Inside Harley-Davidson

Developing the Milwaukee-Eight™ Engine and 2017 Touring motorcycles

Birth of a new legend


Thousands of hours – and a mountain of rider input – went into developing the new Milwaukee-Eight™ engine that powers Harley-Davidson’s 2017 Touring and Trike motorcycles.


“We listened to nearly 1,000 riders across the globe,” said Paul James, director of motorcycle product planning. “We talked to core customers, but also ‘intenders,’ those who are not Touring customers today but may be soon.”


Harley-Davidson discovered riders wanted an engine that produces more power, less heat, quicker acceleration, and better fit them. Above all, customers wanted new products to retain the iconic look of the brand.


“We’ve delivered something that takes our product innovation further yet retains the iconic look, sound and feel of a Harley-Davidson,” James said.


The Milwaukee-Eight engine, Harley-Davidson’s ninth Big Twin design, has four valves per head and retains the classic 45-degree V-Twin cylinder angle while producing more power, along with a richer exhaust sound and better fuel economy. It also supports riders’ increased electrical power demands for lighting, audio, heated gear and other accessories.


In addition to a new engine, 2017 Touring models boast improved suspension and confidence-inspired handling. While some of the improvements can’t be seen, riders should feel the changes immediately.


“They’ll notice how refined the motorcycle sounds and feels and, when they twist the throttle, they’ll feel much more significant power – 10 percent more torque,” James said. “The rear suspension is easy to adjust without tools and features more range of adjustment. And the front forks with dual-bending valve technology provide significantly better ride quality and control." 

Product design began with customer requests gleaned from global research. The information was shared with Engineering and, at the same time, Styling began working on the Milwaukee-Eight engine.


“Visuals are as important as sound and feel, but we also had to meet requirements for performance and the environment, and to line up with what our customers were asking for,” James said.


Harley-Davidson’s Product Development Leadership team, comprised of leaders from marketing, finance, purchasing, engineering and design, was involved in the product planning process.  


Next, the prototypes that were created were tested at Harley-Davidson’s Arizona Proving Grounds, while Supply Management established relationships to produce parts.


One of Manufacturing’s roles was to ensure prototypes could be built in the quantity needed while maintaining top quality. Testing was rigorous.


“By the time we launch this motorcycle, we’ll have more than 7,000 hours in mechanized testing and more than 1.5 million miles of actual road testing,” James said. “It gives you a pretty good certainty of how it’s going to perform in the hands of a customer.”


Harley-Davidson dealers are making it easy for customers to check out the performance and power of the new 2017 Touring lineup by offering test rides.


James expects riders will like what they see – and feel. "All these significant changes will definitely put a smile on our customers' faces,” he said.