First Ride: New range-topping Indian Chieftain Elite

Published: 04 April 2017

Factory custom specials have long been the preserve of Harley-Davidson’s Custom Vehicle Operations (CVO) department, but this is new territory for Indian. Yes, there have been specials (the two Jack Daniels models spring to mind), but this garish Elite heralds a new chapter in resurgent Indian’s modern history.

Identical in almost every respect to the Chieftain Limited, the new Elite doesn’t boast a very long list of changes to satisfy the £5600 increase on the price tag, but the quality and value of the items on the list is, at least, beyond reproach.

The lion’s share of the hike is thanks to the paintjob. No two will be identical, because every single Elite will be hand-painted by Indian’s Spearfish paintshop in South Dakota – and the quality is jaw-dropping. If you paid for a paintjob of this standard separately it would easily swallow the price difference all on its own. The only downside is that you have Henry Ford myth levels of colour choice. You either take the Elite in this ‘Fireglow Red Candy with Marble Accents’ – or you don’t have an Elite. And that’s a shame for everyone with an allergy to candy red bikes. The detailing is superb, and continues through the unique tank console, horn, airbox, primary and cam covers with colour matched pinstripes.

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The other differences over a stock Limited include a pair of pannier-mounted speakers to bolster the blast from the binnacle-mounted ones that tie in to the excellent Ride Command system; what Indian call their ‘Flare’ screen – which isn’t much taller than stock, but is flared wider; billet footboards for both rider and pillion, and LED ‘Pathfinder’ lighting. This smattering of specialness adds 6kg to the Elite’s mass, which sounds like a lot, but it’s inconsequential on what was already a 371kg bike.

On the road you certainly feel that bit more special, and conspicuous, and while the ride is identical to the Limited, I did find the footboards somewhat annoying. The exposed billet centres on the boards offer no grip, and when wet they’re glassy in the extreme. But that’s the only obvious difference in terms of feel. That Flare screen, although a tad wider, actually made no tangible difference to airflow for my wide 5’11” frame, while the LED Pathfinder lighting is certainly brighter, whiter, and cleaner looking.

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If all this candy sweetness and billet finery doesn’t put any wind in your sail, don’t despair – save yourself the expense and buy the Chieftain Limited, and you won’t ever feel a single pang of disappointment. But if you’ve been longing for Indian to break out the ‘CVO’ factory custom treatment, this is a superb first attempt.

Indian Chieftain Elite Tech Specs

Price – £27,599

Engine – 1811cc (101x113mm), air-cooled, pushrod, 49º V-twin

Power – 91.5bhp @ 4500rpm

Torque – 99.6ftlb @ 2100rpm

Weight – 377kg (dry)

Tank capacity – 20.8 litres

Frame – Tubular steel double cradle

Seat height – 660mm

Suspension – Front: 46mm telescopic, non-adjustable. Rear: single shock with air adjustment

Brakes – Front 2 x 300mm discs with four-piston calipers. Rear: single 300mm disc with two-piston caliper

Colours – Fireglow Red Candy with Marble Accents

Available – Mid April

 

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