Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Ben's Corner #15: Classic 350 to finally get a rival

If there is one bike in the world that can be called a golden goose, it's none other than the Royal Enfield Classic 350. Selling more than 30,000 units every month in India, none can even come close to the Classic in sales, let alone overtaking it. This scenario is despite the engine being more than a decade old. Heck Royal Enfield hasn't even touched the bike in all these years while still hiking the price up to Rs 40,000. Today, the Classic 350 is one of the costliest old-school push-road-engine bikes not only in India but in the whole world.
But wait, the Classic is not going to continue enjoying its monopoly, most probably from this year itself. Yes, the legendary Italian manufacturer Beneilli has, for the first time, benchmarked the Classic 350 and has developed a very similar bike. Christened as the Imperiale 400, it was showcased at the recently concluded EICMA show held at Milan. To be honest, Beneilli has gone a little overboard with this bike. All this time, manufacturers used to just take technological cues from their better performing rivals but this Italian brand has benchmarked the retro theme of the Classic itself.

Imperiale 400 gets power from a 373.5 cc fuel injected engine which is capable of producing 19.7 bhp of peak power at 5,500 rpm and 28 Nm of maximum torque at 3,500 rpm which are again very similar to the Classic 350. With an air-cooled, SOHC torquey motor coupled with a 5-speed gearbox, clearly Benelli wants a retro non-technical appeal to directly take a pie out of that 30,000-unit sales which the Royal Enfield is enjoying.



Imperiale 400 comes with a 19 inch front tyre and an 18 inch rear tyre configuration. 41 mm front telescopic shock absorbers and a dual shock absorber set up perform suspension duties. Stopping power comes from a 300 mm single disc brake upfront and a 240 mm disc at the rear. ABS is on offer and is standard. A low 780 mm seat should make it a very accessible option for Indians.

Finally, when it comes to how different is the Imperiale from the Classic 350, the new Beneilli is even heavier than the already heavy Classic tipping the scale at 200 kg. The Italian bike also gets a different instrument cluster which is similar to the Japanese classics of the yesteryear. The headlight is a separate unit unlike the Royal Enfield bike where it's fused with the front forks.

In the end, sources online, said, that DSK-Benelli has confirmed that Imperiale will commence its ARAI certification process by March 2018 and is planned for a launch sometime during the middle of this year. Once launched, it will surely revive a new competition which will be fierce. If Beneilli is able to set the prices right, they already have a winner.



Why is Beneilli flexible?

Beneilli has bikes in almost all segments even the ones which are unheard off. Now comes the question what makes the brand more flexible to change. The answer lies in its core team which is based out of China. Yes, Beneilli is Italian but currently owned by a Chinese motor firm Qianjiang. It also has an alliance with DSK Group of India who are, again, active in judging the Indian market and giving valuable inputs to the brand's R&D department.

- S Ben Raja,
Chennai, Jan 24, 2018.

The above review/analysis is completely the perception of S Ben Raja alone. This does not reflect the views of two or more people or a community. Queries and criticism shall be addressed to the writer only. This author is correspondent for an English daily working on auto beat stories for over a year. Reach him at benscorner@santhoshmathevan.com.

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