Review: Benelli Imperiale 400 or Royal Enfield Bullet 350? Spoiled buyers to choose from

NEW DELHI: Benelli has launched a star in the Royal Enfield s galaxy. Yes, it is a light modern classic and also the most affordable Benelli on the market to take the Bullet 350 Head on.

With a competitive price, the Imperiale 400 is the third product in so many months of the stable of the Italian manufacturers of bicycles. We traveled the Benelli from Delhi to Bulandsahr, a city in Uttar Pradesh almost 150 kilometers from the NCR, a trip mainly on the roads, followed by patches of broken rural roads. This is how things developed during the first trip:

Appearance:



The design language is polarizing. If you are a modern classic enthusiast, Imperiale 400 would occupy a prominent place among the harvest of economical machines available. However, remove that badge and body logo, most would not distinguish it from ...

A retro-themed body has two important design aspects: sturdy parts and extensive use of chrome. The front houses halogen round headlights surrounded by a chrome bezel, flanked by circular indicators in chrome chest. The wheels with spokes, the full-size fender and the 41 mm front forks have nothing weak, reflecting Benelli's commitment to keep things uncomplicated.

The instrument cluster is simple and straightforward. Two circular dials docked in chrome cases display odometer, speed, tripmeter, gear position and other readouts. Interestingly, the fuel gauge (absent in Bullet 350) is marked in a spatula-shaped digital dash in the middle.

Benelli 1 (2)Benelli 1 (2)

The single unit handlebar has a flat profile and you won't find too many loose wires around the group. The darkened switch box is rock solid but smooth to look at.

As you progress, most of the details in the body are made in black. The bare engine compartment has two separate chrome covers on the exhaust, which emits a touch of premium feel.

The ribbed pads in the 12-liter fuel tank look refreshing. His attention would quickly shift to the seats, the classic spring configuration for the driver and a separate one for the passenger. The saddle combination works well for your daily trip, however, you would be tempted to replace them in case you want to tour frequently.

Untitled design (11)Untitled design (11)

The same design language is carried to the back third of the Imperiale 400. Without any tricks, you will find the brake light and the indicators enclosed in chrome boxes.

While the overall design is agreeable and lives up to the retro theme, I would have liked a few tweaks here and there, at least after spotting the Bullet 350 on the road for so long. With the scope of experimentation, Benelli could have tried an optional flyscreen or bench seat and even some other treatment to the console.

Performance:



The 374 cc air-cooled engine pumps 21 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 29 Nm of maximum torque at 4,500 rpm while coupled to a five-speed gearbox. The power delivery is linear and you can drive the Imperiale 400 at 80-100 km/h throughout the day without many vibrations in the stirrups or the handlebars.

The engine works best in the midrange, cutting at around 8,000 rpm. Speaking of maximum speed, you can push the Imperiale 400 to 130 kmph, which takes a long time and an open stretch.

Engine 374 cc, single cylinder, air cooled
maximum power 21PS at 5,500 rpm
Torque 29 Nm at 4,500 rpm

Transmission 5 speed
Fuel tank 12 liters


The gear changes are smooth and precise, however, the clutch action on the lever is a bit heavier, leaving the aching fingers in bumper to bumper traffic. We could cover more than 250 kilometers in a tank full of fuel with a pair of bars to the left of the meter. Expect a fuel efficiency of 33-35 kmph (combined), unless the accelerator moves to the red line too often.

Parts cycle and handling:



In flesh, you would be surprised to see how accessible Imperiale 400 is. Thanks to 780 mm seat height, 20 mm shy of the direct rival Bullet 350, slinging your leg over the seat is effortless. Having said that, manoeuvring the 203-kilo bike in parking is somewhat tiring.

The center footrests and wide handlebars are combined with an additional padded hanger to give an upright posture. The ride quality is not exactly luxurious, rather I felt that the bike was extremely rugged on bad roads at high speed. The 41mm front forks easily soak the bumper over the rigidly preloaded adjustable preloaded rear coils.

Front suspension 41 mm telescopic
Rear suspension Adjustable preload coil
Front brake 300mm single disc (ABS)
Back brake 240mm single disc (ABS)
Front tire 100/90-19 inches
Rear tire 130/80-18 inches


Fortunately, the 300mm front disc and the 240mm rear disc are equipped with ABS and meet their braking obligations. Imperiale 400 uses 19-inch front and 18-inch rear TVS Remora tires, which do the job but are susceptible to leaks and breakdowns more frequently, and Benelli could surely have used CEAT. Cost reduction probably!

Prices and verdict:

We have an immense taste for modern classics. If you think it was a statement shot in the air, look no further Royal Enfield - At least their incomparable sales in the 350-500 cc segment suggest the same.

What Benelli has done precisely correct is pricing - at Rs 1.69 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), the Imperiale 400 slots right in between Bullet 350 and Bullet 500. Also, the trump card for Benelli has been the back-to-back launch of products - Leoncino 500, Leoncino 250 and now the Imperiale 400, help grow the brand's presence.

The Imperiale 400 is a product I can surely recommend someone who wants to shift from Royal Enfield. However, to compete practically and logically against RE, Benelli has to ramp up its market strategy, throw open showrooms and widen its aftersales network.

comments