Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Ben's Corner #1: Dominar dominates! - Review on the fastest bike by an Indian manufacturer

Introducing a new column, "Ben's Corner" which would be penned by Automobile journalist and enthusiast S Ben Raja. Through this column, we are going to bring up some fine stories on analysis of automobile industry, technical reviews about new auto products, test ride experiences and much more on auto and moto things that are trending.

- Team Judgemental Journalist

Ben's Corner #1
Dominar Dominates

When it comes to high performance motorcycles, very few manufacturers have stroked the right chord with buyers. In most cases, too optimistic pricing or lack of features (mostly rider aids) or even both plays the spoil-sport. The Kawasaki Ninja 300 or the latest kid on the block Yamaha R3 are the best examples. Though one can justify their exorbitant price tags taking their twin cylinder engines and on-road performance into consideration, the dry fact is India is still not ready for such motorcycles.


Background:

The KTM-Bajaj alliance was the first to break the myth that high performance motorcycles are always costly. Right from the Rs 1 lac Bajaj Pulsar 200 NS to Rs 2.7 lac KTM RC 390, all the products of the duo were blockbuster hits. Their 373 cc engine is right now the household name of every motorcycle enthusiast because the same engine on the KTM Duke and RC 390 can keep in sight even some 650 cc twins even on the highway let alone the Japanese 250s and 300s.

Photo outsourced from the Internet

Now coming to the point, Bajaj launched the Dominar 400 is December last year. It tuned out to be a blockbuster hit not because it's from the Bajaj-KTM duo but because it sports the same KTM sourced 373 cc mill with Bajaj's own low cost technologies incorporated. The highlight of the package was Bajaj was able to price it around a lac lesser than its KTM counterpart. A very powerful 373 cc bike for a price tag of Rs 1.54 lac (on road non-ABS) is a steal. Isn't it? We test drove the bike and excited to tell how the experience was!

Performance:

Going by numbers, Dominar is the fastest Indian bike and the fastest accelerating sub Rs 2 lac bike in the country. It has a staggering top speed of 148 Kmph and accelerates from 0-100 kmph in jiffy 8.23 seconds. It's so fast that it beats, even three KTM bikes, Duke 200, RC 200 and Duke 250 while also dusting countless bikes in its stable from other manufacturers including the much lauded Honda CBR 250R. Unlike KTM Duke 390, Dominar's engine is tuned in such a way that it has more usable torque throughout the rev range.

Photo outsourced from the Internet

Theoretically, the engine pumps out 28 Nm of massive twist force at the slight twist of the throttle (3,000 rpm). So, literally we couldn't make a powerful launch. The bike weights a hefty 182 kg but it couldn't stop the engine from lifting the front wheel at 3,500 rpm in the first gear. Power surge from 2,000 rpm was exponential that we couldn't exploit the full potential of the engine in each gear, the lack of long stretch is to be blamed! There were vibrations on the tank, foot pegs and handle bar post 4,000 rpm but they are not potential reasons to put off this beast. For a single cylinder engine as big as 373 cc, these vibrations are unavoidable but manageable. They are likely to stop post 10,000 km on the odo. The engineers at Bajaj did a great job when it comes to heat management. Unlike the Duke 390, engine heat is very minimal even in heavy traffic condition under the hot sun. So, if you are at a traffic signal, don't bother to check out the timing, even if you start out last, you will end up the winner. The Dominar is that fast!

Ride, handling and ergonomics:

Coming to the ride, handling and ergonomics department, to handle the huge power on tap, Bajaj has given highly stiff front forks with high rake angle. Though the bike is not an outright handler, it can still manage corners at low to medium speeds. The ride quality is by far one of the best in the segment. The rear shocks are very soft with a well padded seat both for the rider as well as the pillion giving a plush ride. The handle bar is positioned in such a way that short riders will be forced to lean a bit forward but their wide nature makes them duck down easily to tackle wind blast at high speeds.


Photo outsourced from the Internet


Quality and features:

Talking about the overall quality and features, Dominar truly stands out of the crowd. It's one of the first sport tourers manufactured in the country to have a split instrument cluster. But as far as we have seen, the visibility is quite a let down during day time. Bajaj should increase the contrast of the fonts in the cluster. The tank capacity is another let down as its 13 litre capacity mostly won't suffice long tours. There are also some hard plastics which should have been avoided.

Photo outsourced from the Internet


Braking:

Finally coming to the braking department, feedback from both the discs is fantastic with the bike shedding even triple digit speeds quickly. Also, Dominar is one of the cheapest bikes in India to sport dual channel ABS which does its job brilliantly. But the quality of the ABS wire and its packaging is not up to the mark. Bajaj should try enclosing in a stronger case so that it won't get damaged in minor accidents. Though the tyres offer good grip, they are not able to handle all the power of the bike. For aggressive riders, an update to more softer compound tyres is required.


Photo outsourced from the Internet

Judgement:

In the end, Dominar is indeed the standing champion in its segment because of its mesmerising looks, big bike feel and the huge amount of power on tap. If you are on a look out for a bike with a budget of Rs 1.5 lac, nothing comes close to what the Dominar has in store. A fast bike with all the bells and whistles of a modern day sport bike is indeed hard to resist.

- S Ben Raja
Chennai, May 10, 2017

Disclaimer

The above review/analysis is completely the perception of S Ben Raja alone. This does not reflect the views of two or more people or a community. Queries and criticism shall be addressed to the writer only. This author is correspondent for an English daily working on auto beat stories for over a year. Reach him at benraja4@gmail.com.

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