Best of 2017: Top eight motorcycles launched in India
2017 was an exciting year, with lots of two-wheelers getting launched in India. Interestingly, the industry seems to be moving towards slightly larger, more premium and performance oriented motorcycles though, and commuters clearly took a back seat in 2017. Here's the lowdown on five of the best motorcycles that were launched in the country this year.
The Dominar 400 marked Bajaj Auto's foray into the premium performance motorcycle space. Powered by a 373cc, air-cooled single cylinder engine developed alongside the KTM 390 Duke's motor, the Dominar's engine offers 35PS and 35Nm. Bajaj has added its own technology to the engine, including its patented triple spark plug or DTS-I, while a single overhead camshaft has been employed to bring costs down. The idea behind the Bajaj Dominar 400 was to offer an affordable premium motorcycle that also boasts touring virtues and challenge manufacturers like Royal Enfield. Priced under Rs 1.5 lakh the Dominar 400 has sure made performance more affordable, but hasn't exactly clicked with audiences. We hear Bajaj Auto will also be offering the Dominar 400 in a shade of bright red for 2018, hoping to fire up the Dominar's sales in the new year. What do you think?
Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin
The Honda Africa Twin, a legendary name, made a comeback last year and has received an unprecedented response globally. Honda launched the motorcycle in India but only with its automatic transmission, the DCT, causing purists in the country to cry foul. Truth be told, the DCT version of the Honda Africa Twin is not half as bad as most would've thought, and we in fact had a great time riding it to Ladakh and back for our 19th anniversary issue! Powered by an all-new, 1000cc parallel-twin engine the Africa Twin offers 88PS of power and 91Nm - the outputs aren't among the highest as far as full-sized adventure tourers are concerned. That said the Africa Twin feels compact, light and nimble, particularly off-tarmac.
With its 21-inch front wheel the Africa Twin is akin to a mountain goat when it comes to riding on dirt and Honda's focus clearly has been on making the Africa Twin a highly capable off-road machine. We're told Honda has stopped taking orders since the 50 bikes allotted to India are all sold, especially since the pricing of Rs 13.14 lakh has been accessible, thanks to the fact that the Honda has brought the bike in via the more affordable CKD route. For 2018, we also expect Honda to launch the Africa Twin Adventure Sport that was showcased at the 2017 EICMA in India, with a manual gearbox which should make it even more interesting as an adventure tourer.
Kawasaki Ninja 650
The Kawasaki Ninja 650 had caused quite stir in the Indian market when it was launched originally in 2011 - a middleweight sportsbike from Kawasaki boasting friendly virtues, priced affordably (as it came in via the CKD route) was just what the doctor ordered. But it was also labelled as boring by many since it tried to be the jack of all trades - sport riding, commuting and touring. The new generation Kawasaki Ninja 650 was launched in India in 2017 and has been received well, as it looks a lot sharper and sportier, drawing inspiration from its siblings like the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R. The styling is a lot more appealing and the bike is more compact and lighter than before. It uses the same 649cc, liquid-cooled parallel-twin engine as before, producing 69PS and 65Nm and also gets ABS, making it a better package for someone graduating to multi-cylinder motorcycles from smaller machines. Priced at Rs 5.36 lakh the Kawasaki Ninja 650 continues to make a strong case for itself, in a market increasingly teeming with middleweight motorcycles.
KTM 390 Duke
The 390 Duke is one of the biggest success stories as far as made in India performance motorcycles are concerned. It offered a fantastic mix of all the right elements when launched back in 2013 and was a perfect step-up for those graduating from the KTM 200 Duke or similarly specced motorcycles. The second generation 390 Duke was launched last year and comes across as a far better product. It continues to employ the same 373cc, liquid-cooled single cylinder engine that is now smoother and more refined, and outputs are the same at 43PS and 37Nm. The bike is now sharper, more fun to ride while being equipped with better suspension and an all-new LCD display that offers a lot more information on the go in a far better format. Priced at Rs 2.35 lakh ex-showroom the KTM 390 Duke is still one of the best value for money packages as far as affordable performance motorcycles go.
After eons of waiting Yamaha finally launched the FZ25 in India, its first quarter-litre motorcycle here, as also a bonafide upgrade for owners of the FZ16. It is powered by a relatively simple, 249cc, air-cooled single cylinder engine that produces a humble 21PS and 20Nm, but the bike is also very light, given its kerb weight of 148kg. The result is a terrific power to weight ratio that makes the FZ25 a brilliant motorcycle for fast commutes. Bottom end and midrange grunt are the engine's strongest areas, and coming from Yamaha the engine is high on refinement and smoothness. The FZ25 is also a capable handler and loves corners, which makes it a great choice for riding in the hills, while the seats and suspension setup are plush enough to make it good for touring as well. Its price tag of Rs 1.18 lakh ex-showroom makes it affordable as well and the FZ25 is indeed one of the best motorcycles to be launched in India in 2017.
Triumph Street Triple RS
The previous generation Street Triple was received very well. It was appreciated for its lightness, agility and sprightly performance that made it an able commuter, weekend ride and tourer. When the new generation bike came out with a bigger engine, Triumph first launched the S version which felt like it had lost the charm. But when the fully-loaded RS version was launched, it felt like Triumph had put the zing right back into the middleweight naked. The RS version comes packed with higher equipment levels including fully adjustable Showa forks upfront and an Ohlins monoshock at the rear that make it an excellent handler, along with super sticky Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP tyres.
The 765cc triple cylinder engine is also in a higher state of tune here and produces 123PS and 77Nm, while a quickshifter is part of standard equipment. The Street Triple RS also gets a snazzy looking, colourful, all-digital TFT display for the instrument cluster that's a delight to use with the handlebar mounted joystick. The heady mix of performance and handling that the Street Triple RS offers is what makes it so much fun - be it on the road or on a racetrack. At Rs 10.55 lakh ex-showroom pricing is on the higher side, but its overall packaging as a motorcycle is what makes this Triumph tick the right boxes for us.
Considering that Ducati is known for making some of the most aggressive and razor sharp sportsbikes, the SuperSport sure came across as a surprise. Using the Hypermotard's 939 and Multistrada 950's 937cc, liquid-cooled L-twin, the SuperSport offers 113PS and 93Nm, which is put down in a friendly manner. The suspension setup offers a good balance between ride and handling. So on one hand the SuperSport is a confident handler but at the same time it does not have trouble handling bad roads as well.
The smooth, linear power delivery helps inexperienced riders to get used to the performance, while the riding position is not as committed as say, the 959 Panigale or the Triumph Daytona 675, thereby making the SuperSport comfortable for commuting and distance riding both. The electronics suite is comprehensive and makes for a great safety net as well. And all that's besides the fact that the SuperSport is gorgeous looking, the way a Ducati should. Again, pricing is on the higher side, starting from Rs 12.08 lakh ex-showroom, but the SuperSport is certainly a motorcycle to like for what it is.
TVS Apache RR 310
The Apache RR 310 was among the last launches of 2017, but is one motorcycle that a lot of enthusiasts have been waiting for. It is the first motorcycle from TVS Motor to be launched as part of its alliance with BMW Motorrad and also TVS Motor's new flagship, not to mention its first ever fully-faired sportsbike. While the design is properly sporty and reminiscent of higher capacity sportsbikes, the quality and fit-finish levels on the Apache RR 310 are good enough to set new benchmarks in the premium sportsbike category. TVS Motor claims the Apache RR 310 boasts best in class aerodynamics and has been wind tunnel tested too.
The Apache RR 310's engine is the same reverse inclined, 313cc, liquid-cooled single cylinder engine as the upcoming BMW G 310 R. Outputs are identical at 34PS and 28Nm and the six-speed gearbox is the same too. That said, TVS Motor uses its own custom ECU and the final drive on the Apache RR 310 is different from the BMW. Its chassis and suspension setup make the Apache RR 310 extremely engaging to ride on track, and given its pricing of Rs 2.05 lakh ex-showroom the Apache RR 310 is indeed a motorcycle to like, especially when you consider what it brings to the table.