Benelli BN600i India first ride review
The Benelli BN600i is an interesting creature. It was created sometime after the Chinese owners took over the Italian brand. It is a platform by design, so while the 600i is a naked motorcycle, the 600GT, for instance, is the same platform but fashioned as a touring motorcycle with hard luggage and what have you. What I also found intriguing is how different the Benelli 600i felt to ride compared to the TNT 899, which we also rode on the same day. But we are getting ahead of ourselves, let's begin at the beginning.
What is the 600i?
The BN600i takes some Benelli design cues like the exaggerated tank extensions but is in nature and design an approachable, mid-weight street naked
The 600i is a basic naked motorcycle in design. It houses a 600cc inline four cylinder engine in a brand new chassis. The engine makes 82PS at 11,500rpm and 52Nm of torque at 10,000rpm. The chassis is formed with a half-trellis that connects the headstock to a substantial alloy pivot plate and the rear wheel sits in a hefty aluminium swingarm. The front forks are fat 50mm upside downs and the monoshock at the rear is preload adjustable.
This instrument cluster seems to be in use in many models at Benelli. On the flip side, it might look a bit dated but it's clear, easy to read and therefore extremely functional
This is where we would have liked more pizzazz, the bikini fairing of the BN is distinctly less aggressive than the rest of the design and it reminds you of a score of Indian 150s that wear similar units
On top of this foundation is a pretty large swathe of bodywork including the forward tank extensions that appear to be a Benelli design feature across models. Benelli employs a split seat and the exhaust is mounted under the tail unit and the stock units have a pretty and distinctive flattened oval-ish shape that is distinctly different from any other bike.
That's the view we all love, right? The big deal about the BN600i and its platform siblings is the prospect of an affordable four cylinder motorcycle
What's it like to ride?
I enjoyed it, overall but it isn't perfect. When you start it up and ride it about, the first thing you will notice is the strong engine note. It's a proper inline-four that we Indians tend to automatically gravitate towards. As the revs climb, the noise only gets louder and raspier so if you get one, you'll most certainly get a lovely-sounding motorcycle.
Alan really enjoyed cornering the BN. Absorbent suspension means bumpy corners aren't troublesome and the suspension isn't soft enough to cause wallow either. Nicely done
The riding can be slightly better. The 600 needs a lot of throttle twisting to make torque at lower revs and then after a point, very little throttle rotation produces a significant amount of power. As an owner, you'll probably grow used to this nature but if you're hopping between motorcycles - like we are - then the 600i is not a motorcycle you wield instantly.
It's a neat rear-end but you can see the difference between the Italian flair in the TNT and the more cost-conscious design on the BN
The BN feels calm to ride but with 80-odd PS available, it isn't slow. But whether you're going slow or fast, the noise the four cylinder engine makes is loud and likeable
Once you get used to it, though, the 600i comes into its own. Because the big throttle openings with small doses of power at the rear wheel produce a very calm but quick motorcycle for in-traffic riding while out on the highway, you simply won't notice the non-progressive throttle.
The chassis spec is good with dual front discs, radially mounted callipers and upside down forks
Our motorcycle's biggest flaw was in the brakes. It could just be our unit - we will get a properly India-built 600 shortly - but this is 320mm dual disc setup that needs a surprising amount of force to start deceleration. Perhaps it's just badly bedded-in pads.
Sort of like the Ninja 650, the BN600i also uses side mounted monoshock rear suspension. Note beefy swingarm as well as pivot plate
But again, these are spec-bikes that will go into homologation and the Indian models will differ slightly so these are - for the moment - minor concerns. The final spec may have a bunch of small engine map tweaks to meet our norms.
Overall though, I liked the BN600i's nature. It's pretty fast when you rev it all the way up and nearing redline, it not only feels fast, but sounds terrific too. I really enjoyed the ride quality which makes mincemeat of indifferent road surfaces while the handling feels a little heavy in nature but otherwise secure and responsive as well.
The questions that remain
The BN sits you in a forward leaned crouch that feels completely natural and isn't hard to stay in even for longer rides. We didn't try it on our short ride but we believe the pillion pad will also prove useable
As usual, the remaining questions are about the price, dealerships and reliability. DSK Benelli have officially made clear their intention to put Benellis into local assembly to keep prices low and we expect the 600i and its brothers to come to India as CKD modules assembled by DSK at the plant near Pune. This means prices should fall in the Rs 5-7 lakh range. This is par for the course if you look at the Kawasaki Ninja 650 but the BN600 brings two more cylinders and roughly 10 more PS to the playing field. DSK Benelli intend to open sales in December 2014 with seven dealerships open at that point.
The final question is whether or not the bikes will be reliable. Well, that only time will tell. Are they unreliable? No. But if you search the forums online for Benelli models and information, you'll quickly realise that the Benellis did have a reputation for niggling gremlins so this is an area that we will keep an eye on.
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