Benelli’s Imperiale 400 has been all over the news recently and for good reason. The Chinese-owned Italian brand took its time in bringing the retro-style cruiser to India, but it surprised everyone with a competitive price tag of Rs 1.69 lakh (ex-showroom, India). What the sweet price tag has also done is put the Imperiale 400 in one of India’s most popular enthusiast bike segments.
Where it comes from
Before diving into the details of Imperiale 400, let’s take a look at the Benelli-Mahavir Group tie-up that brought us the bike. The partnership is only a little over a year old and came into being after Benelli’s previous partner in India, the DSK Group ran into serious financial troubles in 2017 and, as a result, shut down operations.
The tie-up stated that Benelli was keen to return to our market with an even bigger push than before. The company said it would launch many new models and even bring down the costs of its bikes with increased localisation. Well, it looks like it lived up to that promise and we got the TRK 502 and TRK 502X middleweight adventure bikes, and even the Leoncino 250 and 500 it said it would bring. And that’s not all – the association also lowered the prices of the TNT 300 and 302R by up to Rs 60,000 thanks to a significant reduction in the manufacturing cost.
The latest model to roll out is the Benelli Imperiale 400, which has been priced nearly on par with its direct rivals from Jawa and Royal Enfield, despite not being entirely made in India. Benelli has also taken its dealer count to around 30 in India.
Retro is the new modern
The Imperiale 400 wouldn’t look out of place if it was sent back in time. It’s said to be a reinterpretation of the manufacturer’s historic models produced in the 1950s. This is apparent from the classic-looking tank, round headlights, sprung seat, lengthy exhaust muffler and minimalistic panels. Much like other retro-themed bikes – the Jawas and the Royal Enfields – this one too has a long rear fender.
The Imperiale 400 is the manufacturer’s first proper retro offering and it falls under the ‘Classic’ category of the brand.
Made in India?
Benelli has revealed that the Imperiale 400 is heavily localised, but hasn’t given a complete breakdown on the same. What we do know for certain is that the tyres come from the Indian manufacturer TVS and the wheels come from a Pune-based company called Yoshika Engineering. The telescopic fork and twin shock absorbers are made by Gabriel. Another component we are certain will be Indian is the battery. However, the competitive price tag also leads us to believe that more components, like the switchgear and lights, are also made in India.
As for the powertrain, we believe both the engine and gearbox are imported and only put together in India. The instrument console could be imported as it appears identical to the one on the global model. Speaking of the display, it appears to be one of the most impressive ones in the segment as it has a speedometer, tacho, gear position indicator, odometer, and fuel gauge.
Does it thump?
Powering the Imperiale 400 is a 374cc, air-cooled, single-cylinder engine that produces 21hp at 5,500rpm and 29Nm at 4,500rpm. The power and torque figures are close to those of the Royal Enfield 350s. This motor, however, is fuel-injected (with a Delphi ECU) and features a four-valve head, unlike the Royal Enfield. That said, it still can’t be considered truly modern as it still uses a SOHC setup and a 5-speed transmission.
We believe the nature of the engine and exhaust note could be similar to the 350cc Royal Enfields, thanks to the long-stroke motor and its inherent slow-revving character. If you read our specifications comparison, you’d know that both, the Royal Enfield Classic 350 and Benelli Imperiale have a very similar power-to-weight ratio of around 102hp per tonne.
Stay tuned to Autocar India for our review of the Benelli Imperiale 400.
Benelli Imperiale 400: 5 things to know