The best part of the Road Glide Ultra’s new PowerPak combo is the bigger bore Twin Cam 103 engine and the power gains that come along with the new mill in comparison to last year’s TC 96. Its 1690cc Twin does function at a displacement disadvantage as Victory’s Freedom 106 engine measures out at 1731cc. But despite its lack of horsepower in comparison to the Vision, it has a strong initial hit and launched with authority thanks to its crisp throttle response and the jetting of its Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection. The Road Glide Ultra’s electronic throttle control has the action and feel of a cable-actuated system and the H-D will get you up to freeway speeds in just over six-and-a-half seconds during our 0-60 test. The last time we pitted the Harley and Vision, the power disparity was glaring. The gap between the two now is notably closer.
The second best part of the PowerPak on the Road Glide Ultra is the standard ABS. When you’re riding an 875-pound touring motorcycle, having a solid set of binders is imperative. Where we found the front brake on the Vision a bit soft, the Road Glide Ultra’s 4-piston Brembo calipers up front grab the dual discs with more authority. The Harley’s ABS does engage much easier, but the pulsing sensation at the brake pedal and at the hand control isn’t as disconcerting when it was introduced to the 2008 touring line. Harley’s done a bang-up job of keeping its ABS hidden unobtrusively by concealing the components in the wheel hub.
Our Road Test Editor, Adam Waheed, gladly demonstrates the lean angles the 2011 Road Glide Ultra can achieve.
The fact that the Road Glide Ultra’s Shark-Nose fairing is frame-mounted keeps action at the bars light and manageable. Since Harley went from stamped and welded parts to a casted and forged frame on its touring bikes a couple of years back, its big tourers track loads better in turns. The Road Glide Ultra is planted when leaned over and you can enter corners aggressively for such a big bike. Where we had qualms with the way the 2008 Ultra Classic’s front end transferred every road imperfection to the bars, this problem has been eliminated with the switch to the new chassis. At the handlebars, the Road Glide Ultra feels much more compact than the Vision and is easier to control during low-speed maneuvers. We also like the better protection from buffeting the RG Ultra offers over the older Road Glides as air is diverted around the rider more thanks to a higher windscreen, mid-frame air deflectors and new fairing lowers.
Passenger accommodations are improved thanks to the addition of a backrest. Adjustable lumbar support adds to the comfort factor. There’s twice as much storage space for two-up adventures as the King Tour Pak doubles the 2.26 cubic-feet capacity of the GTX Saddlebags. The touring set-up on the Road Glide Ultra does add 83 pounds to the standard Road Glide and the addition of a topcase means there’s a little more drag on the rear end, but luckily the added power compensates for it. A healthy six-gallon tank and almost 37 mpg means you can muster around 220 miles on a tank of gas.
Both bikes feature air-adjustable rear suspension that can be easily dialed in for loads. The Road Glide Ultra has an air valve located between the saddlebag and rear fender on the left-hand side. To adjust the rear suspension on the Vision, pop open the left saddlebag, hook up to the schrader valve and inflate it to the suggested load settings via a standard hand-held air pump. We didn’t notice any big disparity in the ride quality of either as only large potholes sent the suspension through the full stroke of their travel.
Harley-Davidson switched the Road Glide Ultra’s pipes back to a 2-1-2 arrangement for 2011. They are routed low on the bike to reduce engine heat and emit the definitive Harley rumble. The Victory’s pipes are big and clean but are situated a little closer to the rider’s butt, contributing to the noticeable engine heat we commented on earlier. The 2011 Vision’s exhaust note is a little richer than year’s prior thanks to re-designed exhaust tips.
The Victory Vision Tour handles great at speed, has an engine that provides plenty of torque, and its transmission is greatly improved. It has
The 2011 Road Glide Ultra has the handling of a bagger with the amenities of a full-on touring motorcycle.
an MSRP of $23,199 and is a touring platform that provides long-range convenience and comfort. The Road Glide Ultra sells for a comparable $22,499. Its TC 103 engine gives it the added punch we were looking for in a Harley tourer and feels just as lively at the throttle thanks to spot-on fuel injection and a more manageable clutch. It’s much easier to handle at low speed and since Harley switched out the chassis in 2009, the bike handles on par with the Vision now at speed, too. It also matches the Vision’s comfortable ergos, storage capacity and ride quality. Since the last time we paired a Harley Tourer against a Victory Vision, The Motor Company has addressed many of our grievances. Beyond refining its transmission, not much has changed in the performance of the Victory Vision since its introduction. The Ultra’s brakes also inspire more confidence, and though the disparity between the two is minute at best, we found the updated Road Glide Ultra to be an incrementally better all-around motorcycle.