While Bajaj has taken the Pulsar range into the premium space – by courtesy of the RS200, NS200 and NS160 – the baseline Pulsars are yet to be substantially overhauled. The current Pulsar has been on sale sans major revisions (except for largely visual updates and BS-IV compliance) since 2010, making this the longest-serving Pulsar generation since its inception in 2001. Meanwhile, the 2018 Pulsar 150 which is to be launched in the next few days is, at best, a stop-gap measure so as to not let Bajaj’s rivals run away with the limelight. The big news, however, is that an all-new generation of Pulsars is in the works as we speak.
What’s the next-gen Pulsar range going to be powered by?
With tightening emission norms, the 2-valve, DTS-i motor is close to the end of its life. Bajaj, like any manufacturer with foresight, needs to invest in an engine platform that will not only comply with the scheduled set of norms, but also subsequent ones that will be even more demanding.
We have learnt that the new engine platform will offer more scalability, stretching from 150cc to beyond the current 220cc limit, upto perhaps 250cc. Crucial to the Pulsar character is a square engine (equal bore and stroke dimensions) – oversquare engines are the Dominar’s territory – and the need to create a sporty, responsive motor which is still compliant with emission norms. This has resulted in Bajaj working on a 4-valve, fuel-injected motor. BS-VI compliance can accommodate carburettors in smaller displacement motors; but in the performance bracket the Pulsar caters to, fuel-injection is impossible to avoid. At present, this new motor isn’t production-ready but given how crucial it is to both the Bajaj and Pulsar brands, it’s obvious that development will be completed in time for a 2019 launch. Needless to say, the new-generation motor will be significantly more refined and will bring along with it an impressive hike in overall output figures, as well as a more modern transmission unit.
What else will be new?
It will definitely feature a more contemporary design language. The Pulsar silhouette remains a hugely popular one to this day and is unlikely to be completely abandoned. Having said that, changes will almost certainly appear in the form of a new design of alloy wheels, an LED headlight, a redesigned tail section and – for the first time on a non-LS/NS Pulsar – a monoshock. Needless to say, the frame and swingarm will need revisions to incorporate this feature. Bajaj is also expected to draw a clear distinction between its naked and faired models. This means that the smaller of the next-gen Pulsars (150) may revert to a premium-finished conventional handlebar instead of clip-on ‘bars – just as the new TVS Apache RTR 160 4V has recently done.
The new-gen Pulsars will feature ABS, most probably a single channel system, as seen in the bigger NS200 and RS200. Currently, ABS is offered only on the NS200, RS200 and Dominar but with the safety feature becoming mandatory for motorcycles (above 150cc) launched after April 1, 2018, the rest of the Pulsar range will have to fall in line with the norm, as well. The current Pulsar engine displaces 149cc and will eventually have to come with ABS as per the upcoming regulations. This is why Bajaj is expected to launch the motorcycle this week, which is just shy of the April 1 deadline. While this model will not get ABS, it will debut in the all-new, next-generation model currently under development.
What about the model-wise split?
While the 150 remains fundamental to the Pulsar’s mass-market appeal, the 180 is no longer the go-to performance bike it started its life as. Given that the Pulsar 180 is wedged between the 150 (which offers an identical kit) and the NS160 (similar performance, more tech, more premium, better dynamics), it’s the least relevant Pulsar, as of today. Bajaj is likely to axe it, altogether; but this remains to be seen. The 220F, meanwhile, is in a comfortable space of its own, and it does enjoy its popularity with the masses; but that displacement-point has never been conventional, especially from an international standpoint. In other words, it has to grow from what it has already established. The next generation of Pulsars, therefore, will continue with the 150cc entry-point but could max out at a newer, 250cc ceiling – this will also help with Bajaj’s rapidly growing export business.
That the Pulsar single-handedly fired up the entry-level performance motorcycle segment in the country (despite venerable attempts such as the Hero Honda CBZ and the Kawasaki Eliminator previously) is not an unknown truth. In its initial years, the Pulsar generated a fan following not unlike that of the Yamaha RX100’s, and it captured the enthusiasts’ imagination. The fan following brought along the responsibility of having a lot to live up to, as well - something that the Pulsar hasn't sufficiently delivered in recent years. Bajaj will certainly attempt to address this by offering a wholesome package which balances practicality with excitement.
When are they coming, then?
At present, the Pulsars are scattered between the drawing board and the shop floor. Engine development is the most intensive aspect, as of the moment, but Pulsar fans amongst you will appreciate that Bajaj is digging in the right areas to take its legacy forward. While emission norms are to be considered by default, Bajaj is also looking at retaining and enhancing the Pulsar’s character, which has been a strong reason for its popularity. Given how substantial an evolution this will be, expect a first glimpse of the motorcycle in 2019, and a launch possibly toward the end of the same year.