Words: Adil Jal Darukhanawala
Photography: Rohit S Mane
It’s all about going “black” to basics if one were to hold up the promo blurb for the Dominar 400 – the burliest, beefiest and most outrageously handsome and competent motorcycle ever made by any Indian bike maker! We get up close and personal with Bajaj Auto’s biggest offering to date, peeking under the skin of this all new segment-bashing jewel of a machine.
It all starts with the Pulsar
It has been fifteen years since the advent of the 150cc and 180cc Pulsar twins. Since then the Stars Ahead R&D team of Bajaj Auto have given Indian motorcycling enthusiasts a family of bikes packing in excitement, great style and form and terrific tech. Most importantly a continuous upgradation program has put the Pulsar out of reach of every other bike maker and it continues to dominate the sporty 150-220cc segment of the Indian bike market.
But Bajaj Auto had to climb up the displacement scale and a glimpse of that came at the Auto Expo 2014 with the Pulsar CS400. It provided a hint of what the next generation Pulsar would be like and with the Dominar 400, Bajaj Auto has stunned with a machine that is absolutely faithful to the 2014 concept.
But it’s not a Pulsar
The most important change from concept to reality is the deletion of the Pulsar logo! Till about three months back it was called the Pulsar VS400 (VS for Vantage Sport) but then it was decided that a new brand was needed to headline Bajaj Auto’s intent in the mid-size segment of the performance bike spectrum.
Dominar wasn’t the first choice of name for it was to be Kratos, named after an ancient Greek warrior god. However it seemed someone else has a hold on this name and thus Dominar, Spanish to dominate or excel or exceed, was fixed upon.
Dominating, yet undaunting
Three things determine the make-up of the new Dominar 400: its form and stance with the right amount of muscle; its strong mechanicals that share components and engineering thought with KTM while yet being different; and the final third concerns the frame and its cycle parts.
The Dominar 400 dominates with an inspired layout yet is undaunting for anyone to swing a leg over the saddle and take the controls. The tank shroud (a 13-litre fuel tank) looks muscular and the medley around the bike’s midriff and its raunchy rear end brings a certain earthiness to the ensemble. The headlamp also stays true to the CS concept and is packed with full-LED mosaic lighting technology with DRLs. The stepped seats indicate yet more thought for both rider and pillion comfort, important considering the bike will not just be a mile munching tourer but also a practical daily rider.
Ergonomics are taken care of with a flat wide handlebar and having a low saddle height will ensure ease of riding and control. The instrumentation adopts a double-pronged approach with an all-LCD reverse lit panel incorporating a digital speedo and rev counter while on top of the tank cladding, just ahead of the fuel filler cap, is a secondary panel housing various tell tales.
No replacement for displacement
The Dominar’s motor mirrors the external architecture and cylinder dimensions of the KTM RC390 and Duke but then there is a totally indigenous devil in the detail – out go the twin overhead cams of the Austrian powerhouse and in comes an SOHC four-valve layout (includes an advanced finger follower mechanism) with Bajaj Auto’s patented DTS-i triple spark plug configuration. It gets fuel injection that has been tuned for a torquey thrust across the rev range. Bajaj Auto engineers informed us that quick fire acceleration will be a big talking point along with a punchy mid range (28Nm of torque from 3000rpm onwards) and an impressive top whack. Here are the figures: 35PS of power at 8000rpm and 35Nm of torque at 6500rpm from the 373.3cc motor. This is mated to a 6-speed gearbox that also uses a slipper clutch to ensure control and pleasure while downshifting in a hurry.
Power is nothing without control
The beam type perimeter frame contributes to great torsional stiffness. The stamped metal swing-arm does duty with a Nitrox monoshock unit to give it stability. Unlike the original Pulsar CS400 concept that had USDs, the Dominar has conventional 43mm dia front forks.
MRF Tyres have developed new super soft compounds and a completely different construction for the high-performance super-sticky low-profile Revz-C1 17-inch radials (110/70 front and 150/60-17 rear). And these are wrapped around some super stylish machined alloys
To aid controlling the power are disc brakes at both ends, a massive 320mm dia unit doing duty up front while on the rear wheel a 230mm dia disc helps retardation. Added to this is the option of the latest twin-channel ABS.
The icing on the cake
The reaction of biking enthusiasts to the Dominar 400 can best be illustrated by the fact that the veritable onslaught on the firm’s website on the day it was launched saw it collapse under the sustained barrage of enquiries! And not without reason for this is a bike whose time has come and which is exciting, substantial, looks the business, oozes quality and high tech and has the potential for top performance. And the pricing! Rs 1.36 lakh for the base version devoid of ABS and Rs 1.5 lakh for the full ABS-equipped bike is just astonishingly good.
And now that we have your attention, come back on January 10th for our first riding impression of the most exciting bike of the year.