Ninja H2 and Rocket 3R: The endless quest of superlatives!
Ever since the dawn of mankind, one of the key things that have led us to where we are today is the sense of competition. Competition with others and competition with oneself. The latter gives rise to the pursuit of perfection which inevitably paves way for betterment. And while perfection may be elusive, betterment often leads one to perhaps the most desired thing in the world- supremacy or superlatives. This story is about two superlatives from our world, the world of motorcycling. The Kawasaki Ninja H2, the world’s fastest street-legal production motorcycle and the Triumph Rocket 3, sporting the world’s largest engine on a street-legal production motorcycle.
And before you read the rest of the article, have a look at this music video that we made, featuring these machines. #CapturedOnCanon
Building a little more on that quest for supremacy, it led mankind from cave drawings to exotic paintings, from an imperfect wheel to space shuttles, and so on. While it also led us from spears and swords to guns and nuclear bombs, we’d like to keep pessimism at bay here. Instead, we’ll focus on machines, invented for convenience and more often than not, pitched against each other in pursuit of adding the prefix -est to the adjectives used to describe them.
For petrolheads like us, the only machines that matter are from the world of automotive and there too, motorcycles… for the most part. It was imminent that the sense of competition was going to engulf this space as well and here, there were two ways to go about it. Racing is one as one can tell looking at the nearly 300 bhp monsters tearing up the asphalt in MotoGP. And the second, an integral part of the first one too, engineering.
From bicycles to motorized bicycles, and then motorcycles, we have come a long way. A plethora of manufacturers produce motorcycles that are meant to serve their purpose as a means of transportation. But they also produce motorcycles to let their competition know where they stand. As a result, motorcycles have gotten faster. But this battle of science and engineering gave us some breathing space which bred variety and, in turn, less weight and more power is not the ‘only constraint’. Which is why we’d duly like to mention that motorcycles have also gotten ‘bigger’.
Starting with the Kawasaki Ninja H2, it is a motorcycle, despite still being in production, that has already made its way to museums. And it did so for good reason. Before the Ninja H2, the direction of the battle between litre-class motorcycles was seemingly heading nowhere. It simply burst onto the scenes and added a whole new dimension to the power game. Even that is an understatement but sadly, sometimes language simply fails you.
Forced induction, a technology that had been away from the two-wheeler space (at least production ones), was adopted and adapted by Kawasaki. A whole lot of engineering and the need for the ‘River Mark’ insignia gave rise to the 300 bhp-plus and 400 km/h-plus Ninja H2R, a machine so ballistic that it was not road legal. The street-legal H2 may not seem that extreme on paper but if it was not for ‘The Gentlemen’s Agreement’, more often than not, it would show one its own brand of extremity.
While there may not exist a simple way to describe the Ninja H2 and the experience of riding it, one can always try. According to us, the one way that’d make it to the list of everyone will be the acceleration. A litre-class inline-4 is no slouch but the jolt of acceleration from the supercharger’s boost is something surreal. And then there’s the top speed. So the Ninja H2 has most definitely earned its way into the distinguished list of ‘superlatives’.
Next up, we have the Triumph Rocket 3. It’s interesting to know that the Rocket was actually conceptualized to compete in the cruiser market. Also, it was initially supposed to have a triple of around 1,600cc capacity. Thank god that none of that happened. Instead, the Rocket III (yes III and 3 are different things in Triumph speak) carved its own niche as a ‘muscle bike’. And muscle it had in spades. The Rocket III debuted with a 2,294cc straight-three engine mounted longitudinally.
The Rocket III was disruptive and we know that because the first time we rode it was just that, the first time. Now we have at hand the Rocket 3. With ‘largest’ not being enough, the new one features a 2,458cc triple and you have around 165 bhp of power and 221 Nm of torque at your disposal.
The thing one realizes when riding the Rocket 3 is the friendliness. It is a beast, undoubtedly, but it is like the Giant from BFG. Don’t get us wrong, it will still decapitate you with sheer pull if your right wrist is disrespectful and if figured out correctly, it can probably pull SUVs and at some pace too. So the Rocket 3 is not cocky, not emphasizing its size every waking minute but it will show its teeth when prompted. It is most definitely a marvel of engineering fitting an engine of that much size and magnitude between two wheels. And so, it Triumph-antly earns its superlative tag.
Having these two motorcycles in the xBhp garage made us realize that these motorcycles are the ‘heavyweights’ of the motorcycling world borne by the ‘competitive’ drive of some very ‘passionate’ people. So when it comes to being able to provide a deserving setting for these two, except open highways, we could only think of a few. And out of those few, we went with something that has been an indispensable part of of our history and mythology. Known by various styles and names such as kushti, pehalwani, and mallayuddha; we are talking about wrestling.
When we reached the akhada with the Ninja H2 and the Rocket 3, it was easy to realize why these motorcycles fit the place. Looking at the wrestlers going at it be it the warm-up, exercise, preparation or practice bouts, it all made sense. Looking at them trying to do that one extra squat (baithak) and that one extra pushup (dand), trying to one-up their opponent and looking for opportunities for that one move that gives them the upper hand… it was such a rush.
Though it is sad to see that the sport which was once a staple of entertainment and competition in India has been dragged down to a level where it is rarely highlighted… unless a movie comes out that is. The land of The Great Gama and Dara Singh has abandoned both the sport and the sportsmen who were once national icons and decorated sportspersons.
We are thankful to Guru Shyam Lal Pahalwan Akhara for familiarising us with the sport and letting us gain more perspective on how the Rocket 3, Ninja H2, and wrestling are prime examples of mankind’s pursuit of betterment… the one that has led us here.
About Canon EOS R6
My first serious camera was a Canon 30D back in 2005. It improved dramatically on the quality of the photos I was taking and there was no looking back. I have travelled to more than 50 countries just with Canon cameras! In 2020 I got my hands on the Canon EOS R6 to shoot these two special machines which I added in my garage.
It offers the best of both worlds, with in-body 5-Axis Image Stabilization, I can now take handheld trail shots at night, which wasn’t really possible earlier! The EOS R6 features a 35mm full-frame CMOS sensor with approximately 20.1-megapixel which means it has got bigger pixels which allow more data, especially while taking low light videos!
The no crop 4K 60 frames per second will also allow me to not only slow down the cinematics but also reframe on the edit table. The 120 FPS full HD will be even cooler.
To capture some of the world’s fastest cars and bikes the 12 fps mechanical or the 20 fps electronic shutter will be very helpful.
The new DIGIC X imaging processor will help reduce the rolling shutter and also makes insane autofocus possibilities on the camera.
Additional stuff like the swivel screen, the super-responsive touch screen, dual SD cards and the great tactile feel of the camera when I hold it in my hands also matter a lot.
The best part is that the simple adapter also allows me to use the older Canon lenses with no compromise on the quality of video or autofocus at all.
I am quite happy with the results of the shoot. There is also a music video that I shot with the Canon EOS R6 and these two bikes that will be released soon on xBhp YouTube!
BMW 220d: 2-Series Gran Coupe breaks tradition instead of the bank
The internet is a good thing. (?) This perfectly sums up if it is. The sentence itself means it is and the question mark is like that asterisk on special offer advertisements. The question mark also helps justify a recent phenomenon regarding a new car. BMW 220d or the 2-series Gran Coupe was just introduced and the all too easy verdict is already there. It goes something like this: ‘A front-wheel-drive BMW is no BMW’. Drive it once and you’ll disagree… with force!
First, BMW is all about premium products be it cars or motorcycles and they have a plethora of those. From the ultra-luxurious 8-series to the crazy M4 and from the K1600GTL to the new M1000RR.
But times are changing and reaching more people matters too. The combined purchasing power of the upper-middle-class matters just as much as the ultra-rich, if not more. That’s why we witnessed the G310 twins are there and that’s why the 220d is there.
BMW is also being very humble about the 2-series Gran Coupe. They refer to it as kind of an entry-level BMW. An easy gateway to the world of ‘Efficient Dynamics’ and ‘Sheer Driving Pleasure’. A means to introduce people to the brand that has been known for legends like the BMW 507 Roadster and then legend killers like the BMW M3 E46 CSL.
All the hue-and-cry in regards to the 2-Series Gran Coupe mostly boils down to a few key changes. Changes that veer away from tradition and the problem with tradition is that if you stick to it too hard and don’t adapt, it’s a prison.
Anyway, in case of the BMW 220d, it is all about the engine. Tradition says longitudinal engine with rear-wheel drive, 220d goes with a transverse engine with front-wheel-drive. Voila… you have a ‘coup’ on your hands… a Gran ‘Coup’.
What BMW has done with the 220d is not only good for the beautiful wordplay just demonstrated. It is very practical too. It saves weight. It saves space. And it stirs emotions, albeit mixed. And all of that shows when you look at the 2-series Gran Coupe.
The BMW 220d is a compact and nifty little number. Visuals have been polarizing too and it is agreeable that it may not be the prettiest BMW out there. But it is more than decent. The Misano Blue colour also helps the matters quite a bit. The quirky part here is that the car itself is polarized… about its identity.
The front of the car is busy. A tad too much probably. The grille is reasonably sized and looks good but the headlight is a bit too swept back. The chin has a lot going on too and the fog-lamps flanking the intakes on the bumper accentuate the car’s sporty intent.
It just looks a bit puffed up and the headlights do not help. But as a standalone feature, the BMW LED unit looks quite good. Move on to the side and perhaps the first thing you’ll spot is the M insignia. Good stuff. The roofline too justifies the Coupe part of the 2-series and 4 doors do justice to Gran.
Things almost get too linear in the side profile but that’s until the gates are opened. BMW 220d features frameless doors and you realize that this is something that you didn’t need until this car arrived. They look really cool and so does the BMW hologram projected under the doors and the M insignia on the door sill.
From the rear too, it is kind of a mixed bag. The taillights are cool and so are the dual exhausts but it just seems to be missing something. Something that’s hard to put your finger on.
Overall, the BMW 220d does not look bad but it could have been more proportionate and more thoughtful if it only knew what it really wanted to be. Regardless of our one’s opinion about the looks, the quality is typical BMW and it shows how they haven’t cheaped out on their cheapest, quote-unquote, Gran Coupe.
That statement had already gained some credence with the frameless doors and the BMW hologram projected on the floor when you open the car. But it gets a real shot in the arm as soon as you step inside the car. Oh, this is a BMW and a proper one at that. Almost immediately, all your apprehensions are taken care of and you are ready to start from scratch and really get to know the 2-Series Gran Coupe.
There is a reason why it feels like BMW is being too humble about this car. The interior of the car and the overall finish simply does not make it feel like an entry-level BMW. The price has been stripped but not the features. From a panoramic sunroof to the famed BMW Live Cockpit with iDrive, from wireless charging to the BMW Virtual assistant, the 2-Series Gran Coupe comes with almost all the bells and whistles.
*The photos of the interior that follow are from BMW Global and features the Left-hand-side driving setup.
Starting with the seats (front), comfy with a tinge of sportiness and electronic memory function coupled with just the right seating position easily make them one of the best in class. They even have manually extendable thigh support for even more comfort. In the rear though, the headroom is a slight issue which is predictable because of the sloping roofline. The contours in the roof try to help but only to a certain extent.
The rear seats get a 40/20/40 split and can be folded to further extend the 430 litres of boot space. The only issue here is that the opening of the boot is a tad narrow vertically… if that makes sense. The BMW 220d is compact and it feels so but the panoramic sunroof helps the matters psychologically.
The whole dash and surrounds are finished beautifully with a tasteful choice of materials and that is why the fact that this car does not seem lacking was emphasized. Adding more value to that statement is the illuminated trim which does not make its presence felt until it’s dark out but when it is… it looks beautiful.
The centre stage of the interior though is still occupied by BMW ConnectedDrive technologies. Extremely intuitive and very useful, the BMW Live Cockpit features a 12.3” digital instrument display and a 10.25” control display. The instrument display follows the newer BMWs and fortunately, we have now gotten used to the reverse tacho.
The part trick is the fact that control is not limited to the crisp touchscreen. Gesture control is also available in addition to the ‘Hey BMW’ thing aka Voice Command. The interior is also very practical with wireless charging, wireless Apple CarPlay, some well-placed USB (both Type-A and Type-C) and a very well placed 12V port in the boot. And with all that, you also have parking assistance with a rear-view camera and also, reversing assistance.
Overall, the insides of the car are really impressive and the driver’s seat (and the seating position) is something to be a fan of. That statement, when viewed in contrast with someone’s recent experience of driving a 740Li and an X6 M, bears even more weight.
Onwards to the part which inspired the sullen opening to this piece, performance. Before that, German engineering is world-renowned and something we have a lot of faith in. Add to that BMW’s sincerity in striving to back up their claim of Sheer Driving Pleasure and there were not a lot of doubts despite the drivetrain. If there was something, it was curiosity on how BMW was going to pull this one off.
The spoiler (not on the car but of this story) is that they did… for the most part. The engine is a 2.0-litre Twin-Turbo 4-cylinder diesel and 190 horses plus 400 Nm of torque is what it has on offer. It is the same mill that powers the diesel variant of the RWD 3-series. Theoretically, the FWD drivetrain is the downside and less weight is the upside. Practically… let’s see.
Men of culture when it comes to automobiles will know of a quote from a premier automotive personality. It highlights the importance of weight reduction more than outright power. And more often than not, it’s true. So with that and the peak torque arriving between 1,750 and 2,500 rpm, the 220d is a very punchy car.
The 2-series, after a healthy dose of wheelspin, offers brisk acceleration and it keeps going. The rush of it tapers down only around the top of the rev range but then, north of 5,000 rpm is a pretty lofty ceiling. Another commendable aspect of the engine is the refinement which it portrays all throughout the rev range. The only place where you can sense the diesel-ness of the engine prominently is at idle.
The impressive engine is very well supported by the 8-speed automatic which is a joy to go through but you can shift to manual and have some fun too with the pedals. All of this emphasizes that the 220d is not merely an entry-level exercise but a real BMW and with numbers like 0-100 km/h in 7.5s and a top speed of 233 km/h (claimed) it does not have to work too hard to prove that either.
If one is being honest and they know their FWD and RWD cars, they’ll know that the BMW 2-Series Gran Coupe does take a hit in terms of overall handling. But again, if those things are true, one also appreciates the lengths BMW has gone to almost nullify the effects of the drivetrain.
In the city, the 2-Series Gran Coupe is a joy to drive. Even on bad roads, the ride is comfy and the suspension pliant. That is a bit surprising considering the sporty outlook of the car but it is what it is. Even some mildly spirited driving is welcomed by the 220d and it does what you want it to do with much ease.
It is when you really start to push it that you realize that the ‘wrong’ set of wheels is being powered. But even then, the effect is much less pronounced than most of the other FWD cars. This magic is accomplished by something BMW calls the ARB system (actuator contiguous wheel slip limitation) which works in conjunction with the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) to mitigate the understeer and to some extent, the torque steer which is native to FWD drivetrains.
Moving on, the BMW 220d may not be as engaging to drive on winding roads as some of the other BMWs but it is not too far off the mark. So the claimed fatal flaw of the BMW 2-Series Gran Coupe is nearly masked and the leftover is dealt with by the responsive and communicative steering which keeps you in the know of the limits of the 220d. That is… unexpected and most definitely… impressive.
Finally, coming back to the point of this piece. It is very easy to pass a verdict by looking at the brochure and those who do may sign off this car. And so will those who frequent racetracks, or those who drive like there’s no tomorrow or those who live under the false impression that street racing will make a comeback or that it’ll be cool.
But if you want a stellar car, with a stellar engine and stellar mannerisms regardless of where you take it… you want the 220d. If you want a BMW and save “some” bucks too… you want the 220d. Quote-unquote on some simply meant that it would have been nicer if we could save some more.
More details here.
2020 Street Triple RS Review: Triumph’ant as ever!
There are a few names in the motorcycling world that can make the heart of a motorcyclist skip a beat. Triumph Daytona is one of the names. It was followed by the Triumph Street Triple. And now, we have our hands on the 2020 Triumph Street Triple RS. Is it still the formidable machine that it always was? Time to find out.
Let’s start with the things that made the Daytona special because after all, it was the first one that got it right and is the spiritual predecessor of the Street Triple. Daytona, powered by Triumph’s famous 675cc triple, had its hands full with the competition from Japan. But the Daytona was touted to have a brilliant engine and more than that, a fantastic chassis which when combined with the compact and lithe dimensions and lesser weight, often gave it the upper hand against the competition.
In the motorcycling world, it is usually the case that something like the Daytona, which nailed the engine and chassis, becomes a platform. A platform for something more. More accessibility. More approachability. More fun. In simple terms, Street Triple. Motorcyclists the world over were smitten and in love with the Street Triple, a streetfighter with track cred to match Daytona but it was more street focussed than the track-missile Daytona. It was a proper racket.
After the 2006 introduction of Daytona, the Street Triple burst onto the scene in 2007. It was a very refined package but in the end, it was also a streetfighter that was not afraid of getting the gloves off in a jiffy and fight! The end of production for the Daytona 675 was quite a scare in terms of what the future held for the Street Triple but the arrival of the Street Triple 765 came with relief. This one was a rioter too but 90 cubic centimetres more intense!
Just like the Daytona took the inline-4s from Japan by surprise, their 765cc triple also took the old 600cc inline-4 in Moto2 by surprise. Moto2 now features the 765cc triple which led to further enhancements and refinements in the Street Triple package.
Outside the world of Moto2, Triumph had two variants of the Street Triple- the R and the RS. The R, more street-friendly and the RS, more track focussed. As it turned out, the RS was a tad too focussed. The 2020 Triumph Street Triple RS has seemingly remedied that along with some more changes all around.
Starting with the looks, the bug eyes have always been the signature of the Street Triple. On the 2020 Street Triple RS, the bug seems to be a little pissed off. The LED DRLs or the brows are furrowed. It reminds one of anime characters, especially the goofy leads who undergo a transformation.
The head of the 2020 Street Triple RS still looks like it is jutting out of the motorcycle but over the years, it has grown on us. Overall, the whole motorcycle seems sharper and more focussed regardless of the angle that you look at it. The new infotainment and switchgear are more comprehensive and a welcome change. The saree guard though, is not so your 13 and 14 size spanners should go to work as soon as you get yours.
Note how we say how the 2020 Street Triple RS looks more focussed. That somewhat counteracts the claims of the new RS being a tad less uptight than its predecessor. So what’s really going on. Well, you can rest easy as the more focussed part applies only to the visuals. Let’s expand a little on that.
The 2020 Street Triple RS continues to be powered by the 765cc 3-cylinder engine good for 121 bhp of power and 79 Nm of torque. The peak power arrives at 11,750 rpm and the peak torque at 9,350 rpm. It still seems peaky but there has been a massive improvement in the low and mid-range grunt.
The too-peaky nature of the previous-gen RS made it a weapon on the racetrack where disintegrating those knee sliders is all that matters. But on the streets, it was a little cumbersome to get up to Speed. The 2020 Street Triple RS has remedied that almost fully.
It is no single or V-twin mind you in the sense that it does not unload a ton of torque right away. But it has more than before and its advantage lies in reaching those peaks quicker where it is still a blast. It is easier to stroll and zip around the city and teleport as soon as you are on an empty stretch. And the changes are not too subtle to miss either. They’re significant.
A significant change is a big deal in the case of the 2020 Street Triple RS. The previous-gen had nothing wrong per se and one always has their reservations in changing a winning combination too much. After all, magic rarely happens twice but apparently, Hinckley has made a habit out of it.
Another aspect of the stellar engine performance of the 2020 Street Triple RS is the fueling and the quickshifter- both up and down. While the former makes sure the response is crisp, the latter is what makes this bike a real hoot. Clutchless upshifts, clutchless downshifts, a soft-action slipper clutch and all that you need for some real badassery.
The gear shifts are slick and while the motorcycle itself does not need too much fiddling with the gears because of the tractability, you’ll still do that. Simply because it is too much fun. We are all aware that the 2020 Street Triple RS sounds ungodly and the angry rasp that you get on the downshifts is one of the things that motorcyclists live for.
Now while the engine is a gem and the acceleration is brisk, the one thing that betters the engine, and that is a big effing deal, are the dynamics of the motorcycle. A dry weight of 166 kg makes for a stellar power to weight ratio but it works its magic even more in the handling department.
The chassis is tried and tested and better-ed. The suspension on the RS is top-notch with 41mm Showa Big piston forks (adjustable compression damping, rebound damping and preload adjustment) and Ohlins STX40 fully-adjustable rear shock. If you can find a good winding stretch of the road as we did, you’ll come to know what a fantastic motorcycle it is.
The 2020 Street Triple RS is intuitive and very natural. It is a good’ol point-and-shoot motorcycle where it traces the intended line with surgical precision. Perhaps that is why so many people do not think twice before taking the RS to the track. Now that does take a smidge away from the ride quality. It still deals with bad roads fairly well but big potholes and bumps are transmitted to the rider.
Brakes are top-notch. Twin 310mm floating discs gripped by the fantastic Brembo M50s and 220mm single rear disc with a Brembo single-piston calliper. The performance, as mentioned before, is brilliant and everything from the bite to the feedback is spectacular. ABS is switchable on the rear end if your rowdy side takes some inspiration from the Street Triple… and it will!
The ergonomics are also a good balance between sporty and comfortable. The footpegs are set slightly towards the rear and are situated at just the right height. The tank recesses are very ergonomic and it is a breeze to grab the motorcycle with the tank which you’ll need to once you really get going.
The handlebar is wide enough for lots of leverage and the reach is just right. The windblast is awesome too but then, that is expected with a streetfighter. On the flip side, the seat is comfy and padded well enough which when coupled with the nearly vibe-free ride throughout the rev range makes for a strong case of long hauls.
The 825mm seat height is a tad high but the 2020 Street Triple RS is also a very narrow motorcycle which makes it a little easier to have your feet firmly on the ground. The bar-end mirrors are also very functional but, needless to say, a little caution needs to be exercised when filtering through traffic.
In terms of instrumentation and switchgear, the 2020 Street Triple RS gets a beautiful full-colour, 5″ TFT screen. It also gets 4 styles with high low contrast options. It is intuitive, easy to read and works well in conjunction with the switchgear which needless to say feels ergonomic and premium.
The 2020 Street Triple RS ticks all the boxes when it comes to being a very, very capable streetfighter that can double as a very potent tool for occasional track days. But what impresses one the most is the consistency Triumph has been able to maintain.
Generation on generation, the Street Triple has gotten better and the years of refinement alone is enough for the price tag. So while the INR 8.84 lakh (Ex-showroom) R seems like a better option, if you want the most of the Street Triple name, the extra kit (and the extra kick) of the RS is a lot for the INR 11.33 lakh (Ex-Showroom) price tag.
More details and full specs here.
Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge: Eleanor’s dark side
I started out as a motorcyclist and I always will be one. For the most part, I have seen motorcyclists frowning upon cars and while it wasn’t the most logical thing ever, it used to make some sense at least. But in the recent past, I have been getting opportunities to pilot some of the finest specimens of 4-wheeled automotive and I dare say that I have been impressed… moved even. A few of the highlights of these experiences came from Goodwood, England. Rolls-Royce. And in this particular story, our protagonist is a Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge.
There is a word in the English language… Sacrilege. A word mostly used in a negative sense. I have always believed that it is about perception. I’ll explain with an example. A majority of the motorcycling enthusiasts refer to cars as cages in an almost sacred manner. I am one too… always will be and yet, I do not believe in that particular sentiment. More firmly now than ever. And there it is sacrilege.
Onwards to perception now. Let me start out by saying that a motorcycling enthusiast should never drive a good car… most definitely not a RollsRoyce… and a Black Badge from Goodwood must be avoided at all costs. It will bewitch you and shake your immovable faith in the adage (if there isn’t one in existence, now it is) that an engine is more suited to two wheels than four.
Sacrilege… but here it is used in perhaps the most positive sense that one can use this word in. Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge… what a damned phenomenon! I was right to refer to Black Badge cars as Goodwood’s Dark Art. The sheer allure is ‘Unstoppable Force’ incarnate… only, I am nowhere near being the ‘Immovable Object’.
In order to discuss the Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge, we need to talk about two separate topics… briefly of course. We won’t keep you waiting for that long… our cruelty does know bounds.
Firstly, the Rolls-Royce Cullinan that we got to drive in Dubai last year and it introduced us to the magic that unfolds when you drive a Rolls-Royce. Every little aspect of one is meant to be an experience… something that’d blow away even the best of connoisseurs. We talked about everything; how it looked, how it drove, and the mark that it infallibly leaves on your soul. The Rolls-Royce of SUVs, as it is aptly referred to as, is simply magical.
The second topic is the Black Badge moniker. Now this moniker to a Rolls-Royce car is what Batman is to Bruce Wayne, what Green Arrow is to Oliver Queen, and a bit on the sinister side, Deathstroke is to Slade Wilson. Sinister… another word, usually associated with negativity but used very tastefully by Rolls-Royce to describe the Black Badge.
In fact, we have a statement from Mr Torsten Müller-Ötvös, Chief Executive Officer, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, pulled from a RollsRoyce Press Club article and it goes like this: “Black Badge reflects the desires of a distinct group of Rolls-Royce clients: men and women who take risks, break rules and build success on their own terms. Indeed, before we launched Black Badge in 2016 the idea of creating a product that would satisfy this subversive cohort – that is highly dynamic and wilfully rebellious in aesthetic – caused a great deal of internal debate. However, once the marque’s designers, engineers and craftspeople began pursuing this dramatic alter ego, it became clear that these motor cars could not only exist comfortably beneath this revered and historic brand but they would define a new space within the super-luxury market. In this spirit, the time has come for Rolls-Royce’s boldest and darkest expression of Black Badge yet. The King of the Night, Black Badge Cullinan.”
Aptly put… so what the Black Badge entails is more adventure, more sportiness, more… eagerness, more hunger and so forth. But most importantly, it means that while the choice of either driving or being driven in a Silver Badge Rolls Royce is more or less unbiased, when it comes to the Black Badge, the inclination is surely towards the former. We had the pleasure of driving the Wraith Black Badge and the Dawn Black Badge at the Yas Marina Circuit last year and we got a firsthand experience of the occurrence of the above-mentioned phenomenon.
Now, without further ado, let’s talk about the Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge. At first glance, it does not seem very different from the Silver Badge. But with keen eyes, one is able to jot down the details that make the Black Badge distinctive. It is all that the Silver Badge Cullinan was but more vigorous. And the darkness descends upon you starting with the mascot. The Spirit of Ecstasy is now finished in high gloss black chrome which, for the first time, extends to its mounting plate.
The ‘Double R’ badging is now silver-on-black, opposite of what it used to be, and it continues the overall darker theme of the car. The chrome accents on the exterior like the front grille surround, side frame finishers, boot handle, boot trim, lower air inlet finisher and exhaust pipes have also been tastefully darkened.
Now, the finish of the bars of the iconic ‘Parthenon Grille’ is a nifty trick. They appear black but are in fact are polished. They appear black as they reflect the blackened surroundings. That’s just magnificent attention to detail and we have massive respect for the severe hard work that goes into the design (and the execution of the design) that goes into making a Rolls-Royce.
Another distinguishing factor between the Silver Badge and the Black Badge Cullinan is the wheels. The latter gets unique 22” alloy wheels, the design of which is reserved exclusively for the Black Badge Cullinan. Their darkened finish also facilitates another brand-first for Rolls-Royce. Painted brake callipers… The ones on the Cullinan Black Badge are finished in high gloss red and the paint has been developed to withstand the high-temperature environment in which the callipers have to operate.
Now, one can get their Cullinan Black Badge in any of the 44,000 paint options offered by the brand or select an individual hue entirely. Yes, there are 44,000 options already on offer! The option of an entirely bespoke hue is just outrageous. While us mere mortals think of cars as something ‘made by a brand’, the vehicles from the stable of Rolls-Royce take the meaning of bespoke to a whole ‘nother level.
The customization options are carried to the interior of the Black badge Cullinan as well. And again, the options are near endless. Every little detail is configurable and in order to add to the high contrast options, the designers have even created a new leather colour called Forge Yellow.
Another familiar yet neat touch is the Infinity motif embroidered into the rear armrest. It is also there in illuminated treadplates and on the steel clock case. The significance of it is also an ode to the heritage and deep roots of the Goodwood marquee.
The motif was a part of Sir Malcolm Campbell’s record-breaking Rolls-Royce-powered BlueBird K3 hydroplane. It denoted that the hydroplane belonged to an insurance class reserved for boats with unlimited and therefore infinite engine power!
And while we have talked about the stately interiors of Rolls-Royce Cullinan previously, the Black Badge is even more special in more than one way. Firstly, the Technical Carbon veneer. It is a naked-weave carbon-fibre finish that has been meticulously crafted to create repeating geometrical shapes that produce a three-dimensional effect.
Rolls-Royce states, “Each leaf of Technical Carbon is finished with six coats of lacquer before being left to cure for 72 hours then hand-polished to Rolls-Royce’s hallmark mirror finish. This process takes 21 days and is only deemed complete once every piece is inspected by a craftsperson to ensure complete reflective uniformity across each of the 23 pieces within the car.”
And while that may seem like a bold claim and even a step too far, you can only know if you’ve been inside the Black Badge Cullinan. All the 23 pieces are indistinguishable in terms of feel, texture, finish and one really appreciates the execution of the tedious process which leads to the creation of every piece.
The next thing has become something of a hallmark of Rolls-Royce quite like Eleanor herself. The Starlight Headliner. Black leather, handwoven with 1,344 fibre optic lights to represent the night sky. The best part is that 8 of them randomly dart over the front occupants.
Just when one thinks that they are close to grasping the expanse of the luxury of a Rolls-Royce, they realize that owning a car like that gives you access to your own shooting stars too! We got to experience it in our tryst with the Black Badge Wraith and Dawn but personally, the real estate inside the Black Badge Cullinan takes the Starlight Headliner experience that much further.
Let’s talk about the driving experience now. The Black Badge Cullinan is powered by the same 6.75L twin-turbo V12 as its Silver Badge variant. But Rolls-Royce did well to put the flexibility of the massive engine to good use.
In the Black Badge avatar, the behemoth now makes 600 PS of power and 900 Nm of torque. That’s an increment of 29 PS in power and 50 Nm of torque.
The more grunt under the hood adds more dynamism to the already scintillating package that the Silver Badge car was. Taking things even further is the sort of a Sport mode activated by pressing the ‘Low’ button on the gear stalk. Right after, the car’s mannerisms are changed in the sense that the throttle seems crisper and the acceleration more eager.
The transmission also undergoes a change upon the activation of ‘Low’ mode. It seems more aggressive and the new exhausts system accentuates the feeling that the Black badge Cullinan means business. The exhaust note, despite still being relatively muted, is a big step forward from utter silence to this playful burble.
Another good thing is that this transformation into a sportier car has been encompassing. It is not just about the engine. The air suspension is a tad bit stiffer by default now. And this little tweak has made a lot of difference in the handling department. The steering was always effortless, but due to the changes in the suspension settings, the car feels much more composed in corners.
What gets up to speed quickly must also sport the prowess of shedding that speed quickly. The Black Badge Cullinan has been endowed with larger discs. When coupled with the reduced brake pedal travel, which translates to quicker bite and response, it makes bringing this 2,753 kg luxury penthouse on wheels to halt easy… kind of disrespectful towards the concept of inertia, isn’t it?
While the performance of the Black Badge Cullinan certainly impresses, it’s the way in which it is made accessible that truly blows one away. It is quicker, yet calmer. It is louder, yet quieter (in a way). It is strikingly similar to the Silver Badge Cullinan, and yet, worlds apart.
Words fall short when one tries to describe the sorcery by the means of which this darker iteration of the Cullinan is somehow sportier without losing a step when it comes to being as graceful as any Rolls-Royce car to ever come out of Goodwood.
I have tried my best to describe this gem (appreciate the wordplay please) of a car. But then, if you know your cars, if you have the money, and most importantly, if you have what it takes to be an owner of a Rolls-Royce, you probably do not need my get-go to go and get one. In case you do, do remember to call me for a joyride.
Every individual, every team, every organization has some ethos that they stick to… some values and philosophy around which their work revolves. When we talk about Rare Rabbit, it is the Men’s Division The House of Rare. This prominent brand of India has one ideology; individuality and that every individual… is Rare.
It is evident from their designs, their stores and right down to their manufacturing facility in Bengaluru. With a workforce of more than 1,000 and 90% of them being women, they make sure that every member of the team is an ‘individual’ and feels Rare.
This philosophy of theirs is what struck us and drove us towards Rare Rabbit. At xBhp, we have treated every biker as a ‘biker’ and so our philosophy, ‘Any Bike. Anyone.’ resonates with the philosophy of The House of Rare our in our case, Rare Rabbit. Their designs, looks, and outfits exude that very belief that they stand by and that is why we don them with pride be it with a Ferrari… or a Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge as seen here.
Benelli Imperiale 400 BS6 Review: A charming chariot
Whenever you think about Benelli, the first thing that probably comes to mind is the crazy Tornado 1130. Outrageous and beautiful. The same goes for the TNT, both 1130 and 899. But when Benelli announced that they wanted to diversify and reach a larger audience, we were curious about what they had in mind. Soon after, we had the Imperiale 400. And not too long after, the Imperiale 400 BS6. I got to ride it and well, I am impressed… and perplexed.
The reason for being impressed is what this review is all about. For being perplexed… well, that’s because it is very hard to form an opinion about this motorcycle. But follow along and you’ll understand. Like always, we’ll discuss the various aspects of this motorcycle and we’ll start with the looks.
If I had to keep it short, it looks good. At least when compared to the competition it has. It is not that the competition is ugly, it is just that Benelli, despite sticking to the at-the-brink-of-being-used-but-screw-that-cuz-we-can’t-have-enough retro theme, has kept it tasteful. Very tasteful actually.
Round headlight, check. Twin-pod instrument, check. Just the right amount of chrome, check. Long exhaust and a long rear fender, check. Spoked wheels, check. Teardrop tank (with a nicely done tank pad on either side), check. Split seat, check. Black, check. Door-handle like pillion grab rails… wait, what!? Or are those just there so you can tie some stuff up at the back?
So the checklist is complete and the Imperiale 400 BS6 is more than qualified to be called retro. The last bit, those grab rails… they kinda overqualified it. I wonder whose idea it was. Anyway, I really like the Imperiale 400 and the biggest reason is proportion. Despite motorcycles being made for so long, it is an easy-to-make mistake but the Benelli has nailed that part.
The bits I really like are the turn signals, the tail lamp, the fenders, and the blacked-out engine (thank you, Benelli). The bits I don’t like are the grab rails, of course, and the oversized leg guard. That thing is huge and messes with the overall balanced look of the bike. Overall, it is a good looking motorcycle and it has a very European old-school feel to it.
Onwards to the performance. Benelli Imperiale BS6 is powered by a 374cc single-cylinder, air-cooled engine. It has 4 valves and a single overhead camshaft. The engine is good for 29 Nm of peak torque that arrives at 3,500 rpm and around 21 bhp of power which arrives at 6,000 rpm.
My initial impression of the mill was a little disappointing and the reason is the exhaust note. It is just sufficiently burbly but then, it was Benelli who spoiled us with the mind-boggling soundtracks of their motorcycles. It was their sacred art but they seemingly forgot where they kept that scroll when they were making the Imperiale 400 BS6. But as soon as you get a move on, it more than makes up for it.
The first gear clicks into place instead of clanking which is a hit for some and a miss for some. But one thing that is commendable is the refinement. The mill is very slightly buzzy in the very beginning and butter-smooth afterwards. Bothersome buzziness is only reserved for the very top of the rev range where you won’t enjoy this motorcycle anyway.
Torque and rideability were the aims and Benelli has done a good job of achieving those. The motorcycle pulls cleanly from a standstill and it keeps going like that. The thick of the fun is in the low-mid to mid-range and that’s where the Benelli is at its most easy and therefore, enjoyable.
It can thrum along highways at 100 km/h all day without breaking a sweat. The redline is 6,000 and the rev limiter even further, but don’t go there. If you want to, the Imperiale BS6 may not be the motorcycle for you or rather, you aren’t the rider for it. The gearbox is also no-nonsense and gets the job done. There’s a fair bit of travel on the clutch but the action is light so even inside the city limits, your hands will rest easy.
Finally, the roll-on acceleration is also nice. It is not mind-boggling but it is more than ample for some highway overtakes when you are too lazy to downshift. Overall, except for the initial buzz and the slightly underwhelming exhaust note, it is a pretty good engine and the motorcycle boasts of appreciable performance. If it weighed a little less, it would have been even better.
Since we have come to the topic of weight, let’s talk about handling. This is also the department where the most serious ones of the gripes I have with the Imperiale BS6 lie. It is like Benelli expected the Imperiale 400 BS6 to be ridden in a utopian world where roads are smooth and the twists and turns are rare. Let me explain.
On the highways, the Imperiale BS6 rides as it is supposed to. It is planted and one of the steadiest motorcycles to ride at speed you’ll find. Credit goes to the 205 kg (kerb weight) and the 1,440 mm wheelbase. Sustained 100 km/h riding is a breeze. On the other hand, when things slow down, the same attributes make it just a little cumbersome. And in case of a ‘pushy’ situation, even more so.
I was so happy with it but then came the bad roads. The rear suspension is a bit stiff. And you can tell. The seat is roomy and comfy but after an hour or so, there’s some discomfort to be felt. The turning-radius is… not ideal, to put it mildly. And it is a bit spongy and lethargic in corners. Most of it is down to what the Imperiale BS-6 is meant to be but then, it would not have taken a lot to fix these niggles. But I am no engineer so there’s that. Overall, the Imperiale 400 BS6 is a delight on the highways, a little stiff inside the city and a tad spongy in the twisties.
The suspension seems adequate on paper till you read about the travel of the suspension; 110 mm on the front and 65 mm on the rear. That’s a little less. Combined with the 165 mm of ground clearance, it is not very difficult to scrape the bottom of the Imperiale BS6 when going over over-ambitious speed bumps and grisly potholes.
The brakes are ample to bring the motorcycle to a halt if you are willing to put in the effort. There’s a 300 mm disc up front and a 240 mm disc at the rear. The braking power is adequate and the hardware complies, but the initial bite felt inadequate and you need a handful of the lever to try to stop the thing. Dual-channel ABS is standard.
There is nothing to complain about in the ergonomics department. 780mm of seat height is approachable for almost everyone and the rider’s triangle is comfy and there is no undue stress on your wrists or hands or knees or the back. It is easy peasy lemon squeezy all day. The condition again is that you don’t encounter too many bad roads and that you have sufficient padding on your own seating unit.
The rearview mirrors are nice and big and chromed. The refinement levels also help the cause of imparting a better view of what is going on at the back. The headlights are something we can’t comment on since we did not get to test them at night. We are not sure about the mileage but you can expect a range of over 350 km with the 12 L fuel tank. Switchgear is likeable and I liked the inclusion of a hazard light. The build quality also hits the spot for the most part.
The twin-pod dials are something I really liked. The font and the design are very ‘68 Mustang-y. There are digital readouts for the gear position and fuel level in a small display between the pods, and the odometer and trip meters can be found in another digital display in one of the dials. In addition to all that, there are a lot of telltale lights too. I really liked it and it is good to know that modern is just as important for a manufacturer as classic.
In the end, I hope you can imagine my perplexity or perplexion or whatever. It is a very good motorcycle in some places but the small places where it misses, it gets on your nerves for being such a likeable motorcycle and then… that.
Coming to how it stacks up against its competitors, I’d say the Imperiale 400 finds itself in a good place. Again, the thing is that the basics are spot on but it seems like it lost its way a little after that. A few things here and there and the Imperiale BS6 could have been a near-perfect modern classic because it looks the part and the engine is pretty good too. And so, for INR 1.99 lakh (Ex-Showroom), it is actually a pretty good motorcycle.
Full specs here.
BMW R18: Berlin’s pride is a cruiser of ‘Future Past’
Remember when the pictures of the BMW R18 first surfaced online? It had the motorcyclists all over the world swooning over it. And we aren’t talking about cruiser fans only. Nearly every motorcyclist around the world took notice of what BMW made in the form of the R18. We got a closer look at it recently and now, here we are with the first-ride impressions of it. Time for a story? You bet!
In order to be able to tell this story with all the emotions intact, we have to start with some examples. Imagine Ryan Reynolds, the Deadpool, in a sob-fest rom-com. Does it work? No, because we don’t see Reynolds that way. Imagine Jason Statham from The Transporter series in Dear John… or Al Pacino in Letters to Juliet. Doesn’t work, right?
The reason is pre-conceived notions or the process of being ‘typecast’. You see someone doing something very different than they generally do, Bam… it feels out of place. Not that it is not possible, but it just seems unlikely. Another typical example of this is the Germans being serious people. Brilliant engineers, but serious people. And again, shattering this motion, for real, is a German which is laid-back, relaxed, believes in enjoying the little things in life and last but not the least, is a fan of Rock’n’Roll! The BMW R18.
First and foremost, This is not the first cruiser from BMW. That accolade, if you want to call it that, goes to BMW R1200C and its 850cc follow-up. Those… were less than stellar. The R18, their next attempt at making a cruiser though, is an absolute home run! It looks amazing, it has a huge engine (visually too), it seems laid back and well, it has Rock and Roll as riding modes!
One of the things that really works in the favour of the BMW R18 is that it takes its cues from the BMW R5 from 1935. That motorcycle in mine, and the opinion of many others, is one of the most beautiful motorcycles ever made. That alone was enough to deem the R18 a winner but it has a lot more than just heritage going for it.
Let’s talk about styling first. It has vintage cues, of course. But it is the way the modern bits have been blended that make it look absolutely smashing. Take the headlight for example. Rounded, chromed and it harkens back to the R5 but the LED setup reminds you that the Germans are aware that it is 2020.
Then there’s the single-pod instrument cluster but with more than enough tell-tale lamps cleverly hidden away. It is also beautifully illuminated and sports the Berlin-Built badge which not only tells that the R18 is built in the Berlin-Spandau factory of BMW but also shows the amount of pride BMW Motorrad has garnished the R18 with.
Then there’s the white pinstripe of the tank (exclusive to the First Edition). Just look at it and admire the beauty that can be found in the simplest of things. The massive boxer engine is proudly displayed and is, more or less, the centrepiece of the motorcycle.
Like any other modern engine, it has 4 valve heads but they are still operated via pushrods activated by the dual camshafts. And the camshafts, in turn, are driven by the crankshaft via a chain. BMW says all this and the use of shorter pushrods provides better control of the valve timing. We believe it is just their way of showing off their famed engineering prowess and maintaining that modern-classic amalgamation.
Moving on, we have the concealed rear suspension, the 19″ front and 16″ rear spoked wheels, the shaft-drive system with the driveshaft exposed and the dual-fishtail exhausts. Every visual cue that the motorcycle gives away is impressive and the build-quality is predictably flawless. All in all, the execution of the styling of the BMW R18 is seamless and to be honest, matchless. Probably that’s why the propeller insignia finds itself on quite a few quirky places on the motorcycle in addition to the First Edition badge for the, well, First Edition.
But hey, we have talked a lot about looks as you can see in the video above. This is about a different kind of magic. Riding the R18. So we request you to kindly dust off your denims, get those leather bombers ready (to match with the accessories you get with the R18), put that helmet on and join us for this enchantingly fulfilling ride.
Does it seem like we went a little overboard with enchanting and fulfilling? Stay with us and you’ll know. So at first, saddling up on the 345 Kg (kerb) R18 is a little intimidating. The same goes for when you fire up the engine for the first time and you feel it slightly bobbing left and right. Those who haven’t ridden a boxer yet, this is just a characteristic of this configuration of engines.
Despite all that, you’ll feel almost compelled to ride it because of the faith that the world has in German Engineering. And it is not misplaced. As soon as you are on the move, you forget all you know about cruisers and the very definition of it is rewritten. It isn’t crude and shouty. It is refined. But that does not mean it is devoid of character. Oh no-no-no. It has plenty. Just listen to that boxer sing away…
First, let us list out the things that you feel when you ride the R18, and then we’ll tell you how it actually feels. So in terms of numbers, we have 91 Bhp and 158 Nm of torque. Those figures are useless when viewed on a piece of paper but in the real world, they are the real deal. The transmission is 6-speed. The clutch is dry but it is of the anti-hopping variety.
First of all, we love the soft and confident burble of the 1,802cc air-cooled, two-cylinder boxer engine. Add to that the slight rattle of the dry clutch and you know that the clock has turned backwards. The same feeling is exuded by the clank you hear when you engage the first gear. It is so old-school, so familiar, and so endearing. As you find yourself on the move, you realize how beautifully BMW has put together this gem of an engine, their biggest Boxer to date.
The peak torque arrives at 3,000 rpm. And that is why, even at very slow speeds, you almost never feel like the R18 weighs over 300 kilos! You can sift through the gears smoothly and without any hiccups but it is always accompanied by that thud and clank. The R18 is deceiving in its looks and you almost certainly won’t feel that the R18 has a Ride-by-Wire system. The feeling on the throttle is just so direct and so organic.
The throttle response is also very crisp and the engine itself is very refined. Again, it is a trait of the Boxer engine as the forces are nearly balanced. Because of the massive amounts of torque available from the get-go, the roll-on acceleration is fantastic too and you almost instinctively do not downshift just to listen to that Boxer sing for a little longer between upshifts. Throughout the rev-range, it feels relaxed and willing to haul major a**. And with a claimed top speed of 180 km/h, it can do that too. But if you are looking to contest that claim, you’re probably missing the point.
Anyway, the R18 isn’t all about being big and nostalgic. It is quite modern too and the anti-hopping clutch is just one of the examples. 158 Newton-metres is a lot of torque which invariably means a lot of reverse of back-torque too. So botched downshifts won’t add more chrome to your ride. The same goes for the modes. Rock, Roll, and Rain. Rock is the best and that’s where you want to be if you want the R18 to be more engaging. Roll is for those lazy cruises and Rain for when the Gods weep in envy of your ride.
Now, handling. First, the massive wheelbase (1,731 mm) of the R18 in addition to the smoothness of the boxer makes for a steady and planted ride. Regardless of the speed, the R18 never waivers. The geometry plays a part too, of course.
Also, the 49mm forks up front boast of a 120 mm travel and the concealed shocks at the back, 90 mm. So you have a lot of ‘travel room’ and the pliant setup makes for a very comfortable ride. Only the biggest of the potholes are felt by the rider but even those don’t unsettle the mighty R18’s stride.
The overall responsiveness in the handling department is fair enough and to be honest, with a motorcycle this big, you shouldn’t try to scrape your knees. If you are riding the R18 like that, you will be missing the point… in addition to perhaps a cylinder-bank. The cornering clearance is not a lot and limits your shenanigans to what you can safely execute on a motorcycle like this.
Rest, the added steadiness because of the 19” front wheel is welcome. The brakes feel thoroughly ample for the R18 and they need to be because the inertia of a 400 kg+ (bike and the rider) moving at over 100 km/h is… considerable. Thankfully, the brakes inspire enough confidence to be able to do that.
The ergonomics are spot on and the seat is nice and low and comfortable. The reach to the handlebars is natural and doesn’t put unnecessary stress on… well, anywhere. The mid-mounted controls are also welcome because riding that way feels a little more commanding. Foot-forward controls are more comfortable but firstly, the cylinder banks would be a problem and second, they are a tad too relaxed sometimes in our opinion.
The BMW R18 is a commendable motorcycle and for more reasons than one. It is also almost flawless but the reason why a lot of people are going to love it is the customization options. In a very BMW fashion, the R18 can be personalized vastly so that you can truly make it your own and just to let you know the expanse of the options, you can even get ape-hangers!
Finally, we’ll admit that we aren’t big fans of cruisers. But this one… this one does it for us. It more than does it for us. You know when a motorcycle takes you back to the day when you first rode one and knew that motorcycling was going to be your life, that’s when you know that the makers have got it right.
The R18… well, it feels like it has led us to it. It is like a motorcycling spirit guide. You see, good motorcycles remind you that the emotion is what matters, the feeling is what matters, the experience is what matters, and most importantly, Soul is all that matters.
P.s. We almost forgot; for the Base Soul, the price you have to pay is INR 18,90,000 (Ex-Showroom) and for the First Edition Soul, it goes up to INR 21,90,000/- (Ex-Showroom).
For the full specs, click here.