The Apache’s lengthy reign as king of the entry-level efficiency section is beneath menace from the newest Pulsar. We discover out if it’s lastly time for abdication.
A couple of decade in the past, Japanese producers Yamaha and Suzuki captured the creativeness of 150-160cc consumers with a pair of bikes that introduced some much-appreciated sportiness, premium really feel and aptitude to the section – the FZ and the Gixxer. Quick ahead to at the moment, and it’s the Indian producers that now dominate this house – TVS guidelines the section with its tremendously succesful RTR 160 4V, with the bike having undergone a few useful updates over the previous 4 years, together with the introduction of extra options, additional energy and a unique headlight. Now, it has acquired its most formidable competitor but, within the type of the brand new Bajaj Pulsar N160. The Pune-based producer has had a substantial amount of time to rigorously research its competitors and launch a focused assault. So has it succeeded at stealing the throne?
THE HEART OF THE MATTER
If the Pulsar is to succeed, it should should be greater than the sum of its components. In any case, it’s 8kg heavier whereas sporting a extra primary two-valve cylinder-head and nursing a 1.6hp deficit. Nevertheless it almost matches the Apache on torque, and makes its peak figures a little bit earlier within the rev vary, which is why once you first experience each bikes back-to-back within the metropolis, the engines appear evenly matched. The RTR’s motor does really feel a little bit meatier, and its Glide Via Know-how reinforces this sense, however there’s so much to love concerning the Pulsar’s engine. It’s very versatile and pulls cleanly proper from 1,500rpm, feels meaty within the backside and mid-ranges of the tacho, and throttle response is very pleasing. Refinement ranges within the metropolis are glorious (even higher than the already spectacular RTR), the exhaust be aware is positively scrumptious (once more, much more so than the already sweet-sounding Apache) and gearshifts are beautifully slick too. However as satisfying as this powertrain is to function, in relation to the first goal of hauling you round, the TVS does a greater job, and its benefit turns into much more stark when the street opens up.
Out on the freeway, the Apache’s pure cruising pace is notably increased, and it could actually maintain 100kph with significantly extra ease and luxury than the Pulsar, which is an enormous issue to considerin this section the place clients additionally search for some sportiness. Whereas the Bajaj begins to path off on the top-end and battle past 90kph, the RTR manages to hold its momentum nearly all the best way to the redline. This reveals in our efficiency exams the place the Apache was almost 5 seconds faster to 100kph than the Pulsar! These exams additionally highlighted the way it’s the top-end the place the RTR’s benefit actually involves the fore – at 60kph, the Pulsar is simply round half a second behind, and even at 80kph, the hole remains to be lower than a second. However from 80kph to 100kph, the TVS actually pulls away and leaves the Pulsar to eat its mud. Crucially, regardless of its efficiency benefit, the RTR doesn’t sacrifice gasoline financial system – each bikes are neck-and-neck within the metropolis, and the Apache’s extra easy cruising skill means it’s barely extra environment friendly on the freeway.
This specific Apache did really feel a little bit buzzy within the latter half of the tachometer, however it got here to us spanking new, and our rigorous testing routine and tight schedule meant that it needed to be put by means of the mill proper from the phrase go. We all know from previous expertise that this is likely one of the smoothest motors within the section, and refinement ranges are within the Pulsar’s ballpark when run-in correctly.
Pulsar seats you extra aggressively than the Apache.
In distinction to their efficiency ranges, it’s the Bajaj that seats you in a extra sporty using place. The clubman-style handlebar is sort of low and tapered-in, and the foot pegs are a little bit rear-set too. Total, it feels fairly partaking, with out ever coming throughout as uncomfortable or harsh. The RTR has your higher physique extra upright, with a taller, wider handlebar. However the challenge right here is the foot pegs, that are positioned fairly high-up. Which is why though they’re not as rear-set because the Pulsar’s, your legs are much less comfy right here, and for somebody like Rishaad (6’1”), it’s an outright deal-breaker. For my 5’8” construct, the seating is comfy for some time, however even my legs do start to really feel cramped after a few hours of being on the bike, and instantly leaping onto the Pulsar afterwards highlights simply how rather more comfy its total seating is.
The Bajaj seats you extra comfortably, however when it comes to experience high quality, it’s the Apache that has the higher hand right here. Total, the TVS feels prefer it has a softer set-up, and this makes it very efficient at absorbing bumps and tackling potholes at metropolis speeds. Regardless of this, it doesn’t lose any composure when the speeds climb, and it stays fairly sure-footed on the freeway too. It’s solely once you come throughout giant street imperfections at excessive speeds that you just start to really feel the bounds of its suspension journey. The Pulsar’s set-up is certainly firmer, however to not the purpose of being uncomfortable. At excessive speeds, it’s the marginally extra secure and composed bike right here, however right here in Mumbai, you do are likely to bounce round greater than the TVS on our depressing roads.
Present them a couple of corners and each bikes remind you of the truth that these are sporty machines, and never utilitarian 150cc commuters. The Apache’s wider handlebar means it feels the lighter steering and faster turning bike right here, however the Pulsar isn’t far behind. Each bikes encourage confidence when leaned over, and tyres are greater than adequately grippy for the efficiency ranges on provide, however it’s the Pulsar that has the chunkier rubber right here. The Bajaj additionally has a major higher hand within the braking division – its 300mm entrance disc is an efficient deal bigger than the 270mm unit on the RTR, and its braking really feel is significantly higher too, which explains why it stopped nearly 1.5m sooner from 60kph in our braking exams. What additionally helps it cease sooner is the truth that it will get dual-channel ABS on its increased variant – the one bike on this section to supply this characteristic.
300mm entrance disc significantly bigger than the RTR’s.
Within the metropolis, too, each bikes really feel very mild and manageable, and slicing by means of visitors is a breeze irrespective of which one you’re aboard. Clutch effort is mild on each as properly, however the RTR ups the ante with a slip-and-assist clutch, which the Pulsar misses out on. That is one in every of numerous options that the RTR presents and the Pulsar omits. The Apache’s totally digital instrument cluster is a good deal extra superior than the very enticing, however pretty primary semi-digital clocks on the Bajaj. TVS presents Bluetooth connectivity and three using modes, in addition to adjustable levers, none of which you get on the Pulsar. The 2 counts right here the place the Pulsar has the higher hand are its LED headlight, which outperforms the Apache’s unit (which can be an LED unit and in no way a poor headlight in isolation), and ABS, the place it presents a dual-channel possibility and the TVS doesn’t.
TIME FOR ABDICATION?
The Bajaj Pulsar N160 is a really likeable bike, and we had been totally impressed by it once we rode it in isolation in and round Pune just lately. However going up in opposition to the section king was by no means going to be simple; many have tried and failed earlier than it.There are quite a lot of non-quantifiable areas the place the Pulsar actually excels, together with the texture and satisfaction of issues just like the ultra-smooth fuelling and the pleasing soundtrack. However on this section, the place an entry-level purchaser is starting to demand efficiency, any additional functionality that your engine can carry to the desk goes to be an enormous constructive, particularly when there isn’t a vital sacrifice in effectivity. And on this regard, there may be nonetheless no bike at the moment that may match the best way the Apache’s engine feels and performs, particularly at increased speeds. The truth that it presents an excellent deal extra options whereas nonetheless being nearly precisely on-par when it comes to worth (variant for variant, the 2 are Rs 28 aside), implies that there are just too many areas within the RTR’s favour, and it’s provided that you’re a really tall rider that you just’ll discover any severe fault with this bike.
Ultimately, there’ll come a motorbike able to claiming its throne, and to equip itself for that day, TVS might want to work on making its RTR higher suited to taller riders, and a little bit higher within the braking division. However till then, it continues its reign as king of this section.