Harley-Davidson X440 review: Serious RE challenger?

    The X440 significantly amplifies the RE riding experience for not a lot more money.

    Published on Jul 04, 2023 03:09:00 PM

    75,940 Views

    The Harley-Davidson X440 is the first taste of Hero MotoCorp’s capabilities when it comes to building a premium motorcycle, and from a sheer engineering standpoint, it makes a superb first impression. This motorcycle was entirely developed in India by Hero at its Centre for Innovation and Technology with inputs from Harley in Milwaukee. 

    Harley-Davidson X440 design, features

    Hero’s intention was to build an all-round capable roadster rather than a typical Harley-style cruiser and that can be seen in the design language. With its broad shoulders, wide handlebars and butch lines, the X440 draws its design lineage from the old Harley XR1200. The big fuel tank and large, clean side panels look good, but the tail section is a bit awkward and this is one of those motorcycles that looks better from some angles than others.

    Instrumentation is a single pod TFT console that is standard across the range, although it packs more connectivity options in the top model. The headlamp is a full LED unit that appears to be quite powerful and it has a light sensor that automatically turns the main beam on when the ambient light drops. That’s a first on any motorcycle at this price. 

    The X440 also comes standard with a 5 year / 70,000 km warranty as standard which is the best ever on any Harley till date.

    Harley-Davidson X440 fit and finish

    Quality and finish levels are the best they have ever been on a Hero product. However, there is still some way to go, especially given how much Royal Enfield has elevated the game in this regard. It’s not bad or cheap by any means, and some details like the LED tail lamp, indicators and mirrors are very nicely executed, but the overall attention to detail is not segment-leading. Still, at this price, it’s something you can look past. 

    The X440 definitively packs Harley identity, but in a segment dominated by beautiful machines from Royal Enfield (and even Jawa and Honda), the Harley won’t particularly stand out for its visual appeal. It has character, size and presence and the design feels like it will grow on you, but to my eyes, this is not a bike I would buy for the way it looks. Thankfully, design is quite a subjective thing, and the Harley does quite brilliantly when it comes to more objective things like the engine and chassis.    

    Harley-Davidson X440 engine, performance

    The X440 debuts a brand new air- and oil-cooled 440cc unit that looks large and fills up the space in the frame quite nicely. Peak power is 27hp, but the real star of the show is the torque – all 38Nm of it that peaks at just 4,000rpm. That’s better than any current Indian single-cylinder motorcycle and Hero tells us that about 90 percent of this is available from as low as 2,000rpm. 

    On the move, this results in beautifully effortless acceleration from 2,000-4,500rpm that easily outdoes any of the 350cc air-cooled competition. In fact, this engine doesn’t mind revving right till its redline of just over 6,000rpm, and while there are some vibes up top, they’re well-controlled.  Tractability at low speeds is very good and the bike pulls cleanly in 3rd gear from as low 20kph. I’m not sure if the absolute bottom-end torque is as nice as the Classic 350, but it is miles better than the likes of the Honda CB350s, which demand frequent gearshifts. 

    Unlike its air-cooled rivals, the Harley comes with a 6-speed gearbox and it has smooth, precise shifts along with a reasonably light slip/assist type clutch. Throttle response is also very well tuned and while we still need to confirm this, the bike has all the makings of a very enjoyable city commuter. 

    Cruising capability is also much better than the 350cc bikes and a 100kph cruise is smooth and effortless. You can even hold a steady 120kph without any signs of stress from the motor, although there are some mild vibrations that creep into the seat, bars and footpegs at this point. I managed to see a speedo indicated top speed of 139kph while Zaran, who’s considerably lighter, saw as much as 146kph down the long straight at Hero’s CIT test track.

    While the performance is certainly very enjoyable, Hero also deserves credit for giving the engine a sense of character. You can feel a nice thump and beat at lower speeds and while it isn’t as gentle and slow-revving as the RE 350 engine, there’s a sense of playfulness that goes nicely with the chassis behaviour. Hero has also gone to great extents to make the bike sound good, and it does – for a single. While it still certainly doesn’t sound like a big Harley twin, it has a nice, deep exhaust note that is louder than the REs, but doesn’t feel artificially synthesised as the Hondas. 

    Harley-Davidson X440 ride and handling

    The Harley-Davidson X440 gets a new tubular steel perimeter frame that Hero claims is tough enough to handle the worst India can throw at it. There’s also a chunky 43mm USD fork (a segment first) and preload adjustable dual rear shocks. Most of the panels on this bike, including the fenders, are metal, but Hero has done well to restrict the kerb weight to 190.5kg, (the base spoked wheel variant is a couple of kilos heavier). That makes it about four kilos less than the Classic 350, but the bulk of the weight simply melts away when you start moving.

    Its behaviour at gentle speeds is delightfully light and easy and this is a surprisingly (you’ll read this word often in this review) low-effort bike to ride. Despite this, there’s an unshakable sense of stability and the bike never behaves in an unpredictable manner. In fact, with its combination of an agile yet planted feel, this is a fun motorcycle even in the corners. It will very quickly encourage you to the point where you are scraping the footpegs, and if anything, this happens a little too early. For example, you’d have to work a lot harder to scrape the pegs on a Classic 350, but it certainly won’t feel as stable as the Harley at that point. 

    With a big 320mm front disc and standard dual-channel ABS, the braking performance is also quite low effort and very well-suited to this motorcycle. The X440 rides on a specially developed set of MRF Zapper Hyke tyres, which manage to look nice and retro but also perform rather convincingly. The one major thing that needs to be seen is how well it rides on bad roads, but from what little we could tell on the perfect surfaces within CIT, this suspension setup feels plush and absorptive. 

    The seating position is also very well judged with a comfortable, yet commanding set of ergonomics. Six-foot tall riders will fit very comfortably, but 5’6” Ardeshir (our photographer) said he found the 805mm seat height quite manageable, even though he was having to tiptoe a little. 

    It shouldn’t really come as a surprise that this bike is so well engineered, considering the world-class ensemble of engineers and specialists that Hero has put together at its CIT. One of the many names that stand out is head of Vehicle Engineering, David Lopez Cordoba, whose vast CV includes the likes of the Triumph Daytona, among many others. What does come as a (very pleasant) surprise though is the price.

    Harley-Davidson X440 verdict

    The clear target with this bike is the Royal Enfield Classic 350, even if the X440 is quite different in nature. But to challenge such a deeply entrenched foe will take every trick in the arsenal, including a highly aggressive price. The Harley X440 has way more to offer than the Classic, but at Rs 2.29 lakh for the base model, it costs just Rs 8,000 more than the range-topping Classic Chrome. 

    Another surprise is just how well-equipped even the base model is. There are three variants and all three get a TFT display and the powerful, light-sensing automatic LED headlamp. All three also get Bluetooth connectivity with call, music and navigation control that works via Hero’s app. The big differentiator for the base model is that it comes with spoked wheels and if you want the convenience of tubeless tyres, you’ll have to pay Rs 20,000 more for the mid-spec model. A further Rs 20,000 will get you the top S variant, which gets an attractive machined finish on its alloy wheels and engine fins. The S variant also comes with a built in e-sim that unlocks even more functionality like vehicle diagnostics, location sharing, geo-fencing, a tip-over alert and more. The subscription for this service will be free for the first year, but there is no indication of how much it will cost post that. We did notice that the Bluetooth features were a little glitchy during the limited time we spent with this bike, and the hope is that Hero will be able to streamline things with software updates.

    Given how well-equipped the whole range is though, you’d be perfectly happy with the mid-spec variant, or even the base version, if you don't mind the tubed tyres. In fact, the top variant limits you to only the matte grey colour you see here, and the X440 would benefit from a more vibrant colour palette overall.

    This was just a quick first taste, with us only being able to ride the bike within the confines of CIT for an hour, but the X440 has proven to be hugely impressive. It vastly expands upon the capabilities offered by current 350cc bikes while still retaining the charm and torque-dominated experience one would expect with a bike like this. If you’re in the sub-Rs 3 lakh market for an easy-to-ride yet characterful and enjoyable motorcycle that can do anything you ask of it, the Harley-Davidson X440 is surprisingly convincing. 

    It’s taken long enough, but Hero can finally claim a seat at the table of premium motorcycle manufacturers. The next challenge lies in improving the final few percent when it comes to quality and finish, as well as overhauling the aftersales experience – an area that has thus far been a sore point for Hero. Nevertheless, this X440 is just the start of a slew of upcoming premium products from the world's largest two-wheeler manufacturer. Clearly, there’s a lot to look forward to. 

    Also See:

    Harley-Davidson X 440 image gallery

    Tech Specs

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    Comments
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    Ganpati Telecom - 285 days ago

    compare it with re350 meteor and triumph400

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    ABC DEF - 288 days ago

    Hi, thanks for the review. How do you think the bike will fare for mostly City riding?

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