It’s been six years since the Impulse was launched. The package seemed promising to those looking for a dual sport machine while others looked at it with utter disbelief. Unfortunately, the latter were in larger numbers, and for the same reason, Hero pulled the plug on it about two years back. The Hero Impulse was simply ahead of its time and many failed to recognize its traits, until recently. Yes, the Impulse is a big hit in the used bikes market. Well, the time is ripe for dual sports and if you have been on the lookout for purpose-built machine and found the Himalayan to be too heavy and expensive, Hero now has a choice for you. Yes, after waiting for almost half a decade, Hero has launched the XPulse; a genuine upgrade to the Impulse in not one but two variants, one caters to the off-road enthusiasts while the other built for covering long distances over bad roads. But has it been worth the wait?
Under the skin
For those living under a rock, the XPulse shares most of its underpinnings with the noble Xtreme 200 R that was launched last year. The old-school diamond frame houses the same air-cooled 199.6cc motor that with a not-so-stressed compression ratio of 10:1. With an output of 18bhp @ 8000rpm and 17.1Nm @ 6500rpm, the figures sound dismal when you consider that the RTR 160 4V makes almost the same amount of power despite having about 40 fewer cee cees. But keep in mind, this is not a performance-oriented machine and is been developed to commute around the city on weekdays and hit the trails on weekends. The Xpulse 200 is offered with both FI and carburettor, while the affordable 200T gets only a carburettor as an option.
Let’s focus on the flagship Xpulse for now. What impresses the most is its suspension setup. With long travel forks sourced from Endurance, you know the Xpulse clearly means business when you set your eyes on it. With 190mm of travel at the front, the 37mm forks are reinforced with double DU bushes, while you get a 10-step adjustable monoshock at the rear. Handguards come as standard and the pegs get removable rubber mounts as well. The 21-inch spoke rims at the front are shod with Ceat Gripp XL knobby tyres, while at the rear gets an 18-incher. Even the grabrails feel solid and functional, with in-built bungee hooks. A lot of inputs have come in from Hero MotoSports and their R and D team also brought in CS Santosh during the development of the bike. The resulting product clearly shows the way the Xpulse has been built.
It doesn’t skimp on features too. You get a full LCD cluster with Bluetooth integration that allows for turn-by-turn navigation and call alerts. You simply need to download the My Hero app on your Android or iOS device to get going. A full-led headlamp is standard too and although we couldn’t test its capabilities at night, it gave us clear visibility on the highways, as well as made other commuters aware of our presence.
The Xpulse 200 T, on the other hand, is the more road-biased variant. It comes in as a budget option and thus gets a lower seat, no fuel injection, skimps out on the off-road goodies. But it does look good in the flesh.
How does it all come together?
The engine is the weakest link in the Xpulse’s package. It lacks outright low-down grunt and we failed to climb a few hillocks at the Bigrock Dirtpark even in the second cog. Get below 2500rpm and it simply gives up. If you want to eke out the maximum, you ought to be above 4000rpm. The mid-range is strong and the bike pulls cleanly till 8000rpm. Of course, the engine shows signs of stress via vibes sent through the handlebars and pegs but nothing that you can’t live with. What it lacks is the torquey nature of the Himalayan’s big-bore motor that has spoilt us to the core. But you must not discount the capacity which stands at half the RE’s and the price, which is lower by Rs 75,000. What helps the Xpulse’s case is its kerb weight of 154kg. It cruises at 100kmph in fifth at 7000rpm and can hit a top speed of 124kmph before the limiter kicks in. Expect things to get better though, as the bikes we tested had not been run-in.
The mass is precisely distributed in the correct places, and thus the Xpulse feels extremely well-balanced. Be it over trails or even on the roads, it’s very nimble, and you can push it into corners without any effort. It even sticks to the line especially off-road where the brilliant Ceats really come into their own. The grip is sufficient and builds a lot of confidence when you are riding off-road. The handlebar is slightly low and the pegs are positioned slightly high, making it not so easy to stand up and ride, but again the weight balance keeps things effortless. Ride quality is superb over not just bad roads but even over trails. The Xpulse keeps things comfortable at all times, egging you on to push harder. The brakes are brilliant and you can have fun sliding it around thanks to the relatively unintrusive single-channel ABS. This dynamic makes the XPulse a good mix of both road and trail riding. Lastly, having a bash plate made of heavy-duty metal simply adds to peace of mind.
T for Touring?
The T gets a different final drive as aforementioned and doesn’t come as a very promising option, especially when you take it T for Touring. The engine feels extremely stressed after 6000rpm and barely manages to hit 100kmph. Hero has traded top-end performance for added grunt at low revs, but that hasn’t helped the case at all. The fuelling too is all over the place, and the T takes in about half a second to get going after you gas it, especially after 6000rpm. After riding the XPulse, the 200 T feels like an afterthought and simply fails to live up to the T badge.
Hit or miss?
The XPulse 200 has been clearly worth the wait. It has the old-world charm of a dual-sport with lots of mechanical feel. It even looks indestructible and seems to be in it for the long run. The engine may be lacking low-down grunt, but the power delivery isn’t intimidating at all, just like how it should be for beginners. You may not be able to slide it around, but it’s a great start and we know that the engines powering its Hero machines are no more derived from KTM. If Hero brings in a higher capacity engine in the future, the XPulse will be a perfect stepping stone. Remember, the XPulse is still not BS-VI compliant, so it will come with an update in as soon as the next 9-10 months. The asking price at Rs 1.05 lakh, is still great and knowing Hero’s presence in the country, potential buyers will have the added benefit of a strong after sales network as well.
The T variant, on the other hand, is only meant for those looking for an alternative to the Xtreme 200 R. of course, the good looks add a lot of brownie points as well. But if you want to get into the XPulse family, the XPulse FI is the one you should be putting your hard-earned money on!