20180513

Driven #35: 2018 Bajaj Avenger 180

Variant Tested: 180 Street


Did you know that the Bajaj Avenger, in it's current form, has been around since 1985? Yes, that's when this cruiser made it's debut originally as the Kawasaki Eliminator. Bajaj's tie-up with the Japanese brand saw this classic cruiser being launched in 2001 as the first-of-its-kind in India. When the two brands parted ways, Bajaj decided to go on its own, replaced the 175cc Kawasaki engine with the 180cc engine from the Pulsar, decided on a new name and voila, the Avenger was born in 2005!


Since then, Bajaj kept fiddling with the Avenger series - often changing the engine capacities - to keep it relevant in the market. The latest one, though, is the most comprehensive update the Avenger ever received. The erstwhile base variant, the 150 Street, has been discontinued and in its place comes the 180 Street with the - you guessed it right - engine borrowed from the Pulsar 180. 

Priced at INR 95,050 on-road Chennai, the Avenger 180 Street is the most affordable cruiser you can lay your hands on in India. We really had to take it out for a spin then and that's exactly what we did!

Design & Styling

Cruisers are an unique breed of motorcycles where retro styling cues are still respected and evolution, rather than revolution, is the norm. That explains why the Avenger, despite being designed way back in the eighties, still looks pretty good. With the recent update, Bajaj has given the Avenger series a new lease of life.


For starters, the Avenger gets a bold new insignia that sits proudly on either side of the teardrop-shaped fuel tank. The 'skull-shaped' headlight is new as well and incorporates an LED Daytime Running Light. While the 220 Street also shares the same headlight, the 220 Cruise gets a different one with an additional DRL. A redesigned cowl and a pair of big, circular clear lens indicators complete the changes in front. The classic silhouette, with it's pushed-forward front forks, hunkered down stance and the 1,480 mm long wheelbase, gives the Avenger a bonafide cruiser look that's instantly likeable. Changes at the rear are restricted to the taillight and the pillion back rest. It's true that Suzuki's Intruder 150 has a new take on how a modern cruiser should look like but you really can't go wrong with the Avenger's design, can you? 


Unlike traditional cruisers that get dollops of chrome all around, the Avenger 180 Street (and it's bigger 220 sibling) gets an all-black theme. While at it, Bajaj could have gone a step ahead and painted the fasteners and the brushed silver bits like the clutch and brake levers, brake pedal and rear fender inserts black as well. That would have ensured uniformity whilst also giving the bike a more stealthy appearance.


Another unique thing that the two Street siblings share is a flatter handlebar that isn't pushed as far back as a traditional cruiser, giving these bikes a sporty touch for the urban environs they're intended to do duty in.

Instrument Cluster & Switch Gear

This variant of the Avenger, as mentioned earlier, is the cheapest cruiser on sale in the country and nowhere is it more evident than the bike's instrument console. At a time when even some mundane scooters and commuter motorcycles get comprehensive digital consoles, the Avenger 180 makes do without one. At least, the 220 variants get a better digital console, it seems.


Coming back to the 180 variant featured here, the single pod chrome unit gets an analogue speedometer with a digital readout for the odo and trip readings. Sadly, there's no tachometer. In what's clearly inspired by popular global cruisers, a separate unit on the fuel tank features tell-tale lights and the fuel gauge. It looks good, yes, but you'll have to take your eyes off the road to look at them. So, in that sense, they aren't a practical solution.

The switch gear is another disappointment. Their quality, fit and finish are acceptable, no doubt, but to think my 2006 Pulsar 150 had the same switches on it is not pleasing. They're not even back-lit like the ones on the Pulsar. Thankfully, they do their job well and leave no room to complain.

Engine & Transmission

The biggest change in the Avenger 180 is it's change of heart. Powered by the 178.6 cc air-cooled 'DTS-i' engine from the Pulsar 180, the entry-level Avenger variant delivers 15.3 horsepower at 8,500 rpm and a peak torque of 13.7 Nm at 6,500 rpm. While that's a welcome increase from the outgoing 150 Street, the engine is clearly detuned compared to the Pulsar to ensure it suits the Avenger's role as a relaxed cruiser.


It's evident the moment you turn the engine on. Refinement is significantly better than the Pulsar 180 on which it's based on and vibrations are kept in check as well. The Avenger 180 Street gains speed in a linear fashion with no drop or surge in power delivery as you move through the rev band. Top end is not its strong point and the engine loses steam after you hit it's sweet spot between 85 - 95 km/h. At those speeds, the Avenger 180 would cruise all day long without complaining. Stretching it beyond that and the bike struggles to gain momentum with vibrations getting a bit harsh too.


The 5-speed gearbox is effortless to use on most occasions and follows the universal 1-down, 4-up pattern. Together with the light clutch, the Avenger 180 Street is tailor-made for a stress-free ride, be it within the city or out on the highway. At times though, it was a pain shifting down to first from second and to engage neutral with the unit getting suddenly clunky in trying to do what it was asked to do. 

Ride & Handling

One of the best aspects of riding a cruiser is the comfy saddle you're perched on and the Avenger 180 Street didn't disappoint. The seat is wide, curvy and can accommodate even a plus-sized adult in reasonable comfort. Combined with the flat handlebar, the 180 Street lets you settle down in a comfortable riding posture that isn't as relaxed as you would expect in a proper cruiser but, crucially, isn't as tiring as a commuter too. It's somewhere in between.


Equipped with telescopic forks up front and twin shock absorbers at the rear, the Avenger 180 Street is devoid of advanced mono-shocks that the Suzuki Intruder 150 has or Bajaj's own tried-and-tested 'Nitrox' gas-filled shocks. But don't let that fool you. Despite an underlying firmness, the bike rides well and soaks up road irregularities with ease. Impressively, the ride quality stays supple even when speeds build up.


Cruisers are meant to munch miles on open roads and, as such, nobody buys them for corner-craving. Still, the Avenger is a good handler that feels quite at home cutting corners and zipping through traffic as it does cruising. Keep it within it's limits and the bike is a joy to ride. Shod with 17-inch tires at the front and 15-inch at the rear - both Eurogrips from TVS - the Avenger is stable and grippy enough for the daily urban grind and the occasional highway jaunts.  


Braking is adequate with the Avenger 180's 260 mm disc at the front endowing it with good stopping abilities. The rear wheel is aided by a 130 mm drum to shed speed. Unlike it's rival from Suzuki, Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) is not even an option. It's a shame as that would have made the Avenger a more complete cruiser even if it costs a few thousands more.

Verdict


All said and done, the Avenger is based on a platform that's more than two decades old. While the age is clearly evident in many areas, the fact that the base 180 Street variant is still competent enough to handle contemporary rivals is to Bajaj's credit. At the price in which it retails, the Avenger is terrific value for money. Until an all-new version comes up in a few years, this updated entry-level cruiser should keep the bean counters ringing for Bajaj.

Photography: Bharath Rengaraj
Content & Editing: Aravind Ramesh

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