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Harley-Davidson CVO Street Glide and CVO Road Glide unveil new VVT 121 engine

Jun 08, 2023

Harley-Davidson unveiled the 2023 CVO Street Glide and CVO Road Glide yesterday with the usual premium finishes you'd expect from CVO models, but the real news is the technology underneath the looks. Debuting in these CVO models is a bigger, more powerful engine with Harley-Davidson's first use of variable valve timing on a Big Twin, the Milwaukee-Eight VVT 121.

Raising the Bar and Shield

The Milwaukee-Eight VVT 121 keeps the brand’s iconic 45-degree layout, but breaks with tradition in multiple ways. With a displacement of 121 cubic inches (1,977 cc), the new M8 ranks as the largest production powerplant ever offered by the Bar and Shield. H-D engineers achieve that volume with a 4.075-inch bore and 4.625-inch stroke. Harley-Davidson claims the 11.4:1 compression ratio helps push the big-bore V-Twin to 139 foot-pounds of torque (at 3,000 rpm) and 115 horsepower (at 4,500 rpm). That's 8% more torque and 9.5% more horsepower than the Milwaukee-Eight 117 engine.

illustration of the VVT system's cam phaser
The phaser rotor and housing assembly on the VVT 121 engine. Harley-Davidson illustration.

A variety of techniques are used to create that higher horsepower, but the biggest change is Harley-Davidson's use of variable valve timing. H-D's system allows the valve timing to be altered through a range of up to 20 degrees of camshaft rotation. Harley uses a "Dual Equal Phaser" that alters both intake and exhaust timing. The cam phaser allows the camshaft to move separately from the camshaft sprocket, which is driven by the crankshaft. The valve timing is computer-controlled and uses a solenoid plunger to control ported flow of engine oil to operate the system. The electronic control module monitors camshaft position, throttle position, engine temperature, engine load, and rpm and can make adjustments to timing throughout the rev range. In addition to the power gain — which should apply to the entire powerband, and not just peak power — Harley-Davidson also said riders could see a boost in fuel economy of 3% to 5%.

The Milwaukee-Eight VVT 121 V-Twin benefits from Variable Valve Technology.
The Milwaukee-Eight VVT 121 V-Twin offers Variable Valve Technology, a first for a Harley-Davidson Big Twin engine. Harley-Davidson photo.

In addition to the new VVT system, other changes to the Milwaukee-Eight engine helped achieve the power increase. The VVT 121 gets new cylinder heads with reshaped combustion chambers and oval intake ports, plus a higher-lift camshaft and a larger 58 mm throttle body. Opening up the 121’s airways, a four-liter airbox increases intake volume by nearly 50% while a high-flow exhaust still captures the legendary V-twin soundtrack. A heavily revised cooling system handles the higher output and promotes rider comfort, with the electronic pump sending coolant to the hotter rear cylinder head before circulating fluid to the front cylinder head and radiator. New passages cut into the cylinder heads also foster flow around the exhaust valves, while the thermostatically controlled fan helps shuttle hot air away from the engine — especially at slower speeds.

Lean on me

Both the CVO Street Glide and CVO Road Glide come with lean-sensitive rider aids including Cornering ABS (C-ABS), Cornering Traction Control (C-TCS), Cornering Electronically Linked Brakes (C-ELB), and Cornering Drag Torque Slip Control (C-DTSC). Now, three pre-set ride modes (Road, Rain, and Sport) automatically adjust the C-ABS and C-TCS settings along with the bike’s power profile and engine braking characteristics. Riders can also personalize those parameters with two custom ride modes.

A 12.3-inch TFT dash centralizes all the ride information in one place.
A 12.3-inch TFT touchscreen display replaces the analog gauges and 6.5-inch screen featured on previous CVO models. Harley-Davidson photo.

The tech refresh extends to the cockpit, as well. With H-D designers eliminating the classic analog gauges, a tablet-sized 12.3-inch widescreen TFT display now centralizes all ride information. The unit’s touchscreen function works with all glove styles and in all weather conditions, allowing users to reliably retrieve data. Three display options (Cruise, Sport, and Touring) organize the screen layout based on each use case, while a high-contrast mode and a day/night mode preserve legibility. 

Powered by the new Skyline OS, the system flaunts Wi-Fi connectivity, a voice command system, navigation, and a Bluetooth receiver for wireless headset connectivity. A media storage compartment also accommodates the rider’s devices with a USB-C outlet. Thanks to Apple and Android compatibility, users can stream media through the Rockford Fosgate Stage II audio system’s 6.5-inch fairing speakers and five-by-seven-inch saddlebag speakers. 

In with the new

The Motor Company turned to computational fluid dynamics (CFD) tools, wind tunnel development, and real-world testing to reshape its classic batwing and sharknose fairings. The new aerodynamic forms also benefit from a “floating” windshield design, which Harley claims reduces helmet buffeting by 60%. Additionally, adjustable air vanes enable the rider to redirect airflow for additional ventilation.

New LED lighting redefine Harley-Davidson's iconic Batwing and Shark Nose fairings.
Expansive new LED lighting designs modernize the signature Street Glide and Road Glide styling. Harley-Davidson photo.

Designed to emphasize the CVO Street Glide and CVO Road Glide’s iconic silhouettes, the new LED headlamps take advantage of the fairing’s full real estate. Foregoing its typical dual-headlight setup, the Road Glide earns a broad, all-in-one unit. The Street Glide, on the other hand, maintains a single headlight but adopts two LED strips to evenly illuminate the road. Out back, both models integrate the tail, brake, and indicator lights into the space between the rear fender and saddlebags. 

Lighten the load

Harley reports that it aggressively cut weight wherever possible. That includes a fuel tank constructed from lighter-gauge steel and new triple trees forged with a liquid-aluminum process. As a result, the 2023 CVO Street Glide’s dry weight saves 31 pounds on the previous model. Similarly, the CVO Road Glide sheds 35 pounds. We should note that the former’s wet weight is 838 pounds, while the latter tips the scales at 862 pounds, in running order.

Harley-Davidson equips the 2023 CVO Road Glide for the interstate and backroad twisties.
Harley-Davidson lists the 2023 CVO Road Glide's dry weight at 825 pounds, equating to a 35-pound weight saving (compared to its predecessor). Harley-Davidson photo.

The new inverted, 47 mm Showa fork not only signals the CVO range’s performance aspirations but also offers 4.6 inches (117 mm) of travel. Dual outboard Showa shocks may increase rear wheel travel by 50% (compared to 2022 Grand American Touring models), but the 2023 CVOs still only offer three inches of travel. A remote hydraulic preload adjustment knob on the left-side shock allows changes to suit up to 100 pounds of additional cargo. To make larger changes to preload or to adjust rebound damping, the rider will need to remove the right saddlebag.

Fully leaning into performance, both CVO models come equipped with dual radially mounted, Brembo-branded four-piston calipers and two 320 mm discs up front. A single four-pot Brembo binder at the rear now mates to a 300 mm rotor.

The 2023 Harley-Davidson CVO Street Glide starts at $42,999.
The 2023 Harley-Davidson CVO Street Glide starts at $48,999 in Whiskey Neat/Raven Metallic. Harley-Davidson photo.

CVO models are known for premium finishes and premium prices. Bright Smoked Satin pinstriping and Scorched Chrome finishes complement the standard Dark Platinum color, and both models with that paint scheme list at $42,999. The two-tone Whiskey Neat/Raven Metallic option sports airbrushed accents and a chrome exhaust and the price rises to $48,999. Before the models roll into dealer showrooms in mid-July, Harley-Davidson will showcase both CVOs at its Homecoming Festival in Milwaukee. Expect to see a first ride report on these new models and the new VVT 121 engine right after the Homecoming. 

2023 Harley-Davidson CVO Street Glide 2023 Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide
Price (MSRP) $42,999 (Dark Platinum), $48,999 (Whiskey Neat/Raven Metallic)
Engine Milwaukee-Eight VVT 121, 1,977 cc, air-and-liquid-cooled, eight-valve, V-twin with variable valve timing
final drive
Six-speed, belt
Claimed horsepower 115 @ 4,500 rpm
Claimed torque 139 foot-pounds @ 3,000 rpm
Frame Tubular steel, two-piece stamped and welded backbone, twin down tubes, bolt-on rear frame 
Front suspension 47 mm fork; 4.60 inches (117 mm) of travel
Rear suspension Dual rear shocks, remote preload adjustment on the left shock, and threaded preload and rebound damping adjustment on the right shock; 3.0 inches (76 mm) of travel
Front brake Dual Brembo radial-mounted four-piston calipers, 320 mm (12.6-inch) discs with ABS
Rear brake Brembo four-piston caliper, 300 mm (11.8-inch) disc with ABS
Rake, trail 26 degrees, 6.7 inches (170 mm)
Wheelbase 64 inches (1,625 mm)
Seat height 28.0 inches (711 mm) unladen 28.1 inches (714 mm) unladen
Fuel capacity 6.0 gallons (22.7 liters)
Tires Dunlop D408F 130/60B19 front, D407T 180/55/B18 rear
Claimed weight 838 pounds (380 kilograms) wet 862 pounds (391 kilograms) wet
Available July 2023
Warranty 24 months
More info