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The Benelli 600i was a sweet surprise. I will start off with a verdict first: This is one of the best 600s I have ever ridden.
Edgy and futuristic. Except for the front headlight which is pretty ordinary (but by no means bad) compared to the rest of the bike, the whole package is attractive. I rode the red one and it was the red we are used to seeing on Ducatis and Ferraris, in other words – Italian red. Nothing suits better than red on an Italian machine somehow, eh? Well, this is another proof.
The frame is comprised of a front steel trestle and rear aluminum. I would have preferred the trestle to be red as well ala the 899, perhaps it would it give the bike a sportier look? (see below)
The instrument cluster is again minimalistic, but by no means ugly. The panels lines are angular and the stickering minimal.
The best part of the bike for me was the rear with its dual edgy and triangular underseat exhausts. It should look better with tail tidy and mini aftermarket indicators. I find no reason (other than perhaps gaining more power) that one should replace the stock exhausts with aftermarket ones. They also look and perfectly match the lines of the bike.
The side scoops give the bike a meaty streetfighter look. I would still prefer a projector lamp up front ala the 600T should Benelli thing of making this bike a perfect looker.
Overall the bike looks very attractive, though not obviously Italian (like the 899). The fit and finish is top notch and you would have to try pretty hard to fight the fact that it is made in China (with all due respect many luxury products and electronics are indeed made in PRC).
Performance and Engine:
There are hardly any 600s in the Indian market today. And I suspect that the BN600i will be amongst the more exciting ones. Once you thumb the starter the bike gives you instant aural pleasure. It is already loud and sweet in it’s stock form. The seating posture is comfortable enough for long rides and it feels torquey right off the mark though the real fun starts at around 4500 rpm. It is an inline four (unlike the 899 which is an inline three) and it revs pretty high for a street naked – 82 Bhp at 11500 rpm and 52Nm at 10500 rpm.
The bike feels pretty light and peppy. Despite being an inline four 600 the initial pull is good enough for slow traffic. Overtaking is also relatively easy with a linear powerband that also makes it suitable for touring. A fly screen and saddlebags should turn it into a good long distance machine. Maybe spacers would help take off more loads from the wrists for that odd Iron Butt ride you may plan.
It will also serve to be a great transitory bike before jumping onto a litre class from a quarter litre. The power is not brutal and the overall nature of the bike is forgiving. In fact I sometimes thought I was a riding a Japanese, yes it was that smooth (despite it being a media test bike).
I was particularly at home in the corners with the bike – light and flickable. Though definitely ABS would make it more newbie friendly, the brakes do a good job.
It has also got the best ground clearance (178.5mm), the best being that of the Hyosung GT650N at 185mm in this CC segment, so you can think of taking it to Ladakh with appropriate tyre, underbelly plate and a handlebar riser mods.
I think this will be one of the hottest selling bikes in India, if they price it right and have the appropriate service backup and spare part inventory.