Journalists, like many other professionals that influence others’ opinions and thoughts, are supposed to be an unbiased lot. While reporting a story or writing a review, we are strictly forbidden from letting our personal biases cloud our judgment, for obvious reasons.
But hey, it is an imperfect world. As humans first, we all have favorites and personal opinions, right or wrong. Whether we let it creep in into our reporting or not is another matter. If you have already read my Benelli TNT 899 review before landing here, you might have noticed that I have a bit of a fondness for the Benelli marque. Maybe it is their underdog status currently, because who doesn’t love rooting for an underdog? Or maybe, it is because their products strike a chord deep within you, something that you can’t quite fathom but still manage to make you fall in love with them.
So, sod it, this is going to be a biased review. Because I’m really, really, rooting for this marque to succeed, and succeed well. That said, I will try to be as fair as possible and not airbrush the shortcomings of this bike we have here. Nor will I try to overhype any of the positive aspects of the bike, as far as I can.
Disclaimer done, let’s proceed.
Benelli was founded by six brothers of the same surname in Pesaro, Italy, in 1911, making it the oldest European motorcycle manufacturer. The firm started with repairing and producing spare parts for bicycles and motorcycles until they produced their first indigenous motorcycle in the midst of World War 1. Tonino Benelli, the youngest of the six brothers, took their proud homemade motorcycle to the racetrack and racked up a string of victories, effectively cementing the fledging firm’s reputation as a world-class manufacturer. Benelli was off to a solid start and its reputation off and on the track kept on growing over the next half century.
In the 1970s, the arrival of the new wave of Japanese motorcycles forced a lot of European motorcycles to shutter their doors as they couldn’t respond effectively to the threat. Benelli was no exception, and the once-illustrious name finally stopped production in 1988.
You can’t keep a good name down for long though, and Benelli was revived by the Merloni family in 1995. The firm’s first wave of new products, the Tornado Tre supersports bike and the original TNT streetfighter, were lauded for their bold design language, although glitchy fuel management and iffy electronics prevented them from achieving the same level of success they had enjoyed in their previous run.
Ultimately, things came to a pass and Benelli was acquired by the Qianjiang Group a few years ago. Under this new Chinese leadership, the firm rapidly diversified into smaller capacities and categories, from the BN 251 starter bike to the 50cc Pepe and Quattronovex scooters.
But for this small company, there was still the matter of reaching out to overseas markets. Benelli’s country-specific websites are a puzzling bunch, with different models being offered in different countries, depending on the market demands.
That’s where the DSK Group comes in. When Benelli started eyeing the burgeoning Indian market, they sought to tie up with the Indian conglomerate that successfully relaunched the Hyosung brand here, and thus DSK-Benelli was born.
From what they told us at the launch, Benelli is here in India for the long run. Although they displayed only five models, DSK-Benelli plans to eventually bring their entire lineup here, to be sold at new dealerships across India. These dealerships, of which DSK plans to open seven before the turn of the year, will co-exist with DSK’s existing Hyosung dealerships, and DSK believes that there is enough market for both without one cannibalizing the other. While the BN300i will be imported from China, the bigger four bikes will be shipped directly from Benelli’s factory in Pesaro, Italy, and assembled at DSK’s plant in Satara, on the outskirts of Pune.
So there we are. Let’s delve into the motorcycle we have at hand, the Benelli BN600i, with the ‘BN’ standing for ‘Benelli Naked.’ Curiously, DSK-Benelli’s correspondence and literature refer to it as just the 600i, but we are going to refer to it by what its stickering says, BN600i. That’s only fair, right?
Design and Features
The Benelli BN600i is an all-new machine from the ground up, and it shows in its design. Although it is as edgy as anything Adrian Morton has designed for Benelli, like the Tornado Tre and the TNT (Tornado Naked Tre, read its full review here), the BN600i has a whole new design language.
After seeing the Transformers-looking TNT, the design of the BN600i might strike some as a bit too tame, especially from the front. The twin-bulb headlights, with twin pilot lamps and tiny air scoops underneath, bulge outwards in a manner reminiscent of the Suzuki Inazuma or even our very own Yamaha Libero. Large faux scoops adorn both sides of the engine, obscuring part of the decomposable steel trestle frame and the cylinder heads. The large fuel tank rises quite high up and then dives down, meeting the well padded (more on that later) rider’s seat. The pillion gets handy splits grab rails, something not found in most streetbikes in its class.
Unlike the TNT’s bright red trestle steel frame, the BN600 comes with a black frame, and matt grey sub frame. The yellow Sachs swingarm is mounted off to the left, lending a nice exotic touch to the Benelli’s angular bodywork. The styling is carried over to the rear with a smashing pair of triangular underseat exhausts nestled snugly under the pillion seat. One small niggle though, the BN’s side stand sticks out just beneath the rider’s foot pegs, making it hard to access with your heel.
Instrumentation on the BN600i is dominated by a large analogue tachometer, with a small LCD console reading out speeds in both kilometres and miles. There’s also twin tripmeters and a clock that can be accessed by two pushers on the right side of the digital console. The BN600i also comes with the most stylish switchblade-style keys we’ve ever seen on a motorcycle, although their recessed position between the ‘bars and the fuel tank night be a bother for some.
Curiously enough, fit and finish on the BN600i is better than on the bigger TNT 899, especially for the switchgear and plastic panels. The entire bike is solidly built and feels like it can take a pounding on even our roads, which haven’t entirely been the case with some Italian machines we have experienced in the past.
Performance and Efficiency
Even more than the design, signs of the BN being an all-new machine is more apparent in its engine. Whereas earlier Benellis have stuck with an inline three-cylinder engine in various capacities, the BN sports a liquid-cooled 600cc DOHC, fuel-injected, four-cylinder engine with four valves per cylinder. It produces 83PS of peak power at 11,500 rpm and a maximum torque figure of 52 Nm at 10,500 rpm. Notice the small gap between the rpms where the BN gets its maximum torque and power and you already will have an idea of how flexible the engine should be in real world riding.
And it is. Power starts flowing in early right from the get-go, and the BN has a linear pull to it from standstill. It is not as ferociously fast as middleweight superbikes but the upside here is that the BN is supremely tractable in traffic and at low speeds. You can comfortably cruise around town at 2500-3000 rpm, with that sonorous burble from the inline four warning lesser mortals to make way for you when the roads open.
But it is around the 4500 rpm mark that the BN600 changes character and transforms into a bellowing, snorting bull. The fuel injection still has some kinks, so the Benelli has a tendency to catch you unawares when it kicks into its powerband. From there onwards though, the mapping appears smooth enough, and the BN will rev happily all the way to the redline without a hiccup. It is one of the characteristics that have made inline fours the universal layout for supersports bikes the world over. Going faster will require some working of the gearbox though, and the Benelli will reward you heaps if you can keep it on the boil.
Braking duties on the Benelli BN600i are handled by four piston radial calipers clamping down on twin floating Brembo 320mm discs upfront, with a double piston caliper on a 260mm dia disc at the rear. The brakes are sharp and progressive, offering good feel without overly intimidating the rider. Thanks to the centralized weight distribution, even hard braking won’t unsettle the BN and it stops without a fuss every time you depress the brake levers.
Although we didn’t get a chance to test the fuel efficiency of the BN600i accurately, we expect it to give an average of around 20kmpl going by the distance it took us to empty the tank completely. With a fuel tank capacity of 15 litres, the bike should be able to do just around 290 kilometres before needing a tank up.
Ride and Handling
The BN600i rides on beefy 50mm upside down forks upfront while the rear is managed by the aforementioned asymmetrically mounted aluminium swingarm. Unlike the high-spec Marzocchis on the TNT, these don’t offer much in the way of adjustability except for preload at the rear monoshock. Not that they need to; we found the suspension of the BN to be much comfortably damped than the ones on the sportier TNT. The front suspension has a travel range of 120mm while the rear has a slightly wider travel of 123mm.
It is a good handler too, this Benelli. Aided by 120/70-ZR17 and 180/55-ZR17 Pirelli Angel GT sport touring tyres at front and rear respectively, the BN600i lunges into corners and holds its line without further input from the rider. The ample knee recesses under the large tank provide enough room to grip the bike, which is a boon for shorter riders like me. Unlike many other naked bikes, I didn’t find myself hanging on for dear life using only my forearms and the balls of my feet on the BN600i.
It is still a pretty heavy machine though, tipping the scales at 208 kg, so low speed maneuvers aren’t as dignified as when it is going fast in long, sweeping corners.
On the comfort side, the Benelli is a mixed bag. While the seat is better padded than most motorcycles of its ilk, there’s something about it that makes your bum ache after about an hour of continuous riding. Maybe it is too broad, forcing your thighs to splay outwards at an awkward angle even with those knee recesses, or maybe it is the curvature of the seat, I honestly don’t know.
4 piston radially-mounted Brembo calipers on twin discs provide good braking upfront
The short ratio gearbox has been developed from the ground up and tuned for quick acceleration
Triangular twin underseat exhausts give the BN600i a posterior like no other street bike
Benelli has done away with their traditional inline triples and gone for an inline four mill for the BN600i
The headlight juts out in a manner reminiscent of the Suzuki Inazuma or the Yamaha Libero
The recessed key hole is sandwiched between the triple clamps and the fuel tank
Probably the most stylish key on a motorcycle ever
Ditto for the fuel cap lid
Rubber damped footpegs are rearset, but not overly so
The headlight assembly might seem a bit too simplistic, especially when seen in context with the rest of the stylish body panels
Instrumentation is minimalistic but everything is legible and well laid out
Not too many stickers to spoil the clean lines of this gorgeous machine
Switchgear quality is very high and upto par with their Japanese counterparts
Note the hazard lights switch
‘Dat logo tho’
Asymmetrically mounted monoshock is adjustable for preload only
The Benelli BN600i is as refined as any Japanese middle weight bike, and that’s high praise indeed
Pirelli Angel GT sport touring tyres, 120/70-ZR17 upfront and 180/55-ZR17 at the rear
Pointy indicators, pointy mirrors, pointy body panels… you get the point
The seat is well padded, but still can be a bit uncomfortable on long distances
The side stand can be a bit hard to access with your heel till you get the hang of it
Rear swingarm is made of aluminium alloy for weight saving
No toolbox? No toolbox
Beefy 50mm upside-down forks upfront are well-damped
Split grab-rails are a boon for the pillion rider
Since its rebirth just over a decade ago, Benelli has come a long way with its products. And none has come longer than the BN600i. It is a far-removed machine than the initial crop of offerings, and we mean that in the best way possible. There’s very little of the electronic and fueling glitches that has plagued Benelli’s initial run of middleweights here. The BN is a thoroughly refined machine than can hold its own against the best from the Far East or the UK.
Which brings us to the competition. Expect there isn’t many, really. There’s the Triumph Speed Triple with its slightly larger engine and more power, at INR 7.65 lakh. Then there’s the even bigger Kawasaki Z800 that retails for 8.05 lakh (bothex-showroom, Delhi).
The BN600i is probably the easiest Italian exotic to live with everyday. Like the full-blooded folks from the country it comes from, it can be temperamental at times, and will demand your full care and attention. But you can do that, it will reward you with oodles of fun and the happiness of possessing something that others can only covet. Wherever you take it, the Benelli BN600i will be the cynosure of all eyes, and the envy of your friends.
In this age of desensitized machines that efficiently but lifelessly go about their business, the Benelli BN600i stands apart for its ability to touch your primal being. It is a muse, a stunningly good-looking mistress, a characterful being with a living, throbbing heart and soul. You may not need, need it, but you know you definitely want it. And just for that alone, it gets our vote.
Photography: Chirag Mondal
|Engine type:||4 cylinders in line, 4-stroke, liquid cooled, 4 valves per cylinder DOHC|
|Bore x Stroke:||65 x 45.2 mm|
|Power:||83 PS @ 11500 rpm|
|Torque:||52 Nm @ 10500 rpm|
|Fuel Injection:||Delphi Electronic injection with four 38 mm throttle bodies|
|Frame:||Front steel trestle, rear aluminium alloy|
|Front Suspension:||50 mm upside-down forks|
|Front suspension Stroke:||120 mm|
|Rear Suspension:||Rear shock absorber with adjustable rebound and spring preload|
|Rear Suspension Stroke:||123 mm|
|Front Brake:||Twin floating discs ø320 mm with radial mounted 4 piston calipers|
|Rear Brake:||Single disc ø260 mm with twin piston caliper|
|Front wheel:||Aluminium alloy with Metzeler Sportec 120/70-ZR17 58W|
|Rear wheel:||Aluminium alloy with Metzeler Sportec 180/55-ZR17 73W|
|Overall Dimensions:||2160 x 800 x 1180 mm|
|Seat Height:||800 mm|
|Wet Weight (without fuel):||208 kg|