Riding The Completely New 2020 Indian Motorcycle Challenger

All-new liquid-cooled engine, frame-mounted fairing, and 122 hp.

Indian’s all-new fixed-fairing Challenger packs the new liquid-cooled PowerPlus engine, a lightweight aluminum frame, and 122 hp. Are you watching, Road Glide?
Indian’s all-new fixed-fairing Challenger packs the new liquid-cooled PowerPlus engine, a lightweight aluminum frame, and 122 hp. Are you watching, Road Glide?Indian Motorcycle

Earlier this year Indian Motorcycle retooled its heavyweight Thunder Stroke lineup, adding new features to much of its cruiser, bagger, and touring segments and unveiling the new Roadmaster Dark Horse model. The bigger 116ci engine also joined the ranks as standard equipment for several bikes, and some of us thought that would be that for 2020 from the war bonnet brand.

Not by a long shot, turns out. Indian’s big-bang event for 2020 was the reveal of its new liquid-cooled PowerPlus engine along with the fixed-fairing Challenger bagger packing that powerplant, which we got a chance to ride recently along the California coast up state Route 1.

The Challenger comes standard with a 43mm inverted fork, adjustable Fox shock, traction control, ABS, three ride modes, and LED lighting.
The Challenger comes standard with a 43mm inverted fork, adjustable Fox shock, traction control, ABS, three ride modes, and LED lighting.Indian Motorcycle

What's New About The 2020 Indian Challenger

If you read Kevin Cameron's recent deep dive on the PowerPlus particulars, then you already know the key details of that new engine: 108ci, liquid-cooling, four valves per cylinder actuated by single overhead cams, unit construction, and a class-smoking 103.1 hp at 5,560 rpm measured on the Cycle World dyno. But there was more to the entire project's origin story, which was originally code-named Raptor, so Indian decided to convene an international group of motojournalists at former motocross star-turned-current Indian brand ambassador Carey Hart's fully stocked motorcycle barn outside of bucolic Solvang, California, to unveil the new machine. Indian brass took us through the Challenger's positioning in the market, and how it would follow in the heels of the highly successful Scout, utilizing a similar design language while adding a new platform to the liquid-cooled series. It would be more muscular and modern, still aluminum-framed and liquid-cooled, but retaining a healthy dose of American styling.

The signature chassis-mounted fairing sports an adjustable windscreen with nearly 3 inches of travel and adjustable air vents to go along with the full LED lighting.
The signature chassis-mounted fairing sports an adjustable windscreen with nearly 3 inches of travel and adjustable air vents to go along with the full LED lighting.Indian Motorcycle

Thematically the Challenger's not breaking new ground—Indian came right out and said the bike is meant to compete with Harley's popular Road Glide, and that performance would be the key component of differentiation. Director of Product Design Ola Stengard pointed out the sculpted lines of the new Challenger, particularly the massive frame-mounted fairing. He talked about the Challenger being a big brother to the Scout and the FTR 1200 in the modern bike subfamily, as it were, emulating the same aggressive design language à la the slightly curved tank, with well-chosen components to cement the intent: a wickedly capable engine, lightweight aluminum chassis, inverted fork, carefully considered suspension, radially mounted Monoblock brakes, and what Indian calls a "menacing" front visage.

Liquid-cooling with four-valve heads and single overhead cams are the key to the 60-degree PowerPlus V-twin. The rear cylinder deactivates when stopped in traffic, allowing the exhaust pipe to cool instead of roasting your leg.
Liquid-cooling with four-valve heads and single overhead cams are the key to the 60-degree PowerPlus V-twin. The rear cylinder deactivates when stopped in traffic, allowing the exhaust pipe to cool instead of roasting your leg.Indian Motorcycle

2020 Indian Challenger Horsepower and Torque

With the PowerPlus 60-degree V-twin, Indian made it clear it wasn’t engaging in a displacement war, but a battle for performance supremacy. Indian’s first liquid-cooled large-displacement motor measured 103.1 hp at 5,560 rpm and 113.1 pound-feet of torque at 3,330 rpm on our in-house dyno, and the new powertrain also features a six-speed transmission with true overdrive, assist clutch to reduce clutch effort, and hydraulic valve lash adjusters and camshaft chain tensioners for low maintenance.

2020 Indian Challenger Comes With New Suspension

Meanwhile, Indian spec'd a new Fox shock to handle rear suspension duties. The gas-charged 46mm monotube has an internal floating piston separating the gas pressure and oil, that, according to Indian, gives more consistently controlled damping compared to "certain emulsion shocks" on other tour bikes. The shock has a remote hydraulic preload adjustment behind a side panel that uses a 10mm wrench. Up front, under that massive fairing, you can see the inverted 43mm fork, which offers a respectable 5.1 inches of travel.

2020 Indian Challenger Features New Electronics

Indian considered modern tech to be a key part of the riding equation as well, and the Ride Command system was updated across its other bikes earlier this year. The new Challenger receives the benefit of those tweaks, including a new quad-core processor for quicker start-up and response times, and new weather and real-time traffic overlays. The ride screens are customizable, and the touchscreen responds to any glove input, no special material needed. The bike also comes with three ride modes—Rain, Standard, and Sport—each of which has individual throttle mapping and traction control intervention levels.

The 2020 Indian Challenger Line Has Three Models

With the Challenger you can choose from three iterations, the base-model Challenger, the Challenger Dark Horse, and the Challenger Limited, all of which awaited us for our big ride up the coast. It takes a lot of chutzpah to bring the face of the competition to your marquee product launch, but that’s exactly what Indian did. There was a Road Glide Special on hand for curious testers to try and compare for themselves in real-world riding against the new bagger from Polaris.

Balance, control, and lean angle are more than you’d expect from such a big bagger, and the Challenger tested them time and time again on our ride.
Balance, control, and lean angle are more than you’d expect from such a big bagger, and the Challenger tested them time and time again on our ride.Indian Motorcycle

Reviewing The 2020 Indian Challenger

But that would come later (maybe); the first few hours were all about familiarizing ourselves with the Challenger, and a solid couple of hours of freeway droning lay ahead of us. A look at the distinctive, big fairing up close revealed some cool muscle car-inspired detailing in sculpted areas around the LED headlight and flanks, but the other side revealed some fairly generic finishes on the interior panels, particularly around the analog gauges atop the Ride Command screen. I was also a bit surprised at how much effort it took to heave the bike off the sidestand.

That weight became an afterthought once we started moving, with the bike feeling well balanced even at low speeds. Twist the throttle and you’re rewarded with effortless response; the engine shows silky-smooth character even when the usual stoplight-to-stoplight drag races broke out in our group. High-speed sweepers became the next trial in the ride frenzy, and the chassis is up to the task with the 43mm inverted fork holding its own under dive and the solid-mounted engine locking in even more stability. The handlebars are rubber-mounted to isolate vibes, and however quick we hurtled down the freeway, more power always seemed just another twist away.

Our two-day ride included the epic stretch of Highway 1 through Big Sur, a portion of road that was closed last year due to a landslide.
Our two-day ride included the epic stretch of Highway 1 through Big Sur, a portion of road that was closed last year due to a landslide.Indian Motorcycle

As we picked up the pace on US 101, the engine remained unruffled, giving us not just the usual bottom-biased cruiser torque quality but plenty of midrange acceleration as well, with lots of torque in reserve if we needed to pick off any four-wheel stragglers. The engine never feels high-strung, almost daring us to really unleash it, which was best accomplished in Sport mode. The bike’s ECU offers three ride modes with predetermined individual throttle mapping and traction control levels, so you can choose from Rain, Standard, and Sport depending on how frisky you’re feeling. We were on the Limited model, which along with the Dark Horse variant gets a Bosch six-axis IMU to add cornering function to the dynamic traction control and ABS, as well as Drag Torque Control.

After lunch we hit that majestic coastal stretch of Highway 1 between Cambria and Monterey, which had finally reopened more than a year after a major mudslide buried the road at Big Sur. With its undulating curves and frequent pavement heaves, Highway 1 made for a fine test of the big boy bagger’s suspension and handling. Up to this point the Challenger’s riding position had been all-day easy, with relaxed ergonomics that should fit riders of all sizes without complaint, though initially the bars do feel a bit low (an easy fix). The touring saddle is Goldilocks-level comfy too—neither too plush nor too firm, and in two days of hard riding over hundreds of miles, never gave me any issues, which is saying something for a stock item. The big fairing does a great job at keeping windblast off our chest, and we found ourselves toying with the power windshield endlessly. With 3 inches of travel operated via a button on the right grip, it was easy to find a calm bubble to tuck into out of the wind.

With comfort level dialed in, we toggled over to Sport mode and got to see another side of the Challenger. At several breakneck blasts along a strangely deserted Highway 1, you could feel that 122 hp was totally within reach.

The brake system brings 320mm floating rotors, four-piston calipers, and ABS front and rear to haul down the 800-plus-pound bagger from speed.
The brake system brings 320mm floating rotors, four-piston calipers, and ABS front and rear to haul down the 800-plus-pound bagger from speed.Indian Motorcycle

Day 2 would be more intense, with part of the route including Nacimiento-Fergusson Road, a snaking 10-mile stretch of double hairpins and off-camber cracked pavement with sweeping views of the dramatic Pacific below (just don’t look). The first mile alone had us exploring most parts of the Cruisetec’s tread, and the Brembo brakes, ABS, and traction control were all fully tested to their limits. Between the grippy tires, easy handling, and a forgiving lean angle, the Challengers are able to twist, lean, and scrape through a piece of asphalt definitely not made for cruisers relatively unscathed (though I wouldn’t want to check the peg feelers). The Brembos haul you down quickly before the sharp bends, while the broad engine torque lets you rocket out just as fast to set up for the next one. The wide handlebar offers up good leverage on the never-ending esses, and exhaust heat is negligible (at lower speeds a fan directs hot air from the coolant radiator downward rather than toward the rear). Another benefit here is the easy-shifting six-speed gearbox (“with true Over Drive”) which made it a cinch to row through the cogs smoothly, which we found ourselves doing an awful lot of.

Credit the beefy Brembos in concert with ABS, the six-axis Bosch IMU, and specially developed Metzeler Cruistecs for neutralizing some pretty gnarly roads.
Credit the beefy Brembos in concert with ABS, the six-axis Bosch IMU, and specially developed Metzeler Cruistecs for neutralizing some pretty gnarly roads.Indian Motorcycle

It’s not often that we get to ride a bike over 350 miles at its press launch, so we’re pretty pumped to have had the opportunity. It also helps us to get a better overall assessment of the new model; we can confidently say the Challenger strikes an excellent balance between engine performance and chassis precision, with the added benefit of well-calibrated electronics and suspension, capped off with pleasing overall ergonomics. If we’re going to nitpick, there are a few styling items that could use some tweaking—the back end, for instance, looks thoroughly generic—but all in all, it’s hard to argue that, with the Challenger, Indian has a winner.

There are three trim levels—the base Challenger, the Challenger Limited, and the Challenger Dark Horse. The base model ditches the navigation portion of Ride Command and skips the Bosch IMU, but still has ABS.
There are three trim levels—the base Challenger, the Challenger Limited, and the Challenger Dark Horse. The base model ditches the navigation portion of Ride Command and skips the Bosch IMU, but still has ABS.Indian Motorcycle
The Limited and Dark Horse variants have the latest quad-core Ride Command infotainment system, with the 7-inch display giving you weather and traffic overlays, vehicle info, and Bluetooth and USB pairing.
The Limited and Dark Horse variants have the latest quad-core Ride Command infotainment system, with the 7-inch display giving you weather and traffic overlays, vehicle info, and Bluetooth and USB pairing.Indian Motorcycle
Metzeler developed tires especially for the Challenger, based on the Cruisetec series it released late last year. Salvo Pennisi, head of testing for Pirelli, says the rear tire’s radial structure is designed for extreme stability and to withstand high tor
Metzeler developed tires especially for the Challenger, based on the Cruisetec series it released late last year. Salvo Pennisi, head of testing for Pirelli, says the rear tire’s radial structure is designed for extreme stability and to withstand high torque and load transfer at high speed.Indian Motorcycle
The performance-oriented dual-compound Cruisetecs designed for the Challenger share aesthetics and a similar tread pattern to the rest of the Cruisetec series.
The performance-oriented dual-compound Cruisetecs designed for the Challenger share aesthetics and a similar tread pattern to the rest of the Cruisetec series.Indian Motorcycle
Indian says the Challenger offers a roomy cockpit, but all we know is the seat is one of the better stock items we’ve sat on lately. The power-locking saddlebags are the same size as the ones on the Chieftain and Chieftain Elite—and can fit a 24-pack of b
Indian says the Challenger offers a roomy cockpit, but all we know is the seat is one of the better stock items we’ve sat on lately. The power-locking saddlebags are the same size as the ones on the Chieftain and Chieftain Elite—and can fit a 24-pack of beer—that’s straight from the design team.Indian Motorcycle
Pump up the Challenger’s audio with the accessory PowerBand Audio Plus system, which is supposedly 50 percent louder than the stock audio.
Pump up the Challenger’s audio with the accessory PowerBand Audio Plus system, which is supposedly 50 percent louder than the stock audio.Indian Motorcycle

2020 Indian Challenger Authentic Accessories

If you’re looking to add some upgrades or do a bit of customization, Indian’s released a range of Indian Motorcycle Authentic Accessories compatible with the new bikes. The Rogue Collection lets you beef up the sound and add blacked-out styling with the black Stage 1 slip-on muffler and black PowerPlus Stage 1 air intake, while a gloss black mid-rise handlebar, a tinted curved windshield, and gloss black front highway bars add a blacked-out finish.

To enhance comfort, you can opt for the Indian Challenger Tour Collection, which includes a 16-inch windshield, quick-release sissy bar, backrest, and passenger floorboards, along with other accessories. You can also upgrade the Challenger’s audio with the PowerBand Audio Plus system, which boosts sound and clarity from high-output fairing and saddlebag speakers.

2020 Indian Challenger Price

MSRP for the 2020 Indian Challenger base model (in Titanium Metallic paint) starts at $21,999, while the Challenger Dark Horse can be had in Thunder Black Smoke, Sandstone Smoke, or White Smoke starting at $27,499. The Challenger Limited starts at $27,999 and is available in Thunder Black Pearl, Deepwater Metallic, and Ruby Metallic.

All versions will be assembled at Indian Motorcycle’s production facility in Spirit Lake, Iowa.

The Challengers will be coming out of Indian’s Spirit Lake, Iowa, production facility.
The Challengers will be coming out of Indian’s Spirit Lake, Iowa, production facility.Indian Motorcycle

2020 Indian Challenger Price And Specifications

MSRP $21,999–$28,749
Engine 1,768cc, liquid-cooled, 60-degree V-twin; 4 valves/cyl.
Bore x stroke 108.0 x 96.5mm
Compression 11.0:1
Transmission/final drive 6-speed w/ true overdrive; constant mesh/belt
Fuel system Electronic fuel injection w/ 52mm dual-bore throttle bodies
Claimed horsepower 122 hp @ 5,500 rpm
Claimed torque 128 lb.-ft. @ 3,800 rpm
Frame Cast aluminum
Front suspension 43mm telescopic fork; 5.1-in. travel
Rear suspension Fox monoshock, hydraulically adjustable; 4.5-in. travel
Front brake 4-piston calipers, 320mm dual floating rotors w/ ABS
Rear brake 2-piston caliper, 298mm floating rotor w/ ABS
Front tire 130/60B-19
Rear tire 180/60R-16
Rake/trail 25.0°/5.9 in. |
Wheelbase 65.7 in.
Seat height 26.5 in. (laden)
Fuel capacity 6.0 gal.
Claimed dry weight 805 lb.
Available Now |
Contact indianmotorcycles.com |

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