Sharp-suited Benelli Tornado 302R breezes into showrooms

The Tornado nameplate continues to twist in China with the launch of the significantly updated Benelli Tornado 302R... should it come to Europe?

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It has been a few years since we had the opportunity to purchase a Tornado-badged Benelli on these shores, but over in China the nameplate is still going strong on a brand-new version of its pocket rocket Tornado 302R.

While there are countless examples of manufacturers catering to their various markets, we’re starting to get a little jealous of how prolific Benelli is becoming over in China under the direction of its Qiangjiang (QJ) owners following a flurry of new model launches in recent months.

Indeed, while Benelli is a relative bit-part player in Europe - save for Italy where its 502 TRK is one of the best-selling motorcycles outright - globally it goes toe-to-toe with the likes of Ducati and Triumph in terms of volume. 

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It seems QJ does have some bold plans for Benelli and a return of the Tornado nameplate over here - last seen adorning the triple-cylinder Tornado Tre 900 big sportsbike - has been mooted, albeit on a mid-range 80hp 600cc model.

However, we think it could do worse than consider bringing a version of its smallest faired model, the Tornado 302R, which has just received a major refresh for 2021.

We say this because it is more faithfully inspired by the aforementioned Tornado Tre with its layered central ‘snout’ flanked by sharp, slender full LED headlights. Let’s just say it is no coincidence the official imagery lines the Tornado 302S up against its big brother, despite the fact the Tre hasn’t been available for some years. 

While the outgoing generation was very clearly just a faired version of the sister 302S naked - sold in Europe, but not the UK -, the updated model sports a more distinctive, aggressive look, adds a substantial can for effect and appears to be more a dedicated pitch against the likes of the Aprilia RS 250 and Yamaha R3.

Under the skin is the same 300cc parallel-twin as the 302S punching out around 35bhp, which is down on the previous model’s 38bhp, but crucially now meets Euro5 standards. Weight is reduced to 182kg, while features TFT-LCD digital instrument panel, six-speed gearbox and ABS.

Will the Benelli Tornado 302R be sold in Europe?

The optimist in us is hopeful Benelli (or rather QJ) is keen to revive the Tornado as a dedicated model line, meaning we could well see a 1000cc-type version on the way very soon. 

Indeed, Benelli has already confirmed it has signed a deal with MV Agusta to utilise its 900cc triple and 1000cc four-cylinder architecture, though it is unclear whether this is intended to extend its TRK adventure line and cruiser models.

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