Benelli Imperiale 400 vs Royal Enfield Classic 350 – Shootout
We pitch the BS6 versions of the Classic 350 and the Imperiale 400 against each other, to find out which comes out on top!
Shootout No. 242
Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 2,20,629/- (RE Classic 350); Rs. 2,44,837/- (Benelli Imperiale 400)
Both motorcycles don’t see any major changes for 2020 but have had fine tuning
The Royal Enfield Classic 350 has shown the world that Indians really like old-school bikes. When Benelli stepped into the market, they saw this and introduced the Imperiale 400, which was the only proper competition to the Classic 350, other than the Jawas. They even priced it aggressively. However, the Imperiale hasn’t really dented the Classic 350s excellent sales figures. For 2020, both motorcycles have received minor updates and have undergone a price hike. Today, we’re pinning them against each other in a shootout to see whether the 2020 RE Classic 350 should be bothered about the Benelli Imperiale 400.
Motor Quest: The Classic 350 is a veteran in the sub-400cc cruiser bike segment and is one of the most successful bikes in India. On the other hand, the Imperiale 400 is just 1-year-old, and it’s the only single-cylinder offering by the Italian manufacturer. While the Imperiale is the more up-to-date between the two, thanks to its features, both are closely matched in many aspects. The main differentiating factor between the two is the price, but more on that later!
Styling: Both motorcycles come under the ‘retro’ tag and they do full justice to it too. Both motorcycles feature round headlamps, round indicators, chrome accents, and even the taillights have similar designs. But they still appear pretty different. While both bikes get spoke wheels, the Classic 350 also gets alloys in some variants. Additionally, the Classic 350 gets many colour options along with various finishes, while the Imperiale gets just 3 colour options with not much difference. Moreover, the Classic 350 is the more ‘classic’ looking too, thanks to the long mudguard, the headlight assembly, and the fork covers.
The Imperiale is the more modern one between the two old-school bikes
This doesn’t mean the Imperiale 400 looks bad in any way, though. The Imperiale 400 is handsome-looking, and it is the more ‘modern’ looking between the two. After all, aren’t we all a little bored with seeing the same and unchanged design of the Classic 350? Further, the Imperiale is also the more premium looking too. Finishing issues, welding marks and other things that deteriorate the looks are much less on the Imperiale 400 as compared to the RE. All in all, looks are subjective and we think that the Classic 350 will appeal to people looking for a more ‘retro’ bike, while the Imperiale will appeal to people who want a pinch of modern too.
Instrument Cluster and Switchgear: We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. One of the biggest setbacks of the RE Classic 350 is its instrument cluster. The Classic 350’s instrument cluster gets bare basic elements like a speedometer, odometer and a low fuel light along with the basic telltale lights. Even in 2020, the Classic 350 misses out on something as basic as a fuel gauge! In contrast, the Imperiale 400 hosts a rather impressive instrument cluster. It gets a semi-digital dual-pod layout which looks pretty neat. The speedometer and tachometer are analogue while the digital display shows info like gear position, trip modes, fuel level and the odometer. While this is not chart-topping, it is certainly better than the RE Classic 350.
Both motorcycles keep their old instrument clusters and switchgear setups
Moving on, the switchgear quality is decent on both bikes. Both manufacturers have used good quality plastics and both are easy to use. However, the Imperiale 400 has an additional hazard light switch, which is missing on the Classic 350. This isn’t a huge upper hand, but it is an additional feature after all. In summary, while both motorcycles have decent switchgear quality, the Imperiale 400 is far superior to the Classic 350 instrument cluster wise.
Ergonomics: Being cruiser bikes, both motorcycles are fairly similar to each other. Both feature tall handlebars, centre-set footpegs, and split seats. Consequently, both motorcycles have an upright and comfortable posture. However, there are some differences. The Imperiale 400’s seat cover quality is better, and the height is 20 mm lower than the Classic 350, which can deem crucial for short riders. Further, the mirrors of the Imperiale 400 are more purposeful as they offer a better field of view and don’t vibrate when riding hard, unlike the ones on the Classic. However, the RE offers a better overall riding posture, thanks to the smaller distance to handlebars and slightly taller handlebars. Additionally, the Classic 350’s rear seat is more accommodating than the Imperiale’s. Overall, both motorcycles are purposeful and are closely matched in the ergonomics department.
Performance: Covering up the common bits first, both bikes get fuel injection as standard, a 5-speed gearbox, and adhere to the new BS6 norms. With that aside, the Imperiale 400 features a 374cc single-cylinder motor which produces 21 PS of power at 6000 RPM and 29 NM of torque at 3500 RPM. The specs have remained relatively unchanged for the Imperiale, as the only difference is the change in the power band. On the other hand, the Classic features a 346cc motor which makes 19.1 BHP at 5250 RPM and 28 Nm of torque at 4000 RPM. Unlike the Imperiale 400, the power has decreased in the RE’s case. Consequently, the Imperiale 400 is the better bike on paper.
The Classic 350 has become more refined but the Imperiale 400 feels smoother and stress-free
The difference can be felt on the move as well. While both offer decent low-end grunt, the Imperiale 400 feels slightly punchier in the mid-range as compared to the RE. Moreover, the Imperiale 400 feels more refined and smoother than the Classic 350, even though the Classic has improved here for 2020. Additionally, the Imperiale has a higher top-speed too. However, the RE has its own set of positives. The Classic 350 offers better fuel efficiency than the Imperiale 400. And it has a better range too, thanks to the bigger fuel tank.
Riding Dynamics: Being cruiser bikes, both bikes ride like them too. Talking about the Classic 350, it has always been a lazy handling bike, and the story remains the same. The bike doesn’t support spirited riding and fails to inspire confidence, especially while approaching turns. Moreover, the new CEAT tyres fail to impress as the grip levels are low. However, RE has tuned the telescopic front forks and the twin gas shocks at the rear for 2020 and the Classic definitely absorbs bumps better than before. The brakes have also improved drastically and the dual-channel ABS is pretty accurate too. Coming to the Imperiale 400, it hasn’t received any change whatsoever for 2020. Like the RE, the Imperiale 400 isn’t suitable for spirited riding either, but it definitely inspires more confidence than the Classic 350.
Both bikes are comfortable for city duties, but the Imperiale 400 feels more stable at highway speeds
This is largely because of the bigger 41 mm forks upfront, a slightly stiffer suspension setup and better MRF rubber. Moreover, while the Classic feels wobbly at high speeds, the Imperiale stays in character even at higher speeds, thanks to the longer wheelbase. The Imperiale also offers better ground clearance, making it better at dealing with big potholes. The braking performance is sufficient as well, and the Imperiale also gets a dual-channel ABS but as standard. However, the RE is lighter than the Imperiale, which makes life easier in the city. All in all, both bikes offer similar riding dynamics, but the Imperiale handles slightly better and is more stable while the RE is better at city duties and filtering through traffic.
Verdict: The Classic 350 costs Rs. 2,20,629/- and the Imperiale 400 comes in at Rs. 2,44,837/- (both on-road Mumbai, top-model). While both bikes have undergone price hikes, the Imperiale 400 is about a whopping Rs. 24,000/- more expensive than the Classic 350. Considering how crucial pricing is in India, this is a huge deal-breaker for most people. Moreover, there is no proper explanation for the steep price hike by either of the manufacturers. In conclusion, the Imperiale 400 is an impressive bike which beats the Classic 350 in almost all aspects and we definitely recommend it if budget is not an issue. However, if the budget is a priority, the Classic 350 should be your pick. Not to forget that there’s another offering in the segment now and at an aggressive price too, but you must wait a little while for our take on it!