When Royal Enfield launched its Unit Construction Engine, it became the talk of the town. Purists were against the idea, but with fuel economy being a priority, these 350cc, single-cylinder bikes started selling like hot cakes. And now Benelli wants in on all the action as well with their latest Imperiale 400.
The Royal Enfield is the oldest looking of the two and its design harks back to REs of the old times. It looks particularly striking in the Signals paintwork, blacked-out engine, wheels and exhaust. Even the Imperiale 400 gets a blacked-out look but gets chrome wheels. The Imperiale 400 looks very retro and is well built. The Enfield is decently put together, but there are some cheap bits. The riding position on the Enfield is comfortable, but the Benelli’s seat is wider and better cushioned. And the rider is more relaxed, thanks to the wide handlebar.
On the road
The Royal Enfield is powered by a 346cc, long-stroke engine that makes 19bhp and 28Nm of torque while the Benelli is powered by a 374cc, single-cylinder engine that makes 20bhp and 29Nm of torque. The Royal Enfield bikes builds revs gradually, and the speed climbs in no hurry. But it’s the motor’s low-end torque is impressive and makes cruising along an effortless affair. The engine is very tractable and is a breeze to ride in cities and up slopes. It’s on highways where the Enfield reaches high speeds. And the thump adds to the experience. But the engine’s initial response is a bit lethargic. And the vibrations filter through to the handlebars and foot pegs. The Benelli’s air-cooled engine is more refined in comparison. It’s also the more powerful of the two and is a lot smoother than the Enfield. Vibrations are well contained too. The Benelli handles really well because of its bigger forks and double-cradle frame. The seating on the Benelli is better too and the bike loves cruising at three digit speeds. It rides over bumps remarkably well, and loves being taken to the limit. The engine may be new, but it enjoys being revved. The Imperiale is light and needs less effort when turning. It’s also very stable, thanks to the wide tyres. But it does get too spongy at the rear on the Benelli bikes.
The Benelli is the better performer because of its new engine, and while it may be built in China, it is certainly well built and offers better quality than that of the Enfield. The Italian bike is also bigger and costlier and both bikes come with BS6 engines.