Dominar 400 enters a segment which seems to taking a lot of understanding and it has hit the nail hard and will most likely next big thing in the performance market
- One of a kind muscular design and exhaust Note
- Superlative chassis, tyres, brakes and engine
- Maximum comfort for rider and pillion offered
- Extreme value for money proposition
- LED lights, slipper clutch, dual meters makes it feature loaded
- Missing fuel efficiency parameters in meters
- Fuel tank could be bigger
We have all heard at one point. ‘History repeats itself’. It doesn’t happen quite often, because it isn’t suppose to happen early, it has to happen at a certain time when it makes so much sense, that memories from the past instantly click you and you say the above famous catchphrase. Something like this just happened. We remember when the first Pulsar came back in 2001, it took the market by storm. Critics raved about it, riders revved it up and it was instant success.
Taking down its recently made rival from Indo-Jap partnership at that time, the Pulsar rose and today has a pretty much unrivaled market share of above 50%. Something it tends to ‘dominate’ and we are sure they want more pieces of the larger cake. To do that, you have to keep on going with the existing product, but also find niche’s in the market that are untapped. There are some challenging niche’s, while some of them are easier to achieve for manufacturer. Bajaj has a had history of giving us, what we never really asked for and still it grabbed our attention so much that the need for it was higher than we could ever imagine.
Dominar 400 is yet again something like this. Just like the KTM and the first and second generation Pulsar’s, the Dominar 400 is something we never anticipated. Showcased at the Auto Expo 2014, it just blew socks of many hardcore critics and made new fans of the brand. Bajaj wants to and pretty much loves to create sub-brands. Bajaj is known with the help of the Pulsar’s, V and Discovers range of motorcycle. Let it be or good or bad brands, it made a mark.
Today, again it wants to bank on the Dominar, a brand that is set to take on a new set of rival, a rival that is so old that it has a cult following worldwide. A manufacturer which also has a market share of its own just like the Bajaj brand’s. Bajaj openly admits to challenging the mighty Royal Enfield with this one. Will Dominar 400 dominate the day and night and will succeed while doing so? This has looked promising on paper since 2014, let’s find out it has the ‘power’ to impress everyone and stand tall against its rivals in 2017.
Design At first glance, the Dominar 400 is all muscle. The large tank which is inspired from the Pulsar NS200 series has been modified a bit to stand out even more. The Dominar badging on the tank and on the tail-piece is very eye catching and has a gun metal finish to it. Let’s face it, the Dominar this time looks best in white color despite it being a common choice. The silver frame, the black color tail-piece and the wheels which have the chrome strip running over the spokes fits the bill just right between bling and sportiness. The headlight is the most chunkiest of the lot till date and houses a smoke effect in it. Exhaust also protrudes out and is a stubby unit, which is either a hit or a miss.
The head lamps are LED units and they do their job really well. Illumination and spread are beyond expectations. The fat tyres and suspension with the frame sticking out lends it the sport look despite the fact the motorcycle sits lower and depicts a cruiser look. Rear tail-lights does look incomplete in terms of design and could have been better, something Bajaj doesn’t seem to get right nowadays with its new motorcycles. May be it needs time to get over with.
Dominar 400 has a white LED color licence number plate light, which is great and showcases there attention to detail in the overall design and execution of small and bigger aspects. The tank pad is small and looks pointless but it serves purpose to a certain extent. Overall, fit-finish and quality is top-notch. There is hardly anything to complain about, as wires are tucked really well, plastic are good to touch all around and as always Bajaj’s paint finish is pretty much spot on. This time, Bajaj’s claims they are sharing exactly the same paint supplier which also supplies to an European car maker (Not German).
Speedo and Switches
The instrument cluster is the highlight of the package. The Ducati inspired dual clocks showcase a lot of information when it comes to tell-tale lights. The meters have the digital speedo and tachometer which do look good and add to the cool quotient in the way they work. They are visible even if the sun completely blanketing it.
However, apart from the time, warning lights there isn’t much shown here. A motorcycle with touring ability deserved fuel-efficiency parameter being showcased along with gear shift indicator which is also shockingly missing. Dominar 400 continues to get blue back-lit switches, there is AHO enabled in the headlamp switch and post that you can go to main beam and then high beam using the conventional buttons.
Ergonomics At first, this may seem like a normally riding position. Handlebars are raised and upright. Despite being wide, they feel narrow once you start riding, the seat height is fine for tall and short riders both, which is fantastic feat. The footpegs are rear set. However, for Bajaj, this is a first universal riding position approach. Always, Bajaj has gone with high seat height and lower bars or vice versa.
A well accomplished feat by Bajaj, which will go un-noticed by most, but deserves the attention. The seats are wide and long and support all type of riders. The cushioning is just right for the rider and the pillion too this time as the seat base is big enough. Seats themselves are made in house but the fabric comes from a German manufacturer. NO need of aftermarket there at all. The grab rails also are positioned well and are fully functional. The mirrors do a good job to show what is behind.
Engine and Gearbox
Powering the Dominar 400 is the the 373cc engine that we have seen in the Duke 390. As before, the lower part such as the crank, gearbox and other things are shared with the 390. The crankcase is different and the head on the other hand is completely different. Bajaj has removed one camshaft out of the two and plonked an SOHC unit here instead of DOHC. Shocking omission, but Bajaj has strong reasons to support it.
Triple spark, fuel-injection, four-valves per cylinder continue to be a part of the package. The engine makes 35 PS of power and 35 Nm of torque. Start the engine there is a bit of thruminess. Start moving, there is ‘very’ slight hint of vibrations, but they are damped so well and clear out after 3000 RPM that you don’t realize as the engine continues rev’s fast and reaches redline quickly.
Something that we saw with NS200 engine, but here, in the Dominar 400, it has considerable amount of vibrations on the tank and pegs that can be felt at redline. This should smoothen out as we know from the Duke 390 which has been reported to get better on NVH as you clock kilometers and service it with the right choice of oil.
Vibrations will be only felt if you are attacking twisities aggressively, but not that high that will make your hands and feet go numb. Stay in top gear and cruise at any speed and it is the most smoothest engines Bajaj has ever made. Overall, NVH level are commendable, there is also no heating reported despite getting stuck peak traffic.
There is subtle amount of low-end torque and the mid-range is highlight of the entire power band. This is because 28 Nm of torque is coming as low as 3000 RPM. Top-end power is just about ok and you can feel all the 35 PS working very hard along with the 99% flat torque curve Bajaj has achieved. A narrow power band over the donor engine makes it quite flexible in all situations. The gearing is also similar to the 390, but much more sorted.
Dominar shares the same 45 Teeth rear sprocket with the Duke 390. Slipper clutch does it job well and assists in hard downshift as it distributes torque evenly to the rear wheel without any spike. Courtesy of this, the clutch is light and progressive too along with smooth gear shifts are on offer.
First three gears are closely stacked and the rest three are tall, aiding in mid-range and improving fuel efficiency at the same time. All of this helps it hide the high kerb weight really well and the acceleration is quick enough to pump adrenaline into the rider. This also happens because the Dominar 400’s intake roar and exhaust note along with the over-run whistle sound that it makes is near perfection and is very pleasing once you get into the character thoroughly after riding it for an ample time. Cruising at 120 km/hr just like the KTM isn’t an issue either. Don’t compare to the KTM and you will find this motorcycle extremely rewarding from Bajaj till date.
Dynamically, Bajaj motorcycles are drastically improving over the years. The NS200 was a revolution and Dominar 400 ups the antique by a good margin. The ride quality is on the verge of harsh, but it is classified as stiff. Only big craters at medium speeds can send a subtle amount of jolt, apart from that, there is enough compliance at low-speeds to deal with small potholes. Suspension has been tuned really well and we can say Bajaj this time has done 100% job and hasn’t gone soft despite the fact this is a cruiser.
Front-end rake is very well sorted, it isn’t steep and it is ideal for cutting dense city traffic easily and stable enough to handle the very limit of its top-speed on the highway. The best part is when you turn-in into a corner, the motorcycle turn-ins quickly and with precision. Make sure the tyres are warm before you start pushing, the C1 and FC1 MRF tyres need a thorough warmup before you start enjoying the twisties safely.
Highway stability is spot-on as it is rock solid and there is very little windblast. Brakes perform well with good initial bite which is a *critic complain* area that Bajaj has nailed quite well. Extremely powerful and backed by ABS, it is something that is done right in every sense. Rear disc brake also does its job really well in slow moving traffic and also when both brakes applied together at high speeds.
Bajaj Dominar 400 Review, Verdict
The air is very clear around the Dominar brand and Dominar 400. Bajaj aims for a specific rival, wants to make sure it is the best. In the process of doing all this, it has made something which has surpassed customer, critic and most importantly its own expectations. Going against Royal Enfield is the highlight of Dominar and hence the mention you hear and see everywhere. To clearly beat the century old thumper, it needed to make something similar, but it doesn’t and this is where it distinguishes itself. Cruiser market is as generic as it gets in most cases. The idea is primarily based on displacement and role.
Dominar 400 fills all the voids, offers comfort like never before, performance which is accessible and praise worthy. Value for money and Bajaj go like bow and arrow, both ends keep getting stronger. Bajaj gets stronger with Dominar, Dominar will lead the path for Bajaj national and most importantly, international success that it has talked about with a new brand over the years, which is finally here with a large flash of light.
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