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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.