2017 Kawasaki Z650: Road Test Review
- Apr 25, 2017
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Back in 1911, far away in Italy’s coastal city of Pesaro, Teresa Benelli took a decision which Indian motorcycle enthusiasts are thankful for today. After her husband passed away, Teresa invested her entire fortune to establish Benelli, one of Europe’s oldest surviving motorcycle brand. A company which has churned out legendary models like the Benelli Monalbero Sport race bike, Benelli 500 Turismo, light weight Beneli Leoncino and the popular Benelli Tornado, to name a few.
And it is the latest chapter in the century old legacy, which is still exciting for us bike lovers. The Italian brand (well, Chinese-owned now) is launching a wide range of its bikes in India. And in the DSK-Benelli India joint venture, the bikes come with a promise to be very “aggressively priced”. Drooling already, we saw it only appropriate to take one of its most promising models – the Benelli TNT 600 i (also known as Benelli BN 600 in some countries) for a quick spin on the hilly roads of Pune – the company’s home in India.
In India, the Italian 600 will compete with the likes of Kawasaki ER-6n and the Triumph Street Triple, and the Benelli seems to be well armed for the battle. Like most Italian designs, the Benelli TNT 600 i looks sensational. Its intricate detailing, proportionate body and the kind of attention given to even the nut-and-bolt design will make the fondness grow many folds.
The V-shaped headlight is vertically split and is really well executed, and along with the sharply designed bikini fairing, tapered rear view mirrors and sleek turn indicators give the Benelli TNT 600 i an aggressive face. The well chiselled fuel tank along with the edgy extensions gives the 600cc bike the desired brawn. It’s just the Benelli emblem sticker which could have been better executed. In fact, the one on our test bike’s front fairing was slightly off-centre.
But that’s purely nit-picking. The Benelli’s well designed fuel filler lid, footrests, side stand and its thick handlebar are impeccably finished and I don’t think pictures can do justice to the effort put in. Another big drawing card is the fine looking four-into-two under-seat exhausts. The exhaust tips in combination with the narrowing split grabrails and petite LED tail lights give the rear design of the Benelli quite a unique character. The 600 i has hints of Benelli TNT 1130, while the detailing and quality is pretty high for the segment.
Features and Ergonomics: rating_3.5_rating
Being a naked street fighter Benelli TNT 600 i flaunts the bare engine and trellis frame which are vital parts of the bike’s styling. This gives the bike a great combination of rigidity along with light weight benefits. The delish four exhaust pipes jutting from the bare motor comes equipped with individual oxygen sensors and a pair of catalytic converters which help the Benelli remain very clean at the exhaust tip. Moreover, the underseat exhaust is well insulated and the heat is never felt by the pillion.
The bike’s trendy key swishes open like a folding knife, while the ignition is located in a cavity on the tank. It has a basic instrument cluster with an analogue tachometer and digital readout with speedo, trip meter, fuel gauge and clock. On the extreme left of the cluster is a bunch of indicators for neutral, turn indicators, highbeam etc.
Large split seats look smart and are comfortable for the rider and pillion, plus there’s a small storage under the rear seat. At 800mm, the rider’s saddle height is perfect for an average built Indian. While the low seat, carved out tank and footpeg geometry makes reaching the wide handle bar into a comfortable riding position. The 15-litre tank has prominent knee-recess made of flexible plastic which provide excellent grip. At 208 kg, the Benelli isn’t actually light and the weight feels slightly front biased but never seems too unwieldy.
Engine and performance: rating_4.0_rating
The 600ccc inline four is a refined motor, capable of 83PS power at 11,500rpm and a modest 52Nm of torque which develops at a surprisingly high 10,500rpm. Bore and stroke is 65.0mm by 45.2mm, while compression ratio is a reasonable 11.5:1. The Benelli TNT 600 i features wet sump lubrication, wet clutch and a smooth shifting 6-speed gearbox. The clutch feels progressive, though clutch action is on the firmer side.
It is a mean sounding machine even with the standard exhaust, which has become a rare breed to find nowadays. The motor is very flexible and can do low speeds even in higher gears which make it convenient to use even in city traffic. Twist the throttle and it always responds smoothly, and pulls seamlessly without knocking from as low as 2,000rpm even in sixth gear. The Benelli also dispenses engine heat quite well and it remains in the early 90-degree Celsius range even in bumper to bumper city traffic.
It’s a free revving motor that can effortlessly touch redline in every gear. The TNT 600 i is the most fun to ride on the highway with the tacho needle playing between 7,000-9,000rpm mark. Even on short straight, the bike has enough ammo to rocket beyond 120kmph. Tall lower gears and shorter top gear make most of the available torque, and offer strong mid-range and a top whack of over 200kmph which it doesn’t take long to reach.
Ride and handling: rating_4.0_rating
The Benelli TNT 600 i has its motor bolted to the steel trellis frame and a cast aluminium swingarm, giving the street fighter a great combination of high torsion rigidity along with light weight benefits. Upfront it gets stocky 50mm upside-down forks and an adjustable mono shock on the rear side. This combination gives the TNT 600 i the desired, mild front biased weight distribution.
The Benelli TNT 600 i feels pretty accurate and neutral in terms of handling. The extra weight does need a little more effort to get the right lean, making the 600 feel less agile than some of its rivals. With its reassuring demeanour, feedback and smooth power delivery, the Benelli is pleasantly predictable to ride. You know what she’s doing and you’re always in control.
The low saddle height and longish wheelbase of 1,480mm gives enough room and comfort to the rider and pillion. The Benelli TNT 600 i feels extremely well sprung and has a rich ride quality. Even with a companion on the back seat, she doesn’t feel unstable speeding through a corner, yet remains pliant enough to overcome bad patches of road. And during hard solo riding, the Benelli remains stable and composed, thanks to its excellent suspension components.
Braking and Price: rating_3.5_rating
Twin 320mm floating disc with radial mounted 4-piston calliper perform duty on the front and comes with a single 260mm disc with twin piston calliper at the back. What catches the eye is the neatly embossed Benelli on the callipers. Unfortunately, as of now the bike doesn’t come with ABS option, which is mighty disappointing. Moreover, the brakes feel spongy and there wasn’t sufficient feedback from the brakes of our test bike.
Having a set of Pirelli tyres on your side is always a good idea, and the Benelli TNT 600 i comes shod 120/70-ZR17 rubber on front wheels and reasonably fat 180/55-ZR17 at the back. The tyres have the right grip and even under heavy braking the bike remains in control, boosting rider confidence.
Technically, DSK Benelli India is yet to officially launch the bike in India. Yes they have been unveiled and we know the bikes will be imported and assembled in India, but the company hasn’t revealed the price as yet. Considering competition like the Kawasaki ER-6n which is priced under Rs 5 lakh, our guess is that even the Benelli TNT 600 i should be priced likewise, if not cheaper.
As an overall package, the Benelli TNT 600 i is a great motorcycle for regular riding to office and back and yet is equally competent if you plan to take on a longer, more challenging ride. It should be competitively priced, has quality parts and has a fantastic built.
Meanwhile DSK MotoWheels is sprucing up its dealer network in India and aims to convert a few primely located Hyusong showrooms to premium Benelli outlets and open altogether new ones for the Italian marque as well. An army of service engineers have been sent to Italy for training so that Indian Benelli buyers don’t get a chance to complain. As enthusiasts in the world’s second largest two-wheeler market, we hope DSK Benelli is able to deliver what they are capable of.