Benelli's 402 S looks a lot like the Ducati XDiavel
Italian manufacturer Benelli has reinvented itself in the last few years. Previously famous for its brawny, exotic, visually aggressive TnT nakedbikes, the company has pivoted to smaller capacity machines, using Italian design credentials and Chinese manufacturing to build solid, good-looking machines that undercut the rest of Europe on price.
The company seems to be struggling to find its own new visual identity while still remaining quintessentially Italian, and some of its early efforts have a bit of a whiff of the clone stamp about them.
The Leoncino is clearly inspired by Ducati's Scrambler. The TRK series adventure bikes take a deep nod to the BMW F800GS. The Imperiale 400 retro standard hits a lot of the same notes as Kawasaki's W800.
But the 402 S, in my opinion, might be taking things too far. When Ducati launched the XDiavel power cruiser back in 2015, there was nothing in the world that looked anything like it. It was such a new and radical design that you could call it iconic.
The 402 S mimics the overall body shape to a tee, while cutting down on some of the XDiavel's expensive details. The fat rear tyre is gone, replaced by a 160-section rear that should actually steer a ton better. In the process, the single-sided swingarm is gone, replaced by a trellis tube arrangement, and with the rear wheel far less exposed, there's no need for the tasty, hard-edged rim design the XDiavel rocked.
Without having to echo that bare metal look on the wheels, the 402 S doesn't use the same industrial detail look to accentuate its engine, either. And it uses a utilitarian twin upswept shotgun exhaust instead of the Ducati's fancy integrated cans.
But take a look at the stance, the tail section, the riding position and the way the forward undertray fills out the silhouette. The headlight looks like the XDiavel had a sordid back-alley knee-trembler with a KTM Duke 790.
It's not that the 402 S looks bad. It looks great. And it'll probably be a terrific bike for consumers, as it's got the same badass XDiavel look, but with a friendly 402cc, 39 horsepower parallel twin, a nice low 740mm seat and a much nicer wet weight of just 160kg. It'll be super approachable for learners, and the average Joe on the street will think it looks sensational.
Not to mention price. Benelli's recent releases have been very well priced, taking advantage of Chinese manufacturing costs. While no list price is available yet, the 402 S could well end up being a quarter, or even a fifth the price of the US$23,495 Ducati XDiavel. And that's a huge advantage.
Back in the distant past, the first bike I owned was a silver Honda VT250C cruiser, which I bought specifically because it looked like a Harley V-Rod, which I thought was the coolest looking bike on Earth. I can see the 402 S ringing similar bells for young XDiavel fans. So I'm not worried that this will be a bad product, or that it won't sell.
I'm worried that Benelli's new direction loses any sense of identity. I'm worried that its designs might get more derivative and anonymous. That the Benelli design team gets a reputation as a cover band with a CAD program. That's a bizarre fear to have about a brand that came out with the extraordinary TnT 1130, a painfully gorgeous bike you could recognize as a Benelli, and something unique, across a crowded highway. A bike that looked like it was threatening to transform into a giant wasp Decepticon at any time, and brutally attack any bike with a less striking aesthetic. Which was all of them, at the time.
That's the Benelli I'm hoping can rise from the ashes. That's a design worth copying and being proud of, that would still look fresh and compete if you updated it. Or better still, show us something we haven't seen before, like the fresh, technical and cool looks of the TnT125 monkeybike. That's a direction I could get behind.