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The lion may be smaller but the roar is the same

Mirza Mohammed Ali Khan | Updated on January 08, 2018

Benelli's 302R is at home in the city though it sounds like it belongs on the track

There are two things that appeal to the hearts of most Indian motorcycle buyers — ‘sports’ look (read full fairing that gives the motorcycle that chunky appeal) and the exhaust sounds, the louder the better.

With the 302R, which is Benelli’s first fully-faired offering in India, the Italian motorcycle-maker backed by Chinese Qianjiang group, has got those two factors on point. The motorcycle was awaited in India for quite some time and it launched earlier this year. We put it to test on Chennai’s weekend traffic-infested roads and highways skirting the city.

Looks and design

The 302R can easily pass for a motorcycle with at least double the cubic capacity of the engine powering it. In quite a front-heavy appearance, the motorcycle gets well-muscled full-fairing with a sculpted, chunky fuel tank and a wide cowl topping the twin headlamps.

It gets a new Trellis frame that sits in neatly with the fairing, and the clip-on handlebars complete the sports bike feel. The Benelli branding is stylishly obvious all along the fairing, and the tank also gets carved-in lions on either side, underlining Benelli’s mascot of sorts. The rear-view mirrors are mounted on the visor cowl and they aren’t very adjust-friendly, which can be a bother at times.

The rear of the motorcycle doesn’t get as much bulk as the front, but the twin-pipe metal finish exhaust adds a bit of welcome rustic looks to it. From behind, the bike looks thinner, with the LED tail lamp set above the arrow-shaped indicators.

It gets split rear seats, with the pillion not as raised as on some other sports bikes, but unfortunately not too comfortable either.

The instrument cluster is similar to what one sees on most performance motorcycles. It has a rev gauge, with the needle rising impressively once you gun the throttle and on the right is the LCD panel displaying speed, fuel level, temperature, time, ODO and trip meter, and gear indicator. The top of the LCD display is home to a cluster of indicators such as headlamp, engine check and ABS.

The standard switchgear is on both the handlebars along with the ABS switch on the left. However, the quality of plastic used doesn’t feel premium for the price and the overall feel of the bike. Same can be said for the rear-view mirrors too.

Seating position for the rider is comfortable and even after over four continuous hours on the saddle, wrists don’t complain of a lot of discomfort — an indicator that Benelli realises the city commute prospective buyers will be looking for.

The Benelli 302R is powered by the same 300 cc twin-cylinder engine seen on its naked sibling — the TNT 300.

Performance

The four stroke, liquid-cooled mill churns out a healthy 38.26 bhp at 11,500 rpm and a peak torque of 26.5 Nm at 10,000 rpm.

Both power and torque make themselves easily available fairly high into the rev range. Overtaking in the city needed downshifts to push the needle beyond 7,500-8,000 rpm to extract that tug to get away from traffic.

The plus side of doing this was that every downshift and subsequent pull on the throttle produced a loud, deep growl so delightful on the ears, that fellow commuters actually turned and stared, as the 302R pulled away from them.

The other side of this top-line focused performance from the engine is that the 302R will make for a very comfortable touring machine. One can easily push it to six gear, gun it to about 120 kmph and cruise all day long.

This is clearly a bike that is comfortable in higher gears. It doesn’t knock and hums along, albeit a little more throatily in the sixth gear even at 40 kmph. This seems another indicator that Benelli is targeting city users, including those upgrading from commuter vehicles, and the engine hums smooth even at low speeds.

Handling was steady, with the suspension fairly pliant so potholes weren’t as jarring as you’d expect. The Metzeler tyres are made for sporty riding and take corners well, keeping balance intact even at high speeds as they should. The twin hydraulic discs on the front wheel and the single rear disc ensure smooth braking.

The presence of ABS is reassuring and it is standard on the 302R. A slight niggle is when you have to take U-turns or sharp turns, with the bike starting to feel slightly front-heavy.

Bottomline

The quarter-litre sports segment in India needed some fresh air, with the Ninja 300 being pretty much the only option after Yamaha pulled the R3 from the market. The 302R now gives buyers an option; especially those looking for something as handy in the city as on a highway. It is priced around ₹3.5 lakh (ex-showroom).

Published on October 12, 2017

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