2018 Harley-Davidson Softail and Touring motorcycles alter their ride and look

To celebrate its 115th anniversary, Harley-Davidson threw away the incremental annual model update rule book. Dramatically altering the heart of its lineup, the 2018 Harley-Davidson Softail and Touring motorcycles changed the most.

“The new Softail models are the result of the most extensive research and development program in the company’s history,” Harley-Davidson product portfolio manager Paul James said in a statement. “Thousands of hours of research and testing were put into the complete ground-up design of these new cruisers.”

Dave Foley, the Harley-Davidson vice president of product planning and portfolio management, is no less enthusiastic about the 2018 Touring lineup. “Our new Touring motorcycles will be some of our most sought-after bikes in 2018,” Foley said. “For CVO, we’ve rebooted the styling tone of the overall lineup and added some exclusive performance enhancements. And our two new custom baggers are the most aggressive, on-trend Touring bikes in the market.”

We will break out the differentiating details between the eight Softail models and five Touring bikes in our upcoming 2018 Harley-Davidson lineup but here are the highlights of the major changes in the lines.

Eight new Harley-Davidson Softails

Harley calls the eight new Softails the biggest launch in the company’s history. The 2018 Fat Boy, Heritage Classic, Low Rider, Softail Slim, Deluxe, Breakout, Fat Bob, and Street Bob are all in the Softail line. Previously the Low Rider, Fat Bob, and Street Bob were in the Dyna lineup, which is no more. Harley merged what it saw as the best features of the Dyna and Softail lines.

The 2018 Softails have a new chassis, new suspension, new powertrains, and new styling that blends heritage-based features with newer technology. Harley positions the Softails, each with its own distinctive look, as diverse bases to which customers can add their own personalization.

The Softail chassis is at once lighter and more rigid for 2018. It looks like a (hard-riding) hard tail, but the adjustable hidden mono-shock rear suspension is optimized for both comfort and performance. The new frame and swingarms are significantly stiffer than the 2017 model equivalent components with fewer component parts, less weight, and improved lean angles and response.

The new Softail front suspensions are dual-bending value components that are also supposed to improve performance and rider comfort. The net result of the new chassis and suspensions are up to 35 pounds less weight which translates to better acceleration, braking, and cornering. Harley claims these are the marque’s best handling cruisers.

The 2018 Softails are powered by the Milwaukee-Eight 107 and 114 engines introduced in the 2017 model year. All Softail now have the 107-cubic inch, 1,746cc engine standard. The Fat Bob 114, Fat Boy 114, Breakout 114, and Heritage Classic 114 have the 114-cubic inch/1,868cc 114 engine as an option.

Five new Harley-Davidson Touring bikes

Harley’s new top-of-the line touring motorcycles for 2018 include the Street Glide Special, Road Glide Special, CVO Limited, CVO Street Glide, and CVO Road Glide.

The three CVO (Custom Vehicle Operations) bikes are factory-custom-configured limited editions and this year each comes with a new 117-cubic inch (1,923cc) Milwaukee-Eight engine rated at up to 124 pound-feet of torque. Also new for 2018 the CVO models have standard integrated Bluetooth communications and headsets.

The most noticeable change to the 2018 Street Glide Special and Road Glide Special models is the switch from chrome to black components and trim. As Harley-Davidson continues to add performance, style, and comfort to its touring motorcycles, the switch to black is an “on-trend custom styling statement that is sinister in design and dark in its finishes,” the company says in a release.

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