DSK Motowheels is about to turn up the heat in India, with their wide range of motorcycles by Italian bike-maker Benelli. It all flags off with this 300, going up to a feisty 1130cc flagship, all bikes flying the company hallmark TNT flag. Smallest of these larger engine equipped siblings, the twin-cylinder, TNT 300 is perhaps the most crucial Benelli for India, stepping right into a hotly contested segment that’s only recently seen plenty of action.
It took this ride to confirm exactly where the Benelli TNT 300 fits in, facing stiff competition in the light, powerful Bajaj-KTM engineered Duke and RC bikes, we’ve been so enamoured with as to rate the very best small capacity single-cylinder motorcycles sold worldwide and then Kawasaki’s just released, smaller capacity and similarly twin-cylinder Z250.
The TNT 300 looks smart in the flesh, not thoroughly sporty as is a Kawasaki Z250, but more a blend of modern and edgy, with some smooth, even understated curves. There’s more than a hint of rich European lineage in its aggressive, butch stance, and steel trellis frame, with the new Benelli bike coming with a smart headlamp, showing off a transformer like design to end in a slender peak.
Pleasant persona apart, a hard stare to scratch beneath its skin immediately has you aware of how well equipped the TNT 300 comes, even able to meet the tall, tall standards set before it by KTM. Meaty upside down front forks, disc brakes all round, liquid-cooling, an offset rear monoshock with easy adjustability, sleek tyres, cropped exhaust and meaty tyres are all for the taking.
The TNT 300’s 16 litre tank is muscular, and contrasts nicely in black with a red trellis frame. Sleekly turned out LED powered turn signal indicators lend the bike a cool touch, and with a neat enough tail in place, it’s evident styling looks clean and appealing. Benelli could have done better with the TNT 300’s instruments cluster, which although not all that far off the mark, yet seems far from exciting enough to do justice to the rest of the motorcycle. It won’t take long for you to find the tachometer font too small and a chore to read when riding fast. On the upside, we found the TNT 300 switches work well, and its palm grips are soft and nice to touch. Likewise the TNT300 comes with a good set of control levers and rear view mirrors. There’s plenty of well executed detail touches, such as a really high quality flick-to-open key, and red stitching for the single-piece, stepped rider and pillion perch.
Yes, the Benelli TNT 300 is quite a mixed bag, designed and engineered with strong Italian influences, manufactured in China, and finally assembled here in India, but the final product doesn’t seem to have lost out, for after all that, the TNT 300 imparts a high quality, reliable feel that’s just as good as any rival in this market.
Let’s get closer to the heart of the matter. Yes, interestingly, the Benelli TNT 300 is a liquid-cooled, twin-cylinder motorcycle, only just outdone as first of its breed by the Kawasaki Z250. Hit the four-stroke, 300cc bike’s starter, and the fuel-injected engine fires up to willingly greet you with a bass-rich tone that loudly barks out this free revving engine’s sporty intentions. On paper, the TNT 300 makes 36.2bhp at 11,500rpm, while torque output is also adequate, 2.75kgm output at 9,000rpm.
The clutch pulls in a touch on the heavy side, though nothing you can’t live with and the Benelli bike’s six speed transmission shifts with a smooth, positive feel via a toe-only lever, in one-down, rest-up format. Crucially, the smooth performing, parallel-twin format Benelli twin feels at ease in the rush of Indian city traffic, displaying an easy, flexible nature at low rpm, with adequate torque to trundle along even at 3,000-4,000 revs, helped by a close ratio gearbox. And while you can amble along all day, the engine bubbling at low rpm, whack open the throttle when required and the TNT 300 will trot smartly forward, feeling refined and vibe free, as it sends decibel, and adrenalin levels rising.
On open roads, the TNT 300’s short-stroke engine proved ever ready to charge through its rev range and blast forward with impressive urgency. We managed a 0-60kph dash on the TNT 300 in 3.41 seconds, from where this Benelli went on to pass 100kph in a fleet footed 8.38secs, quicker than the Kawasaki Z250, and understandably slower than the Ninja 300. And we took the TNT 300 to a true 154kph top speed, flat out in top gear, with 5th good for 130kph. The TNT 300’s exciting, high decibel exhaust note will leave the enthusiast in you thrilled, and wanting for more, this being the punchiest sounding motorcycle in its class by fair margin. Rolling on and off the gas on the TNT 300 is a smooth enough affair, although you will want to keep the engine buzzing when pushing the bike to charge hard through a quick set of twisties.
Fuel-efficiency proved adequate for the class too, the TNT 300 delivering an overall 27.9kpl during testing in various conditions.
Slipping through traffic is easy on the TNT 300, the sitting position as comfortable as it gets in the class, a big bonus given all its present rivals feel several notches more aggressive. A 795mm high seat on the TNT 300 won’t disappoint short riders, and the comfort factor is furthered with pliant suspension, USD forks and an attractive looking, offset monoshock that proved up to absorbing bumpy Indian roads with ease. Our test bike came set up really soft, which was easily adjusted via the rear monoshock, but is essential if you’re going to be riding your new TNT fast, and looking for sharp, sporty handling. The trellis frame supported chassis comes together well as a package, and this Benelli comes with nice, predictable handling.
The TNT300’s plush single seat is a welcome luxury, its roomy seating making the going that much better.
Grip from the TNT 300’s Pirelli Angel rubber front and rear gave us enough confidence to push hard, on this neutral steering motorcycle. 260mm dual petal disc brakes in front are powerful, and with more than ample bite to slow the TNT 300 down in a jiffy. The lack of ABS brakes while a segment standard almost, is nonetheless disappointing, the good news being Benelli say they are working quickly to rectify this. The TNT 300’s sharp rear brake could take rider’s coming astride from wooden feeling drum brake equipped bikes a bit of getting used to.
Benelli has done well with the TNT 300’s positioning in India, this bike in one way comparable to the ill-fated Suzuki Inazuma, in terms of providing us comfort and a relaxed commuting capability, so missing on every other bike in this space. And the TNT 300 is also plenty of fun to ride when the mood kicks in, with its healthy helping of European bike character, steady handling, good brakes, plus intoxicating exhaust note, all adding to an unadulterated biking experience.
Benelli’s ticked all the right boxes with the TNT 300, a bike that’s sure to find many a loyal follower in India.