Benelli Imperiale 400 First Ride Review: Why Royal Enfield needs to watch out!

There is a new retro cruiser in town and this one has landed straight from Italy. The Benelli Imperiale 400 directly eyes the Classic 350 from Royal Enfield that has been enjoying its monopoly in India for a long time now. So, is the Imperiale 400 good enough to change that?

By: | Updated: November 4, 2019 6:01 PM


Retro classic motorcycles are being loved by us Indians over the years and it is a fact that is prominent in the impressive sales numbers of Royal Enfield and recent the buzz surrounding Jawa motorcycles. These cruisers have a big fan following and why not! These bikes have their evergreen old-school charm and let you make an entry in style wherever u go. The best part? Such retro classics never go out of trend which is why their popularity is still intact even after decades. Now during its second innings in India, Benelli aims to launch a wide range of products in India and is also eyeing the Royal Enfield territory with its most affordable offering - the Imperiale 400. So is the new Benelli Imperiale 400 a worthy alternative to the Royal Enfield 350 and is it a pure value for money offering. Read along to find out!

Benelli Imperiale 400 - Design and Features

Like anyone would typically expect from a motorcycle of this genre, Benelli Imperiale 400 has a no-nonsense design language and looks like a pure retro classic motorcycle no matter what angle you choose to look it from. The front gets a rounded headlamp that is a signature highlight for this type of motorcycles. The bike has a classic-styled fuel tank that gets rubber pads like the ones that you must have seen on Royal Enfields. Unlike its competition, the Benelli Imperiale 400 gets a complete blacked out engine that looks good for a change. Moreover, you will find chrome on the rear-view mirrors, headlamp bezel, turn indicators and the tail lamp for a touch of premiumness.

The bike gets a split seating layout and these get contrast stitching for a better visual appeal. Like typical retro classic motorcycles, this one too has a longer rear fender. The silver heat shield on the exhaust looks good against the black coloured silencer but we wish that it should have been extended a bit more towards the rear in the favour of better safety.

The instrument cluster of the Imperiale 400 is a digital-analog unit with a twin-pod layout. The unit is the most informative in its class and features a tachometer, gear position display, twin tripmeters and clock, something that is missing on the Royal Enfield 350 and the Jawa. Talking of segment-first features, another one is the hazard lamps that prove beneficial in tricky situations.

Benelli Imperiale 400 - Engine specs and performance

The Imperiale 400 draws power from a 374cc, single-cylinder, air-cooled engine that is good for producing 20.7hp of power along with 29Nm of torque, mated to a five-speed gearbox. The engine has a solid low and mid-range, all thanks to which the Imperiale pulls ahead quite effortlessly and it really facilitates quick overtakes in the city. The biggest highlight of this engine is its high level of refinement that stays intact throughout the rev range. The sweet spot is 80 to 90 kmph and even at speeds of close to 100 kmph, there is no significant buzz that just adds to the riding experience. Once you cross 4,500 rpm, the vibes become apparent and you can easily feel these through footpegs and the handlebar. Gearshifts are smooth and precise and we hardly experienced a false during our ride.

Watch Benelli Imperiale 400 video review here:

That said, apart from being a decent old school cruiser, the Imperiale 400 is a great highway machine as well, one that lets you do triple-digit speeds all-day long and maxes out at 135 kmph. Out on open roads, the smooth engine along with the crisp throttle response adds richness to the riding experience. Also, with the tune of the rumble from the exhaust note, you can clearly hear the bike sing-along on the highways. As far as fuel efficiency goes, we were not able to record the exact figure due to our short stint with the motorcycle. However, after covering almost 280 km, the fuel gauge was showing 2 bars left, suggesting a fuel economy of close to 35 kmpl.

Benelli Imperiale 400 - Ride Quality and Handling

Benelli Imperiale 400 uses a double cradle chassis and gets conventional telescopic forks up front along with twin spring shock absorbers at the rear. The suspension is set on a stiffer side and is good enough to soak the uneasiness of the road. Our ride constituted a fair amount of off-road and broken surfaces and the bike did manage to cross them all without any complaints. The Imperiale 400 gets a 100/90-19 front and 130/80-18 rear tyre and these are the widest when compared to its rivals. The grip from TVS tyres is quite decent and these offer enough grip even during corners at reasonably higher speeds.

The straight-line stability is also commendable and the bike didn’t seem nervous even after pushing it out of its comfort zone. At 205 kg, the Imperiale 400 is the heaviest bike in its segment but the added weight didn’t come across as a problem even while putting the bike on its center stand. The Imperiale 400 gets a wide and adequately cushioned seat for the rider that offers apt comfort for day-to-day commutes. However, out on the longer rides, you will feel that the cushioning could have been a little better as you will start feeling a bit of discomfort after spending over one to one and a half hour on the saddle.

The Imperiale 400 gets a 300mm disc brake up front along with a 240mm disc brake at the rear with a standard dual-channel ABS. Both, the front and the rear have decent feedback but lack that instant bite and hence, you need to be a bit cautious while riding at high speeds on the highways.

Benelli Imperiale 400 - Price in India and Verdict

At Rs 1.69 lakh, the Benelli Imperiale 400 is slightly expensive than two of its prime rivals. However, the fact that the company is offering 3 years unlimited km warranty along with complimentary service for the first two years only adds to the value for money quotient. Now bringing the competition into the picture, the Imperiale 400 directly goes up against the Classic 350 from Royal Enfield that currently has over 800 dealerships across India. Benelli, in comparison, has just 24 at present that it intends to take to 30 by December this year and double the number in 2020. On the other hand, Jawa is struggling to deliver motorcycles at present and in most of the cities, the waiting period is as long as over 6 months. In comparison, Benelli customers will be getting an advantage here as the company has already commenced the deliveries of the Imperiale 400 starting Diwali.

The Imperiale 400 has a fantastic engine, great ride quality, and better features compared to its competition. Now to answer the big question - is it a worthy alternative to the Royal Enfield 350? Well, it certainly seems so. The first impressions are really positive and we shall reveal how the bike performs on a day to day basis once it comes to us for a proper road test.

On a concluding note, the word 'Imperiale' relates to an empire and has a 'Royal' connection. So, start of a new rivalry? The coming months will have an answer!

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