Nothing stokes expectation like a sexy motorcycle standing before you fully fueled and ready to ride. So when Indian dropped off their latest, greatest FTR—the top dog, $16,999 FTR Carbon, no less—it stirred a distinct desire to throw a leg over, blast off into the canyons, and never look back.
Accented with a crimson trellis frame, red-rimmed, cast-aluminum wheels, and double-barrel Akrapovič pipes, the 2022 Indian FTR Carbon certainly looks like a winner. The distinctly American bike builder has enjoyed a meteoric resurgence thanks to parent company Polaris, all while playing fearsome foil to the country’s other great moto manufacturer, Harley-Davidson.
The FTR played a prominent role in the brand’s renaissance. Though admittedly flawed, its raw appeal and retro-cool styling offered a promising alternative to V-twin malaise. However, Jason’s long-term experience revealed that initial reports of seemingly superficial (and potentially fixable) missteps like jerky fueling in fact were small potatoes compared to bigger issues—chronic hard starting, poor build quality, questionable packaging decisions, etc. That brings us back to that spanking new FTR sitting pretty in my driveway.
Much has changed with the FTR since its original incarnation, the least of which is ditching the 1200 from the model name. Now there are smaller 17-inch wheels at both ends, wrapped in road-biased Metzeler Sportec street rubber. These new tires reflect a move away from the flat track theme to a more street-oriented one (though the larger, knobby-esque tires and longer suspension travel are still available with the Rally model). The updated FTR also claims improved fueling, rear cylinder de-activation when the going gets hot, and a few other goodies we’ll get into in a minute.
Though seemingly identical in silhouette at first glance, the new FTR actually sits 1.4 inches lower than version 1.0, thanks to the revised wheel size and more compressed suspension. Aiding handling is a ProTaper handlebar that's been shortened by 1.5 inches. While the FTR and FTR S models get fully adjustable ZF Sachs suspension components and the Rally gets a fixed setup, the Carbon steps up to an Öhlins system with 43mm forks and adjustable piggyback reservoir rear unit.
In the cockpit, the 4.3-inch LCD touchscreen works intuitively enough, though the joystick controls on the left handgrip take some getting used to. Once acclimated to the setup, the interface proves easy to use with enough Bluetooth controls, and ride mode/traction control/ABS customizability makes it feel up-to-date. There's even a USB charging port for your phone, nav, tablet, etc. Materials and finishes are generally well done on the Carbon model, with carbon fiber finishing everything from the fuel tank cover and front fender to the headlight nacelle. Though clearly ornamental, the stuff mostly does a solid job of distinguishing the topline FTR from lesser iterations. However, bits like the plastic guards over the radiators (intended to divert hot air around the rider) seem chintzy, while the large-tubed rear fender hanger appears to add unnecessary weight and bulk.
Fire up the 120 hp, 60-degree v-twin, and the titanium Akrapovič exhaust produces a present, but not particularly noisy note. There’s a feeling of heft to almost everything about the FTR, particularly when lifted off its kickstand. Indian claims a dry weight of 482 pounds, though I suspect much of the FTR’s perceived mass comes because the poundage sits somewhat high in the center of gravity. Ease away off the line, and the FTR pulls with torquey certainty, particularly in the midrange section of the powerband. With top twist arriving at 6,000 rpm and peak power not coming ‘til 7,750 rpm, there’s still some revving to go until the locomotive effect diminishes.
While it certainly feels like there’s a good amount of power on hand, how it’s delivered greatly depends on ride mode. Rain makes the proceedings feel a bit squishy and slow to respond, Standard is crisper and more alive, while Sport is closer to what you’d expect a sportbike to feel like. The Carbon’s saddle, which is firmer than the standard perch, feels stiff enough to discourage longer rides. However, the upside to the seating position is a curved rear section that cups your hindquarters during hard acceleration, ensuring you don’t slide off the bike when pinning the throttle. Speaking of throttle, the first FTR 1200’s power delivery woes appear to have been resolved, with torque pouring on smoothly and predictably for the most part, eliminating the jerkiness and snatchy responsiveness from before.
Though the FTR’s muscular styling suggests an element of jaunty performance, handling is a bit more stern than you might expect. Though nimbler than its prior iteration, there’s still some reluctance to corner at initial turn-in, and a prevailing feeling of stability, not agility. The Öhlins setup does decent job of managing the FTR’s weight, though mid-corner bumps sometimes upset the bike’s balance. At least the Metzelers address the road with more security than the first-gen FTR's chunkier-treaded Dunlop DT3-Rs. The FTR seems on the fence about how sporty it really is. When push comes to shove, the Brembo t5 4-piston front and 2-piston rear brakes seem biased towards easy riding: they lack the strong initial bite favored by more aggressive riders, though they do offer strong stops and good feel when squeezed harder.
After powering up Angeles Crest Highway and returning down at a brisk pace, the FTR seems to want to travel at its own pace, rather than egging you on to ride faster. Maybe it’s the relatively slow steering or lack of liveliness at turn-in, or perhaps it’s the center of gravity or suspension tuning, but somehow the FTR didn’t seem as involving in the canyons as I would have hoped. Also, the 3.4-gallon tank seemed to empty quite quickly, requiring a gas stop before heading home.
While I didn’t experience the frustrations Jason did during his extended time with the first-gen FTR 1200, it’s also important to note that my time with the new FTR was considerably more limited than his long-term test. The FTR is most certainly an improved bike over its first iteration, overcoming the fueling and hard starting issues that plagued the O.G. model. However, if I’m being honest I’ll also acknowledge that my real-world experience was a smidge dampened by my aforementioned excitement about riding the FTR Carbon. Hulking, muscular, and decidedly mechanical looking, the Carbon proves itself an engaging cruiser around town, offering solid power and predictable handling. However, take it through some rigorous twisties and it starts to feel heavier and more reluctant to corner, making it seem like more of a power cruiser than a canyon scalpel.
Ultimately, the FTR’s ability to satisfy depends on your usage patterns and performance expectations. 17 large is a big chunk of change for most buyers, and some of the FTR’s design details don’t support the dollar amount—you just don't walk away with the high-end construction feel that, say, BMW imparts in models like the R nineT. However, for a uniquely positioned bike that stands apart from the crowd and proudly stakes a claim as a truly American motorcycle, the Indian FTR proves a worthy alternative to Harley-Davidson and one whose improvements make it a far more viable option than ever before.