INDIAN CHALLENGER (2020 - on) Review
- Smooth, torquey V-twin engine
- American character
- Comfortable for big miles touring
At a glance
|Owners' reliability rating:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£500|
Overall ratingNext up: Ride & brakes
Indian’s new Challenger is a smooth operator and its PowerPlus motor is the star of the show. Packed with grunt the big bagger is fast and refined with a dash of burbling American character and decadence.
It’s well equipped, supremely comfortable and enjoyable, but the controls aren’t perfect and the screen can be troublesome.
Built for big-mile, feet-forward cruising it’s composed for a bike of its size and shines on long motorways, flowing corners and even in the tight stuff, but it can be unwieldy at walking pace.
It’s not cheap, compared to its European and Japanese competition so only serious long-distance V-twin touring fans need apply.
Ride quality & brakesNext up: Engine
Flick the cruise control on, sit back and let the Challenger hoover up the miles. With its barber’s chair riding position, day-long riding is an ache-free pleasure, although the bars could be placed closer to the rider for less arm-stretch.
There’s always a feeling of immense bulk beneath you, especially at paddling speeds, but it quickly melts away and those kilograms are an advantage for a bagger on the move - flattening every bump in its path and putting so much pressure down through the tyres in corners, the grip it generates makes it feel almost uncrashable.
You wouldn’t expect it to handle for such a monster, but Indian have always excelled in building big bruisers that are accurate and light on their feet in corners. Cast aluminium chassis, upside down forks, single Fox shock and the sticky Metzeler’s Cruisetecs (Indian says they’re also superb in the wet), all work together in perfect harmony.
Only the rear shock is adjustable (for preload) and ramping it up a couple of turns to suit the Californian canyons, the Challenger steers with precision and utter stability. Footboards graze tarmac if you’re lazy with your riding position, but even then, ground clearance is surprisingly generous.
Brembos that wouldn’t look out of place on a superbike, do a decent job of hauling-up the Challenger, but lack the brutality you’d expect from monoblocs. On a bike this long, low and heavy, it’s always the back brake that’s the most effective though and it's packed with squeeze, it does its job beautifully. Lean sensitive traction control and ABS fitted to this top spec model are never troubled never during our two-day ride, but it’s nice knowing they’re there.
Switchgear is the Challenger’s only real let down with just about every button, big and very small, out of finger reach (especially wearing thick gloves) unless you take your hands fully, or part way off the bars and having the cruise control switch on the right bar is just plain daft…
Keeping the electric screen in its low position for an uncluttered view of twisty roads, town riding and filtering is a must, but its top edge is always in your eye-line and creates ear-bashing buffeting at speed. Fully raised it’s quieter, but not by much.
EngineNext up: Reliability
Refined and perfectly fuelled, Indian’s new 1769cc PowerPlus motor is built to waft. In top gear it’ll purr along at 70mph with the gentle tremor of its super-sized, short stroke pistons lolloping away beneath you at just 2800rpm.
It might be born to cruise and it has noticeably more instant grunt than Indian’s air-cooled Thunder Stroke-engined machines, but drop it down out of its tall, overdrive sixth gear and it gets a serious shift on, not just for a 361kg (dry) behemoth - it accelerates like a wild thing, especially in the sportiest of its three riding modes.
Indian claim 0-60mph in 3.9 seconds, 30-60mph in 2.2 and it’ll hammer the standing quarter mile in just 12.2. Off the line they say it’ll pull five bike lengths on the bike it has set squarely in its sights: Harley Davidson’s Road Glide. Top speed is restricted to an indicated 112mph.
Reliability & build qualityNext up: Value
It’s too soon to say how robust the new PowerPlus motor will prove to be, but if its anything like the smaller liquid-cooled Scout or air-cooled Thunder Stroke engined models, you shouldn’t expect any problems.
Owner reviews are generally glowing, but there are reports of the occasional flaky paint finish or rusty bolt, here and there.
Value vs rivalsNext up: Equipment
In its various guises the Challenger is in the ballpark of its bagger-styled competition: the six-cylinder BMW K1600 B, fully-loaded Grand America and standard Honda Gold Wing, but the Indian lacks certain equipment, like fully-adjustable (and even electronic) suspension and a quickshifter/blipper.
It isn’t cheap by any stretch, but the new Challenger is Indian’s smoothest, most accomplished big cruiser yet, so if you like the idea of the great American bagger and you’ve got deep enough pockets, you won’t be disappointed.
Indian Challenger Dark Horse vs Harley-Davidson Road Glide Special
Harley-Davidson and Indian have been banging heads since the days of lethal boardtrack racing over 100 years ago. Both as American as drive-thru burger joints, the brands battled on road and track throughout the first half of the 20th century. And today the tussle is as fierce as ever.
After first bloodying Harley’s nose in dirt track, Indian are going for the jugular by putting their new Challenger wheel-to-wheel with the Road Glide – America’s dominating large tourer. And we mean literally wheel-to-wheel. Indian are so confident about their new bike that when it first reached their US dealers you could test ride it back-to-back with the Harley.
While a bimble from a dealer is all well and good, you need the UK’s toughest road test to really see which high-tech V-twin bagger is best. You need the MCN250…
It’s worth reiterating just how chuffin’ enormous these are. Each bike weighs over a third of a ton and has the dimensions of a two-bed bungalow.
Both seem clumsy at very low speed, the weight, fat tyres, pulled-back ’bars and cruiser riding positions requiring a brain reset. They continue to feel massive even in the open landscape and under the expansive sky of Lincolnshire’s fens, but on the smooth, straight run towards Boston both settle into a pleasing groove.
Engines barely off idle, we rumble past traffic in a series of steady leapfrogs, humungous V-twins striding on a tease of throttle and low-slung chassis gliding. Broad fairings deflect blast, deep seats cosset, and multi-function displays provide endless fiddling opportunities.
They’re staggeringly similar, both in architecture (low-revving engines, 22.7-litre tanks, millimetre differences in seat height and physical size) and spec (cruise control, colour touchscreen dash, keyless ride, rider aids, phone connectivity and deafening sound systems). But barging through Boston, cruising to Grantham and swinging our way past Melton, the bikes reveal subtle differences.
The Road Glide’s 1868cc pushrod V-twin is undersquare (stroke greater than bore). It has solidity behind each combustion, a deeper sound and greater sense of wallop, and bend-swings with a graceful composure.
Though it doesn’t have more revs to play with, the Challenger’s overhead-cam 1768cc oversquare ‘PowerPlus’ unit is happier to spin higher and has a more free-revving air, matched to a keener chassis – with a steeper steering head, less trail and 10kg less mass, the Indian is more accurate and lighter on its feet.
Sliding onto the motorway route, this should be where both shine – and their distance-swallowing ability is immediately apparent. Shuffle bum back, get feet just-so on the boards, set the cruise control, crank up The Temperance Movement (then turn them back down due to feeling self-conscious), and it’s easy to imagine long days on a sun-soaked Route 66. We have to make do with a damp M1 and M6, though the tarmac slides by easily – or does until a rolled-over van causes tailbacks. A few miles of filtering give a nail-baiting reminder of the bikes’ size.
After stopping for sustenance in-keeping with the test (double Whopper, large fries, strawberry shake) we push on around Birmingham and onto the dual-lane M42. Thrumming towards Kegworth we’re approaching 200 miles; we thought the large tanks would mean both could see off the entire route, but such hefty bikes are thirsty and the fuel lights are on.
It’s fine, as we could do with a stop. Maybe it was too much time spent scrunched up on sportsbikes in the 1990s, but neither of us are finding the upright stance and slightly foot-forward nature to give long-lasting comfort.
Neither bike has a ride quality you’d describe as plush, and the Challenger’s screen is a tad disappointing – it’s electric, easy to adjust, but I can’t find a height where it’s as protective or quiet as the fixed blade on the H-D.
A last scurry south on the M1, and then it’s roundabouts and ring-road blasting to deposit us back onto our A-road route.
These two are not for the faint-hearted. The look, power delivery, ride, handling, stance and even shifting around a garage forecourt all feel strange next to a ‘normal’ bike. This isn’t to say they’re better or worse, just different.
There couldn’t be a better name than Challenger for the Indian, a bike clearly designed to steal Road Glide buyers. Looks, equipment, engine, dynamic and riding position all ape the H-D. But it has a more contemporary feel, a little more fizz in its engine and handling, a splash more tech.
It’s amazingly close, but I think the Indian’s riding position is a tad more comfortable for my 6ft 2in frame as well. Bruce and I would go for the Harley, though. Sure, it’s not as fast or as agile at low speed.
But its engine is lazier and more luxurious (and sounds better). It’s more sure-footed at speed, has a better fairing and does more to the gallon. And crucially it’s a Harley, with the kudos, stature and amazing residuals this brings.
Available in three versions, the base model comes with Indian’s 'Ride Command Infotainment' system with a seven-inch colour touch screen, USB charger, 100-Watt stereo, cruise control, keyless ignition, adjustable air vents and electric screen and 68 litres of storage.
The blacked-out Dark Horse has cornering ABS and traction control, a sat nav, tyre pressure monitors and the Limited comes with Highway bars and more chrome than you squeeze an Autosol tube at.
From 2020, the Challenger navigation option supports Apple Carplay, which unlocks a whole raft of features for iPhone users.
|Engine type||Liquid-cooled, SOHC, 4v, V-twin|
|Frame type||Aluminium backbone|
|Fuel capacity||22.7 litres|
|Front suspension||43mm upside down forks, non adjustable|
|Rear suspension||Single shock, adjustable for preload|
|Front brake||2 x 320mm discs with Brembo four-piston radial monobloc caliper|
|Rear brake||298mm single disc with single-piston caliper|
|Front tyre size||130/60 x 19|
|Rear tyre size||180/60 x 16|
Mpg, costs & insurance
|Average fuel consumption||-|
|Annual road tax||£96|
|Annual service cost||£500|
17 of 17
How much to insure?
|Warranty term||Two years|
Top speed & performance
|Max power||120 bhp|
|Max torque||131 ft-lb|
|Top speed||112 mph|
|1/4 mile acceleration||-|
Model history & versions
2020: Challenger launched. All-new model powered by Indian’s liquid-cooled PowerPlus V-twin motor.
- Challenger Dark Horse: Blacked-out detailing, cornering traction control and ABS, sat nav and tyre pressure monitors.
- Challenger Limited: Chrome detailing, cornering traction control and ABS, sat nav and tyre pressure monitors.
Owners' reviews for the INDIAN CHALLENGER (2020 - on)
1 owner has reviewed their INDIAN CHALLENGER (2020 - on) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.
Summary of owners' reviews
|Ride quality & brakes:|
|Reliability & build quality:|
|Value vs rivals:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£500|
Annual servicing cost: £500
For the value, the performance is un-rivaled.. Best feature besides the look?? Haha, seat is so so after a few hundred miles your ready to get off, but what stock seat isn't that way? Worst feature is the slight hesitation off zero throttle, a slight hesitation that makes you thing the thing might stall (but doesn't).
Seat is state of the industry and I still will replace with an after market that gives me better lateral support and longer comfort (am a fan of the Russel all day saddles). Rear brakes are very good, front Brembo's are disappointing. Initial grip is poor and when used alone, slow this race horse poorly. I've alway said, "the only thing better than going faster is stopping faster. Disappointed in this section. Will try more aggressive front pads and hopefully it fixes it (have Brembo's on my BMW's-RT and S1000rr with no regrets).
Takes the V twin performance to NEW LEVELS!! In sport mode, hang on....she rips!
Early on the relationship (
Added a back rest (worth it), highway pegs (very adjustable to different sized riders) and a heel toe shifter ( so sweet for cruisers).
Buying experience: Fox Motorsports in Grand Rapids Michigan. Todd takes huge pride in the brand and his showroom exudes this pride. He has huge cruiser knowledge over the years in the industry and it shows. Have questions?? He has the answers and his brother Tim is "thee wrench" on this Icon brand...