Benelli TNT 600 i

29 January 2015, 12:35 PM Ninad Mirajgaonkar

Introduction

DSK Benelli dropped a bomb in December when they announced that they would be launching their range of motorcycles in India and would be opting for local assembly for competitive pricing. While the entire range of motorcycles from one of the world’s oldest brands look mouthwatering, our eyes are particularly set on the TNT 600i with the hope that it will become the most affordable ‘600cc inline four-cylinder’ ( this is important – I will address the motorcycle in this manner at least a few times) on sale in the Indian market.

The couple of days that we spent with the TNT 600i makes us believe that it is a bittersweet deal.  The part-Italian, part-Chinese marque does come with its own set of flaws, but the sweets are absolutely irresistible. 

Looks

The Benelli 600i is a proper full-sized motorcycle with more than decent street presence. The naked motorcycle looks aggressive with the V-shaped headlamp and the huge bikini fairing bulging out from the sides. The enormous number of creases on the tank, fairing, headlamp and pretty much everything else makes the overall design look busy and that generally works in favour of the motorcycle at least in the Indian market. The tapered tail section with raised pillion seat is becoming common across all the bigger bikes and is perhaps the easiest way of showing its performance lineage.

Despite the relatively small headlamp, the front of the bike looks big. The thick inverted chrome plated suspension, twin disc set up and forward leaning stance all work in its favour. The front-three quarter is the best angle to look at this bike, from here it looks balanced with more attention to the front. The side profile isn’t as great, with all the mass concentrated towards the front and sort of a hollow towards the back. The underseat twin exhaust is the highlight of the rear; they look superb with the silver accents. Overall, this Benelli is a good looking street motorcycle, especially for the 600cc segment.

Ex-showroom, Mumbai

 5,40,128

That said, I have some grouse with the looks of the TNT 600i, they are not Italian. Hoping that I don’t sound racist, I would say the bike looks Asian. The resemblance with the Suzuki B King is hard to miss, especially in the stance and the rear section. And the shape of the headlamp is similar to that of the old small-capacity Yamaha motorcycles. There is nothing wrong with any of it, just that being an Italian brand I was hoping for a more outrageous design.

Equipment

Built quality could have been a little better – the touch and feel of the fibre parts is just about acceptable.  The metal bits, like the foot pegs, are nice. The paint job is okay and the mirrors though shapely and nice, don’t provide much visibility. The instrument cluster is also basic, especially in comparison with the competitors. The speedometer on the right is part of the electronic display that also has an odometer, trip meter, clock and fuel gauge. The information here is easy to read both in the day and night-time. Only the tachometer is analogue, with all the indicator lights like neutral, turn indicators, engine oil on the extreme left. It gets a flip key that slots in the cavity at the front of tank – under the handle bar. 

Riding at night is not very easy, the spread isn’t sufficient in the low beam, also the high beam isn’t powerful enough. We definitely recommend bulb upgrade, but it will be better if the company decides to offer the projector unit soon. 

I was apprehensive about the motorcycle’s Chinese connection, partly due to the stigma that comes with it and the possible compromise on quality. As for the stigma, the TNT 600i does not portray Chinese connection through the brand name or the product itself. The quality is not spot-on, but it is still better than DSK’s Korean partner.

 

Performance

The TNT is powered by a 600cc inline four-cylinder engine that is good to produce 82bhp at 11,500rpm and 52Nm of torque at 10,500rpm. That is a lot of power for Indian roads, so when I say ‘all the power is towards the peak of the rev range’, it is actually a good thing. The motorcycle comes to life at 7,000rpm and delivers substantial punch all the way to a redline of 11,500rpm. There is no punch down the rev range and even sudden throttle input won’t create unnecessary drama, unless you drop a gear or two. 

This is an old Yamaha R6 engine that can actually rev up to 15,000rpm, but has been detuned and restricted to less than 12,000rpm on this bike. This makes the motorcycle very peaky, but on the plus side restricting the rev range increases the reliability.

There might not be any power at low rpms, still whack open the throttle and the bike greets you with lovely music. The sound of the 600cc inline four-cylinder engines scores over the rest of the configurations and being the only one in the segment, it scores over each of its competitors as well. In fact, when our friends at PowerDrift tried the IXIL exhaust (aftermarket accessory), I was willing to pay the full amount just for the acoustics; the motorcycle then just seems like a freebie.

The exhaust system uses racing technology with independent O2 sensors for each of the four pipes ahead of the catalytic convertor. This is supposed to provide precise data to the ECU and assist in spirited riding. On the flip side, leisure rides become a problem as the power delivery is choppy at constant throttle. It can be a serious problem while taking corners with constant throttle; the ECU can cut the fuel supply, which in turn will cut speed and destabilise the bike.

The six-speed gearbox is smooth and easy. The final problem in this department that I want to talk about is the vibrations, they are present through the rev range and particularly accentuate over 7,000rpm.

Ride & Handling

The ride quality is nice, though I would have been happier with a softer front, especially since this is a street motorcycle. The TNT is designed for a comfortable ride with upright sitting position and a handlebar that is akin to it. The foot pegs however are not properly aligned; they are rear-set, like on a sports bike, and the overall riding posture has gone for a toss. 

The posture may affect the rider, but not the bike itself. The Pirelli tyres provide superb grip and inspire confidence to attack the corners. It lacks the dynamics to tackle a series of bends – the tall stance should have helped agility but the weight of over 200kg works against it. It is not good at quickly changing directions, but feels extremely planted through corners.

There are a few more ergonomic issues, the under seat exhaust radiates enormous amount of heat and renders the pillion seat unusable for anything more than a short ride in the city. The brakes are wooden and lack both bite and feedback – the 600i does stop, but it has mind of its own. As a street motorcycle, the Benelli 600i is fairly decent on the city roads. Despite the weight, it is easy to manoeuvre at low speeds and has absolutely no heating issues (a rarity among inline-four motorcycles).

Verdict

I have been critical towards the Benelli TNT 600i (especially on ride and handling) for the sole reason of putting all the facts together. It is still not a bad choice once you take the price point into consideration. Our sources tell us that the motorcycle is expected to cost around Rs 6 lakh and that is a fantastic price for a 600cc inline four-cylinder motorcycle.

The engine could have been a bit more alive, but with sound and the top-end performance it lives up to the core values of a four-cylinder and there are always aftermarket upgrades for some extra performance. The brakes can be upgraded, weight can be reduced and finding a person who is willing to ride pillion over long distance on a 600cc is a task in itself. 

The TNT 600 finds competitors in the Kawasaki Ninja 650, ER-6N and Hyosung 650, but none of these have the charm of the 600cc four-cylinder (I told you so!) and that in itself is reason enough to overlook all the flaws. 

Verdict

I have been critical towards the Benelli TNT 600i (especially on ride and handling) for the sole reason of putting all the facts together. It is still not a bad choice once you take the price point into consideration. Our sources tell us that the motorcycle is expected to cost around Rs 6 lakh and that is a fantastic price for a 600cc inline four-cylinder motorcycle.

The engine could have been a bit more alive, but with sound and the top-end performance it lives up to the core values of a four-cylinder and there are always aftermarket upgrades for some extra performance. The brakes can be upgraded, weight can be reduced and finding a person who is willing to ride pillion over long distance on a 600cc is a task in itself. 

The TNT 600 finds competitors in the Kawasaki Ninja 650, ER-6N and Hyosung 650, but none of these have the charm of the 600cc four-cylinder (I told you so!) and that in itself is reason enough to overlook all the flaws. 

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