The Indian premium two-wheeler scene has never looked this good, and here's a new player entering our market with some tantalising products. The iconic Italian bike builder, Benelli has joined hands with DSK MotoWheels and is gearing up to launch a slew of attractive motorcycles. The striking piece of metal you see here is one of the best pieces of automotive art to have come out of Pesaro. It's called the Tornado Naked Tre or TNT 899. Tre is Italian for three and that's the number of cylinders firing up this beauty's 898cc heart.
The 899 looks edgy, refreshing and bloody smashing in flesh. That protruding headlamp cluster appears to have been inspired by an animated alien character, and that's not a bad thing. It's an out-of-this-world design that, according to me, is outdone only by the latest Kawasaki Z series bikes. Then, there is that bright red trestle steel up front, a beautifully crafted unique chain tensioner at the back, chunky inverted front forks, and a neatly designed three-in-one underseat exhaust pipe, all of which combine to give the 899 its unique identity.The motorcycle's quite intimidating to look at. And the TNT 900s of the yore were known to be nasty, ferocious beasts. But, to my surprise, the Benelli is anything but. Once you get behind the well positioned handlebar, things start falling into place. The TNT 899 strikes the right balance between power, torque delivery and rideability. And, you realise that the moment you take it for a spin. It offers a comfortable riding position - seats are adequately cushioned, ergonomics are spot on and the handlebar isn't too far stretched ahead. The engine, too, isn't as extreme as it looks. The liquid-cooled, in-line, three-cyl, 898cc unit churns out a modest 120bhp and 88Nm of max pulling power and is teamed up with with a 6-speed gearbox. I say modest because the motor has to lug over 200kg (without the rider, obviously).Does that hamper the riding experience? Definitely not. I'm glad the engineers have tuned it the way they have. The TNT 899 may look menacing, but it's a tame animal on the move. On the highway, there's no sudden burst of power, and delivery is relatively linear throughout the power band. Even in stop and go traffic, you aren't caught off guard. Yes, things may get a bit hot in trying conditions; it's a big fat Italian, after all. But that's when the side-mounted radiators and thermal fans come into play.The short-stroke 898cc unit is extremely tractable, and pulls strongly from just about any gear without creating any sort of fuss. Those hoping for a rorty exhaust note will be disappointed, though. What the 899 offers instead is a symphony created using, I think, crackers. It burbles and crackles down the highway, with its deep and coarse exhaust note warming your ears. Again, it's something that perfectly suits the bike's character, and after a while, it grows on you, especially the way it snaps the moment you let go off the throttle. It's different, and it's addictive.What's also loveable about this heavyweight Benelli is the way it goes around corners. It's a 200-plus-kg beast, but it can be chucked around twisties with minimal effort, and helping matters here is the superb chassis and the Marzocchi forks at the front and Sachs monoshock at the rear. They do feel a bit on the firmer side, but, then again, they can be adjusted to your liking. Our test bike did have a stiffer suspension, a bit too stiff for my liking, and I got introduced to every imperfection on the road. But, we are told that's being looked into.We were lucky enough to spend a couple of days with the 899 and ride it for over 500km, and we are certain that the TNT 899 is a great package. It may not have too many features and neither is it the most powerful bike, nor the fastest, but the way it performs in the real world makes up for all the number games it loses. It's comfortable, it's dynamically sound, and looks the part. Plus, there are no electronic aids to help the rider look, or ride an ounce better than what he is capable of. Yes, you read it right - no ABS, no traction. Sounds scary, right? It does. But the 899 offers a raw, unadulterated riding experience, and is a motorcycle that lets the rider be in control rather than the other way round.The ?9.48 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) motorcycle is not for those looking to get their adrenaline rush through some neck-snapping acceleration, or an always-on-the-edge kind of experience. Instead, the 899 is for those who stand on the outskirts of Insanity Ville and stare at it every now and then. They wonder what it will be like to cross the line and inhabit it, but always decide not to. I'm one of those. It's for you to decide which side you want to be on.The numbersLiquid-cooled, in-line 3cyl, 898cc, 120bhp @ 9000rpm, 88Nm @ 8000rpm, 6-speed, ?9.48 lakh (ex-Delhi)The verdictWorks well in both urban and highway conditions. May not sound as sweet as the Brits or the Japs, but surely has its own character.