2020 Benelli Imperiale 400 Test Ride Review
We do a detailed road test of Benelli's only single-cylinder offering.
Bike tested: Benelli Imperiale 400; Road Test No. 1244; Test Location: Mumbai
Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 2,44,837/-
The 2020 Benelli Imperiale 400 BS6 remains largely unchanged and retains all its positive points
We, Indians, are old-school people and we like old-school motorcycles. Product in context, the RE Classic 350. When Benelli stepped into our market, they initially introduced their middle-weight naked offerings which were welcomed with open arms, mostly because of the looks and the roaring exhaust notes. But the Italian manufacturer wanted more, and last year, they launched their single-cylinder ‘retro’ offering, the Imperiale 400, to take on the Classic 350. While the Imperiale 400 hasn’t dented the Classic’s sales, it definitely has a likeable image in the market. For BS6, the bike largely remains unchanged, but it has seen a huge price hike. Is it still a good option? We tell you what we think in our test ride review of the Benelli Imperiale 400.
Motor Quest: While we largely knew Benelli for its ADV and naked offerings when it first stepped foot in India, the Chinese owned brand launched its only single-cylinder offering, the Imperiale 400 in late 2019 as well. The Imperiale 400 strongly recalls the Pesaro based brand’s heritage and is a reinterpretation of the historic model of the Benelli-MotoBi range of the 1950s. With very minor updates for BS6, the Imperiale 400 is one of the first BS6-compliant bikes on sale in India by Benelli.
Styling: The Imperiale 400 looks exactly the same as its previous iteration. Not a lot has changed, and one will find it really hard to differentiate between the BS4 and the BS6 models. Even the revised cat pipe is neatly placed behind the heat-shield plate making it even harder to spot. Nevertheless, the Imperiale 400 has been and is still a good-looking motorcycle. The design is retro and will appeal to the masses. There is a decent amount of chrome usage on the rearview mirrors, the round headlight, the exhaust shields, etc. which further add to the retro styling of the bike. Further, to keep it a tad modern, the bike features a split seat, and a blacked-out engine and exhaust. The full halogen setup is a minor setback, though, especially if you take the newest 350cc offering in the market into consideration.
Instrument Cluster and Switchgear: The BS6 Imperiale 400 has retained the dual-pod analogue-digital instrument cluster. The tachometer and the speedometer use needles while a digital console that consists of an odometer, a trip meter, fuel gauge, and a gear position indicator accompanies them. We really like the layout of the speedometer as it is easy to read and everything is accessible. The quality of the switchgear has remained decent too, and they feel up to the mark. It’s safe to say that the instrument cluster of the Imperiale 400 is one of the finest in the segment, as it attracts old-school bike fans while offering all modern features and information. Also, kudos to Benelli as we love the key of the Imperiale 400, which resembles a swiss knife.
Ergonomics: The Benelli Imperiale 400, like any other retro bike, aims at comfortable ergonomics and it’s pretty good at it. The posture is upright and comfortable, thanks to the low seat height of 780 mm, wide handlebars and the centre-set footpegs. This gives the rider a commanding poise while riding. The fuel tank has rubber grips to aid the rider grip on while riding, but they’re not that purposeful. Additionally, the handlebars are a little far stretched and some riders might find it a little hard to get used to. The split-seat setup has good cushioning and is suitable for commuting and even for occasional touring. However, the pillion seat is on the shorter side. Lastly, the oval-shaped mirrors boast of a classic design and are purposeful as they offer a decent field of view.
Performance: Surprisingly, the Benelli Imperiale 400 has retained its performance figures. We think this is largely because Benelli launched the Imperiale 400 in late 2019 and they must’ve already known about the upcoming BS6 norms, which helped them in limiting the damage. The 374cc single-cylinder motor with FI produces 21 PS of power at 6000 RPM and 29 NM of torque at 3500 RPM. If you compare the figures to the BS4 model, there is just a minor difference as the torque now comes in 1000 RPM earlier while the peak power comes 500 RPM later. To transmit the power, the bike uses a 5-speed gearbox which remains slick shifting.
The low-end grunt of the Imperiale has improved, thanks to the peak torque coming earlier in the rev band
Is it noticeable? Not much. The Imperiale 400 still feels punchy and has a better low-end grunt. Further, like the previous model, the BS6 model also feels very refined as the counter-balancers do their job well. Some amount of vibrations can be felt, but it doesn’t hinder the experience at city speeds. However, if you push the Imperiale over 100 km/hr, vibrations creep in via the seat and the handlebars, which can cause some tingling. Coming to fuel efficiency, Benelli claims that the Imperiale is more efficient now, and the bike returned 34 km/l on our test. This rounds up the total range of the 12-litre tank to about 400 kms. All in all, the Imperiale has improved a little over the BS4 model, thanks to the improved low-end grunt which makes life easier in the city.
Riding Dynamics: Like the other aspects, the Benelli Imperiale 400 has remained unchanged here as well. All components remain the same and perform just like they used to in the BS4 iteration. We get 41 mm forks upfront and twin gas shocks at the rear with preload adjustability for suspension duties. The overall suspension setup is on the softer, which helps ensure a comfortable ride in the city, even if things get rough. While the long-wheelbase secures good straight-line stability, the flickability takes a slight hit. Consequently, the front end doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence, especially in the twisties. Also, while the weight hasn’t changed, it’s still a tad high at 205 kgs and the bike definitely feels heavy at times.
The Imperiale retains its comfortable riding dynamics and good straight-line stability
Moving on, a single 300 mm disc upfront and a 240 mm disc brake at the rear perform the braking duties. In addition, the bike also gets a dual-channel ABS built by Benelli in-house to ensure safety. The feedback from the brakes is progressive but lacks initial bite. However, the brakes perform adequately and we don’t have any issues with them. Further, the bike gets MRF tyres which offer decent grip but the grip levels can surely be better even though they are still thicker than the competition. To summarise, the Benelli Imperiale 400 offers comfortable riding dynamics and rounds up as a dutiful retro cruiser bike.
Verdict: At Rs. 2,44,837/- (on-road, Mumbai), the Benelli Imperiale 400 has gotten around Rs. 20,000 dearer than the BS4 model. Now, this is a huge hike, and this is one of the key reasons the Imperiale 400 hasn’t performed well in the market. After all, it costs around Rs. 22,000/- more than the bike it aims to beat, the RE Classic 350. However, the Imperiale has its set of plus points like the comfortable ride quality, good features, retro styling, good road presence, and excellent usability. But the fact of the matter is that the BS6 Imperiale is very similar to the BS4 model, and it fails to justify the price hike. To conclude, we would recommend the Imperiale to enthusiasts who want a retro bike with a premium feel, but if budget is a priority, there is a new and hopefully better Japanese option in the market.
* The bike looks good and has good road presence
* The dual-pod instrument cluster has good usability
* Riding dynamics are suitable for commuting as well as occasional touring
What’s Not So Cool
* Price hike isn’t justified
* Performance is adequate but could be better
* Lack of after-sale services can be a deal breaker
* Engine: 374cc, Air-Cooled, Single-Cylinder
* Power: 21 PS @ 6000 RPM
* Torque: 29 Nm @ 3500 RPM
* Transmission: 5-Speed
* Fuel Type: Petrol
* Fuel Consumption: 35-40 km/l
* Frame: Double cradle with steel tubes and plates
* Tyres: 110/90/19 (Front), 130/80/18 (Rear)
* Suspension: Telescopic Forks 41 mm (Front), Adjustable Twin gas shock (Rear)
* Brakes: 300 mm Disc (Front), 240 mm Disc (Rear)
* Length x Width x Height: 2170 mm x 820 mm x 1120 mm
* Wheelbase: 1440 mm
* Seat Height: 780 mm
* Fuel Tank Capacity: 12-litres
* Kerb weight: 205 Kgs