First ride: 2019 Honda Gold Wing 1800cc DCT

Here’s what it’s like riding a luxury touring bike with Apple CarPlay
by Carlo Chungunco | Dec 21, 2018
PHOTO: Carlo Chungunco

Honda Philippines seems like it’s unable to do any wrong. It’s constantly on the top of the local market in terms of sales volume, and the reputation of its bikes is one of the best in the industry in terms of reliability, fun factor, and brand equity.

But its one stumbling block in the past was being very late in the game when it came to introducing big bikes. While other brands like Kawasaki and Suzuki were already catering to those who wanted the best in Japanese big bikes, Honda was perennially absent. Super Four fans had to rely on gray-market importers to get their fix.

Honda eventually saw the light, and last year, it officially brought in its first set of big bikes. With offerings like the Africa Twin and the entire sports-bike lineup, Honda hoped to make a dent in this ever-growing niche of the market. But there was still one notable omission from the product portfolio: the Gold Wing luxury tourer.

That ended this week, when the company unveiled three new bikes for the local market—and headlining the assault was the model we’ve all been waiting for, the all-new Gold Wing. Here are our first impressions.

Styling

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The first thing that strikes you about the Gold Wing is its sheer size—it definitely cannot fit in what passes for motorcycle parking in the Philippines, being closer in volume to a car than a bike. The next thing that grabs your attention is the pillion seat, which has not just a backrest, but armrests as well. Comfort is clearly a priority here.

Though this massive machine boasts a very intimidating road presence, the graceful lines of the much sportier-looking front end hint at what the Gold Wing is capable of. Add to this the engine covers of the boxer-six mill, and it’s plain to see how special this motorcycle is. There’s nothing else that looks like it on the road.

The saddle

At 392kg (846lb), the Gold Wing could be a bit daunting to some riders. Thankfully, the horizontally opposed engine lowers the bike’s center of gravity, making it more manageable to balance between your legs.

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What’s more daunting is the number of switchgear and the wealth of information in the cockpit. With cruise control, a multimedia system with speakers, and an extremely large dashboard screen, the bike can overwhelm you with all its pushable, twirlable, and adjustble bits and bobs.

Engine performance

Start the bike and the flat-six engine hums to life. It’s so amazingly vibration-free that the only indication the motor is running is the burble from the twin exhausts out back. Twist the throttle and a buttery-smooth dollop of 125hp instantly (yet creamily) rockets the huge bike forward through Honda’s seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT). Yes, this bike is an automatic (with reverse gear).

The bike’s engine, at least in the short time we tested the Gold Wing at the Honda Safety Driving Center (HSDC), zipped the brute down the course at speeds that would boggle your mind. Something so big and hefty should not be able to accelerate like this. I guess that’s what 1,833cc of displacement and 171Nm of torque gets you: effortless power.

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The only thing that made handling tricky was that the seven-speed DCT has no manually operated clutch, so slow-speed maneuvers need some input from the rear brake to make controlling the bike a bit easier. While engine braking in automatic mode may be nonexistent, it’s easy enough to use the left-hand paddle shifter to downshift the transmission and get the bike to use its massive engine to slow you down.

Overall, the engine is more than just power figures on a spec sheet. It’s so smooth and effortless, it makes the bike feel so much smaller than it actually is.

Ride and handling

Speaking of feeling small, what I amazed me the most was how the bike seemed to shrink all around me the moment it started moving at any speed above walking pace. It felt extremely nimble and willing to change directions. This is partly in thanks to the double-wishbone front suspension.

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While common in modern cars, a double-wishbone setup is extremely rare in motorcycles—in fact, the Gold Wing is the only bike in the world with this system fitted. This means that it corners and handles like a much smaller bike. Frankly, it’s amazingly nimble despite its size and width (which may make lane filtering tricky). It also executes directional changes very smoothly.

Extra features

Worthy of another article entirely, the spec sheet of the Gold Wing reads more like a luxury car’s than a luxury bike’s. There’s a smart-key ignition system, a rocking sound system, cruise control, multiple charging points for your phone, electronically controlled combined ABS, LED lights all around, and a seven-inch TFT display.

Two features stood out on the list: Apple CarPlay and a front airbag. Thanks to CarPlay, it doesn’t matter that the stock Honda satnav has no maps available—you just need to fire up Waze on your iPhone, and you’ll be touring in style in no time. With speakers and CarPlay, this bike is a rolling boom box of awesomeness.

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As for the front airbag, the Gold Wing is one of the few motorcycles on the road today with such a feature as standard. It shows Honda’s intention to make this model the ultimate showpiece for its technological creativity—a true flagship motorcycle for the Japanese brand.

Verdict

While Honda has only introduced the DCT variant of the Gold Wing locally, it’s the pinnacle of what is possible on a Gold Wing. It has an impressive suite of standard features and rides so amazingly well, it may just set a new benchmark in touring comfort.

We hope to eventually get more seat time with the new Gold Wing, because it’s meant to attack the open road, with the wind in your hair and rock ’n’ roll blasting from the speakers. It’s like a dream bike made into reality for the touring-minded.

SPECS: 2019 Honda Gold Wing 1800cc DCT

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Engine: 1,833cc liquid-cooled, horizontally opposed six-cylinder
Power: 125hp @ 5,500rpm
Torque: 171Nm @ 4,500rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch
Final drive: Shaft
Seat height: 29.33 inches
Price: P1,880,000

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PHOTO: Carlo Chungunco
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