Benelli might turn out to be the big surprise at EICMA. Regarded as an R&D department for Qianjiang since the Pesaro-based firm was acquired by the Chinese group in 2005, Benelli remained marginal for many years, focused on development of motorcycles intended for the Far East, where bikes are mainly utility vehicles and consequently must be strong, reliable, and require little attention. And they must cost as little as possible.
The sum of these qualities drew more attention than expected from snobbish Italian consumers when Benelli introduced the TRK 502 that in a couple of months reached a respectable position in the market. Adventure-style bikes are best sellers in Italy, and the TRK 502 is priced far below the class average. Its twin-cylinder 500cc engine is strong and reliable, and the bike looks right for today’s trends. Benelli sold about 1,000 bikes in three months—not bad at all.
At EICMA, Benelli unveiled what might turn out to be another step on the road to a return to the success that the firm founded by the Benelli brothers back in 1911 deserves for its great tradition. The 752S brings to completion a project originally sketched by Pierluigi Marconi in 2000 but that remained in suspended animation for years due to other Qianjiang priorities to which Benelli had to respond.
The new 750 is a classic parallel twin with a 360-degree firing order and twin balance shafts delivering 81.5 hp at 9,000 rpm with 49.5 pound-feet of torque at 6,500 rpm. It powers a sporty naked bike that is expected to hit the market around the second half of 2018. While the 752S does not promise super performance, like other current Benellis, it offers a solid package with adequate potential at what I expect will be a very attractive retail price.
The 752S harnesses that compact twin in a classic steel-tube trellis frame. Components are from top Italian manufacturers—Marzocchi 50mm inverted fork and Brembo disc brakes and cast aluminum wheels. The bike complies with Euro 4 emissions and its exhaust looks interestingly arranged, with a massive resonator/catalytic converter tucked well away, leaving only a neat megaphone-shaped muffler in sight.
In addition to the 752S, Benelli unveiled the 402S, a naked cruiser powered by a short-stroke version of the 502cc parallel twin. Engine performance is said to be 39.5 hp at 9,000 rpm with 26 pound-feet of peak torque at 7,000 rpm. Due to the triangulated structure of its steel-tube trellis frame, which is similar to that of the 752S, the chassis looks like the little sister of that bike—compact and strong.
The Leoncino 500 Sport was first shown last year and is now announced as a production model. This little roadster is powered by the same 48-hp parallel twin that also powers the TRK 502. The bike is fitted with solid components for its class, like a 50mm inverted fork, but styling is not necessarily its strong point. Other new Benelli models shown at EICMA include a couple of variations based on a 250cc single from Qianjiang, the TRK 251 and Leoncino 250.
Check out the rest of our coverage of all the new motorcycles released at EICMA this year.