Honda has pulled the wraps off its much-anticipated 2018 Gold Wing and Gold Wing Tour models during an event at the Museum of Exploration and Innovation in Santa Barbara, California. There are different iterations of each, with new six-speed manual and seven-speed automatic DCT versions available along with an airbag-equipped Gold Wing Tour DCT. Below is a pricing breakdown for each model.

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Gold Wing and Gold Wing Tour, two flavors of GL in 2018. Adam Waheed photo.

2018 Gold Wing: $23,500 – $23,800
2018 Gold Wing DCT: $24,700 – $25,000
2018 Gold Wing Tour: $26,700 – $27,200
2018 Gold Wing Tour DCT: $27,700 – $28,200
2018 Gold Wing Tour DCT Airbag: $31,500

Notable Lineage

Honda’s Gold Wing is a stalwart of Big Red’s stable. It’s first flat-six, the M1 Prototype, debuted in 1972, followed by the four-cylinder Gold Wing in 1974. From there it developed serious chops as an interstate tourer, adding things like stereo systems, CB radios, air-assisted suspension and unified braking throughout the ‘80s.

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The start of it all, Honda’s 1972 M1 Prototype. Photo courtesy of Honda.

In 1988 it returned to its M1 roots, that year’s GL1500 featuring a flat-six powerplant, which remains the standard to this day. In 2001 the GL1800 debuted with a raft of new features like ABS, an aluminum twin-spar frame, 1832cc engine. In 2006 the GW got the world’s first motorcycle airbag along with an in-dash GPS system.

Six years later the bike received a new look and the following year Honda introduced the bagger-styled F6B Gold Wing.

That’s all to say that the 2018 model marks one of the most expansive updates to the Gold Wing in more than a decade. With Yamaha entering the long range touring game with its recently released Star Venture, timing couldn’t have been better for a thorough refresh to Honda’s venerable GL.

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The 2018 Gold Wing receives a swath of engine updates. Adam Waheed photo.

New 1833cc Flat Six

Weight savings and a more compact aspect are key features of the new Gold Wing engine.

Honda claims a 13.7-pound lighter mill in the standard Gold Wing compared to the previous model and an 8.4-pound lighter DCT version.

The engine is just over one inch shorter from the front to the back of the left cylinder head, allowing builders to update placement of the engine for more front-end bias, better weight distribution and improved handling.

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To achieve this, the liquid-cooled Six comes with a 1mm narrower bore and 2mm longer stroke, squaring it’s specs to 73mm x 73mm. A new steel alloy crankshaft made it possible to cut the distance between cylinders. The crank pulser is now at the rear of the crankshaft too, further tightening up the design.

A Unicam valve train, with four valves per cylinder, made it possible to remove the valve-lifter support structure of the outgoing engine, adding to the weight reduction and slimmer profile. Aluminum cylinder sleeves, single 50mm throttle body, a new camshaft, rerouted water-cooling routes and molybdenum-coated piston skirts are among the updates to the engine as well.

The intake system is revised also. It’s volume is reduced by 10%, with the intake ducts resized and repositioned to more effectively utilize incoming air. Spent gasses run through a changed exhaust system that features 20-percent smaller number 2 and 3 exhaust pipes (left to right from rider’s view).

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Revised intake system. Photo courtesy of Honda.

Engine revisions create a more fuel-efficient machine, according to Honda, making it possible to reduce fuel capacity by 1.1 gallons to 5.5-gallon capacity total. The 20% improvement in fuel economy lead Honda to claim the Gold Wing’s range remains the same as before, however.

Additional weight reduction comes from a new Integrated Starter Generator system that combines the generator and starter motor functions into one unit. This advancement alone drops 5.3 pounds from the total weight of the motorcycle.

Manual or DCT?

No more five-speed Gold Wing, as the 2018 manual option features a six-speed transmission with an assist and slipper clutch. Honda estimate a 20% reduction in clutch operation load with the new design. A new cam damper is promised to reduce noise and smooth movement between the gears. One important thing to note, however, is that the base model, manual transmission Gold Wing does not come with reverse. The manual Gold Wing Tour, however, does include a reverse mechanism.

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Plenty of options to choose from on the 2018 Gold Wing. Adam Waheed photo.

Honda focused much of its attention on developing its Dual Clutch Transmission technology to work in harmony with an updated throttle-by-wire set-up. This is the third-generation DCT, which made its production debut back in 2010 on the VFR1200F.

This iteration comes with a new Walking Mode, made to ease slow speed maneuvering. One clutch enabling slow speed forward movement (no more than 1.1 mph) and another clutch enabling reverse (no higher than .75 mph) via plus and minus buttons on the left switchgear.

The reverse function on DCT is changed. Honda designed a chain-and-gear system that makes use of the DCT shafts, rather than needing a reverse idle shaft and the attendant electric equipment, to ease the bike backward. This update also contributes to an 8.4-pound weight savings.

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The 2018 Honda Gold Wing Tour. Adam Waheed photo.

The DCT also has new fork-shaft dampers fixed to both ends of the shaft, a master-arm damper and a DCT clutch-center damper. The primary intention of these is to reduce noise while shifting.

Gear ratios are changed throughout the line, with closer ratios in the low gears and wider ratios in the upper part of the gearbox.

Chassis Revisions

The twin-spar frame that has been a staple of the GL since 2001 remains, but is redesigned Honda adjusted plate thickness in areas of the frame, after calculating the stresses for each part of the design.

Those changes, along with a new single-sided swingarm with built-in driveshaft, contribute to 4.4-pound weight reduction overall.

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Big Changes in Suspension

The front end of the Gold Wing gets a big overhaul for 2018. Honda opted for a double-wishbone front suspension set-up, with a Showa shock, in lieu of a conventional fork. This is claimed to reduce the amount of shock transmitted from the road by 30%.

The design is also more compact, and moves the ride position forward nearly one and a half inches. This is to help optimize weight over the front of the machine, to further improve handling.

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2018 Honda Gold Wing. Adam Waheed photo.

Steering inputs will be easier for riders owing to a 40% reduction in inertial mass in the front end components too. The Showa shock will move through 4.3 inches travel.

Out back, Showa equipment is utilized as well, with a Pro-Link system that moves through 4.1 inches of travel.

On Tour models, front and rear suspension damping can be adjusted electrically, with settings linked to the individual ride modes.

Braking Package

The 2018 Gold Wing comes with larger, 320mm front brake rotors and radial-mount six-piston Nissin calipers, doing away with the 296mm, conventionally mounted three-piston set-up used previously. There’s a 316mm rotor, Nissin caliper configuration at the back and the two units work in tandem through Honda’s Combined Braking System.

The GL features electronically controlled, combined ABS as well.

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Larger diameter front brake discs improve stopping power on the 2018 Gold Wing. Adam Waheed photo.

High Tech Motorcycle

In addition to the aforementioned throttle-by-wire and combined ABS, Honda’s 2018 Gold Wing is dripping with technological refinements.

There’s updated cruise control on all models and Honda Selectable Torque Control (essentially traction control) on the Tour versions.

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The seven-inch TFT display provides a generous amount of information. Adam Waheed photo.

For the first time there is a Hill Start Assist feature, which keeps the bike from moving backward on an ascent by maintaining brake pressure at the rear. Riders will have three seconds to apply throttle before the brake releases.

All Gold Wing models will come with four ride modes also: Tour, Sport, Econ and Rain. Tour is the default and is what the bike returns to when the ignition is turned off then back on.

Sport mode provides more powerful acceleration, and on DCT models the shifting schedule allows the engine to climb to higher speeds before changing gears. There is more pressure applied to the rear brake in Sport model also through the CBS system.

Econ mode limits acceleration power and with DCT transmission shifts at lower engine speeds to improve fuel efficiency.

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Right switch gear on the 2018 Gold Wing. Adam Waheed photo.

And finally Rain mode has even less acceleration and deceleration power than Econ, with the addition of more torque control to ensure smooth performance on wet/dirty roads.

The motorcycle starts via a Smart Key, and the rider only needs to have the item in his or her possession to fire the bike. It is possible to turn the Smart Key off, also, for added security. The Smart Key can also activate the Vehicle Viewfinder, which activates the motorcycle’s hazard lights and horn to help locate the motorcycle in a crowd.

Information is displayed on a slick seven-inch TFT display, where you’ll be able to keep track of things like the Gold Wing’s Tire Pressure Monitor System, audio and navigation information and bike settings. Every GL will be compatible with Apple CarPlay too, a first among motorcycles, allowing access to Apple Music and Maps and allowing riders to make phone calls and send messages by voice through the use of a Bluetooth headset.

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The Gold Wing starts by way of the Smart Key, which also operates the Vehicle Viewfinder. Adam Waheed photo.

Heated grips and seats are standard on all 2018 Gold Wings.

Improved Design

The ergonomics are revised, with better hip support for the operator. The handlebars are slightly forward too, and the floorboards are positioned slightly back also, compared to the previous version.

The side mount radiator size was reduced, allowing designers to cut the overall cowl width by 7.8 inches. New air guiding ducts and an updated cowl shape optimize airflow to and around both rider and passenger. There’s a total of 11.8% less aerodynamic drag on the 2018 Gold Wings.

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A shorter windscreen can be upgraded for a taller option if desired. Adam Waheed photo.

Exhaust pipes are more exposed in 2018 also.

The changed ride position made it possible to reduce the size of the electronically-operated windscreen. Taller windscreen options are available among the bevy of accessories Honda will offer for the Gold Wing.

LED lighting is used throughout, and the luggage set-up is redesigned. There are 30 liters of storage available in the saddlebags on the Tour models and a rear luggage box providing 50 liters, enough space to store two full face helmets.

On the DCT Airbag model, an airbag is designed to deploy when the collision judgement system predicts a crash.

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LED lighting throughout. Adam Waheed photo.

A Few More Facts

The Gold Wing Tour and Tour DCT models are listed at 833 pounds and the DCT Airbag at 842 pounds. The stock Gold Wing comes in at 787 pounds while the Gold Wing DCT tips scales at 800 pound even.

Honda will offer three-year warranty coverage on all Gold Wings, with the option of extending out to eight years if desired. The models will be available in the U.S. starting February, 2018.

2018 Honda Gold Wing Specifications

Engine: 1833cc Flat Six, SOHC, 24-valve
Bore x Stroke: 73mm x 73mm
Compression Ratio: 10.5:1
Fuel Delivery: Digital Fuel Injection
Transmission: Six-speed manual or optional seven-speed DCT with reverse
Clutch: Wet, multi-disc with slipper assist
Final Drive: Shaft
Frame: Twin-spar aluminum
Front Suspension: Double-wishbone with Showa shock; electronic damping adjustment; 4.3 in. travel
Rear Suspension: Pro-Link rear suspension with Showa shock; electronic preload and damping adjustment; 4.1 in. travel
Front Brakes: 320mm discs with radial-mount six-piston Nissin calipers; ABS
Rear Brake: 316mm disc with triple-piston caliper; ABS
Wheels: TBD
Tires: Dunlop or Bridgestone, 130/70-18; 200/55-16
Curb Weight: 787 to 842 pounds
Wheelbase: 66.7 in.
Rake: 30.5 deg. Trail: 4.3 in.
Seat Height: 29.3 in.
Fuel Capacity: 5.5 gallon
MSRP: Starting at $23,500
Warranty: Three-year, unlimited mileage

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Room for two full face helmets in the rear case. Adam Waheed photo.
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Plenty of power to light the way in the dark. Adam Waheed photo.
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The standard Gold Wing without passenger backrest. Adam Waheed photo.
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A view of the Gold Wing cockpit. Adam Waheed photo.
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Honda refined the seat for more rider and passenger comfort in 2018. Adam Waheed photo.