Last week Indian debuted a new monster V-twin engine called PowerPlus, which is a 108 cubic inch motor with “best in class” 122 horsepower and 128 lb-ft of torque. The newly launched fixed fairing bagger, called Challenger, is the first bike to carry this liquid-cooled overhead cam powerplant.
It’s pretty obvious that Polaris-owned Indian has its sights set squarely on grabbing marketshare from Harley-Davidson’s popular fixed fairing Road Glide bagger. Debate the styling differences between the Harley and the Indian all you want, they are few.
I have ridden a handful of bikes in this class lately, and while I can’t personally justify the price, I can say that I get it. I have some delusions of a nostalgia I never earned, an idea that I could be some plains ranger on a bagger bike taking to the highways of the American Southwest. I desire to be a tough large adult man, and bikes like this make you feel a certain way. Plus, they’re so damn comfortable.
“The Indian Challenger delivers a new level of performance for riders who understand that the seemingly small details make a huge difference,” said Reid Wilson, Vice President of Indian Motorcycle. “Our mindset was to leave no stone unturned and deliver a bagger that exceeds the standards in categories like power, handling, comfort, and technology.”
“While we are grounded in our iconic history, we are focused and driven to break new ground and establish a higher standard for riders; and the Challenger is a testament to that,” said Steve Menneto, President of Indian Motorcycle. “The amount of technology and level of detail packed into this bike is incredible, and it’s something we’re extremely proud of.”
The base Challenger has all of the bells and whistles you’d expect from a big bagger like this, including cruise control, LED lighting, a comfy seat, ABS, keyless start, and, well, bags.
The Challenger’s cast aluminum frame is a big deal in this market, showing a dedication to stiffness and weight reduction. Throw in an adjustable FOX shock and inverted front forks and it’s carrying some pretty impressive hardware. Indian says this setup provides “unrivaled handling and rock-solid stability”.
When you step up to a Limited or Dark Horse variant of the Challenger, you get Indian’s “Smart Lean Technology” package, which uses Bosch inertial measurement to give traction control and ABS more information to help them calculate the right actions to take through a corner. It also adds Drag Torque Control, which will adjust torque delivery to the rear wheel on downshifts and decel to keep it from locking up.
Those two higher trim levels also feature the largest infotainment touchscreen on a motorcycle with a 7" Ride Command system (though as proud as Indian is of it, this is the only picture included in the press materials). Indian has added weather and traffic overlays to its navi system, plus simple bluetooth and USB pairing, and a new quad-core processor to reduce system interface lag. My experience with Indian’s old system was pleasant, so this new faster system must be pretty impressive.
Everything about this bike sounds interesting, if a bit expensive. The Challenger starts at $21,999, the Dark Horse kicks off at $27,499 with some blackout parts, while the chrome-laden Limited will cost you $27,999. That’s pretty much in line with the one-bike pool that this thing just jumped into, but that one is also expensive, so that’s to be expected.
Indian has been making some impressive inroads on the American motorcycle market since its revival by Polaris in 2011. That said, it is curious that the company is content to chase after the traditional Harley-Davidson customer that Harley is so vocally trying to distance itself from. I guess being that Harley owns 51% of the American market, even its leftovers are enough to produce a profitable company.