Benelli Imperiale 400 Review
We recently spent a decent amount of time on the BS6-compliant Imperiale 400’s saddle, to tell you what the modern-classic motorcycle is all about.
We Indians have always loved the idea of modern-classic motorcycles. It is evident from the success of the Royal Enfield Classic 350 over the years and the resurrection of Jawa Motorcycles. So, drawn in by the alluring prospect of the segment, Benelli launched the Imperiale 400 in India last year. In its BS4 form, the motorcycle went on to be one of the highest-selling Benelli in India.
And unquestionably, it was then launched as Benelli’s first BS6 offering in the country earlier this year. We recently spent a decent amount of time on the BS6-compliant Imperiale 400’s saddle, to tell you what the modern-classic motorcycle is all about.
Now, there isn’t any change to the design or styling of the Imperiale 400. It gets a round headlamp and turn indicators, a sufficient amount of chrome, wire-spoke wheels, and a long, peashooter exhaust- all signs of a perfectly styled modern-classic. The Imperiale also looks brawny. In fact, it is longer and wider than both the Classic 350 and the Jawa.
However, it is the Benelli Imperiale 400’s build quality that makes it special. The paint gets a top-notch metallic flake finish, and this red colour option also offers red stitching on the seats. Even the plastic around the switchgear is built to last and the switchgear itself feels nice and tactile to use. Overall, the Benelli’s fit and finish is impeccable throughout and we found nothing to point a finger at.
Staying true to its retro character, the BS6-compliant Imperiale 400 isn’t high on features, just like the BS4 version. So, you are offered with conventional lighting for the headlamp, tail lamp and turn signals, dual-channel ABS, a hazard lamp, and a twin-pod instrument cluster.
Now, these white back-lit units are essentially analogue; one displaying the speed and the other a tachometer along with tell-tale lights. But the unit also features two LCDs that show time, odometer, fuel gauge, gear position, and two trip meters.
Most motorcycles from the ‘70s and ‘80s offered an upright and broad-chested riding posture and the Benelli Imperiale 400 evokes the same feeling as a result of its wide, slightly-pulled back handlebars and neutrally-set foot pegs. To perfect the riding ergonomics, Benelli has fitted the Imperiale’s peanut-shaped tank with a tank grip that feels natural to dig your knees into.
The Imperiale’s seat has a firm, but comfortable cushioning at both ends with the rider seat sprung underneath for additional support. And with a low seat height of 780mm, the Imperiale will be a good fit even for short riders. While it is fairly easy to flat-foot, the motorcycle’s kerb weight of 205kg can make it daunting to move around. However, the weight starts to feel manageable once in motion and the Imperiale becomes surprisingly nimble, even in traffic.
Complementing the handling is the sprightly 374cc, single-cylinder air-cooled engine with a bassy thump that is sure to put the BS6 Classic 350 to shame. While the output has differed minutely from the BS4 model, the motor still offers an enthusiastic grunt all through the rev range. However, the engine is at its best in the mid-range from 3500rpm to 5500rpm and can cruise at 110kmph all day. All this while, the engine feels supremely refined and has absolutely no vibrations at any point, although it tends to heat up in heavy traffic. But it is only when the needle hits 120kmph that the Imperiale starts to feel unsettled. There is a slight buzz on the handlebar and the front end starts to wobble in complaint.
Now, Benelli hasn’t tweaked or changed the suspension hardware on the BS6 Imperiale, so it continues to have a stiff setup which is unforgiving even over small bumps and potholes, especially when riding solo. Nevertheless, with a pillion on board the ride improves drastically as the suspension manages to cushion out larger undulations with ease.
Getting straight to the point, the BS6 update for the Benelli Imperiale 400 hasn’t changed anything apart from making it slightly more refined. And at Rs 1.99 lakh, the Imperiale 400 continues to be priced higher than the dual-channel ABS variants of the Royal Enfield Classic 350 and the Jawa that cost Rs 1.69 lakh and Rs 1.82 lakh, respectively.
Setting aside flaws like the stiff suspension and lacklustre braking feel, the extra money for the Imperiale 400 gets you a well-built motorcycle that offers an engaging ride experience and a beautiful sounding exhaust note that fully justifies its modern-classic charm.
Photography by Kapil Angane
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