Almost three years since the CS400 was showcased, its production version is finally here in the form of the Dominar 400 and Bajaj seems to have nailed this one.
The Indian two-wheeler market has grown exponentially over the past 15 years. Today, for those looking for affordable performance motorcycles, the options are endless. There is the KTM twins, the Royal Enfields, and if you want to spend even less, then the Yamaha R15 and the TVS Apache RTR 200. But it hasn’t always been this way. Bajaj was one of the first manufacturers to introduce the trend of affordable performance with the Pulsar range, and as they say, rest is history.
But since then, their product portfolio has only expanded laterally in the 150-200cc space. Now, with the introduction of its new flagship, Dominar 400, Bajaj wants to climb up the displacement ladder and while they are at it, replicate the success that the Pulsar range brought. Is the Bajaj Dominar 400 the right product to push the envelope with?
The Bajaj Dominar 400 is rather unique in its design. The front, although longer than the rear section, isn’t stretched as far out as a cruiser. In fact, it isn’t close to the body like a street naked either. The foot-pegs are not forward set and are placed exactly under the rider’s seat, ensuring a comfortable riding posture. Overall, it isn’t an out and out cruiser, neither is it a hardcore street naked - it is in fact, a blend of the two - a perfect power cruiser if you will. And it is the stance of the motorcycle and the LED taillights that are somewhat reminiscent of the Ducati Diavel. The LED headlight is one of the many highlights of the Dominar and it is undoubtedly the best in the business. The large headlamp unit, the muscular tank, the belly pan as well as the stepped seat, come together in perfect union to give it great presence.
The Dominar has been launched in three colours, moon white, twilight plum and midnight blue. Aside from the white, the Dominar looks awfully understated in the other two colours, we wish it came with brighter colour options. Except for the mirrors that have been borrowed from the KTM, the Dominar is put together with high-quality materials giving it a premium feel.
Once on the saddle, it is easy to get into a comfortable riding posture thanks to the wide handlebar and the bulky tank that is easy to grip. The seat isn’t too soft, in fact, it is padded perfectly well for long riding hours. Behind the bars sits an all-digital instrument cluster that is easy to read. We wish it provided some more information though, like gear indicator, fuel efficiency and average speed.
The Bajaj Dominar 400 uses a 373.2cc single-cylinder liquid-cooled unit that has been derived from the KTM 390. But in this avatar, it makes 34.5bhp and 35Nm. It’s really impressive that despite using the same block as the 390, the Dominar 400 feels a lot different. It isn't a hooligan like its sibling; in fact, it is quite friendly. It packs good grunt in its mid-range which makes the power extremely usable. Of the max torque on offer, as much as 28Nm is available at around 3,000rpm. This ensures that you don’t have to downshift while making swift overtaking manoeuvres in the city, whilst giving it impressive cruising capabilities on the highway. The route that was mapped for us from Pune to Panchgini, had some fast stretches of road on which the Dominar felt at ease maintaining three-digit speeds. The engine feels undeniably refined for the most part until you cross the 6,500rpm marker post which the vibes are felt on the handle bars and the foot pegs.
The Dominar comes mated to a 6-speed gearbox that is aided with a slipper clutch. Gear shifts are butter smooth and precise, even while downshifting from higher speeds for engine braking the bike doesn’t throw any tantrums.
Ride and Handling:
Since the time of its launch, a lot has been spoken about the 182kg weight of the motorcycle, especially since the KTM 390 Duke tips the scale at just 146kg. But you’d be glad to know that once in motion, the bike doesn’t feel its weight. The Dominar sports 43mm telescopic forks up front and a gas charged monoshock setup at the back. While the front is aptly setup, the rear felt rather firm for my liking, especially considering the nature of the motorcycle. Over large potholes and horribly broken roads the bike does tend to show some discomfort which is easily transferred to your back. But the neutrally placed foot pegs allow you to easily stand up and power through. On the flipside, it is this attribute that gives it impressive handling dynamics. Despite its long 1,453mm wheelbase, it is easy to lean the bike into corners and find the right rhythm over a series of bends. The MRF rubber grips like glue further inspiring confidence. Braking duties are performed by a 300mm disc up front and a 230mm one at the back, which do the job well. We loved that the dual-channel ABS isn’t very intrusive and kicks in at a later stage under hard braking.
Bajaj’s climb up to the displacement ladder has been quite an impressive one. The Dominar 400 does most things right – it looks the part, is well built, comes with loads of features and is amply comfortable. In fact, it has all the right ingredients of a good touring machine. Yes, we wish the rear suspension was a bit softer and the engine was a bit smoother higher up the rev range too, but that aside, there is little to complain about. Moreover, at Rs 1.50 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi) for the ABS variant, the Bajaj Dominar 400 is a phenomenal value for money proposition – making it the jump for someone looking to upgrade from a 150cc offering. All said, although Bajaj did make us wait for three years since the official unveil of the CS400, it has very well been worth the wait.