The entry-level performance bike segment is booming. It's the first stepping stone into the world of performance motorcycles. So, young riders and enthusiasts looking to upgrade from a premium 150cc motorcycle, naturally look at this class of motorcycles as the next big upgrade.
Even for others, the so-called 'born-again bikers' who want to get back into motorcycling after a break, it's this class of motorcycles which holds appeal - not too expensive, decent and sporty looks, and entertaining performance. It's a segment which is looked at not purely for performance, but as a combination of good looks, decent performance, touring ability and an attractive price tag.
The Benelli TNT 300 is positioned in this entry-level performance bike segment. Priced below Rs 4 lakh, powered by a 300cc parallel-twin motor and armed with aggressive naked street looks, the TNT 300 is said to be one of the largest selling Benelli bikes in India, so the company claims. We take a brief ride to see how it stacks up in this popular two wheeler segment.
The Benelli TNT 300 has got the looks of a performance naked street - muscular tank, front bikini fairing, sleek tank extensions, part-digital, part-analogue instrument panel, LED tail lamp and exposed trellis frame all point to the DNA of a performance streetfighter. The cycle parts are impressive too - fat inverted fork, twin petal discs up front, nice looking alloy wheels and a unique side-mounted rear monoshock.
The Benelli TNT 300's ergonomics are quite friendly too - it's not overly aggressive, and the flat wide handlebar and comfortable seat makes it a friendly bike to ride - whether in city traffic or on the highway. The rear set footpegs take a moment to get used to, but they are not placed awkwardly like the KTM Duke 390's. So overall, a friendly and comfortable riding position; not too aggressive like its competition and quite comfortable, even to take on touring duties.
The TNT 300 is powered by a four-stroke, parallel twin, liquid-cooled, 300cc engine, which makes 38bhp power at 11,500rpm and 26.5Nm of peak torque at 10,000 rpm. The power is transmitted to the rear wheel by a six-speed constant mesh transmission.
Switch the ignition on, thumb the starter, and the TNT 300 comes to life in a nice throaty growl. Give it some revs and the sweet sounding in-line twin comes to life in a meaty whine. If you are one who think a motorcycle should definitely sound good, the TNT 300 will not disappoint you. In fact, just the sweet exhaust note is enough to get it a good fan following.
The power and torque figures may look quite impressive on paper, but again, these kick in quite high up in the rev range. What this means is, the TNT 300 behaves like a well-sorted, relaxed tourer at low and mid-revs, which is where most riders will be at, in all practical situations - riding in traffic, or cruising along on an open road.
The parallel-twin is a smooth unit, belying no sense of any kind of vibes - whether you are puttering along within the city or with the throttle wide open on a twisty road. And this is where the TNT 300 shines - the lovely whine of the engine transforms into a howl as you cross 7,000 or 8,000rpm and upwards of those revs is where the bike feels and behaves like a performance machine.
It sounds like a larger displacing superbike and as mentioned earlier, if you're the kind of rider who likes a sweet sounding machine, the TNT 300 will please you no end. Start it up from standstill and wring the throttle wide open through the gears and you will be suitably rewarded by a nice sounding intake whine, complemented by a deep exhaust note. It's the bike's strongest point - that sound!
The suspension - with an inverted front telescopic fork and hydraulic monoshock - offers a pliant ride, soft enough for a comfortable ride and taut enough to glide over minor undulations without any sense of unsettling the bike. The TNT 300 is offered in two tyre options - the standard MRF tyres and a premium variant offered with Pirelli Angel tyres. The cost difference with standard OEM fitted Pirelli tyres is just Rs 8,000 and these are the tyres equipped on our test bike.
The tyres offer confident grip; under hard braking or taking on a set of twisties. Ride it hard through a set of twisties though, the bike's chassis somehow doesn't feel as taut as one would have wished, despite the grippy rubber. It's nitpicking really, but if you're the kind of rider who wants to take a set of fast corners occasionally, this is where the TNT 300 falters, ever so slightly.
In its defence, however, most riders will use it as what it's meant to be - an entry level performance bike with touring duties thrown in. But if it's sporty riding one is looking for, you have to first keep the engine revved high enough for some entertaining performance to kick in, and the handling can't be described as superlative.
It's a decent offering from Benelli, the TNT 300. Streetfigher looks, decent performance and a smooth and refined engine with a great sound make it an attractive entry-level twin cylinder offering. But at Rs 2.83 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi), the TNT 300 is placed on the slightly expensive side of the entry-level performance bike segment, with acclaimed rivals like the highly popular KTM 390 Duke and the Kawasaki Z250.
But it's not those rivals Benelli needs to worry about, but closer home, within the family. The single-cylinder 250cc Benelli TNT 25 has just been launched recently at just Rs 1.68 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi). It's a model Benelli is betting big on, as the flagship Benelli in terms of sales volumes. But will the TNT 25 cannibalize the TNT 300's sales? That's what will be interesting to watch and see what strategy Benelli adopts.