2012 Honda Gold Wing Unveiled

Are updates to the Wing too few, or just enough?


Today Honda unveiled the updated 2012 Gold Wing as a new model available in May 2011.

Although Honda doesn’t list a 2011 model for the Wing, we won’t discount the year-long lapse between 2010 and 2012 (even though Honda does) against what otherwise marks the 37th year since the Wing was set free upon the roads, way back in ’75.

We’re sure the new GW upholds classic Wing characteristics – like a stable yet responsive chassis, smooth, linear engine power, and Barcalounger-like comfort – that have made this Honda a favorite among the touring set. Yet this latest iteration of the Wing is well within the previous model’s shadow.

2012 Honda Gold Wing

The few significant revisions the ’12 does see are devoted largely to the rider environment and styling, leaving the 1832cc, horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine untouched, with the chassis mostly following suit.

What’s new for the GW?

Revised styling is seen in the reshaped taillight, and the main fairing is slightly sportier looking with new dual vents just above the dual headlights.

A new, sleeker side fairing/radiator panel in a silvery finish creates a two-tone color scheme on the four available colors (blue, black, red and white). The restyled panel also wears a new Honda emblem that looks identical to one found on the CBR1000RR. Honda says the revised fairing improves wind protection, specifically to the lower body/legs area.

2012 Honda Gold Wing

The new Wing wears a somewhat sharper, cleaner look; and we usually welcome a freshened up face. But in light of the revisions to the fairing and styling – not to mention the year off between models! – we have to ask Honda, “Why no electronically adjustable windshield?”

To this day, the Gold Wing remains one of the few big tourers without a pushbutton adjustment for the windscreen. Honda’s own, long-running ST1300 has it. Why not the mighty Wing?

Saddlebag capacity is up 7.0 liters, boosting total storage – including trunk and fairing pockets – to 150.0 liters. Non-airbag models also get a central storage pocket, presumably where the airbag would otherwise reside on so-equipped models. Finish on the seat material is updated, and the wheels are now clear-coated to ease clean up and to help maintain a like-new look.

2012 Honda Gold WingThe Honda Satellite Linked Navigation System (available on some GW models) has a brighter color screen, and offers “programmability for sharing favorite ride routes with friends and other riders,” which can be accessed online according to Honda.

The Wing’s primo sound system (on all models), featuring SRS CS Auto technology surround-sound, now readily accepts MP3 players and allows for full control over the player via controllers on the handlebar switchgear. XM radio remains an available option on the Navi package model. Honda says instrumentation is also updated on all Wings.

Other notable changes on the 2012 GW are “revised suspension settings,” that make for a more compliant ride leading to increased comfort, so say Honda press materials.

Though Honda doesn’t elaborate on specific changes to suspension, a quick peek at specs for the 2012 model reveals that, while rear suspension travel of 4.1 inches remains unchanged from the previous model, the new Wing sees a decrease of 0.7 inches from the 2009-10 model’s 5.5 inches of travel in the 45mm fork.

The new GW has also gained a few.

Claimed curb weight for the 2012 model is 904 – 933 pounds (depending on the trim level), where the most recent Wing’s curb weight was 895 – 928 pounds.

2012 Honda Gold Wing

Fuel capacity seems to have increased from 6.6 gallons to 6.7 gallons. However, it wouldn’t surprise us if this nominal increase in fuel capacity were merely an oversight in the specs. We’ve encountered bigger typos on other OEM websites and materials. But, hey, if one-tenth of a gallon means the difference between refueling and walking, we’ll take it!

Sizing up the new Wing

As Honda’s flagship model, the Gold Wing has arguably been an iconic leader in the touring motorcycle segment. For decades the big GW has set standards for the potential of chassis and engine performance in full-decked touring rigs.

Nevertheless, it’s a little disappointing the Gold Wing lacks innovation in 2012, receiving only cursory updates after so many years of relatively little change. This doesn’t bode too well in the face BMW’s soon coming all-new K1600GT and GTL.

These full-fledged Beemer tourers offer a host of amenities, too, not the least of which is the familiar-by-now and useful pushbutton suspension, aka ESA II. The K bike’s new, optional “Adaptive Headlight” also sounds trick, and joins a number of other practical options like traction control and Bluetooth capability, to name a few hi-tech things, while selectable ride modes is a standard feature.

2012 Honda Gold Wing

Furthermore, if you’re a bit of a gearhead, note that BMW claims 160 peak crank horsepower at 7750 and 129 ft-lb at 5250 rpm for the new K bike, as Mr. Duke informed us from the bikes’ unveiling at Leno’s place. The Gold Wing’s flat-six, while reasonably powerful, has a lot of catching up to do.

The last time we tested a Wing – 2009 Luxury Touring Shootout – the Honda spun the dyno for a best result of 96 hp at 5600 rpm and 103 ft-lbs at 4200 rpm. Factor out the average power loss for a shaft final-drive and the BMW still dusts the Wing with what we’d estimate as 136 – 140 rear wheel horsepower for the K16.

The torque span, at an estimated 113 – 110 ft-lbs, is a little less dramatic when compared to the Honda. The BMWs also weigh somewhere in the neighborhood of 135 pounds fewer than the GW.

Perhaps a lower MSRP is an equalizer for the Gold Wing? Nope. Doesn’t look that way.

Honda has 2012 Gold Wing pricing currently set at $23,199 to $28,499 depending on the options package – a marginal increase of $300 to $600 from 2010 pricing.

BMW recently announced U.S. pricing for the K1600GT, available in three package levels, at $20,900 to $24,540. The more luxurious K1600GTL is set to ring in at $23,200 for the base version, and $25,845 for the Premium model.

2012 Honda Gold Wing

The Gold Wing hasn’t seen a ground-up redo in quite a while. Considering updates to the 2012 model amount to a skosh more than BNG (“bold new graphics”), we’re left to wonder how much longer we’ll have to wait until the Gold Wing is again the standard bearer for touring motorcycles. 

Related Reading
2009 Luxury Touring Shootout
2012 BMW K1600GT and GTL Six-cylinder Unveiled
2006 Honda Gold Wing Review
On Golden Wings – 2005 Gold Wing Review
All Things Honda on Motorcycle.com
All Things Touring on Motorcycle.com

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