2014 Indian Chief Classic, Vintage and Chieftain Motorcycle Reviews
The 2014 Indian Chief lineup unveiling at Sturgis Polaris was pleasant enough, but riding through the Black Hills was a revelation - and I’m not talking about the stunning scenery (though I could wax on about that for pages).
The balanced Thunder Stroke 111 V-Twin puts out a claimed 119 ft/lbs of torque, and that serious grunt is available at any point in the rev range. But it’s not just the engine’s flexibility that was so impressive on the 2014 Indian Chief lineup, which includes the Classic, Vintage and Chieftain, it was the character that it imbued the bike with as well.
The fantastic exhaust note was extensively worked on by the design team, and they’ve arrived at a soulful throb that is distinct and musical. Likewise the motor’s vibration is that elusive ideal between pleasantly reminding you that the engine is alive, yet not intrusive enough to be fatiguing at any point.
The rear cylinder with its lovely multi-directional fins that is so reminiscent of the marque’s heritage can certainly put out some heat and my right leg did become a little toasty during the day. It has to be said the ambient was into the nineties. Frankly, any motorcycle worth a damn is going to have heat management challenges in that environment, so I’ll reserve judgment until I can ride the bike in normal temperatures before making too much of it. But it does look really good, doesn’t it?
The big surprise of course was that Indian revealed not just one “Chief” but three separate models (Classic, Vintage, and Chieftain) that bring Polaris’ $3.2 Billion resources to bear on creating an exceptional, heritage faithful motorcycle. You don’t need to see the classic War Bonnet on the front to know this is an Indian – the aforementioned multi-directional finning on the air-cooled motor, the faithful downdraft exhaust pipes, and the valanced fenders front and rear give that away immediately.
The Classic will appeal to erstwhile Harley-Davidson Deluxe riders. However all three models arrive with ABS brakes, cruise control, and inch and a quarter bars with internal wiring included—and that makes them incredible value for money too.
The Vintage of course is a direct competitor to Harley’s Heritage Softail, although the leather seat and fringed bags are all Indian though. The big gun of the trio is the Chieftain, and although the batwing style handlebar fairing isn’t necessarily the best looking one out there (but you can be the judge of that), it sure works exceptionally well.
Extensive wind-tunnel testing has resulted in a perfect pocket of air that keeps the rider with a cooling breeze — without any serious buffeting, even at speed. I saw 100 MPH appear easily on the clock one time, and I was surprised how smooth the bike felt and how precisely it handled with that level of windblast. The Chieftain has a shorter wheelbase than the other two cruisers, thanks to a 25 degree rake reduced from 29 degrees. The Chieftain handles impeccably, and although it’s clearly not as heavy a bike as some, it feels extremely light to maneuver at slow speed.
The chassis has a coil-over spring mono-tube linkage rear shock that works well; the Chieftain has a pneumatic preload that needs to be adjusted correctly for the load you intend to carry.
There’s much more to discuss with these bikes, but as an initial impression, it seems Polaris got this one right the first time. To further show their commitment there is a comprehensive line of accessories and apparel that really pushes these machines from being motorcycles to YOUR motorcycle.
And once you’ve made it your own the bike will have a character and soul that you will have personally defined. The fact that it works incredibly well, and is covered by a comprehensive five-year warranty and has been stress tested to the nth degree is great news as well.
The new Indians come in black, and for $400 extra ($500 on the Chieftain) you can also choose between traditional Red, and Starlight Blue. Base pricing is the Classic at $18,999; the Vintage at $20,999; and the Chieftain at $22,999. Money very well spent I’d say.