Bajaj Dominor vs RE Thunderbird 350 Comparison Review

Published on: Jan 28, 2017
Thunderbird 350 vs Dominar 400 Comparison:

Pricing & Features Comparison:
The Dominar 400 non-ABS, retails for 1.53 Lakh Rs on road Delhi, which is actually 5000 Rs. cheaper, than the Royal Enfield Thunderbird 350 (non-ABS), costing 1.58 Lakh Rs. Both bikes are equipped with disc brakes at the front, as well as the rear. Dominar gets LED Headlamp, while the Thunderbird gets a HID Projector unit, which lights up the road much better than the Dominar. However, the Dominar 400 gets a slipper clutch, which is absent in the Thunderbird. Dominar 400 is also available with ABS, for an added 15,000 Rs. extra.

Pricing of Other Variants:
Dominar 400 ABS - 1.68 Lakh

Performance & Tractability Comparison:
The Dominar 400, boasts of big numbers on the spec sheet, compared to the disappointingly low figures, of the Thunderbird 350. The Thunderbird 350 doesn't stand a chance in hell, against the Dominar 400, on the open road. The Dominar is over 6 seconds quicker, than the TB 350 in a 0-100 kph drag race, and also has a more than 20 kph higher top-speed than the RE. However, the Dominar suffers from an extremely weak low end. Coupled with its hefty kerb weight, and muted exhaust note, it feels like a big bike fitted with a 125 cc engine at lower revs.

 The Thunderbird on the other hand, develops its peak torque at just 4000 rpm, which coupled with its dramatic exhaust note, makes it feel much faster than it actually is, at city speeds. Dominar's over-square engine, is not a good match to its power cruiser persona, but Bajaj didn't really have any other option, so they had to stick with the KTM's block. Thunderbird's antiquated engine is World famous in India, for its rustic thump, but as the revs rise, the thump gives way to a raucous and harsh exhaust note with enough vibrations, seeping through all the touch-points, to pry the fillings, out of your teeth.

Power-to-Weight Ratio (PS/ton): Thunderbird 350 - 103, Dominar 400 – 192 (difference 86%)
Torque-to-Weight Ratio (Nm/ton): Thunderbird 350 - 146, Dominar 400 – 192 (difference 32%)

Power (PS@rpm): Thunderbird 350 – 19.8@5250, Dominar 400 – 35@8000
Torque (Nm@rpm): Thunderbird 350 – 28@4000, Dominar 400 – 35@6500
Kerb Weight (kg): Thunderbird 350 – 192, Dominar 400 – 182

Displacement (cc): Thunderbird 350 – 346, Dominar 400 – 373.3
Gearbox: Thunderbird 350 – 5 speed, Dominar 400 – 6 speed

Reliability & After Sales Service Comparison:
Unfortunately, neither RE nor Bajaj, are known for making reliable, hassle free motorcycles. Both bikes are bound to have teething troubles, the Dominar being the first Bajaj product to get a desi head on the KTM 390 block. In case of the Thunderbird, in spite of being a derivative, of an over 60 year old product, Royal Enfield, has not been able to sort out, the age old flaws of their bikes, which goes on to show, their gross ineptitude, at making reliable machines. Service too is equally bad at both their service centres, although Bajaj at least has a wide network reach, and spares are much more sensibly priced, than Royal Enfields.

Fuel Efficiency Comparison: 
Both bikes returned more or less identical fuel efficiency, of 31 kmpl in our back-to-back tests.

Test Mileage (kmpl): Thunderbird 350 – 31, Dominar 400 - 31
Fuel Cost (for 60,000 km): Thunderbird 350 – 1.50 Lakh, Dominar 400 – 1.50 Lakh

Resale & Cost of Ownership Comparison:
Thanks to robust demand, from thick-skulled individuals of the motorcycling community, the Thunderbird 350, is bound to retain at least 10,000 Rs. higher residual value, than the Dominar 400, post a usage of 5 to 7 years. Overall, both bikes are bound to cost roughly the same, in terms of Overall Ownership Costs. However, that does not include the cost of unscheduled visits to the service station, which are bound to be higher in the TB 350, and could push its Ownership Costs much, much higher.

Resale Value (after 5 to 7 years):
Thunderbird 350 – 85,000 Rs.
Dominar 400 (non-ABS) – 75,000 Rs.

Total Cost of Ownership: (Price + Fuel Cost - Resale Value) 
Thunderbird 350 – 2.25 Lakh
Dominar 400 (non-ABS) – 2.30 Lakh

Handling & Ride Quality Comparison:
The Dominar is on a different level compared to the Thunderbird, in terms of dynamics. The Dominar uses fairly modern components, like the perimeter frame, stamped metal swingarm, monoshock rear suspension, fat front forks and wide tyres. It is set-up more for comfort, than handling, giving it a fantastic ride quality, compared to the back-breaking ride of the TB 350. The problem with the Thunderbird is that, it's ancient chassis design, has so much flex in it by modern day standards, that the suspension needs to be set-up stiffly, to counter all the unwanted deformations of the chassis. It also affects the handling of the Thunderbird, to the tune, that leaning into corners, is best left to the imagination. The Dominar handles far better. You can easily get your knee down, around sweeping bends. However due to its long wheelbase, it doesn't have the agility, to quickly change its direction around switchbacks. Also it is prone to excessive pitching, due its soft suspension and strong brakes.

Wheelbase (mm): Thunderbird 350 – 1350, Dominar 400 – 1435

Ground Clearance (mm): Thunderbird 350 – 150, Dominar 400 - 157

Tyre Size:
Thunderbird 350 – 90/90R19, Dominar 400 – 110/70R17
Rear: Thunderbird 350 – 120/80R18, Dominar 400 – 150/60R17

Comfort & Ergonomics Comparison:
Thunderbird is automatically assumed to be a comfortable tourer, by prospective customers, but that is not really the case. The rider seat curves upward at the rear, which induces fatigue, and lower-back pain on long rides. Dominar 400 has a slightly forward leaning riding position, and a generously wide seat, which could have done with slightly softer cushioning, but is nonetheless comfortable enough, for short rides. On longer rides you end up wishing for a more upright seating and a bigger windscreen.

Seat height (mm): Thunderbird 350 – 775, Dominar 400 - 800

Supposedly, the Thunderbird is the cruiser of the RE's range. Over the years Royal Enfield has made small improvements to it, here and there, like the box section swingarm, the HID headlamp, Rear disc brakes, gas charged suspension, gotten rid of the ribbed front tyre etc. However, RE hasn't been able to muster up the courage to address the antique powertrain or the archaic chassis. It continues to suffer from legacy issues that have been left unaddressed for decades. That itself is reason enough to discard it from your dreams.

In reality, it has no real long distance capabilities. As a motorcycle, it is slower, less refined, badly built, has inferior ride-handling, is uncomfortable to sit, less feature rich and more expensive to service and repair, than the Dominar 400. No prizes for guessing, that the Dominar 400 is our pick of this shootout!

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