Air-cooled 110 cubic-inch V-Twin
Harley-Davidson brings back one of the most tenured models in its CVO program for 2012, the CVO Ultra Classic Electra Glide. The Screamin' Eagle Electra Glide made its CVO debut in 2005 and hasn’t missed the lineup since. The Motor Company thinks so highly of it they even offered a special blacked-out CVO version in 2010.
The 2012 CVO Ultra Classic Electra Glide puts the “L” in luxury touring motorcycle. Harley took one of the comfiest seats around and made it even better by reshaping the rider area of the suspended seat. Both rider and passenger are in control of the independently adjustable heated seats while lumbar support will help those long miles pass by comfortably. Heated hand grips, cruise control that’s easily operable via controls on the right handlebar, and ABS contribute to its list of touring luxuries. Another luxury item is its power locking system. Owners can lock or unlock the ignition, saddlebags and Tour-Pak luggage using the key fob. The fob is an important device to the CVO Ultra Classic Electra Glide as it also activates the Smart Security System and the bike won’t start unless the key fob is within range.
Touring’s also all about storage space and the CVO Ultra Classic has it in spades. Its King Tour-Pak offers 2.26 cubic-feet and is capable of easily holding a couple of full-faced helmets. It has nice chrome trim in the form of an Air-wing rack on the outside and new bass booster ports on the inside. The 2012 CVO Ultra Classic has a chrome wraparound LED which is highly visible when riders get on the brakes (I noticed while trailing the bike). Then there’s space in the hard saddlebags and pockets in the fairing lowers to boot.
Like the other CVOs, the 2012 CVO Ultra Classic also pumps up the volume with the addition of a Boom! Audio High Performance system which includes bagger speakers and “Audio Bass Booster Ports” in the bottom liner of the Tour-Pak. An 8GB iPod nano is part of the package and is now accessible via the hand controls. A Road Tech zumo 660 GPS, standard gear on the CVO Ultra Classic, will keep riders on the desired path. Harley mounts it on the upper left corner of the fairing so they didn’t have to rearrange the layout of the Ultra Classic’s gauges. It also makes it easy to see when in motion. And while high-end electronics and an improved sound system is appreciated, the bike’s most striking new feature is its Mirror Chrome Chisel Custom Wheels with matching Chisel brake rotors. It’s hard to believe they put such cool custom seven-spoke wheels on a big tourer, but they did. I could easily see these wheels being used for other, more sporting applications.The air-cooled 110 cubic-inch V-Twin is rubber mounted and is very vibey at idle but settles into a lumping cadence at speed. The powerplant features Harley’s Engine Idle Temperature Management Strategy where the rider can manually deactivate a cylinder to keep the air-cooled engine from running hot. The 110 on the CVO Ultra Classic was able to pick back up from a very low rpm without bogging down when an uphill hairpin turn caught us off-guard. It has a high performance clutch, which helps the transmission engage a touch quieter and smoother. But finding Neutral, especially on the Ultra Classic, was difficult at times.
With a 63.5-inch wheelbase, the CVO Ultra Classic feels compact. Ergos are very upright and comfy, good for the long haul. ABS helps haul this almost 900 pound behemoth to a halt, and we noticed the system on the Electra Glide is a bit more touchy than the others. But there’s a reason Harley has brought the motorcycle back for eight consecutive years. It’s fit and finish for a classicly styled luxury tourer is unparalleled, it offers plenty of storage, has excellent range and handles sharply after you get it above parking lot speeds. Harley’s premium luxury touring motorcycle comes at a premium price with an MSRP of $37,249. Exclusivity doesn’t come cheap.
Up to this point, the ride on the 2012 CVO Road Glide Custom had been very sedate. Curvy roads and blind corners out of Calistoga have kept speeds in check and gearing seldom above third. Though we haven’t gone beyond cruising speed, action on the front end is light thanks in part to frame mounting the Shark-nose fairing. We spit out close to Highway 101 and the onramp finally provides a chance to open this baby up. What good are 1803cc and a high-flow intake if you don’t get to open it up now and again? I downshift to make the turn then unleash a healthy dose of throttle. The CVO Road Glide Custom lurches beneath me. Kicking it into the next gear, the rear end slides out with the surge of roll-on power. As a grin creeps across my face, I’m thinking “Impressive hit for a factory bagger.” And that summation comes after recently testing Kawasaki’s Vaquero and currently riding the 2011 Star Stratoliner Deluxe.
Harley claims there’s only one all-new CVO model for 2012, the 2012 Road Glide Custom, but there was a Road Glide CVO last year in the guise of the Road Glide Ultra. This year The Motor Company ditched the topcase and hot rodded its bold bagger even more with a big engine, boomin’ audio and bitchin’ paint. The pushrod-operated engine is the most powerful V-Twin Harley offers in a production motorcycle and you’ll only find it currently on the CVOs. Harley’s added a Screamin’ Eagle Heavy Breather Intake and chrome dual exhaust with four-inch touring mufflers to spice up the CVO Road Glide Custom package.
On the amenity side, Harley stuffed its largest speakers to date in the Road Glide Custom’s fairing, a pair of big 5X7s, to go along with a set of two-inch tweeters, to handle the output of the kickin’ Harman/Kardon stereo system which pumps out 100 watts per channel. Having a stereo system that you can hear over the rumble of the bike’s pipes at 80 mph is a bonus. Having clean sound is even more impressive. There’s a spot to hook up an Apple iPod nano, which comes with the bike, in the right saddlebag for times you’re not listening to the AM/FM radio or a CD.
The 2012 CVO Road Glide Custom is the total package. Throttle response is immediate, its steering is lighter than its fork-mounted counterpart, the CVO Street Glide, and its suspension is dialed-in to provide a plush ride. With forward-mounted floorboards and a seat set at 27.5 inches, ergos are stretched out and comfy with a slight forward tilt to reach the bars. The stock saddle is well padded and the two-piece custom seat comes with an easy-to-remove pillion. Harley’s done an excellent job of matching up the bike’s aesthetics as the black billet aluminum muffler end caps match the aluminum cut-backs of the Heavy Breather air intake and complement the contrast cut of the Chrome Agitator wheels.
The 2012 CVO Road Glide Custom is one smooth ride. Throttle response is immediate, its steering is lighter than its fork-mounted counterpart, the CVO Street Glide, and the suspension is dialed-in to provide a plush ride. Rip open the throttle and this thing will hook up and move out. Its Heavy Breather intake feels like it adds a few ponies and gearing is definitely wider than a stock Road Glide. Redline comes on a couple hundred rpm later. Its only drawback is that the pipe on the Heavy Breather intake is so wide it prevented me from getting my foot flush on the rear brake pedal.
There’s a very creative individual who comes up with the names of the colors Harley offers the CVOs in. Case in point. The 2012 CVO Road Glide Custom’s options are called White Gold Pearl and Starfire Black with Real Smoke graphic, Maple Metallic and Vivid Black with Real Smoke Graphic, Candy Cobalt and Twilight Blue with Real Smoke Graphic. Creative, but different. Will give them credit, though. We like all the striking combos the CVO Road Glide Custom is offered in. Production of Harley’s factory custom bagger is limited to 2100 units, each with an MSRP of $30,699. It’s available with the optional color-matched Tour Pak. A treat to look at and even funner to ride, the 2012 CVO Street Glide Custom is indeed one hot rod bagger.
Harley-Davidson’s CVO Softail Convertible returns for the third year running in 2012. And with good reason. In essence, you get two motorcycles in one as it converts from tourer to cruiser in minutes without the need of any tools. The windshield detaches quickly, the saddlebags pop right off and you can remove the passenger pillion and backrest entirely. Best part is, it looks custom stripped down, too. Without the bags and windshield on, attention is drawn to the cool chrome mini-ape handlebars and the 200mm backside. The fender is draped in plenty of high dollar paint and chrome pulleys, a shiny chain guard and an 18-inch Mirror Chrome Stinger wheel look sharp uncovered.
Harley’s spent a lot of resources making the touring side of the CVO Softail Convertible more pleasurable, redesigning the windshield, going both taller and wider in an effort to reduce wind blast around the head and torso. The new design features the addition of two new lower wind deflectors as well. Its most noticeable result is less windblast to the head. They’ve also made it easier for riders to find their destinations with the inclusion of a Road Tech zumo 660 GPS Navigator with turn-by-turn commands. The nav is positioned so it’s easy to see, high between the bars. It is integrated into the back of the detachable fairing, which also holds two 3.5-inch speakers.
A Road Tech zumo 660 GPS Navigator with an MP3 player is integrated into the redesigned windshield of the 2012 CVO Softail Convertible. system so it will give you turn-by-turn commands over the speakers and automatically pauses music for navigation commands. The fairing comes with a small amp hidden away and the audio system includes an MP3 player.
The 2012 CVO Softail Convertible uses a counterbalanced Twin Cam 110 engine mounted rigidly to the steel frame. The Twin Cam 110B engine is teamed with a high-flow Ventilator air intake. Being the only CVO not to tip the scales at over 800 pounds (close though, its curb weight is a claimed 788 lbs), the CVO Softail Convertible will flog any stocker. Makes me wish they used this powerplant across the board. It’s geared to give you that immediate hit, with plenty of available torque in the midrange. The added horses are encouraging me to rev the throttle and dump the clutch to squeal some tires.
Jumping off the Road Glide Custom, the rider’s triangle of the 2012 CVO Softail Convertible feels very compact. The bars are down and in and easy to reach. At a laden 24.4 inches, the Softail Convertible has the second lowest seat height among Harleys and its rear suspension has been lowered an inch. After getting spoiled on the CVO Road Glide Custom, the suspension on the CVO Softail isn’t up to par as some of the bumps in the road are absorbed in the abdomen. The combination of a 200mm wide rear and floorboards that touch down way too early cost the Softail Convertible in cornering.
The bagger segment was well represented in the 2012 CVO lineup as Harley chose to customize both the Road Glide and Street Glide. The primary focus of the upgraded 2012 CVO Street Glide went to its audio system. The Motor Company has reworked the fork-mounted bat-wing fairing to contain a booming sound system. Two amps, one of them hidden within the left saddlebag, provide 400 watts of power to eight speakers. There are speakers in the fairing, fairing lowers and even a set in the saddlebag lids. The custom saddlebag lid speakers are 5x7s with bridged tweeters, two 6.5-inch speakers sit in the lower fairings, and four 5.25-inch speakers are nestled in the front fairing. The 200-watt amp is tucked away in the bottom of the left saddlebag without sacrificing much storage space. It, too, has an iPod dock and holder.
The new stereo literally encompasses the rider in a cocoon of sound and is a system you’d expect to find at a custom bike show. Besides the ability to pump out bass you feel in your bones, the sound of the new system is not only indisputably loud but clean as well.
The CVO Street Glide has enough ground clearance to lean it over with confidence.
A 19-inch, seven-spoke Mirror Chrome Agitator wheel leads the way on the 2012 CVO Street Glide. Another attractive feature of the 2012 CVO Street Glide is its new custom two-piece, low-profile, leather touring seat. It’s wide with big beast leather inserts and is ultra cush. The passenger pillion and backrest pop off quickly if you’re looking for a solo, custom look. Harley did a great job of making the rear fender look natural without it on. The bike’s got all-day ergonomics, upright in the saddle, the bars positioned so they fall naturally at hand, legs stretched comfortably forward on ample-sized floorboards. Though it only has a shorty smoked windscreen, the bat-wing fairing provides a decent buffer from the wind. Give credit to the fairing lowers for deflecting wind around the rider’s legs, too.
On the CVO Street Glide, it’s all about the attention to details, from diamond-cut charcoal engine cover inserts and diamond-cut instrument faces to its smoked turn signal lenses. Its thumping TC 110 has been powder-coated in granite and the cylinder heads are stamped with 110 Screamin’ Eagle identifiers. There’s plenty of chrome, from small items like front axle nut covers to the chrome-plated mirrors to the sharp-looking 19-inch Agitator front wheel.
There’s always one CVO model whose paint really pops. Such is the case with the 2012 CVO Street Glide. Everything’s color-matched, from fairings to fenders, tank and saddlebags. It’s offered in three new paint schemes, all with custom pinstriping and phantom flame graphics on the front fairing. The CVO Street Glide doesn’t feel as hopped up as the CVO Road Glide Custom, but will still haul the goods when you roll on the gas. The only strike against CVO Street Glide was its metal air filter which got hot on our right leg when we rode and was almost untouchable afterwards.
The Street Glide is the bagger that sets the mark. It’s the original, so opting to include it in the CVO line is only natural. The 2012 CVO Street Glide raises the standard once again. The fit and finish is incredible, from the accents of the seats to the color-matched cockpit to the Rumble Collection grips. Even if you’re not a fan of flames, the paint on this thing is done with such panache, it will make you a fan. It’s a striking motorcycle with plenty of punch and a sound system that will rattle the fillings in your head loose. It’s all that and a bag of chips for the MSRP of $32,699.