Benelli Tornado Novecentro Tre 2003-2012 Review Buying Guide

 

The Benelli Tornado was the story of a revived Italian legend in the early Noughties and an all-new, Ducati rivalling exotic superbike that promised so much yet, like so many others, ultimately failed. As a direct consequence the company was taken over by the Chinese and, although the big triple (‘Tre’) continued for a few more years, both in sportster (900 and 1130), naked (TNT) and ‘sport adventure’ (‘Tre-K’) guises, ultimately it was dropped and slowly replaced by an Italian designed, but Chinese built family of smaller, more pedestrian Benelli singles and twins.

The Tornado, meanwhile, although never quite usurping the likes of Ducati and MV Agusta, survives as a genuinely exotic, technologically fascinating and often temptingly affordable modern classic. From the original, carbon bedecked 900 ‘Limited Edition’, built to homologate for a doomed WSB campaign, through the more mainstream 900 Tre and upspecced RS to the later, enlarged 1130, the Tornado triple was always a genuinely potent (140bhp), decent handling, striking looking and impressively finished and equipped superbike. Quality and reliability is generally good and, best of all, as it never quite caught on, prices are dirt cheap compared to the MV and Ducati alternatives with lower spec, low mileage 900s to be had for little more than £3,000. If you’re prepared to go for something a little different, Italian exotica has rarely been so affordable.

 

 

Benelli Tornado Tre (2003-2012): Price

Used prices of Benelli Tornados have plummeted so far from the original RRPs, and there so many variants both of capacity and specification, that there’s now a used Tornado Tre available for almost any budget. The original homologation special 900 LE, complete with carbon bodywork, Ohlins, Marchesinis etc had a list price of £22,000 back in 2001, although wasn’t produced until 2003. While the more mainstream version originally cost  £11,500. In 2006 a 163bhp 1130 version emerged but, after being taken over by the Chinese, by the end of the decade the last unsold bikes were being advertised for as little as £6,500. Used prices fared even worse. Base model 900s (although still with quality parts such as Brembo brakes and Marzocchi suspension) can today be had for well under £4K rising to £5500 for a minter with under 5K miles on the clocks. The more recent 1130 fetches slightly more – but not much. Tempting when a comparable 999 is nearer £7000…

 

The pros, cons, specifications and more of Benelli’s Tornado Novecentro Tre – what to pay and what to look out for

 

Power and Torque

The heart of the Tornado is its Benelli-designed transverse triple which reminds slightly of more recent Triumph engines but is even rortier and more potent. The original 898cc units were good for 133bhp (140 claimed), a usefully meaty 74 ft-lb of torque and were a pleasure to use. The bigger bore 1130 (62 compared to the 900’s 49.2) was more powerful (163bhp) and particularly more torquey, still with over 91 ft-lb of torque to pull you out of turns.

 

Engine, Gearbox and Exhaust

Although not particularly underpowered or unreliable the Benelli triple couldn’t quite match the allure of a Ducati or the sheer power and value of the latest superbikes from Japan. There were no major mechanical issues, as long it was kept serviced properly, but a few electrical gremlins did arise plus it also proved expensive to run. That, and the fact its dealer/servicing network was patchy at best compared to more established rivals only added to the Tornados woes. The gearbox is a fairly conventional, fault-free six-speeder transferring final drive through a chain plus there’s a slipper clutch to help smooth out any awkward downshifts. The exhaust is a decently lightweight 3:1 with plenty of aftermarket options available. All that said, as a used buy there’s much to commend the Tornado, too – particularly considering used values. Find a good one that’s been properly serviced and any unreliability concerns should have been ironed out by now, leaving you with a bike that looks amazing and sounds mind-bending on full chat. MotoGB are the UK’s official Benelli importer and know everything about the Tre and how to make it reliable plus there’s also an online forum dedicated to Benelli models – if you have an issue, someone here will know the answer.

 

The pros, cons, specifications and more of Benelli’s Tornado Novecentro Tre – what to pay and what to look out for

 

Benelli Tornado Tre (2003-2012) Economy

Almost certainly not one of Benelli’s main priorities when Brit designer Adrian Morton started penning the Tornado but, all things considered, it’s not that bad, either. Typically, reasonably hard use will see mpg fall to the low 40s but ridden gently you can expect far more.

 

Handling, suspension, chassis and weight

Although much of the Tornado’s concept and layout is conventional and familiar, its underseat cooling fans were strikingly different These allowed Benelli to reposition the radiator under the seat unit which in turn allowed them to give the bike very sharp steering geometry (23.5 degrees) as there was now no radiator to get in the front wheel’s way. While although the aluminium twin beam chassis was pretty conventional-looking, too, it was actually glued together, rather than welded, using aircraft-spec glue to save weight. Suspension of the top spec models was by Ohlins with quality, multi-adjustable Marzocchi units on the more basic variants. The result is a fine-handling machine – heavier and wider than a Ducati twin, but still reassuringly planted, with a cultured if slightly firm ride. Most of these components are top drawer, so there’s nothing to worry about when buying used, nor is there any need for upgrades.

 

The pros, cons, specifications and more of Benelli’s Tornado Novecentro Tre – what to pay and what to look out for

 

Benelli Tornado Tre (2003-2012) Brakes

Nothing to criticise here. All Benelli Tornados came fitted with the then finest brakes c/o compatriot Benelli’s top of the range big 320mm discs and four-piston calipers. They offer plenty of power, bite and feel, even by today’s standards, although should you wish an upgrade some braided lines and different pads should do the trick.

 

Comfort over distance and touring

Like any true slice of Italian sporting exotica, the Benelli Tornado plays little heed to covering any sort of distance in comfort – it’s simply not what it was designed for, after all. And, sure enough, the Tornado’s fairly extreme ‘bum up, head down’ riding position combined with its firm, sporting ride quickly takes its toll on your wrists and back, particularly on uneven surfaces. If you want to do any sort of distance on a Benelli triple you’d be far better off going for the TNT naked or Tre-K sports-adventure versions instead.

 

Rider aids and extra equipment / accessories

Another bike from the pre-electronic age so there’s no ABS, traction control or other rider aids here. While Benelli’s Tornado simply was never successful nor sufficiently established to encourage a significant accessories aftermarket to appear either. So, apart from a few exhaust and screen options plus crash protection and the usual consumables there’s not much out there to add to your Tornado. There is an online owner forum, though www.benelliforum.com/forum/tornado-tre/ which is probably worth checking out.

 

The pros, cons, specifications and more of Benelli’s Tornado Novecentro Tre – what to pay and what to look out for

 

Benelli Tornado Tre (2003-2012) Verdict

A brave, interesting and ultimately doomed attempt to join the Italian exotica elite which today offers a cut-price chance to own something truly memorable and unique. Aprilia’s early RSV1000s have long been touted as beautifully-built, well-equipped and brilliantly performing – if less fashionable – alternatives to the omnipresent Ducati and the Benelli Tornado offers exactly the same opportunity. It’s a fine handling and performing Italian superbike at a bargain used price. The cost of that is less familiarity and potentially more problems when it comes to servicing and spares availability but if you’re prepared to live with that you’ll always stand out in a crowd.

 

Three things we love…

  • Dramatic, different styling
  • Quality components
  • Great value

Three things that we didn’t…

  • Less back up than mainstream rivals
  • Can’t quite match Ducati allure or Japanese performance
  • Extreme ergonomics

 

Benelli Tornado Tre (2003-2012) spec

Original price

£11,500

Used price

From £3,850-£7,500

Capacity

898cc

Bore x Stroke

88x49.2mm

Engine layout

Transverse triple

Engine details

Liquid-cooled, 12v, DOHC

Power

140bhp (105kW) @ 11,500rpm

Torque

74 lb-ft (100Nm) @ 8,500rpm

Top speed

160mph (est)

Transmission

6 speed, chain final drive

Average fuel consumption

41mpg (est)

Tank size

18litres

Max range to empty (theoretical)

170miles

Reserve capacity

20miles (est)

Rider aids

None

Frame

Aluminium twin spar

Front suspension

50mm Marzocchi inverted telescopic forks

Front suspension adjustment

Preload, rebound, compression

Rear suspension

Monoshock

Rear suspension adjustment

Preload, rebound and compression damping

Front brake

2 x 320mm discs, four-piston Brembo calipers

Rear brake

240mm disc, twin-piston Brembo caliper

Front tyre

120/70 – 17

Rear tyre

190/50 – 17

Rake/Trail

23.5°/N/a

Dimensions

2039mm x 717mm x 1153mm (LxWxH)

Wheelbase

1419mm

Ground clearance

N/a

Seat height

810mm

Kerb weight

195kg (dry)

 

Looking for motorbike insurance? Get a quote for this bike with Bennetts motorcycle insurance

 

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