Review: 2023 Honda Gold Wing

Review: 2023 Honda Gold Wing

The Gold Wing. A machine that Honda has been meticulously refining since 1974.

Over those 49 years, it has matured into something very different from the original, but from the beginning, it quickly became the gold standard for touring motorcycles. From drum brakes to supercomputers, the Gold Wing has stood the test of time.

Along the way, it’s evolved quite a bit, but it’s still managed to stay true to its roots. Although the recipe has changed, the base stock is still there—a horizontally opposed engine that delivers power via a shaft, an under-seat fuel tank, and as much cutting-edge moto tech as Honda can get its hands on.

Deep Roots

Looking to step outside the norm and bring something to the market that would be a suitable predecessor to the very successful CB750, Honda established an R&D team to develop its next flagship motorcycle in 1972. The company chose Japanese designer Shoichiro Irimajiri to lead this team.

He leveraged his experience in racing, both on two and four wheels, to distill the best qualities of both into the concept motorcycle that would become the Gold Wing. The name stems from Honda’s logo.

The Irimajiri team’s work resulted in a motorcycle that challenged the norms of the time with features like a low-slung, liquid-cooled, flat four-cylinder engine, shaft drive, under-seat fuel tank, and more. The Gold Wing was quite the departure from the mainstream design approach that was being taken with other platforms, even within the Honda line.

Subsequently, the GL1000 stole the show when it was shown for the first time at the October 1974 Cologne Motorcycle Show in Germany.

The GL1000 was smooth, fast, reliable, and more approachable than the Harley-Davidsons that dominated the U.S. market at the time despite losing to the new Honda in all of those things. Although it wasn’t exactly cheap, the GL1000 was still a bit cheaper than its BMW competitor, the R 90, and, as a result, it was an instant heavy-hitter.

The Gold Wing has a longer history than most motorcycles and it’s been shaking things up since the beginning. A short six years later, Honda rocked the market again by dropping the GL1100 in full touring garb.

This made the Gold Wing the first mass-produced, touring-ready Japanese motorcycle, beginning its ascension to being recognized as the standard for what a touring motorcycle should be.

Review: 2023 Honda Gold Wing

Tech Savvy

The newest generation of the Wing is quite the departure from its previous iterations, but in all the right ways. It hasn’t forgotten its deep roots, yet the latest version is sleek, angular, and aggressive.

The perfect blend of practicality and aesthetics that the designers achieved with this machine is striking, to say the least. The LED headlights, for example, exude a sporty yet classy look while also putting enough light downrange to get you home safely at the end of a long day in the ultra-comfortable saddle.

Its looks complement the motorcycle’s aggressive nature perfectly. While the previous generations of Gold Wing were never slow, the latest Wing is almost rowdy in Sport mode.

You have to keep an eye on the gorgeous blue and stainless steel gauge cluster to ensure that you stay below handcuff speeds. The 1833cc flat-six, combined with suspension that completely flattened all but the most severe bumps, made the Gold Wing go like the Starship Enterprise jumping to warp speed when you wrap the throttle.

Another starship-like feature is the onboard electronics suite. Navigation, audio, phone connectivity, and all the vehicle settings can be accessed by the captain via the handlebar buttons.

Review: 2023 Honda Gold Wing

Get Down

The way this big motorcycle flowed through corners was sublime, smooth, and stable. All the while, it achieved the perfect balance of stability and neutrality.

The double-wishbone front suspension and Showa shock absorber provided excellent feedback from the pavement while remaining supple and comfortable over even larger bumps. One of the things I grew to love was glancing down at the front suspension linkages and watching them work as the Honda’s suspension smoothed out even the most baked and cracked desert roads.

However, it wasn’t perfect out of the box, and I had to adjust the preload as I found it a touch soft. Once you get used to it and get everything set properly for your luggage and passenger load, you can rail through corners, dragging the pegs and cylinder guards away with ease as you giggle in your helmet.

The brakes are heroic, pulling the speed down with ease. Two radially mounted six-piston calipers grab 320mm rotors out front, while another three-piston caliper presses onto a 316mm rotor in the back. Both are managed by the linked ABS.

The brake feel was excellent, enabling easy modulation and feedback. That’s exactly what you need when two-up and fully loaded on unknown roads.

On that topic, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention one of the main focus points of this bike—passenger accommodations. The rear seat and backrest are well cushioned and comfortable, and the seat pan is, of course, heated just like the captain's chair, provided you spring for the Tour model.

There is plenty of room for packing in the trunk that holds two full-face helmets and then some, plus the side cases which are adequate but not exactly cavernous. Also, Honda hasn’t forgotten the tradition of a storage compartment where the fuel tank is on a typical motorcycle. That box, though, is built to house a smartphone rather than the optional kickstart lever.

The storage is adequate for most use cases, but at the same time, I get why you often see a Wing dragging one of those bulbous trailers on really long trips.

Review: 2023 Honda Gold Wing

Seventh Heaven

Honda has been putting dual-clutch transmissions (DCTs) in its motorcycles for a few years now, and the Gold Wing has received the treatment as well. The horizontally opposed six-cylinder is a torque monster. In the correct ride mode, it got down in every gear at every RPM.

The dual-clutch transmission model has seven gears and runs through them smoothly when riding with purpose. However, when not using the manual shift mode or the manual override, it could be a bit jerky when I was trying to ride at very low speeds in stop-and-go traffic. for example.

On the open roads where this bike is meant to be roaming, though, it was perfect.

Not familiar with the DCT system? No problem. It’s similar in operation to a traditional manual transmission but differs in a few key ways.

The shift drum is rotated via a motor rather than your foot and the two clutch packs engage the even and odd gears separately. As you apply throttle, the clutch engages automatically and you’re away.

When it’s time to shift, the second clutch prepares to engage second gear, the first clutch disengages the first gear, the shift motor rotates the shift drum, the transmission slots into second, and the secondary clutch engages. Boom. Second gear.

This automated process is repeated until the seventh gear on the Wing. It allows the rider to focus solely on the throttle and braking, providing a smooth, easy riding experience. Or that’s what Honda says, anyway.

The DCT is very good, but it’s not perfect. It just didn’t provide the level of control at low speeds that I feel like I need on a bike this size.

Also, call me old-fashioned, but I miss my clutch lever.

Review: 2023 Honda Gold Wing

A Master of Disguise

Although the Gold Wing’s price is indeed high, the value is through the roof. Sure, you could purchase many motorcycles a few times over, but the total package of performance, looks, practicality, and—ultimately—character that Gold Wing offers is unparalleled.

Not many motorcycles can take you across the country in supreme comfort, carve backroads like a sportbike, and draw compliments at every single stop quite like the new Wing does.

There was a time when the name “Gold Wing” meant something entirely different to me. I thought of it as something that I’d be shopping for… Later in my riding career, shall we say.

Now, after having ridden one for thousands of miles, I see it in a different light. Given the chance to bond with it, I absolutely fell in love.

With its balance, power delivery, timeless looks, Honda reliability, and a rich history to boot, the Wing is right up there on my list of favorite motorcycles.

All those years ago, Honda sat out to create the “ultimate motorcycle.” The Gold Wing is utterly exquisite and, as far as I can tell, it’s as close to a perfect motorcycle as I’ve ever ridden.

That said, it’s not perfect—the nav system can be a bit wonky at times, and the DCT sometimes thinks you’re riding harder than you are and will huck it down a gear in anticipation of being spurred on. Yet, all these complaints are but droplets falling into an ocean of excellence.

A concept that’s been in the making since 1974, the Gold Wing is a perfect example of Japanese kaizen engineering. The basic tenets exhort you to continuously iterate, improve, and strive for perfection.

Refusing to say, “It’s done,” has turned the 2023 Honda Gold Wing into what it is today—a masterpiece of modern engineering.

Technical Specs

+all-day comfort, excellent handling, feature-rich, powerful yet efficient
-expensive, DCT isn’t the best at low speeds, the navigation leaves some to be desired

Distributor: Honda North America
MSRP: $25,600 (DCT model)
Engine: horizontally opposed, liquid-cooled, 6-cylinder, 4-stroke
Displacement: 1833cc
Power: 125hp
Transmission: 7-speed, automatic DCT, walking mode F/R, shaft final drive
Rake/Trail: 30.5°/4.3in
Weight (Wet): 853lbs (as tested)
Seat Height: 29.3in
Fuel Capacity: 5.5gal
Fuel Consumption: 42mpg (tested)
Fuel Grade: regularColors: Candy Ardent Red/Black, Candy Ardent Red/Matte Gray, Matte Gray