The Harley-Davidson CVO range has always had plenty of chrome, wild paint and techno. The 2019 CBVO range now come in dark versions with red rockers, Apple CarPlay and even a back button!
I recently got to ride the three new 2019 Custom Vehicle Operations models — Street Glide, Road Glide and Limited — in the flooded Mississippi terrain of Minnesota.
And despite their prowess as stable battleships with thunder, lightning and torrential rain crashing around me at 80mph (130km/h) on an interstate, the feature I liked the best is the back button on the new BOOM Box infotainment system.
The old infotainment system was great, but if you stuffed up some of the complex controls, you had to go back to the start.
Now they have a handy “back” button on the right switch block that makes it a breeze to operate.
And millennials are going to love it — if they can afford it — because it is now the first motorcycle with Apple CarPlay which puts a lot of your apps on the touchscreen.
Harley-Davidson styling manager Bjorn Shuster says the new colours and techno give the CVO range “broader appeal”.
He’s worked at Hummer, Cadillac, KTM, Husqvarna and Polaris and has been bringing some of those styling influences to Harley for the past two years.
“The 2019 colours are not as loud and we also have dark versions,” he says.
Instead of acre of chrome, there are black engines and pipes and an in-between version that mixes dark and bright features such as a black engine and dark-chrome pipe called “Black Onyx”.
They have also relocated the rear LED lights to give the back end a cleaner look.
To offset the darker look in some versions, there are “Blaze Red” valve covers on the 117 Milwaukee Eight engines. Harley hasn’t done that since an early 1990s Fat Boy.
Road Glide CVO gets some extra-special styling treatments that make it a much bolder bike than before.
It now comes with a slim lower fairing that doesn’t provide any extra weather protection but links the bull nose fairing with the rest of the bike for a more homogenous look.
It also comes with a bad-ass 21” knockout front wheel that can be fitted as an aftermarket accessory to the standard Road Glide.
And to round off the bold hot-rod look is a Screamin’ Eagle Heavy Breather air intake.
117 Milwaukee Eight
Last year Harley-Davidson shoehorned the Screamin’ Eagle 117-cube (1923cc) V-twin — their biggest stock engine yet — into the CVO range.
It’s now back, but with red rocker covers.
In dyno tests, the Screamin’ Eagle 1923cc Milwaukee-Eight is claimed to make about 93.75hp (70kW).
But it delivers a walloping 166Nm of torque.
It’s a ballsy engine with so much torque everywhere you can be in any gear you like!
In the CVO Ultra Limited, it is a twin-cooled engine with small radiators in the lower fairings.
CVOs have long been a techno tour de force, but this year they take a major leap forward.
They all now come with Daymaker adaptive headlights that light up the inside of a corner as you lean the bike.
The headlight has 12 LED elements around the outside that light up according to your lean angle.
They are plug-and-play units, so you can buy them as aftermarket accessories and fit them to current models.
But the big news is the new BOOM Box GTS audio system.
It is a major leap forward on the previous system and is now much better than the Indian audio with better quality sound and a much easier interface to use.
Right from the word go, it loads much faster with half the response times of the previous model.
Best of all, the touchscreen is now made of scratch-resistant Corning Gorilla Glass which is used on most mobile phones.
It has improved contrast, 100 times better resolution and less reflection in direct sunshine.
The touchscreen works brilliantly with gloves or a bare finger, even when it is wet. You can pinch, move and pull the screen around as easily as you can with your smart phone.
You can also access all the functions via the toggle buttons on both switchblocks.
Bjorn says customers have been demanding a better quality screen as well as mobile phone usability.
“People use their phones and tablets every day,” he says. “We need to have strong focus on pleasing existing customers.”
So they have added Apple CarPlay so iPhone users can access apps and use the touchscreen like they do their mobile.
Of course, Apple demands a couple of important safeguards on any vehicle that includes CarPlay.
It must be physically plugged in to operate and the only way you can access and operate the apps is via Siri. So you must have a bluetooth headset.
While these new infotainment systems are available on other Touring models, only the CVOs have the wireless interface module (WIM) vita for CarPlay to work. You can buy and fit WIM as an aftermarket accessory on the new BOOM Box GTS for about $US300.
I was able to Bluetooth both my iPhone and my Sena intercom to the bike and then operate many of my apps via spoken instructions.
I could also choose to listen to navigation instructions, music and phone calls via the bike speakers or the intercom speakers.
While some people will scream that it is a distraction, there are many others who can rub their tummies and pat their heads at the same time.
It’s called multi-tasking and it works well on these bikes.
Many users will appreciate the ability to plan their route on their computer or phone and simply download it straight to the bike.
You can also access other vital information for riders such as traffic and weather.
And that’s when the big storms hit across much of the northern Mid West, causing flash flooding and traffic mayhem.
I was so glad I was on such a rock-steady bike in the treacherous conditions.
It also allowed me to test Harley’s claim that you can still use touchscreen when it’s wet!
For all its increased techno, CVO models have only increased $500-$745.
Since we tested these bikes, some early customers have complained about the satnav failing on the new infotainment system.
Only one of the journos on our launch experienced problems. New techno is always fraught with problem, but Harley is now aware of the issue and working on sorting it out.
2019 CVO prices
(2018 prices in brackets)
- FLHXSE CVO Street Glide $50,495 ($49,750)
- FLHTRXSE CVO Road Glide $50,495 ($49,995)
- FLHTKSE CVO Ultra Limited $53,495 ($52,995)