simplified and improved. As is common in many automobiles, the Wing is Apple CarPlay compatible.Kevin Wing and Brian J. Nelson

You want power as smooth as a kitten’s ear? Get yourself a six-cylinder. Thrust from the completely reworked 1,833cc flat-six is indistinguishable from years past—the Wing still surges forward on a never-ending flow of smooth, strong torque. Acceleration in the first three gears will tickle your guts and make your passenger giggle, but roll-on performance in the upper ratios is fairly relaxed. We hopped on a seven-speed DCT-equipped bike for a short stint and the automatic-shifting technology is a great fit for the big tourer, but prepare to have your friend’s clown you for riding the world’s biggest scooter. Loren liked how seamlessly the transmission upshifted, but we were both frustrated by the inconsistent timing and occasionally rough action of downshifts. On the manual-trans bike—now a conventional six-speed—downshifts are smoothed by a new slipper clutch. Both models have a nifty reverse mode to help you maneuver in parking lots, and the DCT even gets a pushbutton “walking speed” forward feature. Dorky as you may look while dog-paddling the bike, the walking modes are a pretty handy thing to have when your all-in weight is well over 1,000 pounds.

2018 Honda Gold Wing engine
Honda’s legendary flat-six is all-new for 2018. Updates include a revised bore and stroke and new, slimmer cylinders that help reduce the engine’s length by more than an inch. Compression is up from 9.8:1 to 10.5:1 and there are now four valves per cylinder (up from two), actuated via a Unicam design as on Honda’s motocrossers. There’s an extra gear in the transmission, a slipper clutch for smoother downshifts, plus a new combined alternator and starter unit that saves more than 5 pounds. Anti-friction coatings on the piston skirts and other drag-reducing efforts help improve efficiency by 20 percent, says Honda.Kevin Wing and Brian J. Nelson
2018 Honda Gold Wing brakes
Front brake discs have grown to 320mm, the calipers are radially mounted, and the piston count has doubled. Each caliper has six pots, with the two center pistons applying pressure whenever the rear brake is applied. The combined braking is brilliant, allowing you to use the rear pedal for all but the most aggressive braking.Kevin Wing and Brian J. Nelson

The brakes (now radially mounted) are noticeably stronger and more precise, and the throttle response (now ride-by-wire) is more refined as well as adjustable via four ride modes.The whole dash and control interface has been redesigned (thank God!), eliminating the 700 or so buttons by combining functions into a fairly intuitive menu system displayed on the new 7-inch TFT dash. The minor improvements in comfort and refinement are all well and good, but it’s that new sleek dash that makes the biggest difference in the bike’s overall sense of modernity.

Honda's mandate to slim down and streamline the various Gold Wing models has resulted in lighter (by a claimed 70-or-so pounds, depending on the trim level) machines, but it means there's one less gallon of gas under the seat and a 40-liter reduction in luggage space. As far as I can tell, those are really the only two downsides to the new bike. There's not much you can do about the smaller side cases except pack lighter, but Honda claims the new engine is 20 percent more efficient and that overall range is the same as before (about 250 miles). During our relaxed-pace ride, however, we averaged 38.4 mpg, only 2 mpg up on the last Gold Wing we tested. Woops. With those numbers you're good for about 200 miles until empty.

2018 Honda Gold Wing side case
You’re not going to fit much in these oddly shaped, fairly small side cases. The top case is bigger and a more conventional shape, but it still won’t hold two full-face helmets. The previous Wing had 150 liters of total storage; this bike has only 110. One benefit to the new luggage is its one-button access and keyless lock/unlock feature.Kevin Wing and Brian J. Nelson

Compared to previous base G-Wing the new Gold Wing Tour is $2,000 more at $26,700, but you're getting a lot of improvements for the money. Even so, if you take a look at this price comparison of luxury touring models, the Tour is priced higher than the lighter, more sophisticated, and more powerful BMW K1600GTL. Once you're this deep into this narrow niche of motorcycling, however, there's likely a lot more to your choice in bikes than just the specifications and a few thousand dollars. So if a weekend getaway is what you're after—or even if you want to cruise across the country—you can't go wrong with the new Gold Wing, especially if you want your significant other to join you for the ride.

2018 Honda Gold Wing
This head-on shot gives you a good idea of how much smaller the new Wing is compared to the outgoing model. Despite a smaller fairing and windscreen, the new bike offers better aerodynamics.Kevin Wing and Brian J. Nelson
1975 vs 2018 gold wing
Introduced in 1975, the original GL1000 was designed to be a big sportbike, but it wasn’t long until the platform evolved into a luxury highway hauler. More than 800,000 Gold Wings have been sold worldwide.Kevin Wing and Brian J. Nelson
2018 Honda Gold Wing
2018 Gold Wing Tour in blue.Kevin Wing and Brian J. Nelson
2018 Honda Gold Wing
2018 Gold Wing Tour in white.Kevin Wing and Brian J. Nelson


PRICE $26,700 (Tour trim package)
ENGINE 1,833cc liquid-cooled flat-six
FRAME Aluminum double-cradle
FRONT SUSPENSION Showa shock; 4.3 in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION Showa shock adjustable for spring preload; 4.1 in. travel
FRONT BRAKE Nissin six-piston calipers, 320mm discs with ABS
REAR BRAKE Nissin three-piston caliper, 316mm disc with ABS
RAKE/TRAIL 30.5°/4.3 in.
WHEELBASE 66.7 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 29.3 in.
CLAIMED WEIGHT 833 lb. wet