Bajaj Dominar 400 Long Term Review
Long Term Test No. 136
Bike Tested: Bajaj Dominar 400
Kms Done: 12,355 kms
Test Started at: 65 kms
Test Concluded at: 12,420 kms
Mileage: 29 km/l (Combined), 26 km/l (City), 32 km/l (Highway)
Litres: 386 litres
Fuel Cost: Rs. 28,950/-
Rs. per km: Rs. 2.34/-
The Dominar 400 is undoubtedly the go-to touring machine in this price range
From the Pulsar CS 400 concept to the production-ready Dominar 400, the journey for Bajaj's flagship motorcycle has been full of ups and downs. The power cruiser was made to go against retro cruisers from Royal Enfield through mock advertisements instead of letting it make a name for itself. What ensued was that the product failed to make a mark in the segment. While the rich history of Royal Enfield can not be back-pedalled, we can certainly show the true colours of the Dominar 400 in a more unrestricted way through a long term review. We have piled up over 12,000 kms on our long-term Bajaj Dominar 400 and that calls for a comprehensive log of the experience.
Let us start with the purpose of this machine. The manufacturer markets it as a power cruiser, which basically means a performance-oriented cruiser with sorted dynamics and neutral ergonomics, and claims it to be a "Hyperride" - with hyper-performance, hyper-control and what not! Anyways, let's keep the super, duper and hyper for another day and focus on the heart of the matter. The 373.3cc, liquid-cooled and fuel-injected motor dishes out a healthy 35 PS of power at 8000 RPM and 35 Nm of torque at 6500 RPM.
While there's been enough applaud of the DTS-i engine for its tractable nature, what surprised us during our year-long stint were the refinement levels. With a little over 12,000 kms on the odometer, the engine does sound harsh near the 9500 RPM redline. Surprisingly, this wasn't the case when we got the test bike! In fact, both the KTM Duke 390s (with which the bottom end of the engine is shared) long-termers that we have, didn't show such drastic changes in NVH.
What has remained unchanged though is the power delivery and exhaust note. The Dominar 400 still sounds throaty and lets out a strong surge of torque in the mid-range. The bike feels completely at home when cruising in top gear at 100 km/hr with the motor spinning at around 5500 RPM. Even when the speeds drop to around 60 km/hr, this little brute picks up cleanly without needing a downshift. However, vibrations that kick in post 100 km/hr really mar the touring reputation of this bike translating to an irksome journey to reach its 149 km/hr true top speed. The 6-speed gearbox offers flawless shifts and even the slipper clutch behaves as expected.
In terms of aesthetics, the Dominar 400 isn't the best one out there with its conventional stance. There are some modern bits which set it apart from the crowd such as the LED headlamp, digital console and diamond-cut alloy wheels. However, this design isn't what we'd exactly call striking! The muscular tank contributes to the bulk up front while the switchgear quality and fit & finish levels reiterate the premium positioning of the motorcycle. The Dominar offers an upright seating position which allows for a brilliant balance of space, comfort and control. Even though the split seats are well-contoured, their cushioning is on the harder side which robs away pillion comfort on longer runs.
The Dominar 400 is not the one to be pushed around corners!
Underpinned by a beam type perimeter frame, the Dominar 400 comes suspended via 43 mm telescopic forks up front and a monoshock at the back. The ride quality is on the stiffer side and tackling very bad roads requires one to slow down to maintain composure. With a kerb weight of 182 kgs and a rather long 1453 mm wheelbase, the motorcycle feels stable on the straights and planted through sweepers. Even though the Dominar feels easy to flick around corners, quick directional changes are not its forte.
Our test bike came shod with 17-inch MRF radial tyres, 110-section and 150-section at the front and rear respectively. MRF rubber is definitely not comparable to the likes of Metzelers or Michelins but provides a decent amount of grip for most riding conditions. Braking is one department where we came out thoroughly impressed with the Dominar 400. The motorcycle gets a 320 mm disc brake up front and a 230 mm disc brake at the rear. Being the top-spec variant equipped with twin-channel ABS, our long-termer offered phenomenal stopping power and braking feel. The ABS unit works well too and ensures that the bike stops in a straight line without any drama.
Bajaj Auto has been in the country since the 1940s and has a vast network of dealerships and service centres. Finding a service centre for periodic maintenance of our Dominar 400 was never a problem but our service experience has been far from satisfactory. Not all workshops have trained personnel with expertise to work on relatively complex bikes such as the Dominar and this is where customer satisfaction takes a major hit. This problem is more prevalent in smaller cities where majority of vehicles coming in for service are out and out commuters. While we have to appreciate the fact that Bajaj service centres actively follow up with customers for their feedback, there's no denying that one is better off exploring competent service centres nearby before biting the bullet.
To sum it up, our experience with the Dominar 400 has been pleasant so far. In the last one year, the bike took in its stride all that Mumbai roads had to offer. In 2013, KTM redefined bang-for-the-buck by introducing the Duke 390 in India. With an asking price of Rs. 1.58 lakhs (ex-showroom, Mumbai), the Bajaj Dominar 400 betters that but loses out on the thrill and brand value of the Katoom. While the overall package is unbeatable for the price it commands, there are a few issues with the Dominar that must be ironed out such as the deteriorating NVH levels, hard seat compound and the stiff suspension setup. At the end of the day, this one comes across as a fantastic alternative to the Royal Enfield range as it manages to outclass the latter in many aspects by a fair margin.
Bajaj Dominar 400 Cost Of Service
* Service cost – Rs. 500/-
* Engine oil – Rs. 1400/- (Shell)
* Miscellaneous – Rs. 200/-
(Oil filter and coolant top-up is included in service cost for the first 3 services)
* Fantastic pricing makes it undercut a lot of closely-specced offerings
* Frugal engine offers impressive performance in the mid-range
* Crisp gearshifts, upright seating and strong mid-range grunt make the Dominar an effortless ride
* Great fit & finish levels going by Bajaj standards
* Powerful LED headlamp is a tourer's delight
* Brakes offer great stopping power, ABS works nicely
* Good stability on straights and long sweepers
* Bajaj's wide service network across the country
What’s Not So Cool
* NVH levels deteriorated considerably within 12,000 kms of use
* Stiff suspension setup requires one to be careful over bad roads
* Seat compound is on the harder side
* Plastic fuel tank doesn't allow one to mount tank bags
* Lacks the visual appeal of its competitors
* Overall service experience remains a mixed bag
Further Reading -
Bajaj Dominar 400 Test Ride Review
Bajaj Dominar 400 Video Review
RE Thunderbird 500X vs Bajaj Dominar 400
RE Thunderbird 500X vs Bajaj Dominar 400 - Video
KTM RC 390 vs TVS Apache RR 310 vs Bajaj Dominar 400 - Video