Over the years the Pulsar family grew and went on to become the highest selling affordable performance motorcycle in India. Bajaj’s Pulsar shook the Indian market when it made its debut in 2001. The only other modern and sporty motorcycle in a market that filled with bikes focussed on fuel efficiency was Hero Honda’s CBZ. But, it was the arrival of the Pulsars with their extra dose of adrenaline, that gave the performance starved Indian bikers a potent tool.
The range has evolved into a performance bike for the masses, so when the time came to leapfrog to a higher displacement class, Bajaj took a bold decision and parted with the Pulsar moniker. Enter, Dominar, the newest family of motorcycles from Bajaj. And, one that Bajaj claim will reenergise the motorcycling market in India much the same way the Pulsars did 16 years ago. The first motorcycle from the Dominar family is the Dominar 400, and we hopped on to see for ourselves, what could make this motorcycle a game changer.
The most talked about aspect of the Dominar 400 has to be its 373cc motor, which makes it the most powerful bike yet from the Chakan based manufacturer.
Open the throttle and the Dominar 400 responds swiftly as the bike picks momentum at a healthy pace but isn’t jaw-dropping as that of the 390 Duke. When we tested it against the clock we managed to record a 0-100kmph time of 8.4 seconds. The most impressive part of the engine has to be its mid-range performance which makes overtaking on the highway effortless. Now the Dominar 400 was being touted as a power-cruiser and it does justice to the tag because of the way it performs. You can cruise at 120kmph in 6th gear at 6,000rpm and even at that speed there is enough grunt on tap for overtaking.
The 6-speed gearbox also does its job without any complaints but the gear shifts could have been a bit more positive. Also, once past 4,000rpm, a buzz can be felt through the handlebars, footpegs and tank. NVH levels of the engine also could have been better and a sweeter sounding exhaust note would have been very welcome. Also, the clutch feels a bit heavy while riding in crawling traffic. The Dominar 400 is the least expensive motorcycle on sale in India that offers a slipper clutch and the system works without any hitch. Whether a slipper clutch is needed, given the performance and nature of the motorcycle is debatable. While we couldn’t test the fuel efficiency numbers we expect it to deliver above 30kmpl which should result in a range of around 400km on a full tank.
With its large dimensions and low-slung stance, the Bajaj Dominar 400 commands attention. It has a mass-forward design language while the beefy fuel tank, chiseled mudguard, and the machined alloy wheels are the design highlights. The petite full-LED trapezoidal headlight and small windscreen fit snuggly between the chunky forks. The Ducati Diavel influence is clearly visible in its lines and the sharp styling will appeal to youngsters. The galvanized finish on the perimeter frame and the swingarm is a neat addition and the only design grouse we feel are the LED tail lamps that don’t flow well with the overalls styling.
Fit and finish levels are much better than any other offering from Bajaj and a good example of that is the intricate welding on the pressed steel swingarm, however, I feel there are just too many bolts on the motor and its mounts. The chrome finish on the bolts make them more evident and the Duke 390’s powerplant has a grey finish as opposed to the black shade on the Bajaj engine.
The standout feature of the Dominar 400 is the all-LED headlight, making it the only locally manufactured bike to offer it as of now. The LED unit provides brilliant luminance while the light spread is also impressive and without a shadow of a doubt the Dominar 400 has the best stock headlight in its segment.
The Dominar 400 sports a neatly laid out all-digital instrument cluster that is easy to read even under direct sunlight. It features speedometer, tachometer, two trip meters, odometer, clock, service indicator and fuel gauge. Gear position indicator is missed and the shift light should have been provided on top of the console as it isn’t in the field of vision of the rider. The tell-tale lights, side stand indicator, and ABS indicator have been mounted on the fuel tank. Switch-gear and handgrips are of good quality with the former being backlit. The one thing missing though is hooks for bungee cords.
The Dominar 400 is a new breed of affordable performance bikes for the masses but it doesn’t deliver the same kind of impact as the Pulsar range did many moons back. Having said that, if you’re in the hunt for an affordable, fast and comfortable highway cruiser that performs well in the city too then the Dominar 400 definitely deserves a close look before finalising your choice.
Like all Bajaj offerings, the Dominar 400 has been aggressively priced at Rs 1.36 lakh for the standard variant and the ABS version carries a sticker price of Rs 1.5 lakh and the later will be our pick among the two (both prices ex-showroom Delhi).