Bajaj Dominar Review: Can it really dominate its segment?

What’s appreciable about the Dominar: 

♦ Powerful 373 cc, fuel injected, triple spark engine delivers quick response at slightest throttle.
♦ The twin spar perimeter frame gives great handling and superb agility.
♦ Good connectivity with the road.
♦ Dual Channel ABS ensures safe braking even at high speeds.
♦ Slipper Clutch facilitates quick downshifting of gears at any speed without having to slow down.
♦ The most affordable sports tourer.

What could have been better:

♦ The built quality could have been better.
♦ The gear shifting is not always smooth.
♦ The vibrations should have been handled in a better manner.

Bajaj Auto had showcased the Pulsar CS400 concept at the 2014 Auto Expo. It was heavily anticipated that the bike would be launched in the name of Kratos but the company kept the production name a secret. The Pulsar CS400 concept featured USD suspension, a die-cast swing-arm, speedometer on the tank, etc but the production model lacks some of these features. Bajaj Auto has done everything in its control to keep the price as low as possible but that does not imply that Bajaj has done any injustice to the bike. Finally, the cruiser-sport bike was launched as Dominar 400 at a price of INR 1,36,000 (non-ABS) & INR 1,50,000 (ABS). We have attached the specifications towards the end of the review.

Considering the fact that Indian bikers are looking at a more premium or higher displacement bike, Bajaj Auto has delivered a product loaded with technology at the most affordable price which is a package no other manufacturer has offered so far. An interesting fact about Dominar is that, it is the first Indian motorcycle to have full LED headlamps and hence it was initially launched with the tagline Dominate The Night. The bike being a sports tourer has the performance of sports segment and the cruising comfort of the tourer segment. With the Dominar 400, Bajaj is all set to compete against KTM Duke 390, RC 390, Benelli TNT 300, Honda CBR 250, Mahindra Mojo, Royal Enfield Classic 350 as well as Himalayan. We rode the Dominar 400 around the city of dreams – Mumbai to test if it can really dominate its segment!

Looks & Aesthetics

The bike is beefy enough to make its presence felt. It comes in three colour variants – Moon White, Twilight Plum and Midnight Blue. The bike may appear like a bulked up NS200 but that’s not the case. On scale, the Dominar 400 measures 2,156 mm in length, 813 mm in width and 1,112 mm in height. It has a wheelbase of 1453 mm, a considerable ground clearance of 157 mm and a seat height of 800 mm. It has a fuel tank capacity of 13 litres. Inspite of weighing 182 kg, the bike is very agile and easy to handle. The bike has full LED headlamps with Auto Headlamp On (AHO) feature which justify their purpose and tagline, during the day as well as at night. We have attached images for your reference. It also has a small yet stylish visor. It can however be changed as per the windblast experienced by the rider.

The complete instrument cluster of Dominar comes in two parts. One on the fuel tank and the other protected by the visor. The visibility of indicators is really good even in bright daylight. The former (on the fuel tank) displays engine temperature indicator, battery indicator, sidestand warning, fault indicator, ABS, beam indicator and the Bajaj logo glows bright at the centre. The latter displays an odometer, tachometer, speedometer, fuel level indicator and time. The lower strip displays neutral indication, oil-check indicator, turn signal indicator and sidestand. There are 2 buttons on either sides of the lower strip – mode (M) and the set (S) which are pretty hard to feel. The bike deserves more sensitive and smooth-feel buttons.

  

The muscular design of the fuel tank gives it a big bike look. The Dominar logo in chrome has been embossed on the fuel tank neatly and boldly. The fuel tank is 13 litres and considering a fuel economy of 33 kmpl (highways), the bike can go 380+ kilometers without having the need to refuel. The design enables the rider to sit tight in the saddle & in position. One thing we wished could be better is that the bike deserved a better quality fibre for fuel tank.

 

Right below the fuel tank, the radiator and coolant reservoir can be seen. The coolant level indicator is cleverly placed behind the radiator grill which helps to keep check on the coolant levels. The radiator comes with a plastic shield with wide fins. Also, the slit on the brush chrome part gives a missing something feel. However, there should have been a better radiator cover to protect the engine from water and even small stones or obstacles.

The Dominar gets a one-piece flat wide handlebar which is neither too forward nor too laid back. The grips are soft and good to feel. The vibration dampers at the ends do their job pretty well. The switch gear is bit disappointing as it is not of a very good quality.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rear-view mirrors are placed sufficiently wideapart on the handlebars but their size could have been bigger as half the view is blocked by the rider’s stance.

Indicators are tiny yet bright and visible. They come with flexible attachments and hence can bear some manhandling.

The wheels are 17″ diamond-cut alloys. These rims are coupled with tubeless MRF Revz FC1 – 110/70 R17 at the front and MRF Revz FC1 – 150/60 R17 at the rear. The bike gets a split-seat layout which is fairly comfortable for both the rider the pillion even on long rides. The seat fabric is good, neither soft nor hard. The front seat extends slightly around the fuel tank and its texture ensures that the rider doesn’t slip around the saddle. The sitting posture is upright for the rider making the bike suitable for long distance touring. The pillion rider has to hold on to moderately sized grab rails. The space under the pillion seat can house a small toolbox and documents. Please refer the pics for sitting posture and the footpegs positioning. The rear footpegs appear to have no connectivity with the frame and also seem to be weak.

  

The bike has an upswept silencer. Its positioning does not make the pillion uncomfortable. The bike does not get a central stand as it has an underbelly catalytic converter. The rear cowl of the bike sports the D400 logo and the LED tail lamp which indeed resembles the Diavel.

 

Engine, Performance & Ride Quality

The 373.3 cc engine of the Dominar 400 is the most amazing part of this bike, which is partly protected by the engine spoilers. The block is a SOHC Triple Spark 4-valve liquid cooled DTS-i engine, producing 35 PS @ 8000 rpm and 35 Nm of peak torque @ 6500 rpm. The powertrain delivers smooth and responsive torque at the slightest throttle. The pick up and performance of the bike is amazing. The engine is mated to a 6 speed gearbox. The bike is capable of cruising at 120+kmph but we recommend riding at a bit lower speed if the headwind is strong. The radiator comes into play immediately. Here’s something we should remember about this bike. The engine tends to stall at low speeds, hence there is a need to continuous downshift if you are slowing down especially in the hilly areas. In congested areas and traffic, keeping the bike in power band is troublesome and the gears are to be shifted continuously.  During our test ride, we found the fuel efficiency to be around 29 kmpl which is pretty good for a bike with such displacement. For the best riding experience, try accelerating the bike from the lower gears and it will surely bring a grin to your face. Be it racing through the highways or dodging the city traffic, the Dominar does it effortlessly.

The bike does get heated up but cooling has been well handled as the radiator kicks in immediately. We could feel the radiator come into play often. Suspension duties are taken care of by 43 mm Telescopic suspension in the front and dual-spring mono-shock (10 step adjustable) in the rear. Thanks to the stamped metal swing arm and the twin spar perimeter frame that this bike stays glued to the road and offers superb agility. We genuinely feel that Bajaj Auto should have addressed the vibrations a bit more seriously as these can be felt through the footpegs.

The braking system, by Bybre (which is Brembo’s range specifically for motorcycles below 600 cc), is equipped with a 320 mm single petal disc with Twin Channel ABS at the front and a 230 mm single petal disc with Twin Channel ABS at the rear. The non-ABS variant is also available. The stopping distance for the bike is less yet measurable. The brakes do their job perfectly along with the ABS system.

Our Verdict

The Bajaj Dominar 400 is a nicely packaged product in terms of stunning looks, fine performance and affordability. The twin channel ABS, slipper clutch, paint quality comparable with the BMW and quick response are some notable features that Bajaj has offered at such low price. The bike is a value for money product. The powerful cylinder engine ensures that you have adrenaline rushing through your veins with every twist of the throttle. The handling is superb, be it corners or traffic or sharp bends uphills, there’s nothing that bothers the Dominar. There are hardly any negatives about the bike like the poor build quality and vibrations but the performance makes up for its flaws. However, for a person looking for an affordable motorcycle for long distance cruising and daily commuting, Dominar 400 makes perfect sense.

Specifications

Dimensions Length 2156 mm
Width 813 mm
Height 1112 mm
Wheelbase 1453 mm
Ground clearance 157 mm
Kerb weight 182 kg
Fuel capacity 13 Litres
Engine Type Triple spark 4-valve DTS-i engine, closed fuel injection, liquid cooled
Displacement (cc) 373.3
Max power 35 PS @ 8000 RPM
Max torque 35 Nm @ 6500 RPM
Clutch Slipper clutch
Gearbox 6 speed
Braking System & Tyres Brakes front* (mm) Twin-channel ABS, 320 dia disc
Brakes rear* (mm) Twin-channel ABS, 230 dia disc
Tyres front 110/70-17 Radial
Tyres rear 150/60-17 Radial
Chassis & Suspension Frame Beam type perimeter frame
Front Suspension Telescopic, 43mm forks
Rear Suspension Multi-step adjustable mono shock
Electricals Battery 12V, 8Ah VRLA
Headlamp Full LED with Auto Headlamp On (AHO)

We are thankful to Mr. Vaibhav Tiwari for letting us do an intensive testing of the motorcycle.

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