At the launch of the Indian brand in Sturgis 2013, we were told that rather than discard their original motorcycle brand, Polaris had big plans for Victory. They would be going lighter, sportier, faster … basically, they were going to do this.
Billed as a 1200, the Octane is powered by an 1179.3cc liquid-cooled, DOHC 60-degree V-twin with a 6-speed gearbox slotted into a predominently sand cast aluminium frame, and if you think that sounds familiar, you’re not wrong.
There is an elephant in the room that we can’t ignore, mainly because it’s about the same size as the room that contains it, and while Polaris aren’t necesarily going to like it, I’d be doing us all a disservice if I tried to pretend it wasn’t there. No this isn’t a Scout engine … the Scout is an Octane engine. That is to say they are both based on a common Polaris-designed and built powertrain and it was on the drawing board before the company decided it was commercially more astute to create a Scout – riding high on the successful launch of the Chief – than to muddy the waters too quickly with a new Victory platform.
Does it matter?
Of course it doesn’t. Vehicles have shared engines since the dawn of the transport industry, and whether you are referring to the Morris Oxford engine in the MG, VW van engines in Porsches, Japanese-4 engines in Italian Bimotas or even home-brewed Norton-framed, Triumph engined specials, the finished result is greater than the sum of its parts, and the source of those parts is all-but irrelevent.
The important thing is that the Octane ISN’T a Scout, even if it is a little closer than we were anticipating.
Sharper lined and running on more modern wheels and tyre profiles than the balloon-tyred Scout, the Octane is taller in its solo saddle, inherits a number of styling features that we’ll all recognise from the steel-framed Victory street range – and one or two off the Cross-series – and is unashamedly sporty … in an American sense: it is running forward controls and handlebars that are high, wide and handsome.
An extra 2mm of bore gives the Octance a performance edge over the bigger of the two Scouts, but on these shores that is manifested in just an additional 3hp, which seem to make a mockery of some of the teases that have been coming out of Spirit Lake. The motor is fed by a new 60mm single throttle body – significantly up on the 54mm of the Scout, but not the twin throttles were were anticipating – and is visually quite different to the stylised Scout at the top end.
In truth, it will be better able to use the 103hp than the 1133cc Scout can its 100hp, but that’s not the point, and you’ve got to wonder whether Harley will be able to resist the open goal that they ignored when the Scout was announced. There is a strong case for not giving a competitor any column inches, but compared to the 115hp or the 2002 1,130cc V-Rod and the later 125hp 1,250cc incarnation the Octane isn’t breaking new ground. The more interesting figure is 99Nm of torque – still 10% down on the 1250cc VR motor’s 111Nm – which comes at 6k as opposed to 7,250rpm: the Rod will certainly have the edge on the strip – where it was intended to make impression – but at this point, I think the Octane could be the more flexible road bike … but then a single front disc and single flange hub? What was the thinking behind that?
Chassis-wise, the main frame is very familiar, but without the need to recreate the single line from headstock to axle, the Victory Octane has taller shocks at a more forgiving angle, which gives them much less work to do. With progressively-wound coil-over shocks – assisted by almost half an inch provided by the 160/70×17 rear tyre – you would expect the seat height to be raised by a little more than … err, half an inch? Weird, and especially on a bike that could easily stand it and which would benefit from the improved ground clearance it would offer.
In terms of bodywork, it is pure Victory with the addition of a weird seat detail that will make the aftermarket happy: I won’t pretend to understand it – unless someone was given a brief using chinese whispers, and the split tail tank concept of previous models got lost along the way, but it’s the only questionable element in an otherwise well thought-out performance cruiser.
I sincerely hope it leads on to better things, this proving to be a cautious toe in the water: the potential is certainly there.