Benelli Back in USA from October

Benelli have been working their way back into western markets for the last few years with a strong presence in both the UK and Australia and have now confirmed that sales of at least some of their motorcycles will begin from October this year. SSR Motorsports has been announced the distributor in the USA.

SSR Motorsports has been in business since 2002 and currently sell a variety of pit bikes, ATVs and buggies along with scooters, dirt bikes and dual sports. Initially, SSR Motorsports will just be importing the BN 302 and BN 600i. We’re big fans of the BN 302 and would rate it as the best entry level naked bike currently on the market and at a price of $3,9999 in the US will match the price of the Honda CB300F while providing far better specifications. While we haven’t personally ridden the BN 600i, we have taken it’s touring focused sibling – the BN 600GT for a spin and it’s also an excellent value for money machine.

According to a report in Dealer News, former chief marketing and sales executive for Suzuki, Mel Harris, is leading the sales push for Benelli in the US and that once the brand is more established, larger displacement bikes will be imported. All bikes will come with a 12 month warranty.

 

2015 Benelli BN 302 Review

The Benelli BN 302 is the latest motorcycle to enter the now ultra-competitive entry level motorcycle segment. And while Benelli has decided to enter the ring with a naked instead of faired sportsbike, the BN 302 is poised to shake up the pecking order with a bike that’s not only priced competitively but is equipped with features that haven’t been seen in this price range before.

Before we go anything further, let’s address the elephant in the room – the fact that the Benelli BN 302 is manufactured in China. The common point of view is that anything built in China is rubbish (though that doesn’t stop millions of people buying iPhones every year). While I only had two days with the BN 302, there was nothing I could obviously see that would cause me any concern if I was spending my hard earned cash on this machine.

Keep in mind also that while the Benelli is manufactured in China, the bike was designed and developed entirely in Pesaro, Italy where the company was founded over 100 years ago.  While Benelli was bought out by the Qianjiang Group in 2005, operations remain in Italy and the factory in Wenling, China uses manufacturing machinery imported from Germany, Italy and the USA.  This is no different to the fact that Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha and so forth are headquartered in Japan yet a number of their motorcycles are manufactured in Thailand, Indonesia and India.

The specifications of the bike read like something from a class level above. The BN 302 gets dual front floating 260 mm discs with 4 pistons calipers instead of a single disc as is so common for learner bikes. Rear suspension allows for not only for preload adjustment but adjustable rebound too and front preload can also be adjusted up front – many entry level middleweight bikes don’t even offer that.

But for us, the biggest plus is the fact that Benelli have chosen to fit the BN 302 with quality tires. Honda, Kawasaki and Yamaha all choose to put on lower quality bias ply tires on their learner bikes and we’ve been highly critical of their choosing to do so in previous articles. Thankfully, Benelli have shod the bike with Pirelli Angel GT tires. We’d always recommend new riders immediately replace the tires that come standard on the likes of the CBR300R and Ninja 300 with quality rubber which would cost at least a few hundred dollars – with the BN 302, it’s already done for you.

The fit and finish of the bike for the most part appears excellent. Paint quality looks great and all the nuts, bolts, harnesses and so forth appear top quality. There’s some ‘premium’ looking touches to the bike as well, such as the chrome engine cover plate with the Benelli logo on it and the embossed Benelli logo on the seat with which also features exposed red coloured stitching. My only complaint in regards to the appearance is up front – the dash and the switchgear.

Both components are taken from the spare parts bin of earlier Benelli models and it shows. The dash already looks outdated and features some rather uninspiring back-lit icons. Thankfully its functionality is better than its looks with the analogue tachometer and digital speedometer both easy to read and garner information from. It’s very basic however as you only get a trip computer, fuel level indicator and engine temperature display – no gear indicator or even distance to refuel readout. The controls on the handlebars for lights, indicators and the kill switch also feel a little cheap – certainly not up to Honda or Kawasaki standards.

That’s mostly forgotten once you’re out and riding on the Benelli BN 302 though. Thankfully, this isn’t a bike with great parts that are bolted together in a haphazard way. The BN 302 rides as well as it should do as indicated on paper.

The engine powering the BN 302 is a brand new liquid cooled inline twin and it’s a real surprise packet. I wasn’t expecting a small engine from an Italian motorcycle company (Chinese owned or not) to be this good. It produces 28 kW @ 10,000 rpm and torque of 27.4 Nm @ 9,000 rpm. That compares very favourably to the Kawasaki Z300 (29.0 kW @ 11,000 rpm and 27.0 Nm @ 10,000 rpm) and the Honda CB300F (22.7 kW @ 8,500 rpm and 27 Nm @ 7,250 rpm).

Like the Ninja and Z300, the BN 302 delivers most of its power higher up in the rev range. Once you hit around 7,000 rpm it really comes alive, rapidly accelerating and emitting a great sound. Benelli have really put some time into tuning the exhaust – in our opinion making it the best sounding learner bike.

Straight line performance is blunted slightly due to the weight of the BN 302. The wet weight (all fluids but no fuel) is a 182 kg – pretty portly for a bike of this size and displacement. Part of that is due to Benelli using thicker and stronger steel for it. In a recent interview, Qiangiang CEO Yan Haimei stated that Benelli over-engineered the bike to make it solid and durable and able to withstand the poorer road surfaces encountered in many South East Asian nations where Benelli already has a big presence.

The engine is mated to a good little gearbox as well. The clutch action is bang on and easy to use – a definite plus for new riders. The action is smooth and crisp although I did get a few false neutrals in my ride when going from 2nd to 1st gear upon slowing to a stop.

Braking is another highlight and dare I say the BN 302 is best in class when it comes to both brake feel and stopping power.  That’s no surprise given the aforementioned front twin discs. The front brake lever is adjustable (unlike the clutch lever) and provides great initial bite with nice feel and progression.  Unfortunately, ABS isn’t currently even available as an option but may be introduced for the next model year – in fact given Benelli’s presence in the UK and Europe it will have to be in order to meet upcoming mandatory ABS laws in the EU.

Handling is also top notch. While the feel of the suspension isn’t amazing (what is at this price point?), the fact that you can adjust both front and rear preload plus rear rebound is a huge plus – enabling the bike to accommodate a wide range of rider preferences and sizes.

Overall the Benelli BN 302 is a fantastic bike and should be given serious consideration for anyone wanting to purchase a small displacement naked motorcycle. Perhaps the greatest praise I can gifrom a Japanese marque would probably cost $1,000 more given its features. Benelli is planning a massive increase in models over the next few years and if the BN 302 is any indication of what the Italian brand is capable of, then bring it on.

The Benelli BN 302 is priced at $5,590 in Australia and £3,699 in the UK. Benelli returns to the USA later this year and it is expected the BN 302 will be available at launch.

 

 

Benelli Releasing Five Brand New Bikes in 2016

Benelli has made its presence known in the UK and Australia and has announced plans to return to the US market by the end of this year. But from reports leaked today, it’s just the beginning. Benelli is apparently planning on releasing five brand new motorcycles next year, three of which will feature brand new engine platforms.

A report from Autocar India (where Benelli is also aggressively expanding) explains that Chinese owned company is looking at releasing the following five machines in 2016 (or earlier):

  • Entry level sportsbike based on the BN 302
  • Entry level adventure bike based on the BN 302
  • An adventure bike based on an all new 500cc twin-cylinder engine
  • Two motorcycles, one naked, one sportsbike and based on a brand new 750cc twin-cylinder engine platform

It’s not a hard stretch to imagine Benelli is already well underway on bringing out an entry level sports bike, especially given the early positive reception of the BN 302. We’d absolutely love to see an entry level adventure styled bike – a niche that is yet to be filled by any of the major motorcycle manufacturers (we’re still holding out hope for a Honda CB300X).

The choice of a 500 cc twin-cylinder adventure bike has peaked out interest. Given that Benelli produces the BN 600GT which is a adventure/touring machine, we hope this upcoming bike is a truly off-road capable motorcycle. If so, it could prove extremely successful in that engine configuration.

Perhaps even more intriguing is the report of a 750cc twin which would finally give Suzuki’s GSX-R750 range some company, albeit with two less cylinders. If these and the other motorcycles come to fruition, we’ll applaud Benelli for trying to expand into uncharted territories that so many other manufactures are afraid to enter.

Benelli BN 600GT Now Available

Source: Autocar India

Benelli Returning to the United States This Year

Yan Haimei, CEO of Benelli has announced that the Chinese-owned motorcycle brand will return to the United States before the end of the year. The formerly Italian marque has had a tumultuous history over the last few decades, with multiple attempts to revive the historic brand ending with less than successful results.

The Qjian Jiang group purchased Benelli in 2005 but it hasn’t been until the last few years that the company has progressed to the level of tempting western interests. Benelli has had a presence in both the United Kingdom and Australia for a number of years now where it’s main focus has been on small to mid-capacity machines, although it does offer larger bikes under the TNT badge which haven’t been updated for a number of years.

In an interview with Bruno dePrato, Yan Haimei revealed that not only will Benelli return to the United States before the start of 2016, but that the company is working on a new range of three cylinder engines. Haimei didn’t elaborate on how Benelli’s return to the USA will take place, though as it has done in Australia and the UK it will probably be by way of a licensed importer.

In the last few months, Benelli has released the BN 302 naked learner bike and the BN 600GT – the latter of which has been getting some excellent reviews. As you’d expect from a Chinese made machine, price is a huge selling point. The BN 302 sells for $5,590 AUD (US $4900) which is over $400 AUD less than the Honda CBF300F and Kawasaki Z300, but comes with more sophisticated suspension and front forks.

Benelli Returning to the United States This Year

 

AUS | Benelli BN 302 Confirmed for 2015

Benelli has confirmed that the entry level BN 302 will be hitting Australian shores in January of 2015. The BN 302 is yet another entrant into the LAMS category and will join recent additions such as the KTM RC390 and Yamaha MT-07.

At the heart of the bike is a 4-stroke, 4-valve parallel twin engine, producing 28 kw at 12,000 rpm and 27 Nm at 9000 rpm which puts it roughly in line with the Kawasaki Ninja 300. Suspension at the front is an inverted front fork with a 41 mm diameter and a rearshock which not only offers preload adjustment but rebound too – a rarity at this end of the market.

Front brakes consist of a 260 mm twin disc which is above average in comparison to the single discs on the Ninja 300 and the CBR300R. The rear brake at 240 mm is also 10 mm bigger than the aforementioned rivals. Larger than standard tires for this class rap around the 17 inch wheels too at 120/70 and 160/60 – meaning this might not be the most nimble of learner bikes around.

A wet weight of 185kg isn’t exactly light for the class and there’s no ABS to speak of. The Benelli BN 302 comes with a two year unlimited kilometre warranty and should be hitting showrooms any day now for around $5,500 plus on road costs, which would undercut the less powerful Honda CBR300R by a few hundred dollars.