2018 Harley-Davidson Deluxe Review | Living Up To Its Name
Much of the news about the all-new 2018 Harley-Davidson Softails has been the transferring of former Dynas to the Softail platform.
While that is undoubtedly a tectonic shift at Harley-Davidson, it is worth remembering that the returning Softails are also all-new machines—and that includes the revered 2018 Harley-Davidson Deluxe.
1. The 2018 Harley-Davidson Deluxe has a new motor, and it is a great one. The Milwaukee-Eight motor that debuted on the Touring line is now the mainstay of the Softail family. In the case of the Deluxe, it gets the 107 version that puts out 109 ft/lbs of torque at just 3000 rpm. The new air-/oil-cooled motor decimates the previous High Output Twin-Cam 103B powerplant, and is much smoother due to more effective counterbalancing in the motor. This is a huge upgrade.
2. All new for 2018, the Softail chassis is outstanding. Now there is a single shock under the seat, and its action is far superior to the previous design. The new Showa Dual Bending Valve cartridge design fork is also noticeably better, and another trickle-down from the Touring line. The new frame is lighter and stiffer, giving the Deluxe a greatly enhanced feel of the road. The old Deluxe looked retro and had a retro chassis—this is a 21st century chassis that is befitting the muscular Milwaukee-Eight 107 powerplant.
3. Although the 2018 Harley-Davidson Deluxe is 33 pounds lighter than last year, the improved frame is what makes it feel more agile. Rather than battling the forces of flex as you did on the former Deluxe, the 2018 Deluxe responds to input without ambiguity. In town it works through traffic effortlessly, and with infrequent reminders that you are shepherding 697 pounds of motorcycle among the cars. Add in the extra power from the Milwaukee Eight 107, and you can easily put this motorcycle where you want it to be on the road.
4. The new suspension sucks up the imperfections in urban roads nicely. While our transportation dollars find their way to anything but road repair in Los Angeles, the 2018 Harley-Davidson Deluxe is no longer nonplussed by potholes and manhole covers. You will still feel them on the Deluxe, but the jolts through your body have been removed. If you are familiar with the old Deluxe, this is something you will note instantly—the ride is unmistakably and demonstrably improved on rough roads.
5. You can now have serious fun in the canyons on the Deluxe. Between the flexy frame, jolting suspension, and limited cornering clearance, the previous Deluxe was for light duty only in the twisties. With those problems solved, the 2018 Harley-Davidson Deluxe loves to make time in the canyons. Even on the rough parts of Mulholland Drive—a classic twisting urban road—the Deluxe stays unfazed.
6. Cornering clearance is up 8.5 percent on the right and 4.8 percent on the left. This might not sound like much, but it makes a big difference. You have to push the Harley-Davidson branded white-walled Dunlops seriously to scrape the floorboards. Composure is outstanding, though with 30 degrees of rake and a wheelbase longer than 64 inches, you do have to plan ahead; the Deluxe prefers to stick to its line.
7. The ergonomics on the Deluxe remain outstanding. The Deluxe has always been one of the most comfortable non-Touring Harley-Davidsons, and the new design respects that. The seat is supportive, the grips sweep back to a natural position, and the floorboards are right where you want them. While it is a bit of a stretch to ride through the five-gallon tank without a break—the estimated range of the Deluxe is 235 miles—you can ride for a few hours in town without a second thought. The air cleaner is less intrusive than before—a nice plus.
8. If you stay off freeways, you can throw saddlebags bags on and do some solo weekend touring. There is nothing nicer than cruising along backroads on the 2018 Harley-Davidson Deluxe, and if you are going for an overnighter, it’s willing to oblige. High-speed Interstates are a bit more challenging, though, as the pure upright seating and wide arm position does allow the windblast to hold sway over 60 mph or so. Stick to the secondary byways and ride to your heart’s content.
9. The 2018 Harley-Davidson Deluxe still looks deluxe. Appearance is always a matter of taste, and I like the look of the Milwaukee Eight powerplant. Diehards will initially object to the oil cooler on the frame’s downtubes, though I predict they will eventually come around. The rest of the look is still there, including the iconic triple headlights (now LED!), tombstone taillight, and fat white-walled tires. Chrome may be less in style these days, though you would never know it looking at the new Deluxe. As John Lennon famously sang, “We all shine on.”
10. We are impressed by the new Softail line, and the Deluxe is substantially improved. I have always loved riding the Deluxe—if there were a Monopoly piece denoting a motorcycle, it would look like the Deluxe. On the older Deluxe, I just rode around the shortcomings and didn’t worry about them. That’s no longer necessary on the 2018 Harley-Davidson Deluxe, as it is an outstanding motorcycle to ride that doesn’t exclusively rely on its looks to justify its existence.
Photography by Brian J. Nelson, Tom Riles, and Kevin Wing
- Helmet: Shoei RF-1200
- Jacket: Pando Moto M65
- Gloves: Racer Mickey
- Jeans: Pando Moto Karl
- Boots: TCX X-Blend Waterproof
2018 Harley-Davidson Deluxe Specs
- Type: Milwaukee-Eight 107 V-twin
- Displacement: 107ci
- Bore x stroke: 3.937” x 4.374”
- Maximum torque: 109 ft/lbs @ 3000 rpm
- Compression ratio: 10.0:1
- Valve train: Single-cam; 4 vpc
- Exhaust: 2-into-1-into-2
- Cooling: Air and oil
- Transmission: 6-speed
- Primary drive: Chain
- Final drive: Belt
- Front suspension: Non-adjustable Showa fork
- Rear suspension: Spring-preload adjustable shock
- Wheels: Chrome steel-laced
- Front tire: 130/90-16; Harley-Davidson Dunlop D402F
- Rear tire: 140/90-16; Harley-Davidson Dunlop D402
- Front brakes: Disc w/ fixed 4-piston caliper
- Rear brake: Disc w/ floating 2-piston caliper
- ABS: Standard
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- Wheelbase: 64.2 inches
- Rake: 30 degrees
- Trail: 5.7 inches
- Seat height: 26.8 inches
- Fuel capacity: 5 gallons
- Estimated fuel consumption: 47 mpg
- Curb weight: 697 pounds
2018 Harley-Davidson Deluxe Colors and Prices (MSRP):
- Vivid Black: $17,999
- Twisted Cherry; Electric Blue: $18,399
- Silver Fortune/Sumatra Brown; Wicked Red/Twisted Cherry: $18,749
2018 Harley-Davidson Deluxe Review | Photo Gallery