Bajaj Dominar 400  Review
The words ‘cruiser’ and ‘sporty’ might have been mutually exclusive till a while ago, but times have changed. Associated with low-slung and muscular styling, a torquey engine and a fat rear tyre, ‘power cruisers’ have introduced a degree of performance and charisma in a segment where it simply didn’t exist before.
What is it?
The words ‘cruiser’ and ‘sporty’ might have been mutually exclusive till a while ago, but times have changed. Associated with low-slung and muscular styling, a torquey engine and a fat rear tyre, ‘power cruisers’ have introduced a degree of performance and charisma in a segment where it simply didn’t exist before. Bajaj has never flinched at the idea of trying its hand at new segments, always finding ways to attract attention among the masses. The Dominar 400 aims to be a do-it-all power cruiser – take care of your daily commute and double up as a touring motorcycle on weekends. The Dominar 400 has strayed away from the iconic Pulsar brand in order to create a niche for itself. But is the Dominar 400 impressive enough to carve its own identity?
How does it ride?
Yes, Bajaj did inherit the engine from KTM, but the way they have tuned to suit the Dominar 400 is commendable. At the heart of the Dominar 400 is the 373cc single-cylinder KTM mill, though Bajaj has added two more spark plugs to the head and de-tuned it to 34.5bhp and 35Nm of torque. While this has watered down the fun factor, the upside is the easily accessible grunt. There is usable torque from as little as 2,500rpm along with a lovely spread in the mid-range. At the higher end, there's a nice little kick at 7,000rpm which adds a bit of zest. The slick six-speed gearbox gets a slipper clutch, and is a delight to use. That said, the slightly heavy clutch lever can wear you down after a prolonged ride in stop-and-go city traffic.
My light weight meant that the Dominar offered a bumpy low speed ride, but the ten-step preload-adjustable rear monoshock offers better insulation with more rider weight. Whatever the rider weight, the handlebar judders as it passes over the potholes and undulations. As you attain higher speeds, the beefy 43mm forks start gliding over these undulations offering a composed ride.
Even with the 183 kilogram bulk and the kicked out forks, the Dominar 400 is easy to hustle around the city. The turning radius isn’t great, though the light steering makes it easy to operate at slow speeds and while taking a U-turn. Through the twisties, the Dominar 400 felt easy to tip in with the wide handlebar and round profile tyres helping its cause. However, the Dominar 400 doesn’t respond well to mid-corner bumps which again cause the front end to judder, making you wish for a more forgiving suspension setup.
North of 4,500rpm, the Dominar 400 has its fair share of vibrations on the footpegs, tank, seat and to some extent, the handlebar. When you are cruising on the highway, the engine is always buzzing and I often found myself searching for another gear even though I was already in sixth. The vibrations smoothen out after 8,000rpm, but then you have a really small window before the limiter cuts in at 9,500rpm.
I have always liked the way Bajaj configures its brakes, and the Dominar 400 is no different. While it doesn’t have the strong initial bite that we have seen on the Pulsar range, this suits the Dominar 400’s character. Knowing that you have ABS watching your back goes a long way in inspiring confidence. However, the ABS cannot be turned off.
Anything else I should know?
The Dominar 400’s exhaust note has different levels to it, discreet at low revs and loud when you rev it hard. The Dominar 400 also is the only motorcycle in the segment to feature a LED headlamp, which works brilliantly.
It gets a fancy multi-function ‘reverse LCD’ dash above the handlebar and a secondary display showing basic functions on the fuel tank. The dash looks lovely, but the backlight is a little too bright for night riding. The tachometer reads till 13,000rpm, but the limiter kicks in at 9,500rpm – meaning the entire vertical element of the tacho is redundant.
The Dominar 400 borrows several bits from its stable mates; the mirrors are from Pulsar NS200, indicators from the KTM 200 Duke and so on. There is a marked improvement in the level of finish and quality of components. The metallic paint finish and the alloy wheels add a premium touch to the motorcycle.
Bajaj has hit the right spot with seating triangle. It might first seem to be biased towards comfort, but works equally well for aggressive riding. The large touring oriented seat is soft and comfortable, but might be too soft for long hauls.
Should I buy one?
Power cruisers are conspicuous motorcycles, they might not suit everyone’s tastes but they sure do attract attention. Also, if you can overlook the vibrations, the Dominar 400 has one of the best engines with a perfect balance of real world usability and mid-range rush. It has enough power to keep you entertained, though not enough to scare you out of your wits. The Dominar 400 ABS version fits snugly into the gap between the Duke 200 and the 390 Duke, and is ideal for someone who finds the Duke range to be too hardcore and performance-oriented.
Where does it fit in?
Bajaj makes no bones of its intentions of going up against the Royal Enfield range. In principle the Dominar 400 competes with the Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500, but the introductory pricing makes it a rival to the brand’s cash cow – the Classic 350. It might not have the charm and the aspirational value of an RE, but the Dominar 400 compensates with its creature comforts. And then there is the Mahindra Mojo. It is pricier and not as well equipped as the Dominar 400, but the delightful powertrain makes up for the shortcomings.
1. Icon Airmada helmet –
Comfortable, aerodynamic, lightweight and a well-ventilated helmet with a wide peripheral vision. Oval headform fit might not suit everyone though. Price -Rs 15,000.
2. Joe Rocket Alter Ego 3.0 jacket–
An extremely versatile all-weather jacket. In this guise, it is being used as a ventilated mesh jacket, though it ships with two more liners - waterproof and thermal. Price – Rs 20,000.
3. Ixon Moto HP gloves –
High quality full gauntlet leather gloves suited for city riding, touring and track use. Offers good ventilation and a high level of protection. Expensive though. Price - Rs 9,500
4. AGV Sport Airtex pants –
Riding pants with mesh in the crotch, calf, back of legs and thigh areas which is a real boon in our hot weather. Price -Rs 6,500.
5. Sidi B2 boots –
All-round street and sportbike riding shoes also suitable for track days. Not ventilated, which can make it uncomfortable for everyday use. Price - Rs 17,000
Photography by Sanchit Arora
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