2015 Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide Ultra - First Ride

Special addition.

2015 Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide Ultra action shot

It was little surprise when, at the conclusion of the 2015 Harley-Davidson press intro in Sonoma, California, I decided I liked the CVO Road Glide Ultra best. One glance at the specifications gave a hint why, and confirmed my taste for the finer things in life: The MSRP is $39,649.

Yes, you read that right. And no, the subtitle to this story isn’t a typo; it’s a play on words. Because when you add it up (get it?), you could damn near buy two regular Road Glides for the price of one special-edition CVO.

What makes this thing worth $351 shy of $40K? Let's start with a little history: When Harley revised its touring lineup for 2014 under the Project Rushmore heading, the Road Glide went missing for one year, returning with a new look for 2015. The main improvement is a new wind tunnel-tested shark-nose fairing with triple Splitstream vents. Lighting was improved with Dual Daymaker Reflective LED headlamps, while the sound system was upgraded to a Boom! Box 4.3 audio system pumping 25 watts per channel through two speakers. There's also a new seating position with a pullback handlebar, One-Touch access to the saddlebags and storage compartments, and a stout 49mm fork.

2015 Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide Ultra static side view

Not a bad-looking sled, huh? The 2015 Road Glide comes in three flavors: the $20,899 base model; the $23,199 Special with ABS, a security system and an upgraded stereo; and the $39,649 CVO Road Glide Ultra with everything but the kitchen sink.

The CVO starts there and just keeps piling on accessories. Most noticeable is the Tour-Pak top trunk with passenger backrest and stop/tail/turn LED lighting. Wind protection is further upgraded with a taller 13.5-in. touring windscreen (up from the base model’s 7 inches) as well as Jet Stream air deflectors that route cooling air over the rider’s and passenger’s legs. The fairing itself is color-matched on the inside and holds a color touch-screen Boom! Box 6.5 GT infotainment system pumping 75 watts per channel through four speakers. The system features 3-D GPS and CB radio, plus Bluetooth capability and a USB connection in the Jukebox media compartment. A 1.25-in.-diameter handlebar with more pullback and rise is fitted, and both the handgrips and seat are heated, the latter with separate controls for rider and passenger. A Power Locking System and H-D Factory Security System, options on the base model, come standard on the CVO. As for running gear, the CVO adds a Reflex ABS system with linked brakes plus a set of Mirror Chrome Custom Slicer wheels, the front reduced in diameter from 19 to 17 inches.

As for the engine, where the base Road Glide makes do with the air-cooled High Output Twin Cam 103 producing a claimed 104.7 pound-feet of torque at 3,250 rpm, the CVO boasts the top-of-the-line Screamin' Eagle Twin-Cooled Twin Cam 110 churning out a claimed 115 pound-feet at 3,750 rpm. That power is put to the ground with the help of a hydraulic Assist & Slip clutch. As on the base model, cruise control comes standard.

Our press ride took us on a 160-mile route through Northern California Wine Country and back along Highway 1. That's ample time to sample a number of bikes, but in the interest of more thorough testing I mostly hopped back and forth between the new Road Glide and CVO Road Glide Ultra.

2015 Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide Ultra corner action shot

And man, are these nice motorcycles! The main difference is how much more “put-together” the CVO feels. The base Road Glide is one of the most comfortable and capable baggers made, but the CVO takes it to a whole ’nuther level. The bar/seat/peg relationship feels nigh on perfect, roomy but not rangy. And it's almost eerily calm behind the windscreen, which means you can hear the (very loud) stereo at any speed. The twin joysticks initially brought me no joy, however, as I struggled to figure out which one did what on the fly. Once I’d figured them out, however, they were pretty much second nature.

For a large touring barge, the CVO handles great, that wide handlebar offering plenty of leverage with which to change direction. Cornering clearance is more than ample. The linked brakes offer impressive stopping power, even if it’s awkward to have to lift your right foot from the floorboard to step on the automotive-style pedal. The suspension also works quite well, though with just 3 inches of air-adjustable travel in the rear you'll feel every expansion joint and pothole. Interestingly, most of Harley's lineup still runs bias-ply Dunlop tires; one suspects that radials would offer a smoother ride.

Undisputed star of the show, however, is the engine, which has so much Redwood stump-pulling torque that it almost doesn't care what gear it’s in. You could still shake paint at idle, but once underway it smoothes right out. Roll-on power is right here, right now, at virtually any rpm. And the motor sounds great even with the stock mufflers. Hold that thought, Harley peeps.

2015 Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide Ultra on-road action shot

The CVO Road Glide Ultra comes in Burgundy Blaze/Typhoon Maroon (like our testbike) Abyss Blue/Crushed Sapphire, and Carbon Dust/Autumn Sunset.

I have only three beefs with this Hog. First, with the CVO weighing nearly 100 lb. more than the base Road Glide, I have to wonder why it isn't equipped with the reverse gear that comes on Harley’s three-wheelers. Don't dare suggest it was a price issue! Second, heat coming off the side-mounted radiators roasts your lower legs at a standstill. And third, unless you're a basketballer, the 1.25-in. -diameter grips are just too big. I wear size 2XL gloves, so believe me when I say 1-in. grips are big enough.

Aside from those few nitpicks, the 2015 Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide Ultra lives up to its top-shelf billing. It's the kind of motorcycle that can make a bagger fan out of a regular Harley guy, or a Harley fan out of anyone. But is it worth $40,000? As the old expression goes, "If you have to ask, you probably can't afford it." But if you can afford it, the answer is, unequivocally, yes!

|2015 Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide Ultra
ENGINE TYPE|ohv V-twin
SEAT HEIGHT|29.7 in.

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Static side view #1

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Cockpit view.

Engine close-up.

Front wheel.

Heated seat switch.

Left grip controls.

Right grip controls.

Studio front 3/4 right-side view.

Studio right-side view.

Angled overhead view.