Will the BMW G 310 GS be the right answer for the want of an entry-level adventure tourer, or will the Indian enthusiast have to wait another year for the KTM 390 Adventure?
For a country that’s so madly in love with SUVs, I sometimes wonder why as much love is not showered on adventure tourers. If we were to draw parallels, aren’t these motorcycles like SUVs on two wheels? They have the ability to go anywhere – possibly even further than where a car can go, have a high ground clearance and more importantly won’t bat an eyelid while tackling crater-sized potholes. That being said, buyers aren’t to be blamed for choosing naked or fully faired offerings over an adventure tourer. Manufacturers haven’t quite given them a real taste of what these motorcycles are, and why they are just right for India. While there are motorcycles like the BMW F650 Funduro, Hero Impulse and recently launched the Kawasaki Versys X-300, none of them has been able to impress buyers – all for separate reasons.
When Hero brought in the BMW F650 Funduro to India in the mid-1990s, it was priced at over ₹5 lakh – almost the price at which the Maruti Suzuki Esteem was sold. And although it was a comfortable and sensible motorcycle without the typically BMW imperfections, unfortunately, the Indian market was just not ready to spend that kind of money on two wheels.
The Hero Impulse was on the other end of the spectrum. Despite being priced at just ₹66,800 (ex-showroom Delhi) during the launch, the Impulse couldn’t survive the wrath of the Indian market. It did reasonably well to start with, but the numbers fell quickly, forcing Hero to pull it off the shop floor. The Impulse wasn’t perfect. With the kind of power it offered, buyers quickly outgrew it. Sub-standard quality of parts didn’t help either. But it did manage to introduce enthusiasts with a new flavour of motorcycling, one that they are now warming up to. The Impulse then was like a brave soldier who had to sacrifice his life for a greater cause.
More than two decades have passed since the launch of the Funduro, and the Indian market still lacked a well-rounded adventure tourer. The only manufacturers that have focused their energies on these kinds of offerings are Triumph and Ducati – Tiger and Multistrada, respectively. Unfortunately, these are way out of budget for an average enthusiast, not to mention heavy on weight and maintenance. So, when Kawasaki announced the launch of the Versys X300 in India, it was only natural for enthusiasts to be hopeful. But the Japanese manufacturer failed miserably in terms of pricing.
The failure of these products is just the start of a longer, more detailed justification as to why India is no country for adventure tourers. Not to mention buyers in the ₹2.5-4 lakh price bracket are few in number. And it isn’t just about adventure tourers. There have been numerous failed products in this price range altogether – from the Suzuki Inazuma and Hyosung GT250R to the Kawasaki Ninja 300 and Yamaha YZF-R3. Of course, the value for money that KTM brings to the table has somewhat made survival difficult for all of these products, but there is also the thing about understanding a product and setting twins apart from singles, isn’t it?
I could go on ranting, but the fact of the matter is that India still yearns for a good, affordable adventure tourer. In fact, for a smart buyer, a 300-400cc adventure tourer in the price range of about ₹2.5 – 4 lakh is all the motorcycle you possibly need. Thirty-five to forty horses are just enough for Indian roads, for such motorcycles will be light and within the reach of a lot of enthusiasts. With BMW set to bring the G 310 GS to India soon, enthusiasts are sure to hope it to be as good as its namesake. But I can’t help being pessimistic about its price. And once again, the KTM 390 Duke finds itself right in the centre of this discussion. And if the TVS Apache RR 310 is anything to go by, its motor won’t be the most refined one out there.
Is the BMW G 310 GS the motorcycle India has been waiting for, or will it be another case of too little too late? While we won’t be able to answer the question until we ride the motorcycle, with KTM announcing the launch of the 390 Adventure in India in 2019, hope shall continue to prevail especially among people like us who believe India is indeed a country for adventure tourers.