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Benelli TNT 600i ABS review, road test

8th Sep 2016 7:00 am

We get to know the DSK Benelli TNT600i once again, as we get a taste of the first ABS-equipped Benelli in India.

  • Make : Benelli
  • Model : TNT600i

Launched by DSK-Benelli over a year ago, the TNT 600i was heralded as the affordable inline-four-cylinder motorcycle that so many of us bikers in India were waiting for. While it did deliver what it promised on most fronts, some aspects certainly held it back from achieving true greatness. But one of its largest concerns was anti-lock brakes, or rather the lack thereof, and that has just been addressed by the company with the launch of a new ABS-equipped model. So is that enough to elevate the 600i to the level of expectation that everyone had for bike when it first arrived?

Well, it’s nothing new. The TNT 600i with ABS looks no different, save that ABS sticker on the front fender. While the 600i isn’t what you might call 'beautiful' in the conventional sense, there’s no denying that the bike has plenty of presence. In our opinion, it’s the bikini fairing that’s a bit of a let-down and looks a bit un-Italian, but apart from that, everything else is quite striking. The big tank extensions along the large sculpted fuel tank are a distinct visual touch, but what grabs your attention is that chunky four-cylinder engine and the four shiny exhaust headers that protrude from it. And while the stocky cast alloy swingarm and side-mounted rear shock absorber are neat visual touches, the really impressive bit at the back end are the two triangular underseat exhausts. Even today, after a fair number of these bike have already hit our roads, the TNT 600i still remains a head turner, and during our test ride, the bike was quite literally mobbed by onlookers curious to know more.

There are, however, some small things that rob the Benelli of a bit of its premiumness. Get in the saddle and you’ll immediately notice that the switchgear and the instrument pod feel like they belong on a smaller motorcycle, reminding you of the oriental aspects of this Sino-Italian motorcycle. But these things are easy to forgive considering just how economical the entire package is. And while some of the design elements might seem a bit chintzy, there’s very little to fault with the way the bike is put together, with overall build quality levels looking like they’re at par with its Japanese competitors in this segment. It also gets and on/off switch for the anti-lock braking system. It’s quite interesting how DSK-Benelli have incorporated it at the bottom of the left mirror stalk, without changing any of the existing switchgear. Coming back to the saddle, it’s quite comfortable and while the 800mm seat height is not what you might call short, the bike’s slim waist should allow most riders’ feet to reach the ground comfortably. Still, it’s 231kg kerb weight is rather portly and pushing this bike around in a parking spot is quite the workout. Even on the move it shows its heaviness, but the upright posture and the nice, wide handlebars allow you to manoeuvre it fairly easily in slow speed conditions.

Since there is no mechanical change to the 600cc inline-four-cylinder motor, the performance too remains unaffected. With 85hp of power on tap along with 54.6Nm of torque, even in absolutely sopping conditions, the bike managed a zero to 100kph time of 5.49 seconds and given the roads were bone dry, that time could be much faster. One thing to note, however, is the extremely peaky nature of the engine, with maximum horsepower coming in at a heady 11,500rpm and maximum torque hitting at an almost equally high 10,000rpm. To compensate for this, Benelli has chosen fairly short and closely stacked ratios for the six-speed gearbox. Still, if you wanted to do a quick overtake, you’ll find yourself downshifting a couple of gears, which admittedly is a fairly slick operation. At lower revs, the 600i dawdles along smoothly and needs large throttle movements to escalate the revs above 7,000rpm to really get the bike going. Once you do so, it never feels tedious though, and the two underseat exhausts wail an exciting four-cylinder symphony that is impossible to match, at this price range that is.

The way the TNT 600i goes might not have changed, but thankfully, the way it stops has. ABS was a sorely missed feature previously, and the lack of it combined with numb brake feel and a front-end judder under hard braking meant dropping the anchors was best done when completely alert. While the addition of an ABS unit hasn’t done much for feedback from the brakes, you certainly feel a lot more confident when yanking the stop lever in an emergency. On the atrociously wet roads, the TNT 600i ABS managed a pretty impressive stopping distance of just 29.41 metres in 3.03 seconds when the brakes were slammed at 80kph. Sadly though, that judder, even though significantly reduced, can still be felt under hard braking.

Even though it sports massive 50mm inverted forks at the front and an adjustable monoshock at the back, the TNT 600’s forte was never razor-sharp handling. It’s a fairly heavy bike and feels as such, especially when trying to quickly switch from one corner to another. That’s not to say that handling is not predictable; that for the most part it is. But it’s certainly easier to enjoy it on milder, flowing corners rather than tight, fast changes of direction. The Pirelli Angel ST tyres, though designed more for a touring role, do a pretty good job of providing traction in all imaginable conditions, and we were particularly impressed with their performance on wet roads, where only in the rarest of instances did they show a propensity to slide about. The bottom line is, unless you don't try and treat the 600i like an out-and-out sport bike, you’re going to be pretty happy with the way it handles. The ride quality too is fairly pliant and during our test ride, the suspension didn’t show any signs of crashing over bumps. Combined with its comfortable ergonomics, you’ll be pretty happy riding this bike on a daily basis, handling commuting as well as occasional touring and sport riding duties with the same amount of ease.

The Benelli TNT 600i is a slightly perplexing bike when you first ride it. Going at it on the premise of a middle-weight, inline-four sportbike might leave you a bit disappointed. But give it a little time and it really grows on you. Once you get used to its nuances, you realise that it's a very flexible sort of motorcycle, with the ability to cater to a wide variety of motorcyclists, and is even comfortable enough to take on the daily grind. It offers unintimidating, but appreciable performance with a melodious four-cylinder soundtrack playing in the background, something a lot of us in India have been craving to be able to afford. It might still have some ways to go to become a truly magnificent motorcycle, but with the big issue of its lack of ABS has now happily addressed, that too with an ex-showroom (Delhi) price of Rs 5.73 lakh, it's undoubtedly a fantastic value-for-money package which also offers solid build quality at the same time. So while the hardcore sportsbike junta might want to look elsewhere, for all other kinds of bikers, the Benelli TNT 600i, especially with the added safety net of ABS, represents a proposition that really is hard to ignore.

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