The view from the Classic's expansive saddle reveals some great stuff: a nice, big fuel tank surrounded by plenty of chrome including a honking headlight nacelle, chunky, easy to use switchgear, and handy features like an engine start button that requires only a tap to get the big v-twin spinning and running. While nitpickers may notice that several bits like the switchgear housings aren't chrome, but rather a convincingly finished variety of shiny plastic, the cockpit's overall impression is one of quality and heft.
The Chief is easy to flat-foot at a standstill, and releasing the relatively low-effort clutch while feeding the throttle produces an easy-to-modulate tug ahead. Throttle tip-in is mild and progressive, but as you twist the right grip further, you get a strong sense of the considerable power reserves lurking within those big twin cylinders; goose it, and the Chief pushes ahead like a locomotive, with 119.2 lb-ft of torque peaking at 3,000 rpm. Gear shifts are smooth and easy with a touch of positive "click" as each cog engages, and the digital gear indicator works while the clutch is pulled, unlike Harley-Davidson's setup. Neutral is easy to find (another area where Harley sometimes lags), and the Indian's gears are helically cut for quieter operation. The dual-disc, floating rotor 4-piston front and 2-piston rear brakes are strong, and allow a split-second of skid before the anti-lock kicks in, a dynamic experienced riders will likely appreciate. On the highway, 70 mph translates to 2,600 rpm, and cruise control works intuitively and smoothly via an on/off button and rocker switch on the right handgrip.
Riding posture is typical cruiser, with floorboards, forward leg positioning, and handlebars requiring outstretched arms. Not surprisingly there's quite a bit of sail-in-the-wind going on at highway speeds due to the lack of windscreen, but the ride is generally compliant and easy to live with. One of my tester's only ergonomic shortcomings was its saddle, which felt scooped a bit aggressively against my backside-- and, according to Indian, that pre-production bike's seat has since been updated, along with a floorboard that's been made less squishy.
You'll notice the bike's heft when cornering around town, and that's not entirely unintentional: an Indian rep says typical Classic customers prefer that substantial feeling, which is reinforced by its considerable fork trail figure of 6.1 inches, while the bigger Chieftain has actually been tuned to feel nimbler.