Bajaj Dominar: Pursuit of perfectionIt now gets even more premium features like upside-down forks, a larger exhaust, radially mounted brake callipers and one of the most stylish mirrors that you will find on any motorcycle.
If there is one thing that Bajaj is good at, it is creating powerful motorcycles that are light on the wallet. This strategy has propelled the Indian company into the upper echelons of the auto industry and cemented its place as the world’s third-largest manufacturer of motorcycles.
They were the first Indian two-wheeler manufacturers to deliver 4-stroke commuter motorcycles with sporty performance for the Indian market with their Pulsar range. And the rest as they is history.
But the Indian auto giant is not resting on its laurels just yet. In 2016, they launched the Dominar 400 to tap into the fast-growing premium motorcycle segment. It shook the industry by offering a powerful motorcycle at a price point that defied the laws of economics. And it wasn’t like Bajaj put cheap parts to keep costs low. It had the same engine from the KTM Duke 390 (just detuned for mileage), slipper clutch and much-hyped full LED headlamps in a package which looked suspiciously like the Ducati Diavel, a sports cruiser.
It now gets even more premium features like upside-down forks, a larger exhaust, radially mounted brake callipers and one of the most stylish mirrors that you will find on any motorcycle. They even upped the power figure on the Dominar 400 by 5PS. But what’s absolutely mind-blowing is the fact that it costs even less than the outgoing model. Bajaj has priced the Dominar 400 at just Rs529,900.
Bajaj gracefully allowed me to ride the new Dominar 400 for a week before it was officially launched in Nepal and this was on the same day I returned the Harley Davidson Street Rod. I was still tingling after riding the iconic American cruiser and I was shocked when I took the Dominar 400 onto the streets of Kathmandu. I thought to myself, “Is this really a Bajaj motorcycle?”.
So how does it ride?
In a nutshell, it’s insane. It now produces an eye-whopping 40PS (up from 35PS) and goes like a rocket thanks to the revised six-speed gearbox. The low-end torque is reminiscent of the Harley I rode earlier and gives you a kick in the gut when you twist the throttle. Power delivery is very linear throughout the entire rev band and you can easily leave everyone behind when the traffic police motions ‘Go’.
The new Dominar 400 shares the same engine as the KTM Duke 390 but in a different state of tune. The 373.3cc single-cylinder, liquid-cooled, fuel-injected engine produces slightly less power but you don’t have to worry about the engine heating up in traffic, unlike its Austrian sibling.
Also, I may or may not have crossed the 140kmph mark while doing a highway test run, for scientific purposes obviously. According to my GoPro footage, the speedometer hit 143kmph while the GPS data showed 131. Again, I have to reiterate, this may or may not have happened. It is normal for some margin of error in speedometer accuracy but the scary part is while Bajaj rates the top speed of the new Dominar 400 at 156kmph, some Indian YouTubers have gone as fast as 177kmph (speedo indicated). The roads in Kathmandu are not suitable for top speed runs and it’s dangerous enough going above triple-digit speeds.
Riding to the office on the Dominar 400 is as natural as eating a plate of momos. Despite tipping the scales at 184kg, it is easy to manoeuvre the motorcycle in traffic. And I managed to get some gym work done while pulling the motorcycle out of the office parking lot. Vibrations are also kept to a minimum, thanks to the new DOHC system (previous version used a SOHC system).
It is also equipped with twin-channel ABS on both front and rear disc brakes, which is further complemented with radial calliper mounting to provide class-leading braking performance. The seats for both rider and pillion are comfortable enough to be used on long rides. To hop onto the rear seat, I would recommend you ask your pillion to stand on rear footpeg before hopping on. The rear seat is tall enough that most people will not be able to swing their legs over without first stretching.
Another thing that you will have to get used to is the wide turning radius as the Dominar 400 has a pretty long wheelbase and raked out front. But this means that the motorcycle is extremely stable at high speeds.
Furthermore, the new open cartridge front forks and rear monoshock (updated with new spring rates) combine to offer a relatively smooth ride. While it's no BMW, I would not hesitate to take the Dominar 400 to Mustang and back. I mean, the Dominar 400 is the only Indian motorcycle to have successfully tamed the Trans-Siberian Odyssey which includes riding across the road of bones--310kms of dreadful terrain. And the motorcycle didn’t even break down. A truly amazing feat.
The addition of upside down forks has improved the look of the motorcycle by leaps and bounds. The previous version looked like a slightly bigger Pulsar and didn’t really stand out. Now, the Dominar 400 gives you a proper ‘big bike’ feel. You can choose from two colour options, Aurora Green or Vine Black. I personally prefer the latter. Echoing a popular YouTuber, MKBHD, “Matte black everything.” The paint scheme along with the silver forks just looks stunning in the flesh and looks like a stealth fighter plane.
It’s like Bajaj captured a Greek god and moulded it into the new Dominar 400. The motorcycle is chiselled in all the right places and riding one will probably raise one’s testosterone levels.
The Dominar 400 also sports one of the most stylish mirrors in the market. It is a huge upgrade over the relatively ugly ones on the previous model. It gives you a good view of the rear and doesn’t vibrate at all.
Bajaj has also finally added the one feature that I want on all motorcycles, a gear position indicator. But alas, they put it in the wrong location, in the tank-mounted instrument console. It’s not safe to tilt your head down or take your eyes off the road while riding just to see which gear you are in. I would have preferred to see it on the main console which has plenty of space.
Put the key in, thumb the starter and listen to the new twin-barrel exhaust drop the bass. The note is amazing and makes the previous version sound like a toy. Once you pick up speed, you will hear the most curious of sounds, a whistle. You heard me, the Dominar 400 makes a whistling sound just like a Triumph motorcycle! I did not notice that on the previous version. Perhaps it's an Easter egg that Bajaj installed on the Dominar 400 and I wouldn’t be too surprised considering that Bajaj is close to entering a formal manufacturing partnership with Triumph UK. Could we be seeing a Bajaj version of the Triumph Tiger in the future?
The new Bajaj Dominar 400 has gotten a raft of updates that have improved the rideability considerably and now looks like a proper big bike. It is easy to ride and provides a good stepping stone into the world of big bikes. It is in my opinion, the most value-for-money motorcycle of the decade.
This review was co-published with AutoLife, a magazine on all things automobile.