Is the Benelli Tornado sportsbike finally making a comeback?

Renders showing a striking and futuristic look for a new generation Benelli Tornado 650 R have emerged online... but are they genuine?

Is the Benelli Tornado sportsbike finally making a comeback?

Another week, another new model from QJ Motors/Benelli it seems, this time a striking mock-up for a mid-range sportsbike that would revive the fondly-regarded Tornado name.

It’s been a busy couple of years for Benelli under the ownership and guidance of Chinese company Qianjiang Motor (QJ) - the two-wheel spin-off of Geely, owners of Volvo and Lotus among others - with the influx of investment, badge engineering and a significant range expansion allowing the Italian company to clamber up the global sales charts with vigour.

Now selling more than the likes of Triumph and Ducati globally, Benelli’s range will soon be joined by the much vaunted new Benelli TRK 800, a larger version of its TRK 502 small adventure tourer, which is currently running away at the top of the Italian motorcycle sales charts.

Over in China, meanwhile, QJ Motor has been presented new models and sketches left, right and centre, though it is unclear if all or many of these will make it over to Europe with Benelli badges.

One such model was the QJ SRG 600, an awkward-looking sportsbike that is sold in some markets as the Benelli 600RR.

However, though there were plans to bring this model to Europe, they appear to have been put on hold… and this could be why.

While there seems to be some confusion over the origin of these renders - with some questioning their authenticity and others suggesting they emerged from QJ Motor itself - they do present an enticing future for Benelli, not least the revival of the Tornado.

Last seen in Europe adorning a 1100cc triple-cylinder sportsbike in the early 2000s, the Tornado Tre has become something of a cult classic, though is now rare thanks to a litany of reliability issues.

However, the name has lived on in Asia, where it is available on a smartly-styled Tornado 302 R small sportsbike, a rival to the Yamaha R3 and KTM RC390. 

It is a look that appears to have inspired these renders, which are labelled as the Benelli Tornado 650 R [above]. This shows these have been recently produced, with the 650cc engine having only just gone into service in QJ and Benelli models.

However, the images also show a restyled TNT naked using its 550cc engine [below], plus a Tornado with that engine with another distinctly different look [bottom]. This would suggest these are design projects for Benelli and QJ mull over before settling on a final style.

Either way, compared with the 600 RR, we would wholly encourage Benelli to adopt one of these designs to cut a dash in the European marketplace.