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Bajaj Dominar 400 review: Was Bajaj’s long-awaited flagship worth the wait?

Loaded with features, power and technology, Bajaj has taken a bold step away from the Pulsar moniker to debut the premium new Dominar brand. Has it succeeded?

autos Updated: Jan 28, 2017 15:02 IST
Sherman Nazareth
Sherman Nazareth
Autocar India
Bajaj Dominar 400 review,Bajaj Dominar 400,Dominar
Loaded with features, power and technology, Bajaj has taken a bold step away from the Pulsar moniker to debut the premium new Dominar brand. Has it succeeded?(Autocar India)

Few motorcycles have managed to create such phenomenal levels of hype as this one. Previewed as the CS400 concept bike at the Auto Expo in 2014, the Dominar 400 could be a game-changer and Bajaj intends for it to open up a whole new segment. It’s loaded with features, power and technology and with it, Bajaj has taken a bold step away from the Pulsar moniker to debut the premium new Dominar brand. The company’s philosophy behind the Dominar was to deliver a bike with the easy riding quality of a cruiser along with the performance and handling of a naked bike. But has it succeeded?

With modern naked styling and chiselled features, the Dominar 400 shows off sleek styling and powerful proportions. It has a fairly squat stance, but it also manages to blend in quintessential Pulsar styling cues. The Dominar’s beefy, all-LED headlight setup complements the muscular styling of the bike, and what’s nice is that it comes with Auto Headlamp On (AHO) safety feature.

There’s a premium feel to the new power cruiser, with elegant raised decals and plenty of smartly-machined alloys bits, including the handlebar mount, footrests and its mounts.

The Dominar 400 deploys a split-speedometer console which comprises an all-digital, handle-mounted unit – that has cascading bars to read out the engine speed and fuel level – and the tank-mounted screen that gets all the warning lights. It, however, doesn’t get a gear indicator, which is expected of a motorcycle in this segment. But the crisp-functioning illuminated switchgear, comfy palm grips, as well as a set of KTM Duke-inspired mirrors, all function well. The twin-vertical LED strip tail-light also lends flair to the Dominar 400’s tail.

The muscular fuel tank sweeps smoothly into the nicely padded saddle, which is lightly stepped. Its 13-litre fuel capacity, however, doesn’t give it a very exceptional range; something a little bigger would have suited touring duties better. The belly pan, tank extensions, radiator shrouds and the stylish 10-spoke alloy wheels add to the bike’s muscular look. Also, fit and finish levels are quite good, as is the attention to detail.

The Dominar 400’s 373cc, single-cylinder powerplant is Bajaj’s version of the engines found in the KTM 390 Duke and RC390. This liquid-cooled engine comes with triple-spark plug technology, and is quite vibration-free during regular riding; light vibrations only creep up through the handlebar, foot pegs and seat at higher revs.

Engine heat management is commendable; even riding through city traffic speeds won’t prompt the engine to emanate too much heat, unlike what KTM 390’s engines do. It pulls well from low revs, which makes the Dominar 400 an effortless machine to ride in crowded traffic. The throttle is responsive and rewards the rider with heady acceleration, so pulling away cleanly from traffic lights should be a breeze. Power delivery is particularly strong from 5,000rpm and is accompanied by a gruff, pleasing exhaust note

The Dominar’s six-speed gearbox feels light and precise when shifting and the slipper clutch steps in when you are aggressively downshifting at high speeds, to keep the bike completely under control. The gear ratios are perfectly matched to handle city riding and cruising at higher speeds. That said, this bike is no slouch. It’s capable of smashing past 60kph in a scant 3.3sec from standstill, with 100kph going by in 8.3sec. While it should be able to manage a top speed of around 150kph, it’s comfortable cruising at 120kph.

Bajaj has managed a really pleasant seating position on the Dominar 400. There’s a light lean into the flat handlebars, which imparts a nice sporty feel. This is further complimented by the well-positioned footrests and brake pedal. Clearly, the Dominar 400 is noticeably comfier than its KTM stablemates which offer a more aggressive, but cramped, riding positions. Another highlight of the Dominar is that you can hardly tell that this is a 182kg motorcycle by the way it rides.

Suspended on beefy 43mm telescopic front forks, and a Nitrox adjustable rear monoshock system, the Dominar 400 feels a bit stiffly sprung. And this is evident even with the rear suspension dialled down to its softest setting. However, the firm setup is what gives the Dominar excellent high-speed stability. Through corners, the bike feels planted and turns in a fuss-free, neutral manner. The MRF Revz C1 radial tyres offer really commendable levels of grip while braking and cornering, which gives you the confidence to sustain spirited riding within reasonable measure.

Bajaj Dominar 400 factfile
  • Engine 373.3cc, single-cylinder, SOHC, four-stroke, liquid-cooled
  • Power 35hp at 8,000rpm
  • Torque 35Nm at 6,500rpm
  • Gearbox Six-speed
  • LxWxH 2,156x813x1,112mm
  • Wheelbase 1,453mm
  • Ground clearance 157mm
  • Kerb weight 182kg
  • 0-100kph in 8.31sec
  • Price Rs 1.36 lakh | Rs 1.50 lakh (ABS Variant)

What also helps is that the 320mm front disc and the 230mm rear disc together provide ample stopping for the Dominar 400. The more expensive variant of the Dominar also gets dual-channel ABS for added safety.

All in all, this is a motorcycle that is just effortless to ride. It doesn’t set out to be overtly athletic, and in fact, it feels like a small-displacement bike, but the overall riding experience is quite satisfying. The Dominar 400 is aggressively priced at Rs 1.36 lakh and Rs 1.50 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) for the non-ABS and dual channel-ABS versions respectively, making it a well-positioned bike, especially since it’s an immensely competent package. It’s got all the performance you’ll need on Indian roads, it’s quite a looker, it’s comfortable to ride, and, like most Bajaj bikes, it’s good value for your money. So does the Dominar 400 have what it takes to see market success? The answer to that is a resounding yes.

First Published: Jan 28, 2017 15:02 IST