Graduating from the under-500cc motorcycle bracket to the world of 600cc performance biking isn’t an easy process. But, the Kawasaki ER-6n and the Benelli TNT 600i come across as the perfect tools to help you accomplish just that. Now, you don’t normally compare a two-cylinder mobike with a four-cylinder, but there is a lot in common between these two bikes. They are both user-friendly, ergonomically sound, designed to be as hassle-free and cost-effective as possible and to make your commutes more entertaining. So, it’s not just the similarities in pricing that has made us put them into the ring. The handsome, gorgeous-sounding TNT 600i is India’s most affordable in-line-four, while the ER-6n, the naked iteration of the Ninja 650, is the country’s first 650cc parallel twin-pot. It is torque, delivers a comfortable ride, and is known to be traffic-friendly.
When it comes to the looks department, the ER-6n is essentially the Ninja 650 that’s been stripped of its fairing, dons a new headlamp, and has a new instrument cluster. The ER-6n stays true to traditional streetfighter philosophy with its forward-leaning stance and its exposed radiator, but here, dressed in black, the Kawasaki somehow lacks the Benelli’s street presence. It’s a bit like Edward Norton – it doesn’t look over the top, but delivers a stellar performance every time. The 600i, on the other hand, is infused with Italian flair, so there’s more stuff to admire.
The motorcycle’s got more cuts and creases than a design catalog, and its angular headlight unit and the trademark Benelli tank extensions make it worthy of taking a second and a third look. Then, there are those glistening quad pipes that protrude from the motor and flow under the bike to transform into those beautifully crafted twin exhaust pipes under the seat. There are a lot of Benelli-labelled bits all over the bike, such as the brake callipers and footpegs that give you your money’s worth in cosmetics. Fit and finish is faultless on both motorcycles, and all the wiring is neatly tucked out of sight.
As soon as you thumb the Benelli’s starter, you can count on a number of heads turning your way, because the TNT 600i has one of the best-sounding exhaust notes in the country. You’ll fall head over heels in love with the symphony that flows out of those twin under-seat pipes. The way the exhaust note of the in-line four echoes off city walls and hillsides is simply delightful, and you want to go faster just so you can hear the motorcycle scream even louder. The exhaust note is so good; you will consider hunting down each and every tunnel that leads to your hometown. The sound of the ER-6n is much more subdued in comparison. Like the Ninja 650’s mechanical exhaust note, the ER-6n sounds crisper and raspier higher up the powerband.
Electronic aids such as ABS, CBS and traction control have been excluded on both bikes. But, getting to grips with the two is relatively easy. The Benelli’s 600cc in-line four-cylinder motor produces 80.8bhp and 52Nm of torque, while at the heart of the Kawasaki lies a 649cc parallel twin-cylinder motor that pumps out around 9bhp less and around 11Nm more grunt. Astride the Benelli, low-end throttle response is composed in comparison to the Kawasaki. You’ll have to really wring the 600i’s throttle for any gratification, but throttle response improves as the tacho needle heads northward.
The ER-6n is less reluctant to accelerate up to triple-digit speeds and more responsive to throttle inputs at low speed. With the 600i, it feels as though Benelli has, after leaving out a traction control unit, made a conscious effort to improve safety by limiting propulsion. Actually, if it’s downright performance you seek, you’ll really have to rev the nuts off both these bikes. But the Kawi is clearly the more aggressive of the two, as it urges you to push it to its limits unlike the TNT 600i, which is a more easy-going motorcycle.
Overall, the Benelli is like a beautiful Italian steed that’s kept on a long tether. It looks and sounds fast but it feels restrained, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you buy a motorcycle primarily for the way it looks and sounds. On the Kawasaki, one would think that it’d take much more than the shedding of a good 7kg to make the Ninja 650 a better bike. But that’s just what the ER-6n is. It has better acceleration; it stops better and feels more balanced and agile than its mechanically-identical sibling. Although it lacks the option of ABS, the ER-6n comes as as the more accomplished package for Indian road conditions.