2015 Harley-Davidson CVO Softail Deluxe Review

Evans Brasfield
by Evans Brasfield

The ultimate Softail light duty tourer

This week, Harley-Davidson announced its 2015 models, including four CVO – that’s Custom Vehicle Operations to the rest of us – models to carry the banner of the most premium motorcycles the company manufactures. To this rarefied atmosphere, the Motor Company brought three models based on the touring chassis ( CVO Street Glide, CVO Road Glide Ultra, and CVO Limited) and one Softail-based model, the CVO Softail Deluxe. While it is notable that all four models are touring bikes, the Softail is more of a light-duty tourer that can easily be stripped of its windshield and saddlebags to become a boulevard-focused motorcycle.

2015 Harley-Davidson CVO Softail Deluxe

Editor Score: 78.5%
Engine 17.75/20
Suspension/Handling 9.0/15
Transmission/Clutch 8.5/10
Brakes 9.25/10
Ergonomics/Comfort 7.5/10
Appearance/Quality 9.25/10
Desirability 8.25/10
Value 5.0/10
Overall Score78.5/100

2011 Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide Ultra Review

For 2015, Harley has made a significant change to the Softail line by upgrading the front brakes. Where the old system utilized a single 4-piston caliper squeezing a 292mm rotor, the new system has improved every component. First, the disc has been bumped to 300mm. The caliper retains its four pistons, but the pistons are now 32mm and 34mm. Although H-D didn’t give any specifics, this multi-sized arrangement is commonly utilized to give uniform pressure and even pad wear for more consistent braking power. The pistons also received a coating to reduce stiction. At the other end of the hydraulic system, the new master cylinder gains a higher mechanical ratio. Naturally, all the new components were massaged by the design department to make them pretty as well as functional.

Harley says that braking effort is reduced by 40 percent. While it’s difficult to put a percentage on the improvement in braking power per unit of force applied, the subjective improvement in stopping the two Softails sampled at the 2015 model line introduction is readily apparent. What this means to the rider is more than just having more power at his/her disposal when applying the front brake; Softails already had enough power to lock the front wheel. However, by requiring less effort at the lever, the task of modulating the pressure becomes much easier. While the rear brakes remain unchanged for 2015, the entire Softail line receives standard ABS – save the Softail Slim where it remains an option.

The glossiness and depth of the paint feel like a quality custom paint job.

Another across-the-board change for the Softail line is the update of the side stand. Shorter Softail riders felt that the reach was a bit of a stretch. So, Harley redesigned it to be easier to deploy, and all riders, regardless of height, will reap the benefit.

2013 Harley-Davidson CVO Breakout Review

The CVO Softail Deluxe, as do all the CVO models, takes a base model and turns it up to eleven. The rigid mounted Twin Cam 103B engine is replaced with an air-cooled Screamin’ Eagle Twin Cam 110 V-Twin. In addition to the increase of 7 cu. in. of power generation, the engine receives the factory hot rod tuning and accessory performance parts that people associate with the Screamin’ Eagle brand.

The Screamin’ Eagle Twin Cam 110 is only available standard on CVO models.

The Deluxe is positively dripping with chrome from the 9-spoke cast aluminum wheels to the detachable luggage rack and sissy bar. Harley’s accessory Slipstream Collection of bolt-on chrome and rubber goodies includes: narrow grips, shifter pegs, brake pedal pad, footboards, passenger pegs and padded rubber foot pads for the top of the engine guard. Next, a bunch of parts normally associated with the Softail Convertible make the scene in the form of a removable windshield (complete with an integrated Road Tech zumo 660 GPS) and detachable, locking leather-covered saddlebags. The saddle features a removable pillion for those time when solo is the only way to go. A Daymaker LED headlight and fog lamps provide bright white light for improved visibility at night.

The Daymaker LED headlight and fog lights have a crispy white light.

Our short time on the CVO Softail Deluxe proved it to be a typical Softail – with the exception of the beefy 110B engine which gives the bike an attitude that matches its good looks. Despite the increase in displacement, the engine was as smooth as the 103 incher at all engine speeds with hiccup-free fuel metering at all but the lowest rpm. As with all Softails, ground clearance is almost criminally limited, but the upside is you sound like a hero going around corners with the floorboards leaving a trail of sparks along the road behind you – that is until the chassis itself touches down. The short rear suspension travel translates into a harsh ride on bumpy pavement. Still, if you keep the Deluxe within its cornering/handling envelope, the power delivery will put a smile on your face.

Chrome wheels and white walls.

Is the CVO Softail Deluxe worth the $28,999 entry fee? That’s up to the purchaser to decide. Softail fans will be hard pressed to find a better example of the species than the CVO Deluxe. Still, we think that the Motor Company has a good idea of who the ideal customer is: someone who wants an exclusive Harley but doesn’t want to go through all the hassle of having it customized. For that person, the CVO Softail Deluxe will be a perfect fit.

+ Highs

  • Upgraded front brake
  • Screamin’ Eagle Twin Cam 110
  • Easily removable windshield and bags

– Sighs

  • Minimal cornering clearance
  • Stiff rear suspension
  • Expensive
Evans Brasfield
Evans Brasfield

Like most of the best happenings in his life, Evans stumbled into his motojournalism career. While on his way to a planned life in academia, he applied for a job at a motorcycle magazine, thinking he’d get the opportunity to write some freelance articles. Instead, he was offered a full-time job in which he discovered he could actually get paid to ride other people’s motorcycles – and he’s never looked back. Over the 25 years he’s been in the motorcycle industry, Evans has written two books, 101 Sportbike Performance Projects and How to Modify Your Metric Cruiser, and has ridden just about every production motorcycle manufactured. Evans has a deep love of motorcycles and believes they are a force for good in the world.

More by Evans Brasfield

Join the conversation
  • Auphliam Auphliam on Aug 29, 2014

    I wish HD would do a CVO 1200 Sporty along the lines of something Roland Sands might build. Throw a big bore stroker kit in it. Adjustable suspenders fore and aft. Flat tracker bars and nice scrambler style exhaust. They'd sell a boat load of those.

    • SRMark SRMark on Aug 29, 2014

      I'd like one styled after the '71 XLCH, white with big #1 on the (steel) tank. Put all the CVO money into a real honest to God flame thrower engine. Not something a sissy-baby would ride...(same brakes & suspension as the xr1200)

  • Vernon682 Vernon682 on Aug 30, 2014

    This bike looked gorgeous with red and white.