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.
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.
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.
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.