Roland Batten reviews the Benelli Imperiale 400 for the November issue of Salisbury Motorcycle and Light Car Club's monthly magazine
A new challenger has entered the lucrative smaller-engined motorcycle market ready to take on Royal Enfield. Meet the Benelli Imperiale 400, an elegant, retro, yet modern classic bike that will tick a lot of boxes, not only for lovers of classic-style machines but also with the older rider looking for a lighter, easier-to-handle bike but one with style and a bit of a punch. The Imperiale has a lot going for it.
It is powered by a new single cylinder, four stroke, air-cooled engine that has electronic fuel injection and an overhead camshaft timing system. A smooth ride is guaranteed thanks to the very efficient front telescopic forks and an adjustable rear swinging arm with angled shock absorbers. But, what makes this machine a cut above many others, is its five-speed gearbox with silent and almost imperceptible gear change capabilities. You may not know if your foot actually changed gear but a glance at the “dashboard” will tell you, for as well as the speedo and rev counter, there is a gear indicator.
The vintage, retro look of the Imperiale, is enhanced by the exhaust, chrome inserts, the large round headlight, tear-drop petrol tank and the single (and comfortable) saddle. The pillion seat is straight out of the early 50’s being a small rectangular seat perched on the rear mudguard. Disc brakes, front a rear, provide adequate stopping power. The bike is easy to handle and a joy to ride, giving plenty of power up through the gears. It is a fairly quiet machine but there is a satisfactory growl from the exhaust as the bike’s speed increases and on the open road, with the wind in your face, one can just about hear the exhaust purring away.
The Imperiale is a reinterpretation of the historical models of the Benelli-MotorBi range produced in Italy in the 1950’s and is likely to please the many bikers who hanker after the style and looks of that era but with modern performances and reliability.
There is one more thing that will undoubtedly please – the Imperiale comes with a price tag of £3,499. You get an awful lot of machine for your bucks. For the technical minded, the powerhouse has a rated output of 15.5kW @ 5500 rpm ; a maximum torque of 29Nm (2.95 kgm) at 3500 rpm ; bore x stroke is 72.7 x 90.0mm and a compression ratio of 8,5:1. Lubrication is forced lubrication with a wet sump, it is chain driven, the exhaust has a catalytic converter and oxygen sensors and the bike’s displacement is 373.5.
The Imperiale comes in three colours, black, red and silver and currently the black and red versions are available at Hayball Motorcycles on Salisbury’s Churchfields Industrial Estate who have just taken on the Benelli franchise for this area.