Most people wouldn’t guess that the Benelli TNT 899 is a decade old bike by looking at it. Unveiled in 2004, its design looks futuristic and stylish even today.
A carbon fibre mud guard and belly scoop and the abundance of Italian colours give it the exotic flavour.
Build quality is reassuring and the fit and finish is good, but not as rich as most modern motorcycles. Also, the simple design and graphics on the part digital and part analogue instrument cluster look a bit dated. However, these shortcomings do little to dim the appeal of the bike.
899cc. 123.4bhp. 9kgm. This bike falls in between the displacement bookends created by the popular nakeds in the market –Kawasaki’s Z800 and Z1000, and Triumph’s Street and Speed Triple. Like the Triumphs, the this also uses a three-cylinder architecture. Packaging advantages aside, the three-cylinder engine’s repertoire is impressive and well suited for the versatility that a naked-bike suggests.
From the word go, it is clear that performance and finesse are available in plenty. A wide powerband and a slick six-speed gearbox will let you amble along in city traffic without a hiccup even when you are in higher gears at low rpms. Although when you are in the mood to have some fun, get the rev counter needle to swing past the 4000rpm mark. Keep the throttle pinned open and it will head to its 11000rpm redline without making a fuss and feel fairly refined even as it knocks on the limiter. The pace from the engine also gets a bit more zing as you head past the 8000rpm mark. The exhaust adds to the entire experience, howling loudly as you wind on the gas and then burbling and popping unashamedly with every downshift. While the 899 is undoubtedly quick, it feels more level headed when compared to Kawasaki’s manic Z1000. That is a credit to the smooth power delivery and gearing that trades hyper responses for usability. As a result, it can be enjoyed while cruising on the highway at triple digit speeds and it won't shy away from changing pace when asked either.
This Benelli is equipped with a hybrid steel tube and cast alloy chassis. It also comes equipped with Marzocchi front forks and monoshock rear. The suspension setup offers ride quality that seems perfectly tuned for Indian road conditions. The wide, single-piece handlebar offers a practical yet sporty seating position. Although the rider’s seat is a bit firm.
Tip it into a corner and it wows you with its fluid dexterity. The smooth steering has you pointing into corners with nonchalance. Unsurprisingly, the composure as you speed round corners is impressive too. The grip from the Michelin Pilot Power tyres is plenty enough too. To slow things down, it boasts radially mounted, four-piston Brembo callipers that bite down on twin-floating petal discs. Retardation is ferocious, but the feel at the levers is reassuring.
It won't appeal to everyone though. At 820mm, the seat isn’t unreasonably high but the sense of being perched on top is exaggerated as the bike feels a bit top-heavy; a factor that may be disconcerting for shorter riders. Also, owing to the wide-turning radius, it is quite tricky to manoeuvre at lower speeds. However, the biggest shortcoming of the bike is that it lacks ABS even as an option.
DSK Motowheels has kicked up a storm in our market with plans to bring in Benelli motorcycles and this one is sure to be at the head of the pack. First impressions show that this is a fast and friendly naked that is packed with excitement and appeal. The only serious chink in the motorcycle’s armour is the lack of ABS equipped brakes. However, DSK Motowheels plans to assemble the TNT 899 in India, likely implying a competitive price tag and should surely add to the Benelli TNT 899’s storm raising abilities.