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Benelli goes for budget over exotica for a slice of the Supernaked pie

Last year in Milan, Benelli surprised us with its pretty Leoncino scrambler and 500cc adventure bike – but it looks like the Chinese-owned firm has more tricks up its sleeve.

These are the first, leaked pictures of a forthcoming new model, codenamed BJ750GS. Given that the TRK 502 was developed under the BJ500GS code, it’s pretty clear that the ‘750’ bit refers to its capacity.

That’s actually a surprise, since the engine is visually identical to the old three-cylinder unit featured in the Tornado, TNT and Tre-K, and that in previous incarnations has been offered in 898cc and 1131cc forms. So 750cc suggests it’s been either de-stroked or sleeved down significantly. It also means that the same basic bike you see here could just as easily be offered with either of the larger engine capacities.

While the original TNT was a typical Italian orgy of high-end components, bristling with Brembos and Marzocchi parts and earning a price tag that reflected that, the bike you see here is likely to be right at the other end of the market. With an engine that’s long since amortised its development costs, relatively cheap, no-name brakes and suspension and the backing of Chinese manufacturing, it’s likely to be a bargain nakedbike rather than an exotic. As with other Benellis, final assembly may still be done in Pesaro, Italy, even if many components come from Qianjiang’s Chinese plants.

The reduction in engine size might also be related to cost saving. While smaller pistons aren’t going to save much money, the resulting lower performance would allow knock-on savings in areas like brakes and suspension. Cutting capacity could also drive down stresses on other engine parts, allowing cheaper components and materials to be used.

The frame is less exotic than the original, and the old under-seat exhaust is replaced with a big side-mounted can – presumably to meet more modern emissions and noise laws. Other legally-required additions include ABS.

In terms of style, the new machine is clearly intended to take on the mantle of the TnT. The original TnT 1130 and TnT 899 have now been discontinued, as has the Tornado, leaving the Tre-K as the only Benelli to use the three-cylinder engine that first appeared in 1999.

Tank aside, the bodywork is new, as is the headlight and all-digital instruments. There’s a single, conventional radiator instead of the old TNT’s twin, side-mounted rads, which should also help cut costs.

Some of the carried-over elements of this design – like the swingarm – might well only be place-holder components while new ones are developed. Even so, the overall shape is likely to remain much as you see it here when the final bike is released, probably in November or December this year.

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By Ben Purvis