2012 Honda Gold Wing First Look

February 21, 2011
Bart Madson
By Bart Madson
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Bashing away at the MotoUSA keyboard for nine years now, Madson lends his scribbling and editorial input on everything from bike reviews to industry analysis and motorcycle racing reports.

The saddlebags also feature practical improvements with their new form  with an extra seven liters of storage space claimed.
Facing an impending new challenger from BMW, Honda gives its flagship Gold Wing a modest makeover for 2012.

Is there a more iconic model in Honda’s arsenal than the Gold Wing? Celebrating its 36th production year, Big Red claims an astounding 640,000 unit sales of the flagship motorcycle since its 1975 model year debut. Essentially a class of its own in the luxury touring market, this year The Wing faces off against a new challenger in the Inline-Six-powered BMW K1600GT. Honda has parried the Bavarian thrust by giving its flagship touring model a modest makeover for the 2012 model year.

A cursory glance seems to reveal the same old Wing. However, a closer examination side-by-side with the previous year’s model and styling revisions are apparent. Straight angles and lines replace the predecessor’s curvier contours, particularly noticeable in the fairing and saddlebags. The new fairing shape isn’t all about looks, however, with Honda touting improved wind protection to the rider’s legs and lower body. The saddlebags also feature practical improvements with their new form, including an extra seven liters of storage space claimed. The new bags team with the standard trunk and fairing pockets for “well over 150 liters” of storage.

A brighter screen displays information from the latest version of the Honda Satellite Linked Navigation System.
The Gold Wing instrumentation benefits from a refresh, with the latest model using a next-gen version Nav system.

A subtle refresh of the instrumentation gives the Gold Wing a more modern look from the cockpit too. The instrument cluster showcases some next-generation features in the electronics. A brighter screen displays information from the latest version of the Honda Satellite Linked Navigation System. The new Nav is complemented by an updated audio system, featuring SRS CS Auto surround-sound and MP3/iPod connectivity. The tunes are also supplemented by XM radio.

Road performance upgrades are limited to new suspension settings at both the 45mm fork and single rear shock. The suspension tweaks are promised to “yield added compliance for a better ride and more comfort.”

Unchanged is the familiar 1832cc Flat Six powering the Honda. The Wing also remains a heavyweight touring platform, tipping the scales at a staggering 903-944 pounds, depending on the options. Thankfully, the electric Reverse system remains a standard feature. Also standard fare on the base Gold Wing are five-position heated grips, seat and backrest. Honda’s combined braking system is standard as well, with ABS optional.

Road performance upgrades are limited to new suspension settings at both the 45mm fork and single rear shock. The suspension tweaks are promised to yield added compliance for a better ride and more comfort.
The 1832cc Flat Six powering the Gold Wing is unchanged for the 2012 model, though Honda promises tweaks to the suspension components improve ride comfort.

The Gold Wing platform continues to showcase Honda innovation, in recent years the headlining feature being the first-ever production motorcycle airbag system. The airbag returns as an optional feature, with a non-airbag model making use of the empty space for an extra storage compartment (in case those 150 liters in the bags aren’t enough!).

The new Gold Wing will make its first public debut at the IMS show in Greenville, South Carolina, February 25-27, and then at Daytona Bike Week, March 5-12. Honda promises the new models at dealer showrooms by May, with MSRP ranging from $23,199 to $28,499.

Now the obvious question: How does the dominating Wing fare against the new Beemer challenge? As far as price goes, the base Gold Wing retails for an identical MSRP as the similar spec GTL model (alright, it’s a buck cheaper than the GTL’s $23,200…). The K1600GT we will be reviewing for the first time in the upcoming weeks will cost $20,900.

As for on road performance comparisons, stay tuned for one of the most eagerly anticipated shootouts of the new riding season later this summer.

The airbag returns as an optional feature on the Gold Wing.
Out with the old and in with the new. Side-by-side comparisons of the 2012 Gold Wing (left) and the 2010 model (right).

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