Nice write up on the 2020 Challenger Dark Horse in Bikesales here or below..
2020 Indian Challenger Dark Horse Review
The all-new Indian Challenger Dark Horse is torquey, surprisingly sporty and looks like a bad-arse Batmobile
The biggest choice I had to make when riding the brand-new 2020 Indian Challenger Dark Horse, was which music to play through the sound system. Do I summon the Californian sun with LA’s favourite sons, the Red Hot Chili Peppers? Or do I channel a little Easy Rider with Jimi Hendrix? Maybe something more modern, like Australia’s own Tame Impala, would do the trick...
Music and motorcycling are two passions of mine, but I rarely enjoy both at the same time. That is partly because most bikes don’t have sound systems, but it’s also because I don’t like drawing attention to myself. But the 2020 Indian Challenger Dark Horse is a bike that demands attention.
The 2020 Indian Challenger Dark Horse demands attention
The mere existence of this bike demands attention because, despite a dwindling market for big American cruisers, Indian went ahead and built this all-new bagger from the ground up. It’s an odd move, especially considering the success of the FTR 1200, which was in itself a bold step forward for ‘America’s First Motorcycle Company.’
When Indian re-launched in 2013, the focus was on big, mothership-like, V-twin cruisers, but with the sportier FTR 1200 it appeared Indian was ready to move in a new direction. The company didn’t really need to build a new bagger – it could have simply updated one of its current offerings. So why then have we been given the all-new Indian Challenger?
We didn't need the new Indian Challenger, but we'll sure as hell take it
Indian’s rivalry with a little company called Harley-Davidson probably has something to do with it. After years on the sidelines, Indian returned in 2013 under the guidance of Polaris to reignite a century-old rivalry that straddles both public roads and the flat track. The new and improved Indian team turned up to the American Flat Track championship and blew Harley out of the water, but H-D still had the upper-hand in the cruiser market.
It is no secret that the 2020 Indian Challenger is gunning straight for the Harley-Davidson Road Glide. The name alone suggests a specific agenda and, rumour has it, Indian actually took a Road Glide to the Challenger media launch, so journos could compare the two. Talk about confidence.
Luckily for us, Indian didn’t phone this one in. Instead, it has produced a monolith of a machine with an all-new engine, modern styling and technology, and a whole lot of attitude.
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2020 Indian Challenger launched
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At the heart of the 2020 Indian Challenger is a completely new engine platform, dubbed the PowerPlus 108. With previous Indian baggers using the air-cooled Thunder Stroke motor, the Challenger changes things up, using the liquid-cooled Scout engine as inspiration for the PowerPlus 108.
The PowerPlus 108 – the star attraction of the 2020 Indian Challenger
Indian claims that the new 1768cc, liquid-cooled, SOHC V-twin puts out around 122hp and a whopping 178Nm of torque at 3800rpm. Power is delivered via a six-speed transmission and throttle mapping can be customised by way of three ride modes. We’ll touch on those later.
The Indian Challenger arrives in Australia with two variants – the Indian Challenger Limited and the Indian Challenger Dark Horse. There is also a standard Challenger, but the Australian distributor didn’t see value of it on our shores. There isn’t a massive difference between the three anyway, with the Limited and Dark Horse variants adding a slightly more sophisticated electronics package and different styling.
So far it’s all sounding pretty rosy, right? Well, here’s the catch – the Indian Challenger Dark Horse is priced at $39,595 ride away, with the Limited coming in at $39,995. You don’t need to be an accountant to know that’s a lot of moolah. And as a 28-year-old on journalist wages, it is much more than I can afford.
It's not incredibly surprising though – big cruisers, baggers and tourers have always been on the upper end of the price scale. The Road Glide Special is $39,250 plus ORC, the Honda Goldwing is $37,599 plus ORC and Indian’s own Roadmaster Elite checks in at an eye-watering $54,995 ride away. That said, for the Indian Challenger to stand out in a fairly crowded market, it needs to justify its price with a high-end package. Fortunately, it does.
Big braking power is needed for a big bike, and the Brembo package does the job
The PowerPlus engine is a good start, but rest of the list is just as impressive. With an aggressively-styled, chassis-mounted faring, inverted front suspension, hydraulically-adjustable Fox rear shock, a lightweight cast-aluminium frame, race-spec, radial-mounted Brembo brakes and Metzeler Cruistec tyres, the Indian Challenger is well equipped for performance. But for a bagger, long-distance comfort and technology is also important.
Throw in electronic cruise control, full LED lighting, a long-haul seat, lean-sensitive ABS, lean-sensitive traction control, keyless ignition, weatherproof saddlebags, an electronically adjustable windscreen and Indian PowerBand Audio Plus sound system, and the hefty price starts to make more sense.
The Indian Ride Command system is jam-packed with features
Perhaps the centrepiece of the new machine though (engine aside), is the upgraded Indian Ride Command system. The seven-inch touchscreen dash set-up includes sat-nav, vehicle information, Bluetooth and USB mobile phone pairing, and a quad-core processor for faster response.
Indian has certainly packed a lot into the new Challenger on paper, but I still wasn’t convinced it was worth the price tag – I had to see it in the flesh.
We tested the Dark Horse variant, and when I first laid eyes on it at Indian HQ, my doubts were quickly swept away. The Indian Challenger looks amazing – it has a classic bagger look, with a very modern (almost futuristic) twist. I’ve often associated baggers with grey nomads, chrome and tassels, but the Challenger Dark Horse, with its blacked-out paint scheme and mean-looking front faring, is more akin to a bad-arse Batmobile.
Bruce Wayne would be right at home on the 2020 Indian Challenger Dark Horse
But it’s not just about looks, because the PowerPlus 108 is a monstrous and incredibly fun engine that will have you giggling like a maniac. With peak torque coming at 3800rpm, there is always power available, no matter where you are in the rev-range. There is something really special about choosing any gear, opening the throttle and feeling that motor grab you by the throat and drag you along like you’re in hyperspace. A peak torque figure of 178Nm will do that.
If you feel like humming along at a steady pace, you can. But the moment you want to feel the bike pull you out of your skin, the power is there, ready, and at your service.
If you're looking for torque, you've come to the right place
There are three ride modes (Rain, Standard and Sport) that can easily be switched between with the Indian Ride Command system. I spent most of my time in Standard and that was more than enough. Out of interest, I flicked it over to Sport and suddenly I felt like I was on a rocket ship. It’s borderline ridiculous – no one needs that kind of power on a bike like this. But hey, if it’s there, then why not use it?
Of course, bikes of this nature are often impressive in a straight line, but once the road begins to deviate, they feel big, cumbersome and hard to turn. Not the Challenger. For a machine that weighs 377kg with a full tank of fuel, the Challenger feels surprisingly sporty. Sure, it’s not going to win Pikes Peak anytime soon, and it’s a handful at slower speeds, but once it’s up and moving, the big Indian impresses.
The decision to use a chassis-mounted faring plays a big part in this. Other Indian models use a fork-mounted fairing, but by mounting it on the chassis, the steering becomes lighter, making it easier to turn. Even in tight, twisty roads, the bike is incredibly confidence inspiring. The 137.3mm ground clearance is adequate enough to avoid any scraping and the suspension also helps the bike feel more agile than it should.
The 2020 Indian Challenger handles better than a bagger should
Speaking of suspension, the inverted telescopic fork with 130mm travel, and the adjustable single Fox shock with 114mm travel, are both satisfactory. There were times when the bike felt a little too bouncy, and it didn’t handle big hits exceptionally well – though with a 377kg bike, you have to expect that. But overall, the ride was smooth and enjoyable.
Braking power gets a pass mark too. A big bike needs big stopping power, and the 320mm dual discs on the front and the 298mm single disc on the rear do the job. Having said that, a lot of effort is required to pull the big Indian up quickly. This isn’t a bike you want to be doing any unwanted emergency braking with.
Ergonomically, the bike is a dream. The seat is comfortable, the wide floorboards are well-placed, and the handlebar was at just the right height. I am six-feet (183cm) tall and I felt far from cramped on the bike. The riding position is a little more upright than the typical, laid-back cruiser position, but that just adds to the sustainability of riding long distances. And with the super-comfy, couch-like seat, I felt like I could ride the Challenger all day.
Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride
The Indian Ride Command system is incredibly intuitive, with a wide range of information, settings and functionality. One criticism is that there isn’t a great level of handlebar mounted controls – you have to reach out and use the touch-screen or the dedicated buttons just below it. This is easy enough, but perhaps not incredibly safe when navigating the streets.
As mentioned above, listening to music on a motorcycle is foreign territory to me. But the ability to connect your phone via Bluetooth, chuck it in the handy little compartment (with a USB charge point), and blast your favourite tracks as you cruise down the open road is an unforgettable experience. The sound system is top-notch too. Even with a full-face helmet, it’s possible to hear the audio clearly enough.
The electronically adjustable windscreen is a most-welcome addition
Another positive is the electronically adjustable windscreen which is operated by a handlebar-mounted switch. This is a small but extremely satisfying feature. With the push of a button, you can have the windscreen all the way up, or all the way down, on the fly, in a matter of seconds.
In the storage department, the Challenger comes with two reasonably large lockable storage boxes. They aren’t quite wide enough to fit a full-face helmet, but you’ll easily be able to pack your belongings for overnight trips and commuting.
The lockable saddlebags can fit a truckload of stuff
Having not tested the Harley-Davidson Road Glide Special, I can’t say for sure that the Challenger is a better bike. But I do know that Indian has built a seriously impressive machine. And if Indian was willing to gamble by taking a Road Glide to the Challenger launch, I’m guessing it knows it has the superior product.
Many of us mere mortals can only dream of buying a $39,000 bike – especially under current circumstances. But the Indian Challenger raises the level of temptation. It is torquey, handles better than a bagger should, and is packed with tech and creature comforts that justify the hefty price. The PowerPlus 108 is a work of art and comfortable ergonomics make long-distance riding an extremely pleasurable experience.
But for me, the real drawcard of the Challenger is its attitude. It’s a combination of that vicious V-twin, sporty handling, menacing looks and blacked-out paint scheme – riding the Challenger makes you feel like a rock star. Chuck on an open-face lid, a pair of sunnies and your favourite tunes, and you’ll feel like the king of the world.
Oh, and for the record, my song of choice was Gimme Shelter by The Rolling Stones. Torque – it’s just a shot away.
Specs: 2020 Indian Challenger Dark Horse
Type: Liquid-cooled, SOHC, V-twin PowerPlus 108
Bore x stroke: 108mm x 96.5mm
Compression ratio: 11.0:1
Fuel system: Electronic fuel injection
Claimed maximum power: 122hp
Claimed maximum torque: 178Nm at 3800rpm
Clutch: Wet, multi-plate
CHASSIS AND RUNNING GEAR
Frame: Lightweight cast aluminium
Front suspension: Inverted telescopic fork, 130mm travel
Rear suspension: Fox monoshock, hydraulic adjustment, 114mm travel
Front brakes: Dual 320mm semi-floating discs, four-piston radial caliper
Rear brake: 298mm single floating rotor, two-piston caliper
Tyres: Metzeler Cruisetec – 130/60B19 66H front, 180/60R16 80H rear
DIMENSIONS AND CAPACITIES
Rake: 25 degrees
Seat height: 672.0mm
Claimed wet weight: 377kg
Fuel capacity: 22.7L
Price: From $39,595 ride-away
Bike supplied by: Indian Motorcycles Australia
Warranty: 24 months/unlimited kilometres