Benelli describes its new Tre899K as an entry-level sport-touring machine, and by the Italian firm's standards that is an apt description. Along with last year's TNT899, the Tre-K has the smallest engine and lowest price of Benelli's line of triples. And like its big brother, the Tre1130K, it's a softer, more relaxed alternative to the aggressive, naked TNT.
But all you have to do is hear the malicious burble emanating from the DOHC, 12-valve triple to suspect that Benelli's definition of "entry level" differs from that of other firms. By the time you've howled through the first few gears and piloted the bike around a couple of bends, it's clear that the Tre899K is no sport-touring softie, but a quick, sweet-handling bike that's filled with three-cylinder charm.
The downsized Tre-K has some legitimate long-distance credentials, too. It's based on the Tre1130K and uses the same aluminum and steel frame, relaxed steering geometry, ample suspension travel and half fairing. The motor is a mildly detuned version of the TNT's 898cc, liquid-cooled unit. New camshafts and injection mapping help boost low-rev grunt and broaden the powerband, but reduce peak output from 120 bhp to a claimed 106 bhp at 10,000 rpm.
All instruments are well placed and easy to read. The raised, one-piece bar has a pleasant bend and an agreeable width. The most appreciated design feature is the three-position windscreen, which is easily adjusted to accommodate differing rider heights or weather conditions. Benelli claims the 899K's touring ability is enhanced by its retuned, cleaner-burning engine, giving it significantly better fuel economy than the thirsty TNT899. A large, 5.5-gallon fuel load helps, too.
The Tre-K's tailsection holds the underseat exhaust and still leaves plenty of room for sa
The three-cylinder motor is brilliantly flexible, pulling from 2000 rpm with the effortless stomp of a much bigger engine. There is no particular power step, just a very satisfying swell of power as the tach needle swings towards redline-accompanied by a soulful sound from an exhaust system that must have required a fat stack of euros to pass European noise tests.
Maybe the TNT's extra top-end power would be handy at times, but the Tre-K's fluid delivery is a worthwhile compromise. Most times I found myself accelerating out of blind bends with about 5000 rpm on the tach with the bike hauling hard. Top speed is about 140 mph-fast enough for most. My only real engine-related moan was a slight high-frequency tingle through the bars, which I don't recall from the TNT. At least the mirrors stayed pretty clear.
With all that suspension travel, I didn't expect the 899K to handle as well as the naked TNT, but the firmly sprung and well-damped fork and shock were more than up to the task of charging down twisty, hilly roads. At a claimed 463 pounds full of gas the Tre-K isn't light, but the blend of wide bars, reasonably sporty geometry and near-limitless cornering clearance made it plenty flickable.
The Tre899K is a quick and entertaining bike that has heaps of midrange performance and an addictive three-cylinder character. It may be described as a beginner's bike, but it's more than up to the task of entertaining veteran riders as well. Too bad Benelli is keeping this one to itself. Despite being homologated for the U.S. market, the tasty Tre899K won't be sold stateside any time soon.
||106 bhp @ 10,000 rpm
||55 lb.-ft. @ 8000 rpm
||Marzocchi 50mm inverted fork
||Sachs shock with adjustable spring preload and rebound damping
||Dual four-piston Brembo calipers, 320mm discs
||Four-piston Brembo caliper, 265mm disc
||120/70-ZR17 Dunlop Roadsmart
||180/55-ZR17 Dunlop Roadsmart
|Claimed dry weight
Verdict 4 stars out of 5
Capable, charismatic, and comfortable, the Tre899K would probably be a big hit in the U.S.-if only Benelli would import it.