Thunder is coming.
I’m standing at the Worli Sea Face, a vast promenade filled with families and lovers and their vehicles parked alongside, all enjoying a brief respite from the perennial Mumbai showers. I get up on my bike and press the starter. Another thunder, this time, man made. Everyone cranes their necks. Moments ago, a Harley Davidson 883 Iron had puttered to a stop and not half as many necks had craned to see the source of this racket as they’re doing now. Westeros would be proud.
This is the defining essence of the Benelli. This raw, throaty roar that tricks everyone into believing that you have a mightier package between your legs than you really do. It’s a 300cc parallel twin with the attitude normally reserved for 1000cc inline fours. If you want the best sounding small capacity bike in India, this is it. Everything else is secondary.
But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s begin where we ought to, at the beginning.
Images: Chirag Mondal
Design and Features
The world would be a less beautiful place if it weren’t for the Italians. Right from the time of Renaissance up to now, they have been among the leaders not just in art and culture, but have extended their craft to fashion, architecture, and a whole lot more. This obsession with design and style is evident in their vehicles too, from super and hypercars all the way down to hot hatches and super scooters. They’re the connoisseurs.
The Benelli TNT300 comes from that same book. Well, maybe not the same page as its elder siblings like the Transformers-like TNT899 and 1130 or even the TNT600, but certainly the same chapter. It is stylish without being overtly so, and good-looking albeit not stunningly so.
At the front the teardrop headlamp is pretty akin to what we have seen on the TNT600i. The small back wind deflector above it houses the instrumentation, consisting of a large analogue tachometer flanked by digital speedometer and telltale lights at both sides. It is legible and bold, and looks even better after dark with its blue back-lighting.
The brushed aluminum handlebar sits on risers, giving the TNT a slightly crouched but still commuter-ish stance comfortable for long rides. Wide knee recesses in the sculpted fuel tank makes for a comfortable riding posture, whether you are a six-footer or of a rather diminutive stature. Pillion riders will also appreciate the handy two-piece grab rails at the rear.
In terms of features, the smallest of the Benelli offering in India offers quite a lot: beefy 41mm upside down front forks, asymmetrically mounted swingarm, twin petal discs upfront, fat tyres at both ends, and generous lashings of faux carbon fibre and brushed aluminum throughout. The only sore thumb in the TNT300’s package is the lack of ABS, even as an option.
Unlike most of the bigger TNTs, the 300 comes from Benelli’s factory in China, and not from the main plant in Pesaro, Italy. This might be a downer for the purist who is hoping for the real Italian deal when he plonks down his hard-earned cash for what will, invariably, be his first over-250cc international machine. But we can report that the shoddy build quality that is the most pressing concern when going for a China-built product is, thankfully, not that evident on the Benelli. Unlike some other examples we have seen in the past, there are no cheap weld lines, no rickety plastic whatsoever, and the TNT300 feels like it can take the pounding that the Indian roads are going to mete out to it inevitably.
Performance and Efficiency
Powering the TNT300 is a 300cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC, in-line twin engine that churns out a peak horsepower of 38.26 bhp at 11,500rpm and a max torque figure of 26.5 Nm at 10,000 rpm. Those figures might have been eye-popping just a few years back, but we are entering the golden era of affordable performance machines in this country today, and the TNT300, while not underpowered in the least, isn’t exactly a screaming monster for its displacement either.
Fire her up and she comes to life with a rorty shriek, settling down soon to that smooth bass-heavy thrum that we just can’t get enough of. Shift the one down-five up gearbox into first, prod it with a flick of the wrist, and she takes off with alacrity. Although you will comfortably be cruising past other motorcycles on the road and slow moving four wheelers, this is a motor that needs to be revved to get the best out of it. And while the well-spaced gearing and tractable engine means that you can comfortably potter around town at 35km/h in top gear, there isn’t much happening below 7000rpm. Not that you would know it though; thanks to that eargasmic exhaust note, it will actually make you feel that you are moving much faster than you are.
But then, get above the 7000rpm mark and the TNT300 starts pulling harder and harder, almost taking you by surprise with its top end punch. The growl from the underbelly exhaust and the windblast from over the headlight meld into one raucous cacophony of speed and sound, forcing you to tuck in further for better aerodynamics as you keep on pushing the rev-happy engine. Bring the heavy lever-actuated clutch in, short shift up the gears, and she will keep on going all the way to a top speed of over 160 km/h given enough road. This is one revvy Italian machine. And as you approach that rev range, you will also start to feel the first hints of vibrations from the ‘bars, but the rest of the engine and bodywork (including the footpegs) are very well damped and will not bother you no matter what.
The Benelli TNT300 comes with a 16-litre tank that will give you roughly 28-29 km/l, which is decent, considering that it is a parallel-twin motorcycle that tips the scales at 185 kg, dry.
Image Gallery with Captions
Twin-piston calipers biting down on 260mm petal discs offer all the braking power you will need, and more
Relaxed ergonomics make cruising and commuting on the TNT300 a breeze…
… but she can hustle when needed
Large analog tachometer and digital everything else is now de rigeur for almost all modern bikes
If you can, we highly suggest you opt for the fatter and grippier Pirellis over the MRF tyres
Italian design flair extends even to the engine and gearbox
No 300-cc twin pot has any business sounding this good
The assymetrically-mounted swingarm is adjustable for preload
Now there’s a badge you don’t see too often
Neither will you find that switchblade-style key in most bikers’ hands
Fit and finish are up to the mark, no trademark Chinese half-hearted jobs here
Ride and Handling
Suspension duties on the Benelli TNT300 are handled by 41mm upside-down forks upfront and a directly-mounted monoshock at the rear. The former is unadjustable, while the latter is adjustable for preload only. Considering what they are potentially capable of, we would have loved more adjustability options at both ends, but this setup works just fine on the 300.
The tall one-piece handlebars and relaxed steering geometry means that this is not the most agile of bikes to flick into corners, a fact that is further compounded by its relatively heavy 185 kg dry weight.
DSK is giving buyers the option of going with MRF or Pirelli Angel tyres, and our test unit came with the latter. They are 10mm wider than their MRF counterparts at both ends, coming in at 120/70-17 upfront and 160/60-17 at the rear. If you are planning to do any sort of hard riding and cornering on the TNT300, we suggest you pony up the Rs 10,000 premium that the Pirellis will cost you. These set of road sport touring tyres endow the bike with excellent grip in both dry and wet surfaces, and while you will not be cutting through corners as suavely as, say, on an RC390, their superior road handling and better grip will surely suffice for all but the most hardcore of track fiends. Turn-ins take a bit of pressure on the tall inside ‘bars, but, once leaned over onto its side, the Benelli holds its line with poise and stability. The contoured knee recesses make it easy to grip onto the bike with your outside thigh, while the tall and slightly rearset footpegs are perfectly positioned for the balls of your toes. And if you are carrying too much speed, or spot something in your oncoming direction, correcting lines mid-corner is also a breeze.
With its factory setting, with the rear monoshock set to hardest for preload, and the unadjustable 41mm front forks upfront, the Benelli rides rather firmly, especially on our less than well-paved surfaces. Turning down the preload at the rear three notches down improves the ride quality by a fair bit, but the TNT still isn’t what you’d call a pliant bike. We reckon it won’t be a bother for most city riders and weekend warriors, but those thinking of going off the beaten path on the TNT might consider adjusting the rear suspension beforehand and investing in a gel-padded touring seat.
DSK Benelli is selling the TNT300 for an MSRP of Rs 2.83 lakhs (ex-showroom, Mumbai). For that money, what you get is a stylish, fast, and reasonably fun Italian belle that will be the cynosure of all eyes wherever you park. And that is its biggest selling point; the ability to draw eyeballs as no other small capacity bike sold in India.
But then there’s the competition which is heating up by the day in the country in the TNT300’s segment. Leading the strong charge against the Benelli is the peerless KTM 390 Duke, priced at a gobsmacking 2.2 lakh by virtue of it being manufactured right here in the country as opposed to China or Italy. For the person graduating from the crop of Karizmas and Pulsars, and even CBR250Rs, it offers more bang for your money, more performance, a better engine, and better dynamics on the move. Although its single cylinder engine doesn’t sound half as good as the Benelli’s inline twin. That and the fact that it has become as ubiquitous as the proverbial Pulsar was a few years back. And if you are looking for that distinctive stand out feel, you aren’t going to get it with the KTM, despite the fact that it is a stellar machine on all counts.
What the Benelli has going for it in spades is the style, the attitude, and flair. Granted, these aren’t the most quantifiable things in motorcycling parlance but then again, the Italians are weird like that, and they’re all the better for it.
|Engine Displacement||300 CC|
|Engine Type||Liquid cooled, 4 stroke|
|Number Of Cylinders||2|
|Valves Per Cylinder||4|
|Max Power||38.3 PS @11500 rpm|
|Max Torque||26.5 Nm @10000 rpm|
|Bore x Stroke||65.0 x 42.5 mm|
|Number Of Speed Gears||6|
|Final Drive (Rear Wheel)||Chain|
|WHEELS & TYRES:|
|Front Tyre (Full Spec)||120/70 – 17 (P), 110/70 – 17 (M)|
|Rear Tyre (Full Spec)||160/60 – 17 (P), 150/60 – 17 (M)|
|Front Brake Type||260 mm Double Disc|
|Rear Brake Type||240 mm Disc|
|Suspension Front||Inverted front telescopic forks|
|Suspension Rear||Hydraulic Monoshock absorber|
|Overall Length||2130 mm|
|Overall Width||800 mm|
|Overall Height||1120 mm|
|Ground Clearance||160 mm|
|Kerb Weight||196 kg|
|Fuel Capacity||16 Litres|