Benelli’s flagship sportsbike is called the TNT R. Known as the TNT 1130 in some markets around the globe, this naked motorcycle with Italian heritage is now on sale in India as the bike maker's top-of-the-line offering. Benelli is, for the past decade, a part of the Chinese Qianjiang group that produces over 12 lakh motorcycles a year, including some of the bikes sold in India. The TNT R, however, along with larger engine-equipped TNT bikes, remains completely manufactured in Europe, from where it comes directly to us. We’ve just ridden the TNT R, putting it through its paces in and around the city.
Benelli's TNT R looks quick even when standing still. Its headlight sits visually floating between flank mounted radiators, coming across as neatly designed. Above this, neatly laid out instruments are equipped with a trip and odometer. A power mode selector is also provided, commanding its ECU to lower power when required, and allowing switching between modes on the move. The motorcycle’s switchgear is comprehensive, and unlike on many other big bikes, the TNT R’s headlight can be switched off, with only pilot lights staying on permanently. The big TNT’s grips feel plush and comfortable, and there’s nice, really premium feeling alloy reach adjustable brake and clutch levers that fit the motorcycle’s upmarket image well.
Bifurcating the tank is a black strip. The split saddle on the TNT R looks visually appealing, however, it isn’t as roomy as required, and some really tall riders may find there isn’t quite enough space to move around. The TNT R’s tailpiece houses an under seat muffler, and is really tastefully styled. The R is also equipped with several carbonfibre bits, adding to the chic, modern feel of the bike. The front mudguard and exhaust are made of this, as are a couple of other parts, such as the bike belly panel and fuse box cover. Our test bike came with blood red wheels that go well with the TNT R’s similar coloured chassis, but note that this is an option the company will provide only if asked for at the time of placing your order. Beautifully executed and individual without doubt, the Benelli TNT R makes for amongst the funkiest big bikes you can own in India, and one that always commands attention. Attention-to-detail is good, with Benelli using adequate quality materials, in tune with Italian standards.
Which leads us to the TNT R engine; pull the clutch lever in, dab the starter and the 1,131cc, in-line triple comes to life with a powerful, bass-rich rumble. At idle, there’s a noticeable racket that you can’t miss and doesn’t sound welcoming. This only changes when revving the big Benelli, when a far crisper, cleaner sounding howl comes in. The exhaust howls distinctly at high rpms, with a heady pop and crackle feeding back to the rider as soon as you roll off the gas. To top that, the intake rush and engine note rise as does a mega power delivery that steps in once past 5,000rpm, making it difficult to ride this 135.2bhp bike without enthusiasm. Which led me to clock an indicated 185kph, the big TNT feeling smooth and completely vibe-free as you clock higher speeds.
Benelli would do well to sort out fuelling on the TNT R, as our test bike stalled without real reason on occasion, and there was often hesitation when performing throttle-off to throttle-on transitions, which becomes unnerving on a powerful motorcycle such as this. As with several rival heavy bikes, the TNT R’s clutch feels a tad heavy too. The big Benelli’s gearbox shifts smoothly through its six speeds, in the one-down, five-up pattern.
The Benelli TNT R deploys upmarket, fully-adjustable, upside down Marzocchi forks and an adjustable Sachs gas-filled monoshock at the rear, which makes for premium kit as expected from a flagship bike. What this translates into for us is that the TNT R provides really good ride quality, with road undulations being nicely absorbed.
Handling is another front where the Benelli proves worthy. This isn’t as light a bike as you’d hope for, at 231kg, but once out and into the twisties, that’s quickly forgotten and you can get gutsy and corner really hard, the fuel-tank providing good support, but playing spoilsport because of a pair of shrouds that protrude exactly where you need your knees to grip the tank, getting in the way of a more ideal situation. Benelli has some catching up to do with rivals, for not providing traction control, or even a slipper action enabled clutch. When riding really hard on the TNT R, you do sometimes miss the reassurance of these safety features, more so in India where conditions often call for extra caution. The TNT R does, however, make up to offer grippy Michelin tyres, these working hard throughout our test ride to offer stellar traction. Another positive are the powerful brakes, Brembo made, petal type 320mm dual discs in front, with a single 240mm unit at rear, offering fierce bite and stopping performance. It takes no more than a dab on the front lever to bring in incredible stopping power to haul the fast bike down from any speed. The TNT R lacks ABS brakes, even as optional, Benelli assuring us they are working towards this, to add these essential features in months to come.
Overall, the TNT R ranks amongst the most interesting naked motorcycles we’ve ridden in a while, typically raw and character-rich as expected from an Italian steed, with exciting, eccentric and evergreen style. The engine has its share of rough edges, and lacks adequate electronic aids, yes, but does still offer serious performance and a heady exhaust note at high speed. The highlight of Benelli’s TNT R is its handling prowess, which the factory has excelled to fine-tune perfectly.
At Rs 11,81,000 (ex-showroom, Delhi), the TNT R makes for a big bike that’s well priced versus direct rivals, but still has ground to cover before it matches up in terms of features, and electronics, now fast becoming standard on motorcycles in this premium space.