First Look: Benelli Motorcycles’ Big-Bike Future

The Chinese-owned firm has sparked renewed interest and is now progressing towards a new line-up of larger-capacity bikes.

Benelli 750cc naked bike
Design patents have revealed photos of two Benelli prototypes: a 750cc parallel-twin (shown here) and a 900cc triple (below) Styling of the Benelli 750 has more than a hint of Ducati Monster.©Motorcyclist

After years in the wilderness with an ageing range, Benelli's fortunes are starting to look up. The Chinese-owned firm has sparked renewed interest over the last year with launches like the Leoncino scrambler and TRK502 adventure tourer and is now progressing towards a new line-up of larger-capacity bikes.

Although not officially revealed yet, design patents for Benelli's future models have emerged showing that the company has 750cc, 900cc and 1200cc bikes in the pipeline.

The latest to appear are CAD images of a new 1200cc three-cylinder touring bike, clearly taking aim at the likes of Triumph's similarly-spec'd Trophy 1200. Emerging from China, where Benelli's parent firm Qianjiang is based, the initial designs show a police-spec machine. That appears to be fairly standard practice in China, as the CFMoto 650TK tourer was also revealed in police specification long before a civilian version emerged. However, the bike ties in with recent comments from the company that a 1200cc three-cylinder Benelli is on the cards.

The engine appears to be a heavily revised derivative of the old Benelli triple that first appeared in 898cc form in the Tornado Tre. Later expanded to 1130cc, the latest versions in the TNT 1130R made close to 160hp. In the touring model seen here, the engine is expanded to 1200cc and bolted to a new shaft-drive transmission that uses a BMW Paralever-style single-sided swingarm. It’s all bolted to what appears to be a steel tubular frame with covers to create the illusion that it’s made of aluminum.

900cc Benelli 900 photo
Benelli 900 ptototype©Motorcyclist

Up front there’s a set of chunky looking upside-down forks, with radial-mount brake calipers and clearly visible ABS sensor rings. In true tourer style, the bike appears to be laden with gadgets, including an electrically adjustable screen and two flat-screen displays, suggesting GPS will be included. The button-heavy bar controls hint at even more tech; heated everything and a stereo would be likely equipment for a bike like this.

It would also be no surprise if other body styles were added as well, with a large-capacity adventure-style bike surely a favorite for inclusion in an expanding Benelli range. One big question remains over the bike’s production location. Given the QJiang badging on the engine in these drawings, the implication is that it will be largely made in China, although it’s possible that Benelli-branded versions for the international market will be assembled in the firm’s Pesaro factory in Italy.

The 1200cc triple is still some way from being production-ready, but there are other new Benellis that are closer to being reality. Other recent design patents, published earlier in 2016, have revealed real photographs of prototypes including a new 750cc parallel twin and a three-cylinder 900cc model. Both are steel-framed naked bikes, using derivatives of existing engines. The 900cc bike has a version of the familiar triple from the Tornado and TNT, but appears to be built using less exotic materials and design, suggesting it's intended to be a more cost-effective proposition. Its styling bears some resemblance to the Adrian Morton-designed TNT, carrying over the same fuel tank and swingarm, but with a new chassis. The forks and brakes are also similar to late-model TNTs.

Benelli police bike
CAD drawings recently surfaced indicating that Benelli has a big touring bike in the works. This police-spec bike ties in with recent comments from the company that a 1200cc three-cylinder Benelli is on the cards.©Motorcyclist

The 750cc parallel twin appears to be a revival of the engine from the Due 756 (sometimes styled as 2ue 756) that was first shown as a concept bike a full decade ago in 2006. Despite repeated show appearances and spy shots of prototypes undergoing road tests, and talk of production as late as 2012, the Due has never reached dealers.

While the latest design’s engine appears identical to the Due’s 750cc parallel twin – itself basically two-thirds of the old 1130cc triple – the rest of the bike is completely different. There’s a steel trellis frame and tubular steel swingarm instead of the Due’s cast aluminum designs, and a mid-height side-mounted exhaust in place of the earlier bike’s belly-mounted muffler. The styling is also more conventional, with more than a hint of Ducati Monster in its shapes, particularly the unadorned tank and stubby seat unit.

Exactly when the new 750cc, 900cc and 1200cc bikes will be launched remains unknown. Benelli’s current focus is getting the warmly-received Leoncino and TRK502 models – both 500cc parallel twins – into production. However, the firm has already declared its intention to build bigger bikes matching the 750cc, 900cc and 1200cc capacities of the designs shown here so don’t be surprised if they’re officially revealed sometime in 2017 or 2018.