The Dominar 400 marks a big step up for Bajaj in many ways. It’s up on features, up on power and up on chassis technology. All this, plus it's taken a bold leap of faith away from the Pulsar name to debut the premium new Dominar brand.
There’s plenty of info already out on the Dominar 400, which leaves only this detailed ride report from behind its handlebars.
Looking at recent Bajaj bikes, mainly the Pulsar RS 200, you could wonder whether the company is trying too hard, but one look at the Dominar 400 confirms it isn’t cast in the same mould. Modern and packing a mean stare, the Dominar 400 shows off sleek styling and powerful proportions. Its piercing white beam headlight is LED powered, with Auto Headlamp On (AHO) technology, as has everything brightly illuminated for you when riding into inky darkness.
There’s a premium feel to the new power cruiser, with elegant raised decals and plenty of smartly machined alloys bits, including the handlebar mount, footrests and its mounts.
The Dominar 400's fuel tank allows excellent thigh grip, thanks to perfectly sculpted knee recesses. The fuel tank takes in 13 litres, sweeping smoothly into the passenger saddle, a lightly stepped and adequately padded unit. The motorcycle's steel perimeter frame spars sit exposed akin to a pair of arms embracing the motorcycle, while there are several nifty little highlights, a belly pan, tank extensions and radiator shroud, to name a few.
The Dominar 400 deploys a digital instrument cluster, with cascading bars reading out the engine speed and fuel level. Some added information like the side stand warning icon are tank mounted, and the crisp functioning, illuminated switchgear, really comfy palm grips, Bajaj-typical control levers as well as a set of KTM Duke-inspired mirrors, all function well. LED strips lend flair to the Dominar 400 tail.
The new Bajaj rides on trendy alloy rims. Overall quality is good, as are fit-finish and attention to detail.
The Dominar 400 powerplant has oversquare bore dimensions, and is a single camshaft Bajaj derivative of the KTM 390 Duke and RC base engine platforms. The Dominar comes with triple spark-plug tech, its four-valves nesting inside a compact single-cylinder head. The liquid-cooled engine fits into the frame supported by elastomeric damping, and the engine heat never bothered us during our long test ride, despite putting the bike through sustained low-speed riding in crowded conditions.
The Dominar 400 gets a lightened, forged crankshaft that is balancer backed. We did feel some light buzz when riding hard pushing the bike to high engine speeds, but nothing overly intrusive. And besides this, riders are effectively isolated from engine vibrations.
As much as 28Nm of a total of 35Nm peak torque is available low in the powerband at 3,000rpm, making the Dominar 400 an effortless machine to ride in crowded traffic. Every twist of the throttle rewards the rider with heady acceleration, and an ability to stretch away from surrounding traffic.
The Dominar has a six-speed transmission, this shifted in the one-down and all-up pattern. Gearshifts up and down the 'box feed in with a precise, light feel, and a slipper clutch steps in when pushing the bike, to allow hard downshifting from high speed, offering maximum engine braking with minimum drama. The gear ratios feel just right and perfectly matched to the engine’s long legs, allowing the bike to rev briskly enough through each ratio into its engine limiter, as chops power at close to 10,000rpm.
Throttle response is sharp and supremely precise, as expected from a fuel-injected bike like the Dominar 400. Crack open the throttle and there’s a light step at 5,000rpm in the wide powerband, from where power flows in seamlessly to the redline, accompanied by a gruff, pleasing exhaust note.
Our tests saw the Dominar 400 smash past 60kph in a scant 3.3seconds from standstill, with 100kph going by in 8.3sec. The powerful Bajaj is capable of 132kph in fifth, with top gear still to go. Top speed is in the region of a true 150kph. And the Bajaj flagship is comfortable when holding high cruising speeds of up to 120, even 130kph.
Final drive is via an X-ring drive chain.
The Dominar 400 riding position ranks amongst the best we’ve experienced to date on any Bajaj, a light lean into the flat bars imparting a nice sporty feel, further complimented by perfectly positioned footrests, and a well positioned brake pedal. This places the Dominar 400 in a nice spot and makes it more comfortable than its KTM street-going stablemates which offer similar power and performance but have a more aggressive riding position.
The Dominar 400 deploys a perimeter type frame, formed from steel spars and backed up by a precision pressed steel swingarm. The chain adjusters are forged, swingarm integrated units.
Front suspension is a set of beefy 43mm telescopic forks, while the rear is armed with the Bajaj trademark Nitrox adjustable monoshock system. Ride quality is a touch stiff and sporty on the Dominar 400, and this was very apparent on our test bike even with the rear suspension dialed down to its softest setting. However, the flip side is the firm setup is what gives the Dominar excellent high-speed stability. It feels very planted through corners and the bike turns in to corners with fuss-free, neutral manner. The MRF radial front and rear tyres are a special soft compound rated all the way to 180kph, which provide exceptional grip levels.
The Dominar 400 handles smartly in all situations, cornering with all the confidence we expected. Good overall handling allows the new Bajaj flagship to do complete justice to its power cruiser role.
Bite at both brake levers is good, with the rear being more progressive, providing the Dominar 400 ample stopping power backed by the safety of twin-channel ABS.
Priced to thrill
The Dominar 400 is aggressively priced between Rs 1.36-1.50 (ex-showroom, Delhi), making it a well-positioned bike even if the package were only average. The Dominar has proven to be a solid motorcycle in its own right, and you’ve now got a no-brainer in terms of value for money.
Bajaj’s best is a well-rounded, stylish motorcycle that packs solid wallop. The Dominar 400 has what it takes to see market success and dominate its segment, with all the performance you need on Indian roads, plus reassuring handling and good comfort.