2015 Harley-Davidson CVO Street Glide Review

Harley pumps up the volume on its best-selling motorcycle

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2015 Harley-Davidson CVO Street Glide

Editor Score: 83.25%
Engine 18.5/20
Suspension/Handling 10.75/15
Transmission/Clutch 9.25/10
Brakes 9.0/10
Instruments/Controls4.5/5
Ergonomics/Comfort 7.75/10
Appearance/Quality 9.5/10
Desirability 9.0/10
Value 5.0/10
Overall Score83.25/100

Every model year Harley-Davidson Custom Vehicle Operations offers a limited selection of factory customs for what the motor company considers to be its most discriminating customers.Traditionally, these limited editions have been used as a proving ground for new components or finishing methods before being added to the extensive factory accessory catalog. With this much on the line, naturally, H-D would only choose models that it thinks represent the best motorcycle models in production for the year. The Street Glide’s status as the best selling motorcycle the manufacturer produces makes it an obvious choice for inclusion in the CVO line.

2014 Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special Vs. Indian Chieftain

Although CVO Harleys usually get a healthy dose of performance modifications, the bling factor is largely what attracts the initial attention around these exclusive machines. The CVO Street Glide is no different. Rolling on chrome wheels in the five-spoke Aggressor design and featuring Airflow Collection from the grips and levers to the mirrors, floorboards, and gas cap, this one looks every bit the factory custom that it is. Case in point: the backlit CVO badge on the tank. This level of detail carries over to the extended saddlebags and the “super premium audio system” this bike brings to the street.

The backlit CVO badge looks cool at night. Blurred in the background is the pop up chrome gas cap.

The backlit CVO badge looks cool at night. Blurred in the background is the pop up chrome gas cap.

Following trends in the custom bagger world, the CVO SG gets a sound system that is worthy of parking on the patio to play the tunes for your next barbecue – something the clever H-D PR reps did for the outdoor dinner at the bike’s introduction. With the Boom! Box 6.5GT infotainment system as its base, the CVO upgrades the boom courtesy of two 300-watt four-channel amplifiers for a total of 75 watts per channel blasting out of 12 audio drivers. To keep the music sounding good, instead of just merely loud, the system uses static and dynamic equalizers and “a sophisticated midrange DSP cross-over” for improved clarity at any volume level. Out on the road, the dynamic equalizer adjusts the sound to deliver the best sound for the current activity, be it trolling on the boulevard or making time on the interstate.

2011 Harley-Davidson CVO Street Glide Review

Our day in the saddle tells us that this isn’t just marketing hype. As long as the Boom! Box has a good audio signal, you’re going to get the best out of it on the road. If you don’t take advantage of the built-in SiriusXM, you’ll want to switch to your mp3 player if you move out of the range of a strong FM reception, or you’ll just be hearing a dynamically equalized and amplified crappy radio signal.

75 watts per channel of ground-pounding sound.

75 watts per channel of ground-pounding sound.

While all of these extras are pretty cool – and we haven’t even discussed the exclusive paint designs, yet – the CVO Street Glide’s engine is what steals the show. This year, all of the CVO models exclusively feature 110ci engines – Harley’s largest displacement offering. The SG now gets the Screamin’ Eagle Twin-Cooled Twin Cam 110 wedged into its chassis. We loved the 2013 Street Glide’s Rushmore-improved Twin Cam 103 engine, which put out 77.0 hp and 92.1 ft-lb on the dyno, but the CVO’s hot-rodded liquid-cooled V-Twin produces at its crankshaft a claimed 115 ft-lb! Yeah, baby! From the moment the clutch is released, the engine feels more responsive and powerful – at all throttle openings, not just WFO.

The fairing lower and the radiator it hides is the visual indication of the Twin-Cooled engine’s water pumpiness.

The fairing lower and the radiator it hides is the visual indication of the Twin-Cooled engine’s water pumpiness.

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Classic Batwing and newfangled liquid-cooling.

Classic Batwing and newfangled liquid-cooling.

With more power on tap, all of the engine’s duties take less effort, as you’d expect, but H-D didn’t just put in a stock Twin-Cooled engine. Due to the additional thrust put out by the CVO’s 110 engine, the Assist and Slip Clutch Pack was developed to allow for some clutch slippage on downshifts. Additionally, the effort required to operate the clutch was lessened. At a walking speed or in slow-moving traffic, the clutch is easy to modulate, making the engine feel tamer than its beefy output numbers. Out on the road, when banging downshifts for the entry to a corner, the clutch slip smooths the transitions between gears.

This is a good thing since the Street Glide handles well enough to move down a winding road at an impressive pace. Steering is light and responsive, belying the SG’s heft, as we noted in last year’s shootout with the Indian Chieftain:

“The Street Glide Special’s manners were impeccable. The new, beefier fork is well sorted and shows the attention it received as part of Project Rushmore. Turn-in and changing lines mid-corner were much easier than you’d expect from such a big bike. At speed, the Special feels much smaller than its 64-inch wheelbase and 810-pound specifications. In short, the Street Glide Special feels willing and eager to turn when you want to turn it. When asked to lean over far enough to touch down the floorboards, the Harley does so cleanly at a respectable angle for a cruiser.”

The CVO Street Glide has the same ample ground clearance that we loved in the Street Glide Special, last year.

The CVO Street Glide has the same ample ground clearance that we loved in the Street Glide Special, last year.

Similarly, our primary criticism of the Street Glide remains the same: Limiting rear suspension travel to a mere 2.1 inches does a disservice to the bike’s capabilities and to the rider’s hind parts. On bumpy pavement, the rider experiences every ripple. In fact, every functional aspect of the CVO Street Glide – with the exception of the massive engine – is exactly the same as when we previously tested it, and it continues to be a motorcycle that is best described as an eager partner for the backroad boogie.

Returning to the CVO’s bling factor, the paint options are well worth their price of admission. The Ultraviolet Blue/Molten Lava Flames paint scheme we rode was more than eye-catching. It looks like a quality custom paint scheme, not something from an OEM. (The other paint options have similarly highfalutin names: Scorching Yellow/Starfire Black Flames, Starfire Black/Gold Dust Flames, and Hard Candy Mercury/Smoky Quartz Flames.) Overall, the CVO SG’s detail work is highly impressive, which is what you’d expect from a limited-edition motorcycle that retails for $36,349.

Premium paint and chrome Aggressor wheels.

Premium paint and chrome Aggressor wheels.

The CVO Street Glide takes an already formidable bike that was as comfortable on the boulevard as it was on rural highways and turned up the volume. Literally. The engine’s bump from 103 cu. in. to 110 cu. in. radically changes the bike’s acceleration when you crank on the throttle, but perhaps more importantly, the quality of power delivery in everyday riding is more refined. Then there’s the sound system which takes the Rushmore-created Boom! Box’s already great features and adds saddlebag-mounted rear speakers with the power to pump out quality sound at impressive decibels. This Street Glide is definitely worthy of the Custom Vehicle Operations label.

+ Highs

  • Twin-Cooled Twin Cam 110 power!
  • Massive sound system
  • Eye-catching good looks
- Sighs

  • Same old 2.1 in. of shock travel
  • Expensive
  • Did we mention how crazy expensive it is?

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  • QuestionMark

    OK beauty is in the eye of the beholder I guess but I think that blue and orange flames bike has one seriously ugly high quality paint job.

    Now do we not only have to contend with 100db pipes but another 120db of high volume auditory assaults from rolling boom boxes as well. Double the public offense potential, factory direct.

    • VeganLondonMan

      You need the loud pipes and stereo to go with the 130dB paint job!!!…or not

  • Infadel Macgee

    Newsflash Harley , It’s a WATERCOOLED Head design .I notice you guys are afraid to admit it , probably because you’re not fond of the upcoming waterhead name ;)

  • SRMark

    I’ll accept “eye-catching good looks” but not in blue and orange. Maybe in Denver but my God that’s ugly.

  • NorthShoreRider

    Yeesh. So much money for something so douchey. I’m trying hard to identify with a rider that has a stereo system on his/her bike. I’m trying, but I really don’t get it.

    • michael jackson

      Yes. A bike should be machine, nuts and bolts. Carburetor and chain drive. You should feel the clutch be a man use a grip effort to ride screw the music. Buy a gold wing if you want a bike with a radio

  • madskills

    I have a street bob and love it because it is functional. HD trying to compete at the upper end with the CVO is like putting lipstick on the pig. People don’t buy HDs for speed or cornering. Yes they should have certain capabilities, but it is the mechanical/look/feel of a solid American bike that sells us.

  • Craig Hoffman

    God I would feel painfully silly on this motorcycle. Apparently I am not the target market ;)

  • Shistang

    A few decades ago, when I first started riding Harleys, it was a mark of shame to be seen on a “garbage wagon”. I still feel the same way. Is this a poor/unfair attitude on my part? Probably, but there you be.