2018 Harley-Davidson Deluxe

Editor Score: 81.75%
Engine 16.0/20
Suspension/Handling 11.75/15
Transmission/Clutch 7.5/10
Brakes 8.0/10
Instruments/Controls4.0/5
Ergonomics/Comfort 8.5/10
Appearance/Quality 9.5/10
Desirability 8.5/10
Value 8.0/10
Overall Score81.75/100

By now, most motorcyclists have learned of the big changes in the Harley-Davidson Softail line, how it has swallowed its Dyna siblings, added the Milwaukee-Eight engine, and been reborn as a modern interpretation of a cruiser. However, perhaps no other manufacturer is more aware of the weight of a marque’s history than Harley. Which explains why the designers at the Motor Company expended so much effort in getting the classic models like the 2018 Harley-Davidson Deluxe right. They knew that if they were able to modernize the more classically styled models, they could take some liberties with the bikes where they wanted to push the envelope. The Deluxe provides a prime example of an updated Softail that carries over the lines of the previous generation while still becoming a thoroughly modern cruiser.

Harley-Davidson Introduces All New 2018 Softail Line

2018 Harley-Davidson Fat Bob 114 Review – First Ride

From a distance, one would be hard-pressed to differentiate the 2017 and 2018 Deluxe models when looking at the profiles. The points that would ultimately give away the 2018 are the solo-saddle, the lessened space around the engine, and the ever-so-slightly smaller-looking headlight. Get up close to the Deluxe, and you’ll see tons of differences. The most obvious change is the move to LED lighting all around – with the turn signals that are exceptionally modern-looking on the light bar. The overall effect is that of a modernized classic.

2018 Harley-Davidson Deluxe Review – light bar

The Deluxe’s light bar is a thoroughly modern interpretation of the version featured on the previous generation.

The 2018 Deluxe receives a heart transplant in the form of the Milwaukee-Eight engine of the 107 cubic-inch variety. In its transition from the Harley touring line, the M-E gained a second counterbalancer and a wet sump. The second counterbalancer allows for the engine to be solidly-mounted to the Softail frame for a more tightly packed engine bay and a stiffer chassis. The wet sump facilitates  the 2017’s under seat oil tank removal, which achieves the dual goals of relocating a heat source away from the rider and centralizing the mass of the engine.

From the moment the torque-assist clutch is released, the Milwaukee-Eight engine outshines the Twin Cam. Acceleration is brisk and is a claimed 10-percent faster from 0-60mph – a figure I don’t doubt. In my two chances to ride the Deluxe (one in Wisconsin and one in California), I’ve been impressed with how well the dual balancers quell vibration. While the M-E loves being trolled along riding the torque curve, the engine feels equally at home with a higher-rpm, more sporting approach, too. However, at higher rpm, some vibration makes itself known but is not objectionable. At all rpm, in all situations, the EFI tuning remains super slick with nary a hiccup. The transmission shifts smoothly though shifting into first gear from neutral elicits the Big Twin Clunk. When it comes to sound, though, it’s hard to ignore one of the biggest benefits of having an engine that is mechanically quieter than the one it replaces. The Milwaukee-Eight’s exhaust is much throatier than the Twin Cam’s while still meeting EPA limits. That’s a change that can be appreciated each time the throttle is twisted.

2018 Harley-Davidson Deluxe Review – engine

The Milwaukee-Eight 107 engine gains a second counterbalancer and a wet sump. The faux oil tank hides the shock and electronics.

Harley clearly wanted the media to notice the improved ground clearance of the Deluxe – and all of the Softail line – since the vast majority of the roads we traveled over the two days of the Softail introduction were serpentine playgrounds for motorcyclists. The first time I rode the Deluxe, I’d ridden the 2017 model immediately beforehand. From the first corner on Blackhawk Raceway, I was pleasantly surprised at how much more ground clearance the 2018 Deluxe had. My time on the winding California backroads only increased my appreciation for what Harley-Davidson had done with the Deluxe in the conversion to the new frame.

In the tighter sections of corners, the additional ground clearance was nice, but it was the higher-speed sweepers where I could really experience the increased torsional stiffness. The Deluxe exhibited none of the hinge-in-the-middle sensation of cruiser chassis flex. The dual-bending valve fork combined with the single shock under the seat to give a controlled ride over pavement ripples. Larger suspension hits were attenuated much better – even in those couple of times that the rear suspension bottomed. Although I never touched the preload, its hydraulic adjuster is easily accessible under the seat for riders who are lighter or heavier than the standard preload was set for.

Steering the Deluxe was fairly easy, thanks to the wide handlebar’s leverage. However, the 30° rake means that the steering leans significantly more towards the stability side of the performance spectrum. Still, the Deluxe could be taken from floorboard-to-floorboard in a series of turns if the rider desired.

2018 Harley-Davidson Deluxe Review – action

If it weren’t for the headlight and the solo saddle, you couldn’t tell this is a 2018 Deluxe – until you cranked on the throttle or found a twisty road.

The Deluxe places the rider in the classic cruiser riding position. The feet are forward but not stretched out. The back is straight, neither leaning forward or back. The arms have a comfortable bend in them for cruising the boulevard or traveling on the highway. The sculpted seat stands just 26.8 inches from the pavement – just 0.4 in. higher than last year – yet the engineers were able to squeeze out 28° of lean each way compared to 26.7° left and 25.8° right. The riding position is indistinguishable from the 2017 model despite the chassis changes.

So, what Harley has done was create a motorcycle that is functionally better than its predecessor in both power delivery and handling while keeping the rider’s interface with the bike in the realm of the previous generation. This is good news since the ideal buyer for the Deluxe is a rider who usually embraces change reluctantly. The styling updates are a slightly bigger risk, though. While the profile of the bike remains unaltered, the detail work has received some modernization. As with all of the 2018 Softails, the headlight has a signature LED ring that sets this generation apart from the previous one. Also, the modern styling of the light bar and its integrated turn signals is a step that some traditionalists may not like.

2018 Harley-Davidson Deluxe Review – beauty

If you were interested in the Deluxe in the past, you owe it to yourself to take a look at the 2018 Harley-Davidson Deluxe. It sports all the bling of the previous generation for those who like things shiny. That’s good. Riding the Deluxe, though, is a revelation. If you took a test ride of the Twin Cam version, you’re going to be stunned at how a bike that looks so similar, with such a familiar riding position, could feel so different when you open the throttle or bend it into a corner. Now is a good time to be a Harley buyer.

The Deluxe starts at a MSRP of $17,999 with color options at $18,399 and two-tone for $18,499.

Free Insurance Quote

Enter your ZIP code below to get a free insurance quote.

Harley-Davidson Dealer Price Quote

Get price quotes for Harley-Davidson from local motorcycle dealers.

Harley-Davidson Communities

  • Larry Kahn

    The lights have a bit of Art Deco thing going on. That’s retro. If a bit foo-foo.

    • spiff

      Harley needs to learn how to LED. Their headlights could be improved.

      • Sayyed Bashir

        Are you going to teach them?

        • spiff

          All they need to do is ask. 🙂

          • Sayyed Bashir

            Harley is the only major motorcycle manufacturer that has introduced LED lighting throughout their entire lineup. On the freeway you can recognize the Harleys by their LED headlights. Their headlights are OK but the turn signals on this model could have used some of your guidance.

          • spiff

            I think they should have gone more traditional with the headlight. Looks like a gamer designed it.

          • TheMarvelous1310

            Gamers like Harleys too!

  • Sayyed Bashir

    Wow! That’s the highest score any motorcycle on MO has ever achieved: 821.75%

    • JMDGT

      It only scored 50.75% with non Harley devotees. Krishna Hare Krishna.

    • Evans Brasfield

      Funny! Thanks for pointing out my typo. It has been fixed.

  • Jon Jones

    18K for a 2018 motorbike that still has tube-type wheels?

    • DickRuble

      They’re stuck in 1918.

      • Jon Jones

        I don’t get it. Tubeless spoked wheels have been around for YEARS. A huge bike with tubed-wheels is pretty much uncontrollable when a puncture occurs and the tire rapidly deflates.

        I was surprised that the Africa Twin is equipped with tubed-wheels.

        • DickRuble

          For off road tubed wheels are necessary. A slightly bent rim on tubeless will strand you in the middle of nowhere, as your tires won’t hold air. Just slight flex from hard riding would be enough to lose tire pressure.

          • Sayyed Bashir

            I am surprised all the KTM Adventures have tubeless tires.

          • DickRuble

            Between your home and Starbucks, you probably don’t do many triples, quads, and dragon backs. As long as you’re within cell phone range of a rescue van, the convenience of tubeless outweighs the risk of being marooned in the desert. Africa Twin is for serious business.

          • Sayyed Bashir

            Just did a 50 mile roundtrip on a gnarly rocky fire road at 6500 ft elevation. No cell phone. KTM should know a thing or two about making dirt bikes (having won the Dakar for the last 16 years and won every off-road competition known to man). Normally you don’t even have to take the tire off the bike. Just carry a tire plugger kit. Worst comes to worst, carry a 21″ tube that can fit both the front and rear tires. No big deal.

          • Max Wellian

            Check their Dakar bikes and see if they used tubeless.

        • spiff

          All that is needed is some silicone, and that emergency radiator repair “tape” you get at truck stops.

        • Max Wellian

          Ever had a tubeless tire blow out? The handling ain’t so grand on them either.

          • Jon Jones

            Have not.

            And I’ll still take tubeless any day.

          • Max Wellian

            I once sung the same song, but I bought a Thruxton last year. Now I actually kinda dig the tubes. I can use them over and over and save on Ride On. And spoke wheels are kewl.
            If I should puncture a tire, it’s a lot cheaper to simply change the tube.
            If I still did a lot of long distance riding, I’d prefer the tubeless too though.

          • Jon Jones

            A Thruxton! Lucky you!

      • spiff

        Nah, post ww2, just before Korea.

    • BDan75

      I don’t think Harley’s alone in this. BMW R9T comes to mind.

    • TheMarvelous1310

      I didn’t see you saying anything about any other bikes with tube tires(which are easily resold or traded, by the way, and still easier to change a flat on than tubeless), like the BMW RNineT or the Honda CB1100 or the Triumph T120. Hell, you liked most of those! What’s the difference, other than the bike they’re attached to… Guess you can’t make the normal ‘oh shoddy quality, outdated technology, blah blah blah’ comments now that Harley’s updated the engine and frame, huh? But you still can’t admit the brand you spend so much effort and built a piece of your identity around disparaging actually did something good, so here you are, grasping at straws.

      How about from now on, you just post I DON’T LIKE HARLEY-DAVIDSON MOTORCYCLES!!!! in every Harley review comment section, instead of wasting everybody’s time and data to load and read a criticism with no merit that you’re only making because you have a problem with one specific brand that does something every other brand does.

      Hater.

      • Jon Jones

        U mad?

  • schizuki

    Hopefully the new mill isn’t the grenade the Twinkie is.

    • Buzz

      Is that why you ride your Sporty sidesaddle? Protecting your twigs and berries?

      • schizuki

        I’m gelded. Ain’t nothing getting blown off that’s any use.

  • Starmag

    A cynic would say you carefully avoided mentioning specific wheel travel in inches. Not me though. That would be cynical.

    • Sayyed Bashir

      Real Harley riders don’t care about wheel travel.

      • DickRuble

        Agreed. They don’t know what wheel travel is.

  • V8-Snail

    Need dual disk front brake, it’s almost 700lbs beast + your own weight for heaven sake.

    • Sayyed Bashir

      Are you taking it to track day? Most Harley riders don’t ride at break-neck speed. My Softail is 700 lbs with a single front disk. You use both the front and rear brake if you are a good rider.

      • V8-Snail

        Ohhhh dammm…I am not a good rider then. I rode at fast clip all the time, even on Ultra Limited, on the downhill California mountain roads I roasted the double front on the bottom of the hills. The bagger is not that much heavier that Softail. Stop having this condescending attitude, I am too old for this kind of insult. And BS what you said about rear brake, good rider only drag the rear brake to get a tighter line on corner or to get the heavy bike to turn in tight at slow speed by slipping the clutch and drag the rear. The ABS system allowed you to use more of the rear brake, without it you have to use less of it or lock it up.

        • Sayyed Bashir

          If you owned a Harley, you should know what Harley riders like. They like to show off their bike which includes the front wheel, not covered by an ugly large brake disc and calipers. As I said, experienced riders use both front and rear brakes, front more and rear less. Especially this bike doesn’t need two front brakes because it is a classic. They have two front brakes on the bikes that are more modern and designed for performance.

          • V8-Snail

            All the HD bagger fitted with dual?

          • Sayyed Bashir

            Yes.

        • Goose

          You are riding a Harley like a sport bike. Cruisers carry much more weight on the rear tire and have a longer wheelbase. If you don’t use the rear brake hard you aren’t stopping the bike efficiently. It’s physics, not opinion. FWIW, I came from sport bikes and road racing, it was tough breaking the habit of using little or no rear brake.
          BTW, the Deluxe is well over 200, maybe even 250, pounds lighter than a late model Ultra Limited. Under 700 Lb Vs. well over 900 pounds. I wouldn’t call that “not much heavier”.

          • V8-Snail

            You used the rear to reduce the front dive on the bagger, and yes you will lock the rear if you are too aggressive on the rear brake especially with slight slippery surface the best thing installed on these is the ABS.

      • V8-Snail

        Also, what is this defensive attitude of your for any negative comment about Harley Davidson? I owned one and has no issue if somebody critiquing it. Do you own the company stock or something?

        • TheMarvelous1310

          It’s called being a fan.

          • Jon Jones

            Or is it excusing the inexcusable?

          • TheMarvelous1310

            Tucker was inexcuseable. Edsel was inexcusable. Inexcusable goes bankrupt fairly quickly, it doesn’t profit for hundreds of years over companies supposedly selling better models. Seems to me like your assertion is provably false.

            Yo man, we get it, you don’t like Harley-Davidsons. We can all see you not liking Harley-Davidsons. When you die we’ll say Here Lies Jon, who HATED Harley-Davidsons!, because that’s all you ever talk about. Relax about it.

          • Jon Jones

            OK! Sounds good.

            Actually hope to pick up a clean used one in the near future.

          • Sayyed Bashir

            He likes them. Just doesn’t like paying full retail for them.

      • QuestionMark666

        I rode a Heritage Classic, 2015, for about a year and the primary reason I went to the BMW RT is the braking. The power and low cost of operation are added benefits

        • Sayyed Bashir

          I am glad at least you got to try it. Most people here commenting about them have never owned one. All the touring bikes have dual front brakes plus ABS.

      • Douglas

        Yeah, but most don’t (too sissy metric-like) ergo, must not be good riders. Basic understanding of physics & geometry seems to escape the big cruiser crowd (mostly H-D but some others too) when it comes to braking and riding position. Image (whatever that is perceived to be) overrides all, or as Billy Crystal once said in one of his poking-fun-at-Hollywood skits, “Nothin’ matters ‘cept HOW YOU LOOK!”….

        I have absolutely nothing against Harleys (except riding position on a lot of their bikes), and this one is really sharp…..except for those wide whitewalls….bleech!

        Ok, I’m done.

    • Douglas

      But then they’d hafta get rid of that baby moon hubcap lookin’ thing on the other side, which is apparently a kind of tradition…quien sabe?

  • SerSamsquamsh

    With the super tight tolerances it looks suspiciously like a … metric bike? The glossiest most expensive metric bike ever.

    The light bar is cool. I want that for my VFR.

    • 12er

      Without the Oil Tank it sure does look like a Metric. The nonstamped tank looks out of place ironically. Fenders are squared off and tank is rounded, what kind of faux metric is this? lol

  • Mad4TheCrest

    Enthusiastic about 28 degrees of lean? You write like it’s a miraclous transformation or something. Those floorboards better give easily and still provide warning before hard parts ground, or just keep these away from Angeles Crest if their riders are jazzed about the ‘handling’. Seriously, please do.

    Looks nice though

    • TheMarvelous1310

      Most of the people that ride Harleys don’t gun the corners like a sportbike rider does…you gotta realize that in America, most roads are straight and wide, with strict speed limits and dedicated officers enforcing them. So as long as the bike can corner comfortably at legal speeds, it’s doing well. Sportbikes are for sport riding, cruisers are for cruising.

      • Mad4TheCrest

        I know about straight roads – I’ve been to Nebraska … even Kansas. The article featured the reviewer taking the bike ‘floorboard to floorboard’ on a twisty road and lauded it’s increased lean. Made it sound like a Harley that can rail, but 28 degrees will get you in trouble if you get carried away (or believe the misleading hype in this review).

        • Evans Brasfield

          Hype? The introduction took place on the Crest, and we rode all the way to Big Bear and back. No, the Deluxe isn’t a sport bike, and it shouldn’t be ridden like one. That’s a tool for a different job. None of this changes the fact that the Deluxe has more ground clearance, handles better, and is much more fun to ride on a winding road than the previous generation.

          • Mad4TheCrest

            Evans, the hype of which I speak is the claim that what, 1.5 degrees, more lean makes this cruiser Crest-capable. I’ve seen too many cruisers fail to make turns on the Crest, one just a few weeks ago whose blown corner put them head on to me in my lane. (Luckily we both dodged in the correct directions). Please do NOT give anyone the idea that a cruiser with less than 30 degrees of lean angle could be hustled along the Crest. I want to live!

        • TheMarvelous1310

          It’s enough for the application, nobody’s buying a Deluxe to scrape knees. Or even boards.

          • Mad4TheCrest

            You’ve missed my point – I never said anything about anyone buying a Deluxe to ‘scrape knees’ or anything close; my point was the article positioned the Deluxe as being superior to previous HD’s in twisty road handling (featuring my stomping ground of Angeles Crest), when there is ONLY a 1.5 degrees of extra lean. And the article said ‘floorboard to floorboard’ (read it again if you missed it). Its simply misleading to paint the Deluxe as some sort of mountain-conquering cruiser when its statistically only minimally better than its predecessor.

          • TheMarvelous1310

            Do you seriously think lean angle is all there is to handling? The fact that the new Softail is 30 pounds lighter and 60 percent stiffer, so it leans in more easily and tracks more steadily than previous Harley-Davidsons, and that means a lot if you’ve ever ridden an old Road King with center wobble whenever you got close to its 32 degrees of lean. It’s not just the capability, it’s the platform’s willingness to utilize ALL of it.

          • Mad4TheCrest

            A more capable chassis that feels more ‘willing’ is a good way for a rider to be encouraged to go too fast for the lean angle available. This has been a recurring theme in reviews of good-handling cruisers for quite a while. I remember this as a big topic of discussion when Triumph first released their Thunderbird 1600cc twin cruiser. I also seem to recall this being discussed with regard the Moto Guzzi 1400 series.

            Sometimes a chassis that inspires caution rather than pressing harder is a good thing 🙂

          • Evans Brasfield

            Perhaps you should go read the article about the design goals of the Softail line. The real world lean angle is improved more than 1.5 degrees. Here’s a quote:

            “While the lean-angle specifications reflect the fruits of their labors, the engineers and the PR folks all insist that the SAE numbers don’t truly reflect the increases they were able to achieve in real-world scenarios. The SAE standard for measuring motorcycle lean angle requires that both the front and rear suspension be compressed 75% prior to taking the measurement. The real world instances in which this set of conditions would occur are relatively rare, compared to other cornering scenarios. So, the real world increases in cornering clearance are more pronounced than the numbers would reflect.”

            Also, you appear to have a pretty inflexible opinion for someone who has not ridden the motorcycle in question. Whereas, my statements, as someone who has actually ridden the bike on two separate occasions, are accused of passing on hype.

          • Mad4TheCrest

            Evans – <30 degrees is still less than 30 degrees, no matter how you cushion the news with supposed suspension compression (or un-compression, I guess). And neither you nor Marv1310 seem to understand my objection, which is that I disagree with touting any cruiser as a bike capable of riding the Crest (or any other similar twisty road) at anything more than a measured, sedate pace. The new Deluxe may be better than the old, but it would be marginal in the big scheme of things at best. I've ridden the Crest every week on average for the past 16 years, and I've seen my share of people tossing it down the road (or off the cliff). When the crashes have been cruisers, almost invariably lean angle (or lack of) was a principal factor.

            And if I may suggest, you seem a little over-invested in this article and sensitive to criticism. Why? If you can't manage criticism with good humor you probably should let Burns handle the comments section.

          • Evans Brasfield

            Let me know when you’ve actually ridden the bike in question. (Bonus points will be given for riding the previous generation, too.) Until then, your comments are nothing but conjecture.

            Have a nice evening.

          • Mad4TheCrest

            Context is everything, and this blurb from a previous article provides the POV I found missing from this current article. It is very true that every improvement to lean adds safety on curvy roads, but the earlier part of your statement is more to the point, “…They’re still cruisers with all the limitations associated with the feet-forward riding position – and cruiser riders don’t go around constantly scraping floorboards…” << This qualification was missing from the current article and that is exactly the point I was trying (and apparently failing) to make to you and Marv …

          • Douglas

            Well, how steep do YOU think the angle should be, to meet your standards for a CRUISER?…Enquiring minds want to know….

          • Mad4TheCrest

            If a rider wants to ‘hustle’ floorboard to floorboard over a dangerous road like Angeles Crest (as featured in the review), I would first recommend something other than a cruiser, but if feet-forward and low low seat height is your thang, then I’d suggest a Ducati XDiavel or anything with similar lean capability. Approaching 35 or more degrees will ensure the gotchas come fewer and further between. You’ll scrape but you will be less likely to touch down hard parts and lever your tires (and you) off the road. More room for fun with less risk of getting it wrong.

  • Goose

    Evans, the M-E couldn’t gain a wet sump. Unless Harley did a complete, clean sheet of paper redesign the Softail version, like the single counter balancer version in the FL and the Twin Cam before, is a dry sump design. The oil tank just moved from under the seat to under/ behind the transmission.
    Sorry, I gotta be me, Goose the pedantic man.

  • Buzz

    He local stealer is having a new model party this weekend.

    I’m gonna ride the Guzzi and park it right in front

  • Auphliam

    Yinz MOrons need to get your hands on a new Low Rider.
    Many HD aficionados aren’t interested in whether or not old Softails are now better Softails. They want to know if the NEW Softails are better Dynas.

  • Steve McLaughlin

    Finally the HD they should have made 10 years ago with everyone else. I’ll consider one again (I have owned 4 HDs) when it gets better than my new Indian. Until then Indian still rocks.

  • TheMarvelous1310

    I really would like one of these, which surprised me. I always leaned more towards the more grungy, bobbed and blacked out end of the spectrum, but something about the abundance of swag with all that newfound capability… I would really, really like to have one of these!

    But I wouldn’t do that to a nice bike like the Deluxe-I’m young, I ride hard and I’m rough on my stuff, so I think I’ll stick with the Street Bob I can almost afford… And maybe see if I can add a springer fork and a 114, make myself a new-age Bad Boy! http://moto.zombdrive.com/images/harleydavidson-bad-boy-1997-1.jpg

  • rick

    What I find unforgiveable is the lack of a passenger seat.

  • halfkidding

    That blue thing is about the ugliest motorcycle I have ever seen. I wish you would get it off the top of your page. The cream & whatever looks pretty good.