It costs more than a VW Golf but Harley-Davidson's new CVO Electra Glide is the best of its kind.
CVO Electra Glide is possibly the ultimate Harley-Davidson
It may be the most macho of Harley-Davidsons. It is certainly the largest. Some might even call it the ultimate Harley.
At US$37,599 (Dh138,000), it is certainly the most expensive two-wheeler you can buy directly from the company. And thanks to its 110-cubic-inch Screamin' Eagle Big Twin, this Custom Vehicle Operation (CVO) version of the classic Electra Glide has the most powerful motor Harley offers.
Yet the feature that stood out most for me from the 2013 rendition of the Ultra Classic, is that the clutch action has been made lighter. Yes, it may sound a little limp-wristed but I never did understand why all the Harley machismo had to extend to its clutch action.
Harley calls the new mechanism the "Assist & Slip Clutch", claiming that it not only allows limited clutch slippage during downshifts (much as "slipper" clutches do on racing motorcycles), but also reduces the force to hold it in by as much as 17 per cent. It's a welcome advancement.
Everything about the CVO version of Harley's Big Twin has been both improved and civilised. For instance, this year's 110 is boasting 160Nm of stump-pulling torque and yet I'd swear it's a tad quieter than last year's version, though Harley makes no claim of sound attenuation.
And for those Harley purists worrying about the Big Twin's bark being diminished, fret not. Thanks to its freer-flowing intake and exhaust systems, the engine is still all bluff and bluster with the sweetest exhaust music this side of Nascar.
It's also as wonderful an engine as one can find in the 45-degree V-twin format. It offers most of the benefits of aftermarket motors but without their often recalcitrant performance. A CVO Big Twin is as civil as Harley's run-of-the-mill motors, yet has all of the power that HD's traditional noise promises. It's especially appreciated in the heavyweight (430kg) Electra Glide, which, in its earlier, less-costly guises, was woefully underpowered. Yes, it comes at a high price but the 110 Big Twin is an exemplary touring powerplant. It is, by far, superior to all the aftermarket renditions of the classic Harley V-twin.
The rest of the bike is virtually as competent, especially for something that bears a striking resemblance to motorcycles designed a half-century ago. Thanks to the recently redesigned frame and suspension, the Electra Glide's handling and comfort have been vastly improved. The steering is light and you can almost throw the behemoth into corners. No, it can't emulate the back road prowess of a BMW K1600, but, then, the Beemer looks like a science fiction project right out of My Favorite Martian - an anathema to anyone shopping the Harley brand.
Any Harley (especially a CVO edition) is all about pomp and circumstance, and this Ultra Classic Electra Glide has it in spades. Standard on the CVO model is the new Slipstream Collection, with its heated handgrips, special rider floorboard inserts and shifter pegs, brake pedal pad, and passenger footpegs.
There are all-new perforated leather seats, a heated seat with separate controls for rider and passenger and a Zumo 660 Global Positioning System. Most of these accessories are available on Harley's regular models, but, then, you wouldn't have the resale value of the CVO nameplate and the deeply lustrous paint job that is part and parcel of the CVO's primping (there's also an even more expensive 110th anniversary edition with hand-sanded Diamond Dust and Obsidian lacquer that appears to be miles deep).
In the end, that exclusivity is why 3,900 lucky - and well-off - Harley aficionados will plunk down some pretty big money for this special edition Electra Glide. There are lots of custom Harleys out there, but none offers the combination of primp and polish, as well as civilised comportment, that the company's own CVO models do. The CVO Ultra Classic Electra Glide really is the ultimate expression of Harleydom.