The Bajaj Dominar 400 could be yet another game changer from Bajaj Auto. We have an exclusive on this bike - everything you wanted to know about it! 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 a rather outrageously beautiful and competent motorcycle.
The Pulsar is where it all began
It has been fifteen eventful years since the advent of the Pulsar twins - 150cc and 180cc models - and the R&D team Bajaj Auto has given Indian motorcycling enthusiasts a family of motorcycles since - packed with excitement, great style and terrific tech. Most importantly, the Pulsar range was never meant to be a static target with Bajaj Auto pushing the technical and technological envelop every 16-18 months. No wonder then that the Pulsar dominates the sports segment of the Indian bike market in the 150-220cc category.
But in a changing motorcycle market it was evident that Bajaj had to climb up the displacement scales and sure enough, Auto Expo 2014 gave us all a hint of just that with the Pulsar CS400.
But wait, it isn't another 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 required to really headline Bajaj's intent in the midsize motorcycle segment.
Dominar wasn't the first choice when it came to the name. As we reported in September, it was to be called Kratos - named after a Greek warrior God. However, it seemed someone else has a hold on this name, and thus Dominar, Spanish for dominate or excel or exceed, became the bike's identity.
The bike's design
Steve Jobs famously said, "Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works." Three things determine the make-up of the new Dominar 400. The first is its form and stance with the right amount of muscle and not more. The second, its strong mechanicals that share components and engineering thought with the motors that power the small KTMs while yet being mighty different. And the third concerns the frame and its cycle parts.
The Dominar 400 is dominating with an inspired layout yet 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, which we had seen, on the Pulsar CS400 concept. Even the headlamp stays true to the concept and is packed with cutting-edge full LED mosaic lighting technology replete with DRLs. The stepped seats indicate yet more thought for both rider and pillion comfort given that the bike hints ever strongly as not just a mile munching tourer but also a practical daily rider.
Ergonomics are key to the comfort factor envisaged for this power cruiser with a flat wide handlebar and a low saddle height, which should offer ease and control. 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.
The Dominar's power
Bajaj Auto boss Rajiv Bajaj has always spoken candidly of his belief that there is no replacement for displacement! The Dominar's engine mirrors the external architecture and even the cylinder dimensions of the KTM 390 Duke and the RC390, but then there is a totally indigenous devil in the details, especially on the top end of this single cylinder liquid cooled motor. 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. So yes - the answer to the question you've all had is that is NOT the exact same engine then as the KTM's. The engine's electronically fuel injected induction system has been tuned for a torquey thrust across the rev range. Bajaj Auto engineers say that quick fire acceleration will be the big talking point along with a punchy mid-range (28 Nm of torque from 3000 rpm onwards) and an impressive top whack. Here are the figures: 34.4 bhp of power at 8000 rpm and 35 Nm of torque at 6500 rpm 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 bike's stamped metal swing-arm does duty with a Nitrox monoshock unit to give it stability. However, in place of the juicy USDs seen on the original Pulsar CS400 concept, the Dominar adopts conventional 43 mm diameter front forks. To shod the 17-inch machined alloy wheels of the Dominar, MRF Tyres has 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 rear). To aid all of that, controlling the power bit are the disc brakes at both ends. A massive 320 mm diameter unit doing duty up front while on the rear wheel a 230 mm disc helps retardation. Added to this is the option of the latest twin-channel ABS.
The cherry on top
What biking enthusiasts have to say about the Dominar 400 can best be illustrated by the fact that the veritable onslaught on the firm's web site on the day it was launched saw it collapse under the sustained barrage of enquiries! And for good reason too, 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. All these attributes just make mincemeat of the pricing which by the way is Rs 1.36 lakh for the base version devoid of ABS but even for the extra Rs 14,000 one dishes out for the full ABS-equipped bike, this could well be a rather Dominar-ating experience for Indian motorcycling!
Photography: Rohit S Mane