This proud, old name in American motorcycling began production in 1901, eventually became the world’s largest motorcycle manufacturer, and then went bankrupt in 1953. Two attempted revivals of the Indian name since 2003 collapsed, but this latest one is backed by Polaris Industries, the multi-billion-dollar Minnesota-based company that manufactures a variety of power products including ATVs, snowmobiles, watercraft and Victory motorcycles. Its strong financial position and experience with bikes has given it the best shot at reviving the marque, and this time they got it right.
This new Indian, of course, trades on its magic name and takes full advantage of the styling cues of the original. These include the cruiser stance, the heavily valanced fenders and the illuminated Indian head on the front fender. Its 111-cubic-inch (1,811cc), air-cooled, 49-degree V-twin is a showy affair with generous finning, visible pushrod tubes, distinctive flathead-style valve covers and lots of chrome, but it also puts out comparable horsepower to, and greater torque than, its two rivals here.
As kitschy as some of these touches may be, this is not to say that the bike is just another campy styling exercise. Rather, this is a fully modern and competitive motorcycle with competitive pricing at $22,999, a serious effort with electronic sequential fuel injection, counterbalancing and throttle-by-wire, and it all works very well.
This particular model, the Chieftain, is the top-line Indian and is distinguished by its fairing with electrically adjustable windscreen, remote locking saddlebags, tire pressure monitors and a 100-watt sound system. Even its six-piece modular aluminum backbone frame is testament to its modern design. In addition, there are two other Chief models, the basic naked Classic, and the Vintage with windshield and leather bags. At 847 pounds fully gassed, the Indian Chieftain is the heaviest in our test, but is the only one to feature the electrically adjustable windscreen.