As a product on its own, the Bajaj Dominar has always been quite the offering. It’s a comfortable, powerful cruiser with good dynamics and better than average looks. In terms of price, it undercuts the likes of the Royal Enfield Himalayan and the Classic 500 too. While I’ve never had the opportunity to tour on it, I’m told it is quite capable even when the road quality is questionable. All of this makes it easy to understand why Bajaj was so confused as to why the sales charts never reflected it. Honestly, It’s beyond my own understanding too!
Not one to back down, Bajaj continues to fight and has returned to the ring with a reworked Dominar for 2019. It gets more power, better dynamics some modicum of tastefully done cosmetic updates and a few updates to the digital console. Will it be good enough reason to stay away from Royal Enfield Classic 350, which Bajaj targeted with the campaign ‘Haathi Mat Paalo’? We flew down to Pune to find out as Bajaj this time claim to be almost all the way done with what they had set out to achieve with the Dominar brand.
A quick glance and aside from the striking new colour schematic you might miss the cosmetic updates that Bajaj has given to the Dominar. It’s a laundry list of small touches that they have taken up with a philosophy reflect ‘surgical precision’. Starting from the front the new headlamp unit is sleeker and has a better field of scope for night riding. Dye cast aluminium stalks on the rearview mirrors add character and premium value to the finish of the Dominar. The next thing you are likely to miss is tank pad decal that gets its inspiration from modern space crafts.
While the USDs are more of a dynamic update they also add a bit of cosmetic appeal with a more imposing stance. Finally, Bajaj has hot-stamped the signature D logo on the rear seat for a premium finishing touch. Overall, however, as I mentioned earlier the Dominar looks largely the same, which is great since its looks were never really a problem. Interestingly, Bajaj will now only offer the Dominar in two colours the Auroral Green you see on this page and a black and grey theme that will be showcased closer to launch.
The engine has been a major focus for Bajaj, and thanks to influence from the Dominar’s international customers, bumping up the power was a priority. While the baseplate is largely the same, in the form of the KTM sourced 373cc Single Cylinder Motor, Bajaj have reworked the map to bring the total power output to 40 HP which kicks in higher within the rev band at about 7000 rpm, 500 rpm higher than its predecessor. While torque has remained the same at 35 Nm once again Bajaj has raised the peak rpm to 6750 rpm as opposed to 6000 rpm on the original bikes. The new exhaust configuration as well as head configuration which now uses DOHC as opposed to the previous SOHC for better delivery of power. Bajaj claims they have even tweaked the gearing so as to give the Dominar a strong midrange without compromising on bottom end grunt. In the real world, the 5 extra horsepower and other changes make themselves felt as the Dominar is eager to accelerate even when already at triple digit speeds. During our test runs, we were able to achieve 160 kmph with the engine still promising a little bit more.
The new power band also means the Dominar can now cruise at speeds of upto 120 kmph with ease. A big plus point for touring! However, my one grouse with the new Dominar’s motor is the vibrations. They start as early as 3000 rpm from the handlebars and slowly creep into the footpegs as you cross the 6000rpm mark. No, they are not unlivable and are well-known characteristics of single cylinder motors with high output but one could have wished for a little more refinement in a bike that is meant for touring. All together though the motor is engaging and puts down the power when you need it. Everything that you would need from a sports tourer that is both great on the highway and quick through the twisty bits.
Thanks to the new 43mm Upside Down Shocks upfront and the stiffer set rear springs, dynamics have largely improved on the 2019 Dominar. In corners, the front shocks give you more feedback and thereon more confidence when compared to the conventional shocks on the original Dominar. The stiff set rear springs are tuned not just to improve grip through lateral acceleration but also do a fine job in absorbing bumps and undulations. Bajaj has managed to find the sweet spot on this score as the 2019 Dominar is not only more confident in corners but is soft enough to be comfortable on long rides even when the road’s surface isn’t great. Now all the new upgrades have added to the weight, meaning that the new Dominar is about 2.5 kilos heavier than the bike it replaces. However, thanks to the power upgrade the 2019 Dominar has a higher power to weight ratio, which goes from 192 hp/ton to 216hp/ton offsetting the added weight quite nicely.
For stopping force, the 2019 Dominar still uses the 320 mm disc upfront and 230 mm disc at the rear. Dual Channel ABS is also integrated into the system. The BYBRE brakes are about the same size as on the Duke 390 and the RC, and that’s a little bit of a problem. While braking is adequate at City speeds, push the Dominar a little and you will find yourself wishing for a little more bite. The Dominar is after all almost 20 kilos heavier than the Duke and that tells on the braking performance.
At the core of its development, the Bajaj Dominar is a motorcycle that is meant for touring. Its low-cost approach allows it to cater to a wider audience meaning that it will not only cater to the Avant-Garde amongst tourers but also to freshers, those that will be touring on a budget. To that end, Bajaj has tried to pick and chose features that would benefit long distance riders. Once again their approach has been to smaller things that might go unnoticed until the day you need them. The stand, for instance, has been reinforced to ensure that even when you have more load on the motorcycle the stand doesn’t give way. Another instance of this is under the pillion seat, Bajaj has fitted four straps onto which you can attach bungee cords for your bags and the likes. This saves the need for motorcycle owners to fit full pannier rails on to the bike!
Speaking to the management and the R&D team at Bajaj, they said they created a bike for touring as an alternative to the Classic style cruisers. With the 2019 update, they say they have been able to take a step closer to what they had set out to build to begin. This is true without a shadow of a doubt and while the 2019 Dominar is likely to be slightly more expensive than its predecessor, it’s truly a big step forward for Bajaj.
The subtly done updates are well worth the effort and reflect Bajaj’s’ surgical precision philosophy clearly adding in a small but sure way to enhance the bike’s presence. The added performance also makes for a better ride. Overall, Bajaj has finally delivered a product that is exactly what they had set out to build. This time, however, they believe that they are a step closer to the result they had previously expected. Having spent the day riding it, we believe they might just make it!
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