We convened in Minneapolis, MN (interesting choice) as Harley-Davidson introduced its 2019 touring line. I had the chance to spend two days swapping between models as we po-ta-toe, po-ta-toed our way from that other cruiser brand’s hometown to Harley-Davidson’s 115th-anniversary celebration in Milwaukee, joining thousands of die-hard H-D enthusiasts from all over the globe.
Harley-Davidson’s 2019 Touring line didn’t get an absolute overhaul like the Softail line in 2018, but it did receive some choice upgrades in terms of revised tech and user interface and, most importantly for some, the Milwaukee-Eight 114 cubic inch (1868cc) engine is now factory-fitted into most of the touring lineup.
Aside from the exclusive CVO line of Harley-Davidson’s, the Milwaukee-Eight 114 cu in engine is the largest power plant available in the Motor Co.’s lineup. The M-8 114 engine is an absolute torque monster. It’s a fantastic engine around town whether you’re goosing it off the line or riding with fully loaded luggage and a passenger. The dual-counterbalancers keep vibrations at a minimum leaving just enough to be sure you don’t forget about the iconic engine between your legs.
Harley claims a pavement wrinkling 123 lb-ft of torque out of the 114 (at the crank), though when we ran the 2018 Fat Bob with the same engine on the dyno, the big V-Twin was pumping out 82.3 horsepower and 103.9 lb-ft of torque to the wheel. Respectable numbers, particularly when all of that torque is available under 3,100 rpm. Despite having big 102mm pancake pistons to move over a 114mm stroke, H-D’s EFI tuning is incredibly smooth on the M-8 engines. Dare I say I wished for louder pipes? Not to save lives, but because the exhaust note emanating from the big M-8 is positively symphonious.
For 2019, the Ultra Limited, Ultra Limited Low, Road Glide Ultra, Road Glide Special, Street Glide Special, and Road King Special will all receive the Milwaukee-Eight 114 engine.
The Motor Co.’s Boom! Box GTS Infotainment system has been given substantial updates to not only the software, but to the hardware as well. Corning Gorilla Glass, found on all sorts of devices the world over, is now used on the 6.5-inch full-color TFT display.
The Corning Gorilla glass offers a premium feel in line with the other premium materials found on the bike. It also works flawlessly with gloved hands whether wet or dry. I was able to do plenty of wet weather testing and had no “jumping” around which sometimes happens with smartphones. The display has also received a surface treatment to minimize reflection and glare. Again, I had no issues seeing the display in the small amount of bright sun that was had during our testing, and of course, there was no issue in the rain. Harley claims the screen is 100 percent higher resolution and four times higher contrast ratio than the 6.5GT display it replaces.
Software updates come in the way of faster load times for when you gotta jump on your hog and ride. The new system processes faster and has more memory and is more responsive. Start time is said to be reduced from 21 seconds to 10 seconds and route calculation is claimed to be down from 10 seconds to 2.5, though in my experience, it was usually between 3-5 seconds to load a route, still halving the previous amount of time.
The interface works fluidly with gloves on whether swiping, pinching, or dragging, there is little to no lag. Users can also customize the background colors and switch contrast modes for easier viewing. If you would rather keep your hands firmly planted on those thick handlebars Harley outfits their touring models with, that’s just fine. Joysticks on both left and right switchgear can be used to navigate the menu as well.
The navigation directions can be set to fastest, shortest, twisty, and scenic setting to afford you the best ride possible. A nice touch when you don’t have time to plan a route and upload it into the bike, which is another feature that can be done from the Harley-Davidson app (available for iOS and Android). Routes can be uploaded via the USB connection or via Bluetooth through the app. If you need help throwing a route together, are looking for a Harley dealer, or looking to challenge your friends, there are all sorts of interesting facets to H-D’s smartphone app.
During my time using the screen, I had one issue where a bike was unable to find a hotel that the other motorcycles had no issue with and one other instance where the screen locked itself after I finished a call but was acting like I was still on the phone. Little software glitches can be easily fixed with updates. Overall, the entire system works really well.
The Boom! Box GTS Infotainment system comes standard on 2019 Harley-Davidson Ultra Limited, Ultra Limited Low, Road Glide Ultra, Road Glide Special, Street Glide Special, CVO Limited, CVO Street Glide, CVO Road Glide, and Tri Glide Ultra models. Boom! Box GTS is a factory-installed option for Harley-Davidson Street Glide, Road Glide, and Electra Glide Ultra Classic models. If you’re content with the standard Street Glide, Road Glide, Electra Glide, or Ultra Classic, fear not! You can have the Boom! Box GTS Infotainment system as a factory-installed option.
CVO models are for the discerning Harley-Davidson customer, according to The Motor Co.’s marketing department. Discerning folk with great depth of pocket. With the three Custom Vehicle Operations models coming in at $40,889 for the CVO Street Glide, $42,339 for the CVO Road Glide, and the if-you-have-to-ask-price of the CVO Limited rounding out the bunch at $43,889, these beauties appeal to a specific customer.
Now that we’ve got the price thing out of the way, let’s drool over the show-stopping factory finishes and ogle the immense attention to detail that these models receive. Oh, and did I mention: MOAR BIGGER MOTORS! Yes, folks, the CVOs – and CVO models only – receive H-D’s larger-than-life 117 cu in Milwaukee-Eight motor. It’s an exclusive club, but maybe the flashy finishes and extra lb-ft are worth it.
The 117, which was used on 2018 models, can be easily identified by the blaze red band on the rocker boxes, or of course, the 117 on the air cleaner. Running this monster on the dyno last year produced 93.7 horsepower and 110.4 lb-ft of torque. Papa Brasfield has this to say of the 117 after spending time with the 2018 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.”
I wholeheartedly agree.
Of course, if you don’t hear the low rumble of the CVO’s large V-Twin engine, chances are you’ll hear music being blasted out of the four to six speakers found on these guys. Play something fun and loud, there’s no reason to start being coy now.
To my relief (not that my 29-year-old, not-having-44k-to-spend-on-a-motorcycle self is really the target customer here), I am happy to see the plethora of styling choices now available for the CVO line. There are three style choices for each of the three CVO models: a look with a bright powertrain, chrome details, and two-tone paint, a somewhat darker more subtle look with a combination of bright and dark features, and a dark brooding look with extra attitude.
The updated styling, componentry, software, and engines on the 2019 Harley-Davidson touring line help to create a better user experience as a whole. Less time spent waiting on software to load means more riding. Easier user interface means more riding. Intoxicating torque and a low grumbling exhaust note on a bike you can’t take your eyes off of? It makes me want to ride more – and also to take that one last glimpse at the bike as I walk away. I heard it a dozen times during our press ride, “I get it now.” Me, I always got it. Great job, Harley. Now, let’s see how that Magnetic Fade CVO Limited stands up to a few thousand miles of testing. Mama, I’m comin’ home.