A Cruiser With Classic Elegance

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 2018 and powered by the Thunder Stroke® 111 engine, the Chief Classic has the styling and valenced fenders that identify it as classic Indian with rider amenities and features such as ABS, cruise control, keyless starting, electronic fuel injection and a manually-adjustable single-shock swingarm.

Continue reading for my review of the Indian Chief Classic.

  • 2015 - 2018 Indian Chief Classic
  • Year:
    2015- 2018
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    THUNDER STROKE® 111
  • Displacement:
    1811 cc
  • Top Speed:
    143 mph (Est.)
  • Price:
    19499
  • Price:

Design

2015 - 2018 Indian Chief Classic
- image 764469
Responsive throttle and a smooth, quick-responding clutch with very good low-speed stability.

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 with inseam to spare. The swept-back bars and forward foot controls create 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 how it feels 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.

Chassis

2015 - 2018 Indian Chief Classic
- image 764470
Indian pays tribute to the classic styling by keeping the elegant sweep of the valenced fenders along with the iconic tank emblems and front-fender figurehead.

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.

Rake: 29 degrees
Trail: 6.1 inches
Swingarm: Cast Aluminum
Suspension, Front/Travel: Telescopic Fork, 46 mm Cartridge Forks with Dual Rate Springs/4.7 inches
Suspension, Rear?Travel: Single Shock/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

Drivetrain

2015 - 2018 Indian Chief Classic
- image 764461
The Thunder Stroke 111 is the first clean-sheet, proprietary Indian motorcycle engine in over 70 years.

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.

Engine: Thunder Stroke® 111, V-Twin
Displacement: 111 cubic-inches
Cooling System: Air/Oil Cooler
Bore x Stroke: 3.976 inches x 4.449 inches (101 mm) x (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
Final Drive: Belt - 2.2 to 1
Exhaust System: 1 into 2 with Catalytic Converter, Split Dual Exhaust with Cross-Over

Pricing

2015 - 2018 Indian Chief Classic
- image 764463
MSRP is quite a bit more than last year's price and only available in Burgundy Metallic for 2018.

MSRP on the 2018 Chief Classic is $19,499 and it’s only available in Burgundy Metallic. 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.

Colors:
2015: Thunder Black, Indian Red, two-tone Indian Red/Thunder Black
2016: Pearl White
2017: Pearl White, Burgundy Metallic over Thunder Black
2018: Burgundy Metallic
Price:
2015: $18,999
2016, 2017: $18,499
2018: $19,499

Competitors

2018 Harley-Davidson Heritage Classic
- image 741179
2015 - 2018 Indian Chief Classic
- image 764465
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.

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, the Heritage Classic from Harley’s newly-revamped Softail lineup, the Chief Classic falls in the middle of Harley’s “paint range” that runs from $18,999 in Vivid Black and $19,749 in one of the two-tone options.

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.

He Said

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."

She Said

"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. Performance is just stellar."

Specifications

Engine & Drivetrain:
Engine Type: Thunder Stroke® 111, V-Twin
Displacement: 111 cubic-inches
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
Chassis:
Swingarm: Cast Aluminum
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
Rake: 29 degrees
Trail: 6.1 inches
Dimensions & Capacities:
Overall Length: 103.5 inches
Overall Height: 46.3 inches
Overall Width: 40.4 inches
Seat Height: 26.0 inches
Wheelbase: 68.1 inches
Ground Clearance: 5.5 inches
Fuel Capacity: 5.5 Gallons
Fuel Requirements 91 octane minimum (R+M/2 Method)
Reserve Fuel: 1 Gallon
GVWR: 1260 Pounds
Maximum Load Capacity: 448 Pounds
Weight - Empty Tank: 778 Pounds
Weight - Full Tank: 812 Pounds
Equipment:
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
Details:
Colors:
2015: Thunder Black, Indian Red, two-tone Indian Red/Thunder Black
2016: Pearl White
2017: Pearl White, Burgundy Metallic over Thunder Black
2018: Burgundy Metallic
Price:
2015: $18,999
2016, 2017: $18,499
2018: $19,499

References

2018 Harley-Davidson Heritage Classic
- image 741180

See our review of the Harley-Davidson Heritage Classic.

All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended. Image Source: indianmotorcycle.com, harley-davidson.com

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