Two new Chieftains join the Indian tribe
It’s been a busy time at Polaris. The closing of Victory Motorcycles and the shift in full-time focus to Indian means one of the most storied brands of, well, anything in America, now has nothing holding it back from going pound for pound with that great civil rival, Harley-Davidson.
And to celebrate this monumental turn of events, Indian has given the Chieftain line another two tribe members in the Chieftain Elite and Chieftain Limited to run alongside the Dark Horse and base model Chieftain.
Both new bikes differ from the base Chieftain and Dark Horse by running a new open cut front fender, replacing the iconic valanced fender of all current model Indians. That also means there’s no Indian War Bonnet on the fender, something I was surprised took longer to get used to than I anticipated. The new fender now sits atop the now 19-inch, 10-spoke contrast-cast front wheel which replaces the 16-inch units found on the Dark Horse and Chieftain. Indian is going for the custom look with front on these two bikes, with the open fender and design lines intended to make the front look bigger than it actually is. A 16-inch wheel still sits at the back.
This isn’t the first Indian to come with an open fender as the company used this design on multiple models in the 1920s and ’30s, but this is the first time we’ve seen it since the Polaris takeover.
Looking at the two Indians side-by-side, one is clearly the bling boy while the other is stealth. That bling on the Chieftain Elite comes from stunning Fireglow Red Candy paint job that’s all done by hand in the new Indian paint facility in Spearfish, South Dakota. Each Elite takes 25 man hours to complete thanks to the intricate pin-striping and graphic accents that litter the design.
Yet this killer paint job comes at a cost. The Elite is a whopping $7000 dearer than the Limited, so, if you want the look, it’ll cost you…
Both the Elite and Limited (the Elite is limited to 350 units, while the Limited is not. Go figure) come with the excellent new seven-inch dash display. This is one of the finest systems on the market and easily allows you to pair your devices, use the navigation and customize the look how you like without having to take gloves off. You can basically use it like an iPhone, pinching and swiping to find what you need.
Aside from those talking points, both bikes are nearly identical in the spec sheet. You still get the raucous Thunderstroke 111 V-twin with a stonking 119 lb-ft of American torque, the 200-watt audio system (although the Elite gets rear speakers s standard while the Limited has them as an accessory), keyless ignition and remote lockable saddlebags, and Indian’s True Dual Exhaust system that’s not quite as loud as the Elite’s paintjob but still emits enough noise that people will hear you before they see you.
I spent the majority of a day taking both bikes for a quick strap around downtown San Diego and into the hills skating the Mexican border, and for 800lb-plus bikes, it’s pretty impressive how well they handle being roughed up in the twisties. The 19-inch front wheel gives the Elite and Limited a touch of added stability, if decreasing the rate of turn ever so slightly, although the difference between the two is not as massive as you’d imagine. The Dunlop front tire has the same 130mm width that you get on the 16-incher, and Indian runs their own branded brakes and the four-piston calipers gripping 300mm discs performed admirably considering the mass they had to stop, especially when smashing down the mountain at speed coming back into San Diego.
The Thunderstroke 111 is a known quantity. This is the same engine Indian has been running for a number of years and performs beautifully in almost any condition. It’s remarkably low on vibrations, allowing you to just get on with it and enjoy the ride. There’s torque for days on this thing, but it will get all rattly and unhappy if you hold gears too long and the revs start to creep up high.
After a morning riding the Elite and Limited back to back in standard form, I end up spending the rest of the day riding an accessorized Limited with the optional mid-ride bars and love the ride far more. The higher bars mean your spine isn’t curved over at the base as much as the standard ride position, and also mean my legs don’t start to get tingly from lack of bloodflow.
I’ve never been one for the ‘cruiser slouch’ that comes with the territory of these bikes, although with the bars the way they, were on the Limited, I was a damn sight more comfortable.
The arrival of these new Indians has signaled a concerted push from the company into the urban bagger segment. These bikes are more designed for city cruising, according to Indian, rather than loading up for days and disappearing off into the distance. That said, with the range of accessories for these bikes, there’s nothing to stop you from doing so.
The addition of the Elite and Limited brings the Chieftain line-up to four, so I think we can safely say Chieftain family is now full. I’m very keen to see where Indian heads over the next few years as they have already decimated the American flat track scene, and will be focusing on some more performance machines in the near future. The Elite and Limited now give buyers some more choice, and I wouldn’t mind betting that, even at $31,499, the Elite will run out of showroom floors. Indian is full steam ahead after Victory’s death. As I said, it’s a busy time at Polaris.
2017 Indian Chieftain Elite and Limited
Engine: Four-stroke, air-cooled, V-twin
Displacement: 111c.i (1811cc)
Bore x stroke: 101 mm x 113 mm
Compression ratio: 9.5:1
Fuel system: Closed loop fuel injection / 54 mm bore
Transmission: Six-speed gearbox.
Front suspension Telescopic fork. 4.7 in wheel travel
Rear suspension: Air adjustable shock. 4.5 in wheel travel
Front brake: Dual 300mm rotors with four-piston calipers, ABS
Rear brake: Single 300mm rotor with two-piston caliper, ABS
Front tire: Dunlop American Elite 130/60B19 61H
Rear tire: Dunlop® Elite 3 Multi-Compound 180/60R16 80H
Trail: 5.9 in
Wheelbase: 65.7 in
Seat height: 26 in
Fuel capacity: 5.5 gal
Weight: 817 (curb, claimed).
Color: Thunder Black (Limited) Fireglow Red Candy (Elite)
MSRP: $31,499 MSRP (Elite), $24,499 Limited