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Sunday, Nov 30, 2003

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Pulsar DTSi: Suave but savage

S. Muralidhar

"It's a Boy!" Not so long ago that would have conjured up images of a nurse in a government hospital holding up a newborn, greeting the tired but expectant parents. That is not something which comes to mind for the biking generation now. The high voltage advertising for the Bajaj twins — the Pulsar 150 and the Pulsar 180 — changed all that.

After meeting with astronomical success for the Pulsar's first editions, the chunky, masculine, rugged-looking bikes went back to the shop floor and the design studio for a make over. And so, the restyled Pulsar DTSi was born, with a new face and a stronger, more powerful heart.

Deceptive looks

The Pulsar was always a boy. Only, this so-to-say genetically-modified version has ensured that the "boy" gets a booster dose of testosterone! And so, from being just a boy, the new Pulsar DTSi is now definitely man: More powerful, huskier-voiced and built for more speed.

The restyled look, especially the new bikini fairing has added a bit of panache to the DTSi, but it has still robbed the Pulsar of its original looks: Simple, raw and ruggedly masculine. The new look is also a bit deceptive, beguiling the onlooker into thinking that it will behave like a gentleman. Deception that works, until he hits the throttle. If we can draw parallels from the world of Hollywood, the Pulsar DTSi has the blasť, urbane looks of Paul Newman and the build and raw power of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The digital twist

With a host of new technologies, the new versions have raised the bar for "digital biking" in India. Bajaj's introduction for the new Pulsar says that the new features include DTSi, TRICS III and digital CDI. Lots of abbreviations that sure must sound intimidating.

Let us try unravelling one acronym at a time.

Current motorcycle and scooter engines have a single spark plug that ignites the air and fuel mixture inside the combustion chamber. As a result, the rectangular combustion chambers in most motorcycle engines have a certain degree of unburnt air-fuel mix, since the flame front arising from the sparkplug does not reach all the corners of the combustion chamber.

This loss of unburnt air-fuel mix leads to lower power and fuel efficiency. After Bajaj Auto perfected the technology for adding a second spark plug to the engine and the engine management systems to go with it, it decided to first put the new technology to work on the Pulsar.

What is DTSi?

The DTSi (Digital Twin Spark ignition) technology from Bajaj could potentially revolutionise motorcycling in the country. The company may well want to replicate the technology in its other engines as well. This technology, which is also being patented by Bajaj Auto, boosts the performance of the engine, while simultaneously cutting emissions.

The DTSi technology incorporates twin sparkplugs at either ends of the combustion chamber for faster and better combustion. Single sparkplug meant slower burning of the air-fuel mixture and sub-optimal combustion chamber characteristics. This is the heart of the new technology from Bajaj. But, its benefits are fully realised only after it is combined with a computerised direct ignition (CDI) system and new generation throttle response system.

The digital CDI in the new Pulsar, which features an advanced eight-bit microprocessor handles the spark delivery. The programmed chip's memory contains the optimum ignition timing for any given engine rpm, thereby squeezing out the best performance characteristics from the combustion chamber. Working together with the Throttle Responsive Ignition Control System (TRICS III) supposedly also delivers the optimum ignition timing for varying load conditions.

Bajaj has also developed a new third generation TRICS III to complement the new ignition system. The TRICS system controls the ignition based on throttle use. Depending on the needs of the motorcycle rider, whether for cruising or a burst of acceleration (such as for overtaking), the ignition requirements changes; especially useful in city riding conditions.

Based on the level of throttle opened, a magnetic field opens or closes the reed switch, which, in turn, is connected to the Digital CDI. The CDI then switches to the desired Ignition Advance Timing Maps (pre-programmed timing from the eight-bit processor). This helps the engine achieve an ideal ignition spark advance for every throttle opening and engine rpm level.

More powerful features

What all these technologies do to the bike's performance is increase its maximum power and torque by some 8 per cent. While the old Pulsar (which continues to be available only in the 150cc version as Pulsar 150 KS) engine put out a max power of 12 bhp, the new engine ups it to about 13.02 bhp.

Similarly the new Pulsar 180 DTSi takes the max power level to just over 16 bhp, from the sub-15 levels of the old engine. Torque levels are up from 10.8 Nm to 11.68 Nm in the 150cc.

Dimensionally, the new Pulsar's wheelbase has also been increased to 1,320mm from 1,265mm for the previous version.

The increase has largely come from the longer, telescopic front fork and suspension. Together with the new rectangular section swing arm, the longer wheelbase gives the new Pulsar DTSi more stability and better cornering ability.

The damper body in the DTSi's rear suspension has been increased in diameter to make it look more robust. A triple-rate spring with a larger wrap diameter gives a smoother ride. The suspension's stroke has been increased for more travel.

Bikini to the fore

Getting back to Paul Newman and Arnie, the key highlight of the new Pulsar's looks is the front bikini fairing. The fairing incorporates an oval clear lens, multi-reflector headlamp and two pilot lamps — one on each side — mainly to add to the aura of the bike.

The auxiliary number plate lamp just below the new clear lens tail-lamp is a more functional add-on. Other cosmetic changes include a new satin tone finish surface plating for the handlebar and a rubber logo insert in the handle bar joint to prevent the ignition keys from scratching the handle bar finish.

For engines in the 150cc plus class, both twins come up with fairly attractive mileage numbers. An average of 50-55 kmpl for the DTSi 180cc and about 55-60 kmpl can be expected from the 150cc.

One final "statutory warning", though: For those who want to switch to the DTSi, riding it could be addictive!

Price for driving

PRICES for the Pulsar DTSi 150 ES and the 180 ES range from about Rs 51,000 to Rs 55,500 plus ex-showroom. The old Pulsar 150 KS continues to be available at about Rs 50,000 (for disc brake and electric start) ex-showroom.

For the new technology that the DTSi incorporates and the gentlemanly looks (though we would have preferred the old raw and rugged looks), buyers will be better off paying that extra bit for the DTSi.

The DTSi's free-revving engine is a delight to ride. No wonder Bajaj has fitted rev-limiters to prevent damage to the engines from rev-hungry riders.

The new Pulsar is still a looker. Riding the DTSi amongst the informed bikers of Chennai proved quite a task, after being accosted at every turn.

Even if some of them missed the Pulsar's new styling, the echoing, deep-throated growl of the engine would give it away.

(Note: A comparison of the new Pulsar with other bikes in its class will be featured next week)

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