The 2021 Harley-Davidson Pan America Packs A Ton Of Tech For A Surprisingly Reasonable Price

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Photo: Harley-Davidson

Harley-Davidson is making waves to appeal to a broader audience and capture younger buyers. One of the Motor Company’s more interesting efforts is the Pan America. Harley-Davidson revealed the Pan America today and it blew away my expectations.

I already liked the machine for its futuristic looks. It looks like something a space marine would ride in a sci-fi flick. But the Pan America is more than just good looks — it’s packed with goodies, too.

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The Pan America Special has what Harley calls Semi-Active Suspension. It uses sensors to automatically control damping based on inputs like speed, throttle, vertical acceleration and more. It also has five preprogrammed profiles for a comfortable cruise, off-roading and even a sport mode. Suspension travel is equal front and rear at 7.5 inches. Up front is a 47 mm inverted Showa Balance Free Fork with the semi-active damping control. Out back is a Showa Balance Free Rear Cushion-Lite coil-over shock with electronic preload and the aforementioned semi-active damping control. Ground clearance comes in at 8.3 inches.

The suspension tricks don’t end there, either, as the Vehicle Loading Control system senses all of the weight piled onto the motorcycle and adjusts suspension sag automatically to compensate.

My favorite bit of tech on the Pan America is the Adaptive Ride Height option. This neat system lowers the seat by one to two inches to allow the rider to mount the motorcycle easier and hopefully be able to flat-foot the Pan America easily on a stop.

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The suspension didn’t get all of the gizmos. There are five Ride Modes. They’re all pretty self-explanatory with Sport, Road, Rain, Off-Road and Off-Road Plus and they work by tuning the motorcycle’s power delivery, engine braking, ABS and Traction Control to fit your riding conditions. Capping it off is a standard tilting 6.8-inch TFT touchscreen that is your gateway to navigation, music, calls and the bike’s status.

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If all of that tech sounds like future headaches to you, the standard Pan America 1250 might be the ticket. It retains the good ride height and off-road chops, but without the tricks of the Special. You get the same 8.3-inch ground clearance, same 7.5-inch suspension travel and even the Ride Modes.

The engine isn’t a slouch, either. The Revolution Max 1250 engine onboard the Pan America produces 150 horsepower and 94 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy is listed at 46 mpg. Harley says the platform underpinning the Pan America paves the way for another motorcycle we’re waiting for, the Custom 1250.

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Like many virtual vehicle release events it had its fair share of cringe, but it finished on a high note. Early into the reveal, Harley-Davidson built up a counterpoint against those who may say the Pan America is a late-comer to the adventure bike game. Harley says it invented the adventure segment about a century ago. Harley-Davidson spent quite a lot of time telling stories of its off-roading past. The company also made a mention to its enduros of the 1960s and 1970s, failing to mention that those were actually Italian Aermacchis. It was a bit odd and sort of misses the point that the closest the Motor Company got to the ADV segment in recent decades is the Buell Ulysses.

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Still, I love the Pan America and I think it might be a hit if the Motor Company markets it right. Harley is even jumping out of the gate with tons of accessories.

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The standard Pan America comes in at $17,319 while the Special is $19,999 and will be available in May. Harley-Davidson appears to be coming after the BMW R 1250 GS with this one, so it makes sense to compare the two. The pair have very similar specs and features, but the standard R 1250 GS is $17,995 and the higher spec Adventure is $20,345. How often can Harley-Davidson say it comes in cheaper than its competition?

Staff Writer at Jalopnik and learning pilot. Loves all vehicles! Smart Fortwo (x4), Honda Beat, AmTran School Bus, VW Passat W8, Jetta TDI (x2), Audi TT, Buell Lightning, Suzuki Burgman, Yamaha U7E...

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DISCUSSION

How much does it weigh?

Because with a big lump of engine not mounted particularly low in the chassis, it looks to be a little (or a lot) unwieldy off-road. And how many of the accessories will cease to function after the first mishap?

(I learned to ride off-road as a yute before getting a motorcycle license, so dual-purpose bikes are near and dear to my heart.)