We all love to dream about buying the latest top of the range Japanese or Italian sportsbike but when it comes to reality, something more practical is often the wiser choice. The Benelli BN 600GT is the type of motorcycle you choose using your head rather than your heart. It’s not the prettiest bike built, its specifications while strong aren’t extraordinary and you could hardly say it carries the soul of a traditional Italian bike. But we’d argue it was never trying to.
The Benelli BN 600GT is only the second bike from the Italian marque to use their all new 600cc inline four cylinder engine (the first being the naked BN 600R). Designed as a sports-tourer, it’s probably fair to say the BN 600GT won’t win any beauty pageants. There’s a lot of styling cues from the Kawasaki Versys here (the previous model, not the current decent looking one) such as the front stacked headlights and the laydown rear shock absorber. Despite being designed and developed in Italy, it looks more like something from Seoul than Pesaro.
That said, it does actually look better in person than in still images. Even in the metal, one wouldn’t call it elegant but at least it is different and doesn’t look like a cookie cutter version of every other bike out there. We’d probably choose the darker colours over lighter options in the interest of appearances.
The fit and finish of the bike seems excellent. While only long term ownership of the bike would reveal any flaws, we’ve spoken to owners in India and parts of South East Asia which have had access to the BN 600GT since last year and according to them, it’s performed flawlessly.
Negatives from a design perspective include the dated dash (as used in the Benelli BN 302), fairly cheap feeling controls on the bars (another Benelli BN 302 flaw) and the stupidly shaped rear view mirrors which taper off where your actually want to see – a clear case of form over function.
Despite it being a 600cc, don’t take it for a ride expecting supersport performance. Producing a fairly modest 60 kW (82 hp) at 11000 rpm and maximum torque of 55 Nm at 8000 rpm, it would seem Benelli has very conservatively tuned the engine. It’s not a rocket, but then it isn’t a complete slouch, either. Its performance is roughly comparable to the Kawasaki Versys 650 or Suzuki V-Strom 650, though unlike those two bikes the engine feels more mature and grown up.
By that we mean that it seems Benelli has decided to build a refined machine rather than a sports bike masquerading as a tourer. In this respect the engine is smooth and vibration free and dare we say a little bit quiet. We sometimes struggled to hear the engine note over wind noise. Being a four, the engine comes on strong higher up in the rev range, though there’s enough flexibility that you don’t need to downshift for most overtaking manoeuvres.
That refinement extends to the chassis and suspension. A very rare feature for this segment (and price range) is the inclusion of big 50 mm front Marzocchi forks. In theory, bigger diameter forks provide better front end feel and in practice, that’s the case with the BN 600GT. Despite lugging around a fairly hefty 223 kilograms of weight, the bike handled without a fuss and we never had any uncertainty as to what was happening up front.
Both the front and rear has adjustable preload while the rear suspension also allows for rebound adjustment so you can tweak the setup to your liking. Another big plus are the brakes – big twin 320mm front discs with a radial mounted four piston callipers – again something that’s rare to see at this price. There’s unfortunately no ABS available as an option, but initial bite and feel is good – both front and rear.
The seating position was fine for my 6’2″ frame and even after a day of near constant riding, the seat was actually pretty comfortable. And you can go for long trips without stopping if you so desire – the tank holds an enormous 27 litres of fuel – enough for probably close to 500 kilometres of travel if you’re up to it. You’ll probably need a toilet break before a fuel stop.
We’re sure the Benelli BN 600GT isn’t a motorcycle most will dream about and lust for. But that’s fine, because as we said at the outset this bike is for those who buy with their head rather than their heart. As a sports-tourer is achieves its goals – refined engine, nice ride, good mileage. Outside of India and Asia, the Benelli BN 600GT is currently only available in Australia both in unrestricted and LAMS versions for $9,990.
It will be available within the next few months in the UK for £6299 and in the USA at the end of the year when Benelli returns stateside.