Bajaj has always been in the news for one or the other developments on their side. Not much time ago did the Pulsar 220 cc DTSi created a furore in the market when it snatched the ‘fastest bike in India’ tag, the Avenger has been loathed with the responsibility to take it further, though not exactly in the outright acceleration front. Saad Khan takes matters in his hands to unleash what lies beneath this new offering and is it worth the hoopla?
I always liked the Avenger 200 for whatever it offered just because of the fact that it provided a good option of switching to something offbeat than the regular sporty commuters we are almost fed up seeing and all at a sensible price. All that now comes in a grander scale with the launch of new Avenger with a 220cc engine. So does that make the bike even better or leaves the bike wanting for more. Let us ride it together to figure out!
Engine & Transmission: More fun per cc!
Bajaj has this uncanny knack of picking up from where it ends! Avenger has always been the sharing and a non-resilient brother in the family. It has always got engines from one or the other variant of Pulsar. The Pulsar 180 shared it with the Avenger 180, Pulsar 200 with Avenger 200 and now the biggest 220cc engine of Pulsar is being shared on the biggest Avenger yet. The 220cc engine on the Pulsar 220 has been a revelation ever since it was adorned with the country’s largest 32mm carburetor but a sports bike (strictly in Indian sense!) engine on a cruiser commuter? I already have my reservations about this ploy from Bajaj but it’s a result of lack of competition in the market for sporty cruiser bikes in India.
Nonetheless without getting much bogged down lets analyze what we have in hand. Avenger comes equipped with a 4 stroke, 2 valve, air cooled (with Liquid Cooling) DTSi engine providing the piston 219.89cc of movement space to play in. Under this new form, Avenger is capable of producing 19.03PS of power output peaking at 8400 rpm. The 220cc engine can now produce 17.5Nm of torque peaking at 7000rpm. Now it makes sense to compare these figures with Pulsar 220 as it’s the similar engined brother and Avenger 200 as it is this bike from which the latest 220cc variant has evolved.
Comparing with Pulsar 220, Avenger 220 produces 2 full PS less power and 1.6Nm of lower torque. Whereas if we compare it with the now-gone Avenger 200, the new 220cc variant finds itself with 1.5PS and 0.8Nm of torque better. Power aside, I feel torque should and might have been upped to Pulsars standards (19Nm) or probably more to aid that lovely always-running feeling of ‘Godliness’. If I talk about the on road behavior than apart from the obvious power gain, the bike has gained a slightly raw-er character quite similar to the Pulsar. Now this could be looked at from two angles. Yes, slight roughness has creeped in but it also makes the bike more fun to drive along those wide windy longways. And with the inclusion of the 220cc mill of the Pulsar, the kick starter has gone to hell! The bike now only does with the electric starter. Avenger also gets a manual choke in place of the automatic one placed on the Pulsar.
The 220cc engine on the Avenger also gets a 33 percent increased area for the oil to cool in the oil cooler. One more compartment has been added to the existing 3, all in the process of keeping the oil as cool as possible. In terms of on road behavior I never felt the bike to go extremely or unbearably hot which might have resulted in loss of power. That probably might have been due to the bigger oil cooler. If noticed carefully, the peak rpms have gone a little higher and the direct impact is seen on the behavior of the bike. The bike has become a little more relaxed and can accept 400-500 rpms of more gruelling. On the contrary, the bike looses out its smoothness and becomes rough when ripped for constant time very similar to Pulsar.
However, the 5-speed ‘one down four up’ gears were not the very best in the business. Although gear shift, clutch operation and gear change feel has improved from Avy 200, I would have liked to see the same ‘worked’ gearbox and FCC Riko supplied completely enclosed clutch (which does duty on the Pulsar) on this bike as well. I am not sure whether it has been used on the Avy 220 but it did not feel that smooth for sure. But I must also inform you that the complete process was acceptable and definitely not an irritant like the earlier Bajajs.
Styling, Build & Design: Still Fresh!
Avenger has always been different from the crowd and this factor always makes it a lovely-to-look-at machine ‘all through the year’. Avenger 220 looks absolutely similar to Avenger 200 or for that matter of fact Avenger 180 without any change in the looks department apart from the decals. If you stand all the three iterations of Avenger side by side after peeling off their tags, it would be one of the hardest jobs for a normal bloke (even motorcyclers as well) to make out the difference between them and point out which one is the 220. Well, to that front I don’t feel much change was needed anyways.
Bajaj has used barrels of chrome on this bike which makes it one ‘little miss sunshine’ under the hard sun rays. The retro classic looks of the cruiser breed has been carried with precision and the low slung stance makes it a gorgeous looker. The best part is the use of minimalistic stickers which I have always liked on Bajaj’s higher segment bikes. The stretched out front, huge and lengthier tank, dual layered comfy looking wide seat and the padded backrest all act up together to make it look fresh even after years of existence of the similar design. The unclear lens, small round headlamp, single-pod-all chrome console meter, high rise handlebars, bulky looking engine, cruiser-ala spoke wheels, chrome garnished moon-kissing rear view mirrors, garnish huge wide rear tire and optional huge windshield further add to the oomph factor.
One thing which might (then I am not sure it would have, actually) have looked good would have been the black treatment to the engine similar to Pulsar 220. However, I am sure Bajaj must have tried that permutation and I might be wrong considering black background on all the chrome embellishments which peak from every nook and corner of the bike. One design flaw which I noticed was the rear brake pipe zipping past exactly from the front of the engine oil window. It needed an extra little effort for me to view the engine oil level on the bike.
Build quality is pretty good with not much to complain about apart from a few grey areas. Plastic quality is pristine as is the case with higher cc Bajajs generally and the paint quality is also one thing which needs special mention here.
Handling, Comfort & Braking: Sweet, Nervous but tameable!
Avenger has always been a sweet handler with its low center of gravity, stumpy stance, huge wheelbase of 1475mm and huge 130 rear tire acting as a wide friction patch. The lower saddle height of 710mm also imbibes that extra bit of confidence and keeps foot planted always. Cruisers have always been not very good on corners with their titanic wheelbases and Avenger goes a little nervous on tight corners. But then, you would not be Rossing around on the Avy, would you! Earlier iterations of Avengers have reported spongy braking and unfortunately, braking retains its unwanted characteristic.
We also hear that Bajaj has modified the rear 130mm drum brake to provide slightly better response whereas the 260mm front disc is exactly the same. Avenger also had this issue of rear wheel skidding upon hard braking and even that legacy has been carried over to this generation 220 albeit with a slight lesser effect. I must also mention that the bike always remained on the ground, fairly planted upon sudden halts. Bajaj might have introduced more bity front discs and a discs at the rear (not from the Pulsars please!) to tame this 154.5 kilogram heavy monster. Riding it in congested traffic is a little issue though and the bike also doesn’t seem to like surrounded by too much of noise makers.
The ‘stretched’ seating posture takes some time getting used to but once you do, I don’t think you would want to get back to your sporty commuters. You could travel all day sleeping on the double layered couch that’s placed just under your butts. Pillion comfort is also pristine and ‘she’ also gets the added advantage of that padded back rest. In case you find yourself stretching a little, just adjust the handle towards your side and you would find this bike one of the most comfortable machines ever ridden like me. Positioning and rear view on the mirrors is fantastic and complete unlike Pulsar 220 which is really pathetic in this regard. On the not so good side, the rear suspension transfers every little small pothole impact to the rider which becomes an irritant on rough roads.
Electricals and Instrumentation: All the necessary bits present
One of the major changes that have taken place on the new iteration of Avenger has been the inclusion of the DC Electricals. The headlamps are powered by 55 Watt power which has always been a positive about this bike. Now with DC electrical the illumination would be consistent irrespective of what RPM you are running your bike at. Although, I feel that clear lens would have helped the glow but even now the throw and view on the road is one of the best among stock bikes. Instrumentation is all analogue which also adds to the casual appeal of the cruiser. The front single pod chrome console displays speeds in kmph and is calibrated upto 160 kmph (heavily on the optimistic side). We also have a tripmeter to measure single runnings along with the odo. The tank shares a part of the instrumentation as well with the peak small round fuel gauge taking the center stage and the ‘N’ of Neutral gear and side blinkers indicator towards the left of it and the low battery indicator (a new addition) and upper light towards the right of it.
Switchgear is basic and the quality is typical Bajaj, good! Towards the left you have the Pass switch, upper-lower beam button, side blinkers tab (which comes with ‘push-to cancel’ functionality ie the blinkers go off as soon as the button is tabbed in. It is not auto-cancel like Pulsar 220) and the horn. The right side contains a red colored engine kill switch, light on/off slider button and the self start crank button. The side blinkers are traditional bullet-type with conventional orange at the front protected by chrome all around. All the electricals get powered by a rechargeable 12Volt 9Ah battery exactly similar to the Pulsar series.
Performance and Mileage: Power Abundance and fuel guzzler!
Well..this is one important sections of this roadtest. The biggest question which was lingering on my mind before riding this bike was the improved power and does it do justice to the new variant? And yes, the improved 1.5PS, 0.8Nm and 20cc definitely show up their presence as soon as you go astride the bike. The bikes forward moving urge is what impressed me the most. The moment you plonk the first gear the bike seems to be responding to every little nanometer release of the clutch. The bike was a breeze on the road and the improved specs (especially the torque and displacement) definitely makes the journey more pleasurable and enhances the fun factor. However, I still feel 19-20Nm of torque would have made a significant difference to the overall capabilities of the bike.
One more thing which I noticed was the slight difference of the exhaust note from the earlier iteration. The note has been made richer and more audible. We also hear that Bajaj has worked on the exhaust to provide enhanced lower end torque and it might also have made a slight difference to the tune of the music of gases /smoke emanating from the small hole. It did not make much sense to go for outright performance figures but as I analyze this bike should be around half a second quicker to 60kmph and almost 1-2 seconds faster to 100kmph over the smaller 200cc version. Top speed lies in the range of 115-120kmph which is marvelous considering the cruiser biased aesthetics of the bike. We do not have a similar capacity cruiser to compare these figures against and it doesn’t make any zilch of sense to compare them with the sports commuters of our era. One of the best things about this bike is its higher average cruising speed which could easily be around 100-110 kmph on a long route.
Pulsar 220 returns fuel efficiency figures in the range of 32-36kmpl in cities and around 40kmpl on longer ways. Avenger 220 being the inherited sibling also follows suit with approximately similar figures. When ridden on bad congested terrains with frequent shifts expect this bike to be 30-35kmpl frugal which would rise to close to 38-40kmpl on longer highways where you pretend to ape the Avenger ‘Feel Like God’ model!
Avenger is available in 4 color options: Plasma Blue, Mist Grey Silver, Cocktail Wine Red and Midnight Black. Avenger/Eliminator has always looked the best in red and it remains the case here as well. All the above and much more fun comes packed at Rs.76,876 on road Pune which if calculated is around Rs.4000 more than the earlier 200cc version. With a bigger and more powerful heart and all the added tidbits it definitely makes immense sense and Bajaj has again produced a lovely value for money machine.
Talking from a products perspective, Avenger 220 is definitely a step above the older 200cc one with a fantastic torque output and lovely linear power delivery. The existing characteristics of the bike are enhanced and definitely have added that extra zing to it. Talking from the company’s perspective, the 220cc engine makes much more sense for Bajaj as they would save a lot of cost by stopping the 200cc engine which was till now made only in finite numbers for Avenger after the axing of Pulsar 200. Talking from a consumer’s perspective, Avenger 220 is an even enhanced version of the existing affordable cruiser-like experience.
Anyone who is looking to own a lovely little different piece of machinery which is not commonly seen on our roads and exudes that extra little casual attitude with multitudes of torque underneath and has a limited budget, Avenger 220 is made just for you. At 75 odd grands Avenger 220 is the lowest costing 200+cc, 19 horses engine in India. The 220cc engine has given that extra little fun to Avenger but what it has failed to loathe the new bike is the ‘rawness’ and the ‘thump’ of what cruisers are known for. If you are looking for something which could be called as a soft cruiser, Avenger 220 fits your bill and at a shattering price tag. However, if you plan to play hard with real thumping torque playing bonkers to your under belly, head to the Enfields!
Overall: [xrr rating=4.25/5]
– Saad Khan