2018 Harley-Davidson CVO Street Glide Review - First Ride

Evans Brasfield
by Evans Brasfield

Higher displacement and more watts-per-channel

In all the hoorah over the new Softail line, many riders may have missed the announcement of the Harley-Davidson touring lineup for 2018. Although there weren’t many changes to the standard touring models which had a major revamp last year, the CVO (Custom Vehicle Operations) models, which always have to stay a couple steps ahead of the lesser machinery, did receive a few alterations for the upcoming model year. Fortunately, we got our hands on a 2018 Harley-Davidson CVO Street Glide to see how those changes – though largely cosmetic (with two notable exceptions) – shake out.

2018 Harley-Davidson CVO Street Glide

Editor Score: 86.25%
Engine 19.25/20
Suspension/Handling 12.0/15
Transmission/Clutch 9.25/10
Brakes 9.0/10
Ergonomics/Comfort 8.25/10
Appearance/Quality 9.5/10
Desirability 9.0/10
Value 5.5/10
Overall Score86.25/100

2017 Harley-Davidson Street Glide First Ride Review

2017 Harley-Davidson CVO Street Glide First Ride Review

The biggest change to the CVO Street Glide comes in the form of bigger pistons. Last year, when the engine displaced a mere 114 cu. in. (1868cc) the piston bore was 101.6mm (4.0 in.) in diameter. While the stroke has remained the same 114.3mm, the bore has grown to 103.6mm (4.1 in) in diameter for a new displacement of 1917cc – a 49cc bump. While that may not sound huge, it’s big enough to be the largest production engine ever available from Harley-Davidson. Although the engine displacement grew, a surprising feature was taken away. This year’s CVO Street Glide is oil-cooled as opposed to liquid-cooled. The Twin-Cooled radiators that lived in the CVO SG’s lowers have been removed to make way for the second addition to the 2018 CVO.

The Milwaukee-Eight 117 announces itself on the air cleaner, letting everyone know that this is a big engine. Note the engine’s many finishes: crinkle, gloss black, chrome, and the Smoked Satin Chrome translucent heat resistant coating of the headers.

The 6.5 Boom! Box Infotainment System gained an additional set of Stage II speakers – this time in the lowers, taking up some of the space that the radiators formerly used. New speakers aren’t all that’s new about the Boom! system. The twin amplifiers now feature 900 total watts of power to pump out a total of 75 watts per channel. We know plenty of people whose home theater systems don’t put out as much power. And, according to Harley-Davidson, attention-grabbing is what the CVO Street Glide owner is all about. So, expect CVO Street Glide owners to ride with their sound systems loud and proud. However, for riders who want to communicate with passengers and other riders or take phone calls, all of the 2018 CVO models will ship with a Harley-specific accessory Bluetooth helmet communicator based on the Sena 20S EVO. (Additional headsets are available as an option.)

Fans of loud music will love the addition of the speakers in the CVO Street Glide’s lowers. Harley says the loss of the Twin-Cooled radiators will not affect either rider comfort or engine performance.

One place where the CVO Street Glide isn’t as loud as last year, though, is in the selection of paint schemes. Harley’s designers have taken on a more subdued selection of tones for 2018. The Dark Alloy and Black Denim color of our test unit plays with different amounts of reflectiveness. The glossy pearl section of the paint contrasts with the matte finish of the black denim and the deep orange striping. While the difference between the gloss paint is so stark that the matte looks like it must be a sticker, it is actually paint. The deep orange is carried over onto stripes across the engine’s heads.

The CVO Street Glide has an engine cut-out that kicks in around 115 mph. Because the cutout is a soft limit, the dip in the horsepower curve is most likely not the peak that the engine is capable of achieving.

Continuing with the interaction of colors and surface treatments, the exhaust pipes and fork sliders wear a translucent tint Harley calls Smoked Satin Chrome that accents the glossy black engine pieces. According to Harley, the metal treatment on the pipes is based on a hardening technique used in jet engine parts, and consequently, they should not change their color over time. Very cool.

The floorboards and the heel/toe shifter are just two of the included accessory items on the CVO Street Glide.

The Milwaukee-Eight 117 is both a beast and a pussycat. Around town, other than the hefty clutch pull (despite the torque-assist clutch), the engine is easy to manage. EFI is just about perfect. The slight hitch in low-rpm fueling affecting the 2017 CVO with the 114 engine has been minimized to the point that it is merely a footnote. The transmission shifts smoothly – both short shifting while trolling along on the torque curve and when bellowing through a series of high-rpm clutchless upshifts. Beware, though, the engine has a sweet spot at around 3,200 rpm which translates to 90 mph in sixth gear – at which point the CVO Street Glide is effortlessly galloping along with only a slight V-Twin thrum reaching the grips and floorboards. When there is no traffic around to give reference to the CVO SG’s speed, you can easily find yourself cruising unawares at impound-your-vehicle speeds. We can only hope the cop is sympathetic when the inevitable happens on this bike.

The 19-inch Turbine front wheel features a cool H-D badge. The fork lowers receive the same Smoked Satin Chrome treatment as the exhaust.

Since the suspension hasn’t changed since the major upgrades last year (read about it here), you shouldn’t be surprised that the handling is identical. The Street Glide’s ride is supple but not soft. The bike floats over minor road imperfections yet remains firm enough to give the rider feedback. Larger hits deflect the washers in the dual bending valve fork and are largely absorbed without transmitting the force to the rider. The shock handles those big hits better than before last year’s upgrade, but it still bottoms on occasion.

The passenger pillion is easily removed with a knurled knob. The bags and the fork lock remotely with the included key fob.

Out on the open road, the CVO’s massive sound system is more than enough to overpower highway noise while cruising along at 80 mph. While some people will enjoy riding into that wall of sound, others may find it tiring over an extended ride to have the volume that high. When the ride comes to an end and the gang gathers in a parking lot, the stereo sounds good enough to use as the party sound system. With a choice of XM radio, Bluetooth audio connection, and a USB port, the options for supplying the tunes are nearly endless.

For 2018, all CVO models receive three unique color treatments that cover more than just paint.

According to Harley, being the center of attention is exactly what CVO buyers want. They also want all of the exclusivity of owning a custom bike without the difficulties and delays of building one. This year, by offering three different designs for each CVO model, the Motor Company has increased the desirability of each design because they will each be produced in limited numbers.

Of course, that uncommonness comes at a cost. In the case of the CVO Street Glide, the MSRP is a whopping $39,949. Only the buyer can decide if the biggest production engine that Harley manufactures, a 900-watt stereo, a rare paint scheme, and a boatload of accessory parts – all covered by the factory warranty – are worth it. Based on past sales, plenty of people do. If you are so inclined, you might want to get your deposits in early to assure you receive the color you want.

Other than the pillion (which is easy to pop on/off), do you notice anything missing? Yep, the floppy rear antenna is gone for 2018.

2018 Harley-Davidson CVO Street Glide

+ Highs

  • A gift from the torque gods
  • Massive audio
  • Cool new metal treatments on exhaust and fork sliders

– Sighs

  • Right-side engine heat in slow-moving traffic
  • A highway speeding ticket looking for a place to happen
  • Costs as much as the down payment on a house

2018 Harley-Davidson CVO Street Glide Specifications

Engine TypeAir-cooled, 45° V-Twin, Milwaukee-Eight 117
Displacement117ci (1917cc)
Bore and Stroke103.6mm x 114.3mm
Fuel SystemElectronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
Compression Ratio10.2:1
Peak hp93.7 (incomplete test; limited @ 115 mph)
Peak Torque110.4 lb-ft
Final DriveBelt
Front Suspension49mm conventional fork
Rear SuspensionDual emulsion-style shocks, hydraulically adjustable preload on left shock.
Front BrakeDual 320mm, four-piston calipers, ABS
Rear Brake320mm, four-piston caliper, ABS
Front Tire130/60B19 61H
Rear Tire180/55B18 80H
Rake/Trail26° / 6.7 in.
Wheelbase64.0 in.
Seat Height27.4 in.
Measured Weight880 lb.
Fuel Capacity6 gallons
Available ColorsDark Alloy & Black Denim, Orange Lava & Black Denim, Gunship Gray
Warranty24 months
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.

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4 of 39 comments
  • LookinKool LookinKool on Sep 11, 2017

    I've owned a few Electra Glides. (that's what these all are really) Liked them for what they are, but this $40K big-deal-about-the-stereo makes me feel sad for mankind. Gross in a 1%er kind of way. (not outlaw biker 1%)

    • Sayyed Bashir Sayyed Bashir on Sep 12, 2017

      What do you think about Lamborghinis, Rolls Royces and Rolexes? Gross or sad? If someone has the money, they always want the top of the line and $40K is not a big deal. A Tesla costs $70K and won't pay back its price in fuel savings even if you drove it for 70 years.

  • Bubba Blue Bubba Blue on Sep 11, 2017

    I had a 2005 Vulcan 2000 with a 125 cu." engine. That doesn't impress me that much. Also, i deplore sound systems on motorcycles. Fiddling with a stereo is an accident waiting to happen, plus the wind blows all the bass away. I don't even like the TV.LCD screens on Harley Motorcycles these days. I'd much prefer analogue gauges of clocks, compasses and altimeters. You can bluetooth sound straight into your helmet - assuming you're wearing a helmet.

    I wear earplugs. I love Harleys though.

    • Sayyed Bashir Sayyed Bashir on Sep 12, 2017

      You are not fiddling with the stereo since the music is coming from your phone. The controls are on the left handle bar. While riding on the freeway long distances there is not much else to do. You can hear the stereo clearly at full speed, especially with a 300W, 600W or 900W system, if you have a good fairing which Harleys do. Most bikers wear a half helmet so they can easily hear the stereo, and most of the time they are not going too fast. So it all works good.