The NS400Z comes as the biggest Pulsar yet.
The NS400Z comes as the biggest Pulsar yet.Shot by Avdhoot A Kolhe for evo India

Bajaj Pulsar NS400Z first ride review | 400cc is the new 250?

The Bajaj Pulsar NS400Z is the biggest Pulsar ever and gets the same engine that does duties in the Dominar 400. But does it feel like the biggest Pulsar ever should?

Democratising performance. That’s been the mantra of the Pulsar line of bikes since the launch of the first Pulsar back in the early 2000s. ‘Power to the people’ is what they called it. Now, a little over 20 years later, Bajaj is still at it with the Pulsar NS400Z. The biggest Pulsar has a lot going on for it — a 40 horsepower engine, ride-by-wire with riding modes, USD forks, the proven perimeter frame and a lot more all for a ridiculously low price of Rs 1.85 lakh (ex-showroom, introductory). But does it retain the quintessential Pulsar DNA? That’s exactly what I’m here to find out.  

Bajaj Pulsar NS400Z performance

The biggest Pulsar ever needs to have the most performance ever. To that end, the NS400Z is powered by the same 373cc single-cylinder engine that does duties in the Dominar 400. That engine we all know has been derived from the second-gen 390 Duke. So that’s a good place to start. Unlike the Dominar, the NS gets a ride-by-wire system that enables four riding modes — road, sport, rain and off-road along with switchable traction control and ABS maps for each mode. In terms of the power figures, this engine is in the exact state of tune as the Dominar and the only mechanical change is a one-tooth larger 46-tooth rear sprocket. Owing to the identical tune, this engine is good for 39.5bhp and 35Nm of torque. It also complies with the latest emissions norms and it can take up to 20 per cent of ethanol mixed with petrol. As you would expect a nearly 40bhp bike to perform, the Pulsar NS400Z does feel quick in most situations. This also has to do with the fact that it does weigh close to 18kg less than the Dominar and that is clearly evident in the way that this bike performs. You have a well-defined mid-range along with a healthy top-end. Even the low-end performance is not too shabby. 

The Pulsar NS400Z weighs almost 18kg less than the Dominar.
The Pulsar NS400Z weighs almost 18kg less than the Dominar.Shot by Avdhoot A Kolhe for evo India

What is a bit bothersome, is the lack of refinement in the lower end of the rev range. From setting off till you cross around 5500rpm, the bike is riddled with vibrations at the pegs, seat, handlebar and tank. Cross around 70kmph and the bike starts to feel very refined. You can comfortably cruise at 110-120kmph and sit there all day long, leaving you with enough grunt to make a quick overtake without needing to make more than one downshift. The throttle feels a little heavy and that takes some getting used to. At slower speeds the response is a little jerky but that gets smoothed out as the pace is picked up. The gearbox is slick for the most part barring the occasional sticky gear now and then. Clutch action is light and that makes for a stress-free ride. The riding modes do make a difference and the traction control system, which can be a little too intrusive at times can be turned off on sport and off-road mode so that’s good. Engine heat is also in check for the most part and it’s only when you’re in crawling traffic speeds that you feel heat emanating towards your legs. 

Bajaj Pulsar NS400Z ride and handling 

Making the Pulsar a Pulsar is the perimeter frame that’s been taken off of the NS200. But Bajaj tells us that it, along with the box-type swingarm has been reinforced to handle all the extra power that the 373cc engine brings to the table. The frame is suspended off of a 43mm USD fork setup at the front and a monoshock at the rear both sourced by Endurance. The bike rides on 17-inch wheels at both ends with the front being a 110-section and the rear a 140.

In terms of handling the bike feels very Pulsar-like, not NS-like. The NS200 is a precise, sharp and rock-solid bike that inspires a lot of confidence in most riding conditions. This on the other hand feels a little twitchy, just a little unstable like the original Pulsars did. A lot of it has to do with the front tyre being of bias-ply construction instead of radial and the suspension setup. The suspension tune is a bit odd in that the compression feels very plush, very calm, but it rebounds rather rapidly making the bike feel like it’s fighting the road surface rather than beating it into submission. This translates to waiting a little longer for the bike to settle when entering a corner hard on the brakes. That, along with the non-radial tyre makes the front end feel a little vague. A radial front tyre should help solve a big piece of the handling puzzle but the suspension will require some work before it feels ace. Braking comes courtesy of an axially-mounted twin-piston Grimeca calliper mounted on a 320mm disc at the front and a single-piston calliper mounted on a 230mm disc at the rear. Braking performance, while adequate, leaves a lot to be desired. The front could do with more bite. But the ABS in sport mode was never an issue. So that’s good. 

The bike rides on 17-inch wheels at both ends with the front being a 110-section.
The bike rides on 17-inch wheels at both ends with the front being a 110-section.Shot by Avdhoot A Kolhe for evo India

The ergonomics of the bike are spot on with a commanding upright riding stance with your feet in a slightly rear-set position. The NS400Z in true streetfighter fashion gets a wide single-piece handlebar instead of clip-ons like the NS200. This gives you a lot of leverage and makes staying in the saddle for longer a less fatiguing task. The seat height is at a comfortable 805mm and the kerb weight of 174kg makes it a lot easier to manage than the Dominar. 

Bajaj Pulsar NS400Z design

The silhouette of the NS400Z is identical to the NS200. Even in terms of dimensions, it seems largely the same. What’s new is the graphics and some details like the headlight. You have new Z-shaped DRLs that flank the LED projector lamps. Behind that you have a new flat handlebar that sits below a new digital instrument cluster. The tank is largely similar to the NS200 with new graphics of course. The split seats and the rear section are also almost identical to the NS200. What Bajaj has done is give it a fresh look by way of a new headlight and graphics while keeping it in line with the rest of the range. 

The silhouette of the NS400Z is identical to the NS200.
The silhouette of the NS400Z is identical to the NS200.Shot by Avdhoot A Kolhe for evo India

Bajaj Pulsar NS400Z features 

The Pulsar NS400Z is packed to the gills with features. As mentioned earlier, you get ride-by-wire with multiple riding modes. Traction control that can be switched off and you get a different calibration for the ABS in each riding mode. The instrument cluster is fully digital with a colour LCD screen taking care of all instrumentation. There’s also a small square screen that has been in-layed into the main screen that shows your trip details, and ride modes and houses all the connectivity features like phone notifications, music and call controls and turn-by-turn navigation. All of this is controlled by a set of buttons on the left switch cube and is fairly easy to operate. You also get adjustable levers which is a big plus. 

The instrument cluster is controlled by a set of buttons on the left switch cube.
The instrument cluster is controlled by a set of buttons on the left switch cube.Shot by Avdhoot A Kolhe for evo India

Bajaj Pulsar NS400Z verdict

A Pulsar is a Pulsar when it is exciting to look at, engaging to ride and most importantly affordable to attain. The Pulsar NS400Z is all of that. Of course, it’s not without its flaws but when you factor in the ₹1.85 lakh (ex-showroom introductory price), a lot of my qualms with the bike tend to go away. As far as the handling is concerned, changing the front tyre to a radial unit should be relatively inexpensive and should fix a lot of what’s missing in this department. So if you’re in the market for a 400cc streetfighter-style machine that doesn’t break the bank. This should be on your consideration list. Oh also, the Z in the name is indicative that this is a variant and there’s a lot more to come. What that is, I am looking forward to finding out.

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