The base model cruiser in the Indian Motorcycle lineup, the Chief Classic carries the vintage badging and iconic lighted War Bonnet that is still the hallmark of the brand even through the fits, starts and financial turmoil of various owners during the post-WWII years, right up to the turn of the century.
Since Polaris acquired it in 2011, Indian has become its top-selling motorcycle brand. Carried forward for 2017, the Chief Classic has the styling and valenced fenders that identify it as classic Indian and it has rider amenities and features such as ABS, cruise control, keyless starting, electronic fuel injection and a manually-adjustable single-shock swingarm.
For a cruiser, I expect it to have a low seat height and the Chief Classic doesn’t disappoint. At 26 inches, even I can reach the ground. The swept-back bars and forward foot controls give you an easy-cruising windsock riding position and the Chief Classic has a soft, responsive throttle and a smooth, quick-responding clutch with very good low-speed stability. At least that’s now it seems to me.
The keyless ignition relieves me of fumbling with the key. I can start the bike with the key fob in my pocket or use a code I pre-programmed in the ignition system.
The center-console instrument cluster includes an analog tach and speedometer along with a digital multi-function display for all the usual warning and indicator lamps as well as rider information displays. The instruments are easy to read, but with a full-face helmet, you might find you have to bob your head to see them.
Bling is the thing on the Chief Classic. The folks at Indian chromed everything that could be chromed.
For comfort on the road, add a quick-release low windshield to control wind buffeting. You can install and remove the windshield without tools.
Indian pays tribute to the classic styling by keeping the elegant sweep of the valenced fenders — a hallmark of the brand since 1940 — along with the iconic tank emblems and front-fender figurehead. Large 46 mm forks carry the front end on 4.7-inches of travel, and the single rear adjustable pneumatic shock affords 3.7-inches of travel, which is fine for a cruiser.
Dual four-piston calipers in the front and a twin-piston caliper on the rear are hidden behind painted-to-match brake covers that blend right in with the fenders. With 300 mm discs all the way around and ABS, you have ample stopping power. All this rolls on 16-inch, 60-spoke laced wheels and Dunlop American Elite tires.
The triple-cam, V-twin Thunder Stroke 111 engine is the powerhouse here, breathing through a 54 mm throttle body to put out an awesome 119 pound-feet of torque. To keep the nice parallel look of the pushrod tubes, three cams operate the four-pushrod valvetrain.
Conceived and developed by Polaris Industries, this is the engine that is “honoring our past and powering our future,” says Indian. It’s the first clean-sheet, proprietary Indian motorcycle engine in over 70 years.
With a true dual exhaust, the acoustically engineered system delivers the low rumble of the V-twin by eliminating high-pitch sound. If that isn’t enough for you, add a Stage 1 slip-on exhaust to accentuate the sexy exhaust note and add a pair of fishtail exhaust tips. When that rich, throaty exhaust draws attention, it should look as good as it sounds.
The six-speed transmission has a positive neutral find, which is always a good thing. With the sixth-gear overdrive, cruising is seemingly effortless doing 45 mph at 1,700 rpm and a whole lot of low-to-mid range torque.
MSRP on the 2015 Chief Classic is $18,999. Your color choices are Thunder Black, Indian Red, or a two-tone Indian Red/Thunder Black. For 2016, you get a price break with MSRP at $18,499, though the color choice was made for you — Pearl White. For 2017, you can still get the Pearl White for $18,499 or opt for the Burgundy Metallic over Thunder Black for $19,499.
Indian covers your Chief Classic with a two-year limited warranty as long as you register with Indian at the time of purchase. If you don’t register, you’ll be SOL on any warranty work later.
This Thunder Stroke 111 engine made me do a double-take on these Indian bikes. It’s got mad torque that comes on so early, which is one thing I always liked about Harleys.
In comparing it to, say, a Heritage Softail Classic that comes in about $600 less in 2015 and something like $1100 less in 2016, the Chief Classic has more torque. To get the Twin Cam 110 engines in the CVO line, which has comparable torque, you have to spend a heckuvalot more cash.
Both manufacturers have their own history to draw upon, and it shows in the overall designs. The Heritage runs on the rigid-looking Softail frame, and displays a somewhat chunky appearance with the abrupt elevation changes along the top lines. Indian, on the other hand, blessed the Chief Classic with a grace and flow that seems a bit sleeker, plus the full fenders front and rear lend a certain visual weight to the lower lines.
Personally, I’ve always been a fan of the Heritage, but this Chief really has a nice look about it, and is classic Indian all the way. Both enjoy chrome shrouding around the headlamp nacelle, but I have to question Indian’s decision to run on mag wheels — laced wheels with chrome spokes would look fabulous.
Both rides look great set up for a solo rider, but I doubt the Chief looks as good under pillion, bags and windshield as the Heritage, so if you plan on doing some light touring/weekend trips, the Heritage will get you there in its stock condition. However, if you just plan on prowling the urban jungle and cruising the boulevard, the Chief Classic will certainly fill the bill, and turn heads doing it.
My husband and fellow writer, TJ Hinton, says, “Much the same as the Chieftain, this bike definitely shows its roots. Indian history is readily apparent at a glance and I really like the nostalgic look of the bike. I’d like to say it really takes me back, but who am I kidding, I wasn’t alive in the 1940s. Indian gets bonus points for going with the gangster white-wall tires.”
“I can’t deny that the Chief Classic is a nice looking bike and as a cruiser, it’s an awesome performer. I have to admit, though, that I prefer the gorgeous desert tan leather on the Chief Vintage. I really like that Thunderstroke 111 engine. It’s made me a real Indian fan.”
|Engine Type:||Thunder Stroke® 111, V-Twin|
|Cooling System:||Air/Oil Cooler|
|Valvetrain:||Two Valves Per Cylinder, Hydraulic Lifters|
|Bore:||3.976 inches (101 mm)|
|Stroke:||4.449 inches (113 mm)|
|Compression Ratio:||9.5 to 1|
|Electronic Fuel Injection System:||Closed Loop Fuel Injection / 54 mm Bore|
|Peak Torque (J1349:||119.2 pound-feet at 3,000 rpm|
|Rev Limit:||5,400 rpm|
|/Driven Clutch:||Wet, Multi-plate|
|Transmission/Primary Drive:||Gear Drive Wet Clutch|
|Gear Ratio (Overall):|
|1st:||9.403 to 1|
|2nd:||6.411 to 1|
|3rd:||4.763 to 1|
|4th:||3.796 to 1|
|5th:||3.243 to 1|
|6th:||2.789 to 1|
|Final Drive:||Belt – 2.2 to 1|
|Exhaust System:||1 into 2 with Catalytic Converter, Split Dual Exhaust with Cross-Over|
|Suspension: Front:||Telescopic Fork, 46 mm Cartridge Forks with Dual Rate Springs|
|Suspension: Front Travel:||4.7 inches|
|Suspension: Rear:||Single Shock|
|Suspension: Rear Travel:||3.7 inches|
|Brakes: Front:||Dual/ Floating Rotor/ Four-Piston Calipers Dual Front/ 300 MM with ABS|
|Brakes: Rear:||Single/ Floating Rotor/ Two-Piston Caliper/ 300 MM with ABS|
|Tires: Front:||Dunlop® American Elite 130/90B16 67H|
|Tires: Rear:||Dunlop® American Elite 180/65B16 81H|
|Wheels: Front:||60-Spoke 16 inches x 3.5 inches|
|Wheels: Rear:||60-Spoke 16 inches x 5 inches|
|Overall Length:||103.5 inches|
|Overall Height:||46.3 inches|
|Overall Width:||40.4 inches|
|Seat Height:||26.0 inches|
|Ground Clearance:||5.5 inches|
|Fuel Capacity:||5.5 Gallons|
|Fuel Requirements||91 octane minimum (R+M/2 Method)|
|Reserve Fuel:||1 Gallon|
|Maximum Load Capacity:||448 Pounds|
|Weight – Empty Tank:||778 Pounds|
|Weight – Full Tank:||812 Pounds|
|Standard Equipment:||ABS; Cast Aluminum Frame with Integrated Air-Box; Cruise Control; Keyless Start; Light Bar; Genuine Leather Seats|
|Gauges:||Tank Mounted Electronic Speedometer with Odometer; Dual Tripmeters; Digital Tachometer; Ambient Air Temperature; Fuel Range; Average Fuel Economy; Battery Voltage; Gear Position Display; Real-Time Clock; Vehicle Trouble Code Readout; Heated Grip Level (With Heated Grips Installed); Low Engine Oil Pressure; 9 LED Telltale Indicators: Cruise Control Enabled, Cruise Control Set, Neutral, High Beam, Turn Signal, ABS, Check Engine and MPH Unit Designation; Tank-Mounted Electronic Fuel Gauge with Low Fuel LED Indicator|
|Power Points:||Front – 10 amp maximum / Rear – 10 amp maximum / Combined – 10 amp maximum|
|2015:||Thunder Black, Indian Red, two-tone Indian Red/Thunder Black|
|2017:||Pearl White, Burgundy Metallic over Thunder Black|