2020 Harley-Davidson CVO Lineup: Not Just Premium, “SuperPremium”

Text: Florian Neuhauser • Photography: Harley-Davidson

If you’re looking for the highest-end traditional American motorcycle, you’ll be shopping in Harley-Davidson’s Custom Vehicle Operations aisle. Since it was launched in 1999, the CVO lineup has offered features, finishes, and paintwork unavailable on “lesser” Harleys.

For 2020, the CVO line consists of three models, all of which are powered by the CVO-exclusive 117-cubic-inch (1923cc) Milwaukee-Eight motor and feature a Bosch six-axis inertial measurement unit to provide traction control, cornering ABS, and electronic linked braking, a package H-D calls the Reflex Defensive Rider System (RDRS). 

The traction-control system monitors available grip and lean angle to prevent loss of control and can be switched between Standard and Rain modes or turned off entirely. Drag-torque slip control simulates a slipper clutch by lifting the throttle plates when the system senses engine braking that could result in a skid, while vehicle hill-hold prevents the bike from rolling on an incline while stopped.

Also standard is H-D Connect, a subscription-based system using cellular service to remotely deliver to your smartphone info like range, battery status, and tire pressure, as well as offering enhanced security by monitoring vehicle location and delivering tamper alerts. It can also provide suspected stolen alerts when the bike moves outside of its geofence, and it offers stolen vehicle tracking mode that can help authorities find the bike as it is moved. 

All three CVOs include a Bluetooth headset that interfaces with the Boom! Box GTS infotainment system. It provides the same functions as a wired headset and enables Apple CarPlay, as well as having the ability to be linked to other Bluetooth communicator systems with up to 16 riders in private mode. 

Finally, all CVOs are fitted with Harley’s Daymaker Adaptive LED headlight, with 12 additional LED lights that activate in correlation with the bike’s lean angle to shine light to the inside of corners (except, naturally, the new trike that doesn’t lean in corners). It functions on high and low beams, and its outer ring operates as a position lamp. 

CVO Limited

The Limited is the most opulent motorcycle offered by Harley-Davidson, featuring all the luxury and convenience items in the company’s arsenal. Let’s begin with one of the finest saddles ever mounted to a motorcycle. The pillowy padding vaults the seat to a statuesque (for a Harley) 29.9 inches (27.7 “laden”), but it’s a wonderful place to plant your butt for several hundred miles. 

The ergonomics are pure comfort. Along with the plush seat and supportive backrest, there’s a modest reach to the neutrally placed handlebar. Combined with the sumptuous passenger accommodations, the CVO Limited might provide the highest level of all-day comfort of any motorcycle I’ve tested. 

The Boom! Box GTS infotainment system, with color touchscreen and GPS, is top-notch. A 300-watt amplifier fires sound through a pair of two-way speakers in the fairing and two more in the Tour-Pak top box to effortlessly deliver any type of music inside my helmet clearly enough to hear every word. Two days later I tested Indian’s premium models, and the sound quality doesn’t compare. 

The 117-cubic-inch Milwaukee-Eight engine is really smooth in this application, and I was never wanting more power than the 125 lb-ft of torque claimed by the Motor Company. Also, the twin-cooled engine never got so hot that I complained.

Even though the Limited is intended to be a mile-eating and luxury motorcycle, it can also be a lot of fun to hustle through the curves, with a fairly generous 33.4 degrees of available lean angle before dragging hard parts. Obviously, a 900-plus-pound motorcycle has its limitations, but that didn’t stop a group of unruly journalists from having a really fun and spirited test ride.

Typical of CVOs, the premium parts make it sparkle, although in this case the Sand Dune color on my test bike was more on the matte side than sparkling, highlighted by glossy black and “Smoked Satin Chrome” finishes, which made it stand out even more. Two other attractive colorways are also offered for the CVO Limited. I am quite smitten with Harley’s paint department—the people there are artists.

The CVO Limited is a stunning motorcycle that’s fun and comfortable to ride for long distances, but this comfort comes at a hefty $ 44,039 price!

CVO Street Glide

If you start with a CVO Limited and strip it down, you’ll get a hot-rod bagger like the CVO Street Glide. You get to keep the bat-wing fairing and saddlebags but lose the Tour-Pak and almost 80 pounds of mass, claimed to be 866 pounds with its 6-gallon fuel tank full. 

The slammed look is part of the SG’s appeal, but its shorter shock reduces travel from 3.0 to 2.2 inches and snubs off a few degrees of lean angle. Like the Limited, the SG uses excellent Brembo four-piston caliper brakes front and rear, electronically linked to activate only above 25 mph.

The SG’s audio system is even better than the Limited’s, using biamplified three-way speakers for 600 watts of total power. “Born To Be Wild” never sounded better! Another stand-out feature is the finish detailing, a blend of satin, shiny, and gloss black that will make you the envy of your H-D cohorts. Rich in finishes and in price: $ 40,539. 

CVO Tri Glide

The Tri Glide is said to be the most requested model for the splendid CVO treatment, so here it is in its 1,269-pound glory. Trikes have proven to be appealing to those who aren’t confident in their ability to hold up a heavy two-wheeler. Here’s a Harley that will never tip over. 

The CVO’s big motor easily motivates the big Tri Glide, but its steering becomes quite heavy at higher speeds. This isn’t a machine that’s easily muscled down a twisty road, but it is a supreme perch from which to inhale long distances, augmented by a large trunk between the rear wheels that can hold up to 50 pounds. The price for unflagging stability with the CVO treatment is $ 48,999.