American-made Indian Scout feels distinctively un-American

The Indian Scout is an agile machine with a low centre of gravity.
The Indian Scout is an agile machine with a low centre of gravity. PHOTO: JASPER YU

A Harley-Davidson and an Indian Scout might look alike, but their personalities are as different as a cheeseburger and a tofu salad, evident in the Indian Chief Classic I reviewed earlier in the year.

While the Chief Classic has its charms, the new Scout is the model local distributor Mah Motor is banking on to bring in the bulk of sales. As Indian's entry-level model, the Scout is a stepping stone for anyone considering an American muscle two-wheeler.

Inevitably, it will be compared to Harley's own entry-level model, the iconic Sportster.

Both models have the same V-twin engine configuration and displacement, but the Scout's is liquid-cooled and built around a forged aluminium frame.

  • SPECS / INDIAN SCOUT

  • Price: $31,900 with COE (without insurance)


    Engine: 1,133cc eight-valve V-twin


    Transmission: Six-speed manual


    Power: 100bhp at 7,900rpm


    Torque: 98Nm at 5,900 rpm


    0-100kmh: 5 seconds


    Top speed: 200kmh (estimated)


    Fuel consumption: 6 litres/ 100km


    Agent: Mah Pte Ltd

It does away with traditional air-cooling and a tubular steel frame, features many purists deem essential in a conventional cruiser.

The Scout wears its non- conformist package proudly. It may look like an old-school cruiser, but its performance is anything but.

Its 1,133cc motor makes 98Nm of torque, which is less than the Sportster's 107Nm. But it churns out an impressive 100bhp, which is almost 30bhp more than the Sportster.

The Scout rockets off the line, helped by impeccable fuelling, a light clutch and positive gear changes.

Besides substantial low-down torque, the bike tops out at almost 8,000rpm, meaning you do not need to short-shift much to get the most out of the flexible engine.

On the move, the engine's power, smoothness and lack of vibrations are a stark contrast to the Sportster's raw and thumpy motor. In fact, it feels almost European. Whether or not you consider that an insult to the brand's heritage depends on how you prefer your cruiser.

What is certain, though, is how comfortable and relaxed the Scout is on the move.

Everything, from the tank to the handlebars and ultra-low-slung seat, is set closer to the ground to accommodate more varieties of riders.

It weighs roughly the same as the Sportster at 253kg, but it feels considerably lighter because of its lower centre of gravity.

This translates to an agility even the nimble Sportster cannot match. It manoeuvres around traffic like a cruiser half its capacity and is limited by only its length, which, at 2,311mm, is 86mm longer than the Sportster.

That said, its ground clearance is even more generous than its rival's, which is saying a lot considering how low the bike is.

Shorter and smaller riders who may have problems handling a typical heavy, old-school cruiser will no doubt be drawn to the Scout's road manners, well-sorted balance and friendly ergonomics.

Ride comfort is decent enough. The bike's suspension copes well with small to medium bumps, although it tends to crash when pitted against bigger, more angular imperfections. But this is common for bikes of its kind.

What I wish the bike has is an anti-lock braking system, like the Sportster's. Stopping power from the front brakes is adequate, if not particularly powerful, but the rear brakes have a tendency to lock up under hard braking, especially when the roads are wet.

That aside, the Scout is an exemplary effort from the resurrected American motorcycle marque.

Like the Chief Classic, it lacks the image, character (and distinctive sound) of the big H, but it more than makes up for it with performance, refinement and comfort.


• The writer is a contributor to Torque, a motoring monthly published by SPH Magazines.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 07, 2015, with the headline 'Rebel with a cause'. Print Edition | Subscribe