Victory Octane (2016)
Before its unveiling the Octane was hyped as the first of a new breed of high-performance machine from Victory, which has been repositioned as the brand of “American muscle” following its owner Polaris’s takeover of the more heritage-focused Indian, which also produces all-American V-twins.
Then the covers came off to reveal a cruiser that is closely related to Indian’s Scout. The Octane’s angular styling mimics the Scout’s, gaining a slightly sportier look with a bikini fairing and smaller mudguards, plus an understated finish of grey paint with black engine and exhaust.
The engine is a slightly larger version of the Scout’s liquid-cooled, 60-degree V-twin. It has reshaped combustion chambers, raised compression and new camshafts, so it’s odd that its 103bhp is only three horsepower up on the Scout’s.
Its straight-line performance is boosted by lower gearing, making the Victory quick off the mark. The engine remains smooth until about 6,000rpm as the bike accelerates.
Despite the shorter gearing the Octane cruises at 70mph with a relaxed feel, the small fairing providing a modicum of protection. The chance to ride on a drag-strip confirmed it pulls reasonably briskly before topping out at about 130mph; sufficient for a cruiser.
The chassis layout is similar to the Scout’s, with a tubular steel and aluminium frame and the same 29-degree fork angle. Suspension at both ends is stiffer, with the twin shocks more vertical, while the wheels are a larger diameter.
It handles well for a cruiser, too, with enough leverage for respectably light steering despite the lazy geometry, and the long wheelbase ensuring stability. There’s sufficient ground clearance to allow fairly spirited cornering before the footrests scrape, while the ride quality is adequate on all but very bumpy roads.
The launch bikes were let down by a combination of hard Kenda tyres and reasonably – but not excessively – powerful single-disc front brake, which for the US market is not fitted with ABS. Several riders fell at slow speed after locking the front wheel under braking. ABS is standard on UK bikes, but insist on a tyre upgrade.
That obvious flaw apart, the Octane is a welcome addition, not least because at £9,799 it’s £700 cheaper than the Scout. The Indian’s more glamorous name will ensure higher resale values, though, unless Victory’s image can be boosted. Aggressive marketing might help – but the Octane’s story shows that it’s best not to promise more than the machinery can deliver.
After all the excitement about Polaris’s relaunch of Indian, the Octane is sister-brand Victory’s first all-new bike in more than a few years. Trouble is, instead of being the all-new ‘Modern American Muscle’ Victory hyped it up to be it’s actually a rebadged Indian Scout with a (very) slight performance tweak. If they’d distanced it further from the Scout and given it some real oomph (say, a 20-30bhp boost instead of the 4bhp extra it has) it might have been a different story. As it stands, the Octane is a cheaper, (very) slightly punchier Scout with a Victory badge when it could and perhaps should have been so much more…
Ride Quality & Brakes
The Octane’s cast aluminium/tubular steel mix cradle is also to the same recipe as the Scout’s, right down to the twin 41mm telescopic forks, twin discs and twin shock rear but the wheels are new, growing from the twin 16-inchers of the Scout to a 18/17-inch front/rear combination. Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, the Octane is very much like the Scout to ride – but with a touch more attitude. Handling is decent for a cruiser and never really becomes a handful; brakes are adequate and its real playground should be blasting around town, mucking about between traffic lights and generally playing the (slightly entry-level) hot rod dude. No long-distance cruiser, though, it’s too uncomfortable and Victory has better bikes for that.
Engine 4 out of 5
The engine architecture is basically the same as its sister bike, the Indian Scout, but with a bore up from 99 to 101mm to take capacity from 1133cc to 1179.3cc, enough to raise peak power to 104bhp.
It’s been said before but that 60º, liquid-cooled V-twin is a peach: usefully picking up from as little as 2500rpm before building in a linear fashion and firing off from five thou and up. As a result, travelling is effortless and pleasing (a 70mph cruising speed comes up at just 4000rpm in sixth). That said the Octane is a million miles away from truly fierce, ground shaking hot-rods such as the VMax or Diavel.
Build Quality & Reliability
To Victory’s credit, it has done a pretty thorough job of the transformation and the result is sufficiently different from the Scout – there’s far more to it than just different badges, for example. Quality’s not bad, either and, while it’s probably still too early to proclaim with any certainty, any qualms about reliability should be compensated for by Victory’s standard five-year warranty – the best in the business.
Insurance, running costs & value 4 out of 5
Overall the Octane’s a decent bike, a welcome addition to Victory’s range and an interesting alternative to a Scout. Don’t forget, when the Octane went on sale in the UK, it was not just more powerful than the Indian upon which it’s based, not to mention being arguably more substantial due mostly to its larger wheels, it was cheaper, too. It’s just not (quite) the all-new American hot rod Victory would have us believe.
Victory has gone to extensive lengths to give the new bike its own look. These include: restyled barrels/head; new nose cowling; new side panels; new larger, but less flared fenders front and rear to match the bigger wheels; repositioned rear shocks; all chrome replaced by black and Victory badging throughout. That said, equipment is no different and still fairly sparse. There’s a single, multi-function ‘clock’, ABS and… that’s about it. No fancy electronics or creature comforts and, so far, not much by way of optional accessories, either.
- Ride Quality & Brakes - 6/10
- Engine - 9/10
- Build Quality & Reliability - 8/10
- Insurance, running costs & value - 8/10
- Equipment - 4/10