Bajaj has been quick to capitalise on the success of its ‘invincible’ V15 by launching the second member of the ‘V’ family – the V12. Still a commuter, the V12 will slot in below the V15 and will serve primarily as a price warrior – a model intended to make inroads into the competition’s market share by offering superior value for money. While the V15 was priced at a premium as compared to its primary rivals, the V12 is priced substantially more competitively.
This price competitiveness has been achieved by several cost-cutting measures. The front forks are slimmer, wheels different and tyres skinnier. The part-digital instrument cluster of the V15 has given way to a fully analogue unit and aluminium bits and pieces have been replaced by steel and plastic. The biggest cost-saving, however, is the engine block. Accommodating 125cc, as compared to the V15’s 150cc, this block is a derivative of the Discover’s. However, according to Bajaj (and we agree), “it is an all-new engine for all practical purposes.” The stroke is longer than that of the Discover, compelling all kinds of changes to the engine’s innards. The longer stroke also results in the production of more torque. In fact, the V12 produces at least 1Nm more torque than any of its competitors.
Beyond these cost-cutting measures, the V12 is identical to the V15. In fact, the only thing that would really give the V12 away to the untrained eye would be the badging. Up front, you have the same free-form, butterfly-shaped headlight, followed by the same sculpted, muscular tank. The wide seat is also the same, and so is the café-racer-style rear seat cover. Bajaj will also differentiate the two ‘V’ bikes by means of their paint schemes – the V12 comes in attractive colour combinations of white-on-red and orange-on-black.
Bajaj is very direct about the fact that despite its premium appearance and big-bike-like appeal, the V12 is, in fact, a commuter; the very platform of ‘V’ series bikes has been designed with that in mind. As a commuter, ease of riding and fuel efficiency overshadow outright performance.
Let’s get fuel efficiency out of the way first. Bajaj claims that the real-life (not the idealistic ARAI figures) mileage of the V12 will hover in the range of 50-55kpl, something which is the standard for this class. However, do bear in mind that we haven’t yet got an opportunity to test this for ourselves.
In terms of ease of riding, the V12 impresses. The riding position, to begin with, is quite relaxed. You are seated upright, the handlebars are well within accessible distance and the seat is wide and well-padded. The saddle height of 780mm is also suitable for riders of most sizes. The skinny front tyre makes for easy manoeuvring in traffic, and the chassis is well-engineered enough to give you full control over the bike’s movement.
The 10.7hp 125cc block, as promised, delivers well on torque – 11Nm at 5,500rpm to be precise. This available from early on, and delivery is linear all throughout. The bike picks up speed better than we expected, and will cross into the 80-100kph bracket fairly easily. In fact, we even managed to clock 105kph on the speedo – not bad for a 125cc commuter. Engine vibrations are fairly well-contained until about 80kph, after which they manifest perceptibly in the seat and foot pegs. However, commuters won’t generally be riding at those speeds. On the whole, refinement is very good, making the V12 feel like a more premium bike than its price tag suggests.
The engine is mated to a five-speed, all-up gearbox. The addition of the fifth gear, which is uncommon in this segment, greatly helps cross the 80kph barrier most commuters are limited by and is likely to boost fuel efficiency on highway runs. The clutch and gear lever are easy to operate, though that won’t matter too much as the gearing and relatively-high torque minimise the need to change ratios.
Stopping power, due to cost-cutting, is provided by drums up front and round the back. While the rear brake bias was obvious, the front drum felt like it lacked adequate bite. However, this may very well be a function of the front drum not being fully worn in (our test bike had clocked only about 120km on the odometer when we got it).
The V12 rides on 30mm telescopic forks up front and twin gas shocks round the back. The suspension setup is reasonably pliant; it displays impressive composure on the highway, but makes for a slightly jarring ride on bad sections of the road.
The V12, as with its elder sibling, is an impressive effort from Bajaj. It matches its rivals, if not exceeds them, on almost all fronts, be it performance, ride comfort, fuel economy, price or build quality. But one place where it definitely exceeds its rivals is premium appeal. In terms of design, the V12 is a clear winner in its segment. While we still have some reservations about the butterfly headlight, the rest of the motorcycle looks and feels like it is from a class above. The materials, paint quality, finishing are all remarkable. So while the V12 merely meets the standard in terms of performance and ride, it exceeds them in terms of appeal and desirability. Which is precisely where its value lies: it adds a dash of much needed glamour (pun not intended!) to a segment that is otherwise looked down upon as utilitarian and drab. And we haven’t even discussed the Rs. 56, 283 (ex-showroom, Delhi) price tag.