Auto Trader bikes

Skip to contentSkip to footer
Expert Review

Harley-Davidson Ultra Limited Tourer (2016 - ) review

Harley flagship full-dresser showcases its touring family’s all-new-for-2017, four-valve, partially liquid-cooled ‘Milwaukee-Eight’ engines.

The Auto Trader expert verdict:

3.9

Available new from £19,646

Harley’s range-topping ElectraGlide has always had a retro take on the full-dress tourer theme, emphasising classic, ‘50s-style character over performance and high tech luxury. However, while retaining the style, that all took a leap forward thanks to H-D’s Project Rushmore programme in 2014, with much improved chassis, brakes and infotainment systems. The new ‘Milwaukee-Eight’ four-valve, partially liquid-engines now complete that update, although the style is as quaint as ever.

Reasons to buy:

  • tickUprated engines are smoother and (slightly) pokier
  • tickImproved suspension is also a bonus
  • tickClassic style and character unchanged

At a glance:

Design

Redesigns don’t get more conservative.
Redesigns don’t get more conservative. After 2014’s Project Rushmore refresh, which saw all-new Batwing fairing, panniers, the works – although at a glance they all looked identical to the 1960s originals – the new ‘Milwaukee-Eight’ motor sees new cases, cylinders, head and more – but again it all looks virtually identical. In short, the ‘Glide’s classic, retro, V-twin American tourer style isn’t changing any time soon, but it’s all impressively thorough and works better than ever.
Expert rating: 4/5

Riding position

With only the engine and suspension updated, all bodywork, riding position, equipment etc. is unchanged. That said, there was no real need for it to change. The ‘Glide family – although stylistically stuck in a time warp – has been constantly refined over the years. For its intended purpose (cruising at 55mph, two-up with plenty of luggage across America’s vast ‘straightwaways’), it’s pretty much beyond criticism. Sumptuous all-day comfort indeed.
Expert rating: 4/5

Practicality

If you want a long distance, US-style, luxurious, pillion-friendly ride, the Ultra Limited has it all.
It depends what you want the bike for. If you want a long distance, US-style, luxurious, pillion-friendly ride, the Ultra Limited, as with previous ElectraGlides, has it all. But that doesn’t mean it’s versatile or practical, as around town, the Ultra’s huge size and weight means it’s a liability. And in anything other than perfect California sun, and at well over £20k, it’d be a travesty to subject all that chrome and class to British weather.
Expert rating: 3/5

Performance & braking

Not any big Harley’s forte, particularly in modern sportsbike terms, but the updated Ultra Limited does deliver what it set out to. The new ‘Milwaukee-Eight’ four-valve engine is an improvement, albeit a fairly subtle one. Performance is on a par with most middle-range cars and with a decent amount of grunt, it’s adequate for the ‘Glide’s intended purpose. Roll-on performance is slightly up, and economy is improved too. The brakes, meanwhile, received a big upgrade in 2014.
Expert rating: 4/5

Ride & handling

‘Glide handling and ride quality has long been better than most expected.
The 2017 update also sees an improvement to the touring family’s suspension, with a move to uprated (but externally identical) Showa Big Piston forks and emulsion shocks at the rear, which are also now preload adjustable via just one external knob. It has to be said that any improvement is barely discernible. However, although it’s slightly old-fashioned, a tad crude and always hefty, ‘Glide handling and ride quality has long been better than most expected.
Expert rating: 4/5

Running costs

Harley-Davidson ownership has never come cheap, and that’s even more true with its top-of-the-range full dressers. But while the initial purchase price and insurance costs are fairly daunting, day-to-day running costs are usually surprisingly low thanks to relatively undemanding performance, which means gentle consumption of consumables such as tyres. The new engine is more economical than before, and like all Harley Big Twins, it has belt, not chain drive.
Expert rating: 4/5

Reliability

Despite a seemingly fairly crude and chunky design, Harleys are solid, well-built, with thick paint and chrome.
Despite a seemingly fairly crude and chunky design, Harleys are solid, well-built, with thick paint and chrome. The current engines hark back to the original Evolution V-twin of the early 1980s, so are about as proven and refined as they get. That said, the four-valve layout is all-new, so our jury’s still out. On previous experience, as they’re fairly under-stressed and, as long as they’re maintained correctly, we see no cause for concern.
Expert rating: 4/5

Warranty & servicing

Harley-Davidsons come with the fairly standard, industry-wide, two-year/unlimited mileage warranty for parts and labour. Service intervals too (despite the new engine design) are fairly standard, requiring major services every 6,000 miles or annually – whichever is shorter. Harleys are generally simple designs which require much less labour than complicated four-cylinder designs, so there’s nothing to be scared of.
Expert rating: 4/5

Equipment

It has all the bells and whistles the American firm has to offer.
The Ultra Limited is the current flagship of Harley’s touring line-up, and as such, has all the bells and whistles the American firm has to offer. This ranges from a lavish and impressive touch-screen infotainment system, to easy-to-use luggage, cruise-control, ABS and more. It’s not quite as slick and sophisticated as say, BMW’s awesome K1600GTL though. And if all that isn’t enough, Harley is renowned for having the most comprehensive accessories catalogue of all, enabling you to add almost everything you could imagine.
Expert rating: 4/5

Why buy?

Most Harley buyers wouldn’t consider any other make of machine. As the legend goes, ‘If you have to ask, you wouldn’t understand’. If you’re after a genuine, US-style full-dress tourer, this is the one, and it’s better than ever. However, for the first time in decades, Harley now has some credible, home grown competition in the form of the revived Indian and, in this case, its impressive Roadmaster full-dress rival. They’re close, but the Harley, for many, is still the proven old favourite.
Expert rating: 4/5

Still interested in buying a Harley-Davidson Touring?

Find newFind usedFind a dealer