If you look for the word legend, in the dictionary, you would see that it has many meanings. But for many motorcycle lovers in India, for almost a decade now, the word Legend has one - the Bajaj Pulsar 220, and how do you create a successor for such a bike with a massive fan following?
To start off with, you will need to keep the existing fan base happy by keeping the idea and philosophy of the predecessor alive and then you will have to make the entire design more upmarket, and contemporary. You will also need to make the new package with better performance while at the same time, keeping in mind not to stray too far on the pricing front or else you can lose and entire market segment and customer base. Building a successor to an iconic product, we tell you is no easy task. But then, if any manufacturer can pull such a steep task with absolute finesse and impeccable business sense, then it has to be Bajaj Auto.
Over the years, Bajaj has been phenomenal in updating the entire Pulsar brand and adding newer better segment defining models to it too. However, updating a present line up is different and making an entirely new range to supersede your most important sub brand takes things to a whole new level. So, what do you do when you are faced with such a challenge and you happen to be among the most innovative and ready to take risk brand in the country? Yes, you do this, the Bajaj Pulsar AS200.
Let's face it, the AS200 is the most important new Bajaj Pulsar yet, it is not the RS200 nor the erstwhile carburetted NS200, but it is the AS200. While both the NS200 and the RS200 are more or less new segment offerings for Bajaj (NS200 being the only naked hovering at that price point), the AS200 is destined and designed to lock horns with the hugely successful and iconic Pulsar 220 Dts-i and it will have to fight hard to take the crown from the Pulsar 220 and become the country's most effective tourer.
So to find out just how good the very significant Pulsar AS200 is, we took it for a couple of days and pitted it against all sorts of things it will encounter in daily usage, and this is what we thought about it...
Looks and Styling:
Ever since the Pulsar 200NS came out, we have praised the direction Bajaj has taken regarding the design of the new Pulsars. Especially the all new perimeter frame does wonder to the muscular looks of the new bikes and so does an emphasis to make bikes look more modern. The NS was a beautiful motorcycle and being basically a semi faired NS, the AS200 comes out being looking better than its naked street fighter sibling.
The overall design has become mature and the new design for the semi faring makes the bike look meaner and sportier at the same time as compared to the P220. The fairing in itself is beautifully crafted with a wind screen that saves the rider considerably well as compared to the P220. We particularly liked the way the fairing on the AS gels into the tank panel of the bike with its combination of long creases and small curves. Same holds true to the casing of the headlight assembly, that looks both solid and sleek while the dual tone created by black inserts on the fairing of red coloured test bike added to the sportiness of the front of the bike.
The Headlight assembly in itself is larger in size as compared to the P220 and encases a projector lamp for low beam and a multi focal high intensity lamp for high beam that is seriously bright for the night, we reckon it might just shame a few entry level cars in the market. The headlight and the new fairing front makes the bike look purposeful and taller from the front, adding to its claim of being an Adventure Sport model for the roads.
Towards the middle and the rear part of the bike, it is a familiar story as the bike looks absolutely identical to the bike it is based on, the NS200. Though on the AS, the plastic panel that covers the radiator looks even better due to the presence of the fairing. Overall, the AS200 is among the most beautifully executed motorcycle designs out there in the market right now.
Engine and Performance -
Powered by the exact same engine from the Pulsar 200NS, the AS200 has a single cyclinder triple spark 199.5cc liquid cooled heart with 4 valves which produces 23.5Ps@9500rpm and a peak torque of 18.3Nm@800rpm. This is a unit that we have loved on the Pulsar 200NS and expected the same from the AS200 also. However, surprisingly, the engine on the AS200 has a slightly rough edge to it as against the silky smooth engine on the 200NS, but if you are like yours truly who likes his bikes to be a bit rough, then you will love it way more than the 200NS and if you do not admire a bit of roughness, then be assured, it doesn't cause any issues, infact it does add a bit of character to the bike, and character it definitely possesses. Saying, the AS200 is more Pulsar-ish than the NS or the RS as it feels a lot like the Pulsars we have always known but better in every respect.
The gearbox is very smooth and we did not encounter any issue in the two days we have had the bike with us. As for the performance figures, we knew that heir has been a weight increase of around 8kgs over the NS due to the addition of the fairing, but not much has changed in the acceleration feel of the bike, it feels as agile and rev friendly as its naked sibling. The fairing makes the bike achieve higher top speed as compared to the NS or the P220. With the tester (that being me) weighing more than a human should, the AS200 still happily shot past 138kmph without much resistance.
At 153kg the bike is still lighter than the Pulsar 220 while being faster and quicker too, and we were happy to get around 42 kmpl during our test run overall from the AS200. Also, we found that the AS has a sweeter sounding engine under hard acceleration as compared to the NS, which we find strange as we are not sure if Bajaj has tune any tuning to the exhaust note or not, it is lovely nevertheless.
Ride and Handling -
We have said it before and we will say it again, the addition of a perimeter frame to the Pulsar range has done wonders to the handling characteristics of the brand, and the same story continues with the AS200 as well. Infact, the added weight on the front adds more to the handling of the bike aiding the stability while braking late into a corner. The front end gives in better inputs as compared to the slightly lighter feel of the NS.
The added weight on the front also seem to improve the feeling while braking hard as the single 280mm wave front disc brake provided by Bybre works better on the AS as compared to the NS. The bike feels planted on all speeds and lets you forget about its size and weight when you encounter a set of twisties. Though the bike does need slight effort tin changing direction, but it surely handles and steers with a confidence inspiring assurance.
When we got our test bike, we admit we had some apprehensions about the stock Eurogrip tyres that the bike came shod with. But after two days and some good number of kilometres into the test, we found that the 100/80 and 130/80 17 incher rubber for the front and rear respectively though is made for durability, doesn't disappoint on the grip levels. However, we would have liked a bit more input coming in from the tyres to exploit the sweet handling chassis on the AS200.
The bike has an upright seating position with a hint of sportiness to it, making long rides and short stints equally enjoyable. The rider seat is wide and has ample space to move around a bit during your cornering escapades. Though the rider seat is a bit soft and might give you numb bums after a long ride, it is still not uncomfortable for long rides by any margin. But, what is uncomfortable is the pillion seat which is just too hard making it a painful affair for the pillion. I had taken my wife for a short ride to get her reviews regarding the pillion comfort and she didn't like it one bit. It would be a welcome thing if Bajaj brings an updated plusher pillion seat design for its tourer. Saying that, the Pulsar AS200 is as nifty for touring duty as the Pulsar 220 and maybe better than it too in this regard.
Well, the AS200 is all what it promises to be and what you expect from a bike that is designed to excel in the Urban Jungle. Mind you the AS200 is no hardcore Adventure Sport as the name suggests it to be, but it is one mighty capable motorcycle that has got it all to support its claim of being the most effective tourer in India, a crown strongly held by the iconic Pulsar 220Dts-i.
The AS200 will be happy to go all day at speeds higher than 120kmph, is comparatively more comfortable than the P220 and is definitely more economical, faster and quicker than the P220 ever was.
And, at a price tag that reads INR 93,500 Ex-Showroom Delhi, there is nothing in the market that can come close to the phenomenal capability and value for money quotient of the Bajaj Pulsar AS200. With the Pulsar AS200, Bajaj has not just created a worthy successor to the hugely successful Pulsar 220 but has also pushed the game forward enough for its competition which was only just understanding ways to fight off the Pulsar 220.
Photography - Mohd. Nasir