I could begin this review by talking about how middle-class aspirations are growing at the same rate as the middle-weight motorcycle market and all that, but let me begin with something more relatable – the aloo tikki burger. This popular Indian snack, with its delectable toasted bun, perfectly cooked potato patty, and just the right amount of spices for a flavorful kick – all at an affordable price – allows for a perfect analogy for all that the Royal Enfield Classic 350 has to offer. It's not easy for a foreign brand to come in and convince me that they can offer something better. Unless, we are talking about an American brand, with years of heritage under its belt and the coolness factor that makes grown men drool. With that, let me introduce you to the brand-new Harley Davidson X440. It's a made-for-India and built-in-India Harley, developed in partnership with Hero Motocorp.
So, can this retro-styled sports cruiser outgun its competition? Let’s find out.
Harley-Davidson X440 Review: Design & Features
The new Harley-Davidson X440 definitely has a unique styling compared to anything in Harley's current line-up. It beautifully blends the characteristics of a cruiser and a roadster, which more or less looks like a fusion between the Iron 883 and the first-gen Ducati Monster. Personally, I find the design quite appealing. Elements like the teardrop-shaped fuel tank, rounded LED headlamps, machine-cut alloys, contoured single-piece seat, and oval LED tail lamp all contribute to its captivating aesthetics. While the top-of-the-line S version comes in a sleek matte black finish, in my opinion, the exclusive Yellow Mustard shade available with the base variant complements the bike's contours even better.
In terms of features, the H-D X440 certainly doesn't lag behind. The standout feature is the single-pod digital instrument cluster, which offers Bluetooth connectivity and mobile integration options. The best part is that even the base Denim version includes the same digital cluster and Bluetooth feature, except for mobile connectivity. Additionally, the bike comes equipped with a standard USB charging socket for added convenience. Other notable features include LED headlamps with the 'Harley-Davidson' logo embossed on the DRL cluster, LED taillamps and indicators, and a light sensor that automatically activates the main beam when ambient light conditions become too dim.
Harley-Davidson X440 Review: Quality & Ergonomics
Now, despite its appealing size and design, the quality of the Harley-Davidson X440 was somewhat of a letdown during our first ride impression. You may not be able to find anything wrong with it at first glance, but upon closer inspection, it becomes evident that the fit and finish of the bike is not the best in the business. The switchgear plastics and paint overrun near the frame welds are quite an eyesore. While I wouldn't classify it as terrible, considering the prominent 3D Harley-Davidson logo on the fuel tank, one would expect a slightly higher level of quality.
The motorcycle features a split-style single-piece seat design, with a seat height of 805 mm. As someone with a height of 5'6", I find that I can't completely flat-foot the motorcycle, but it doesn't feel problematic at all. The handlebar riser is angled high and inwards, providing a comfortable riding position for both city commuting and the occasional weekend trip. Despite its kerb weight of 190kgs, the motorcycle does a commendable job in disguising it when stationary. The engineers from Hero and Harley have done an excellent job in terms of weight distribution, resulting in easier handling of the X440 during idle or slow-speed situations compared to the Royal Enfield.
Harley-Davidson X440 Review: Performance & Handling
Now, let's talk about the power and performance of the bike. The motorcycle is equipped with a 440cc single-cylinder engine, which produces 27bhp at 6,000 rpm and 28Nm of torque at 4,000 rpm. The engine features a long-stroke configuration, which becomes apparent when you start riding. Initially, there is a slight hesitation before all that torque is unleashed. The engine excels in the 2,000 to 4,500 rpm range, whether you're riding spiritedly or conservatively. However, if pushed beyond this range, vibrations begin to make their presence felt through the handlebars and footpegs. But once you take the bike onto the highway, it comfortably settles into a cruising speed of 100 – 110 km/h at 4,000 rpm in 5th gear, and it can maintain this pace effortlessly. The motorcycle does offer a 6th gear, but it feels more like an overdrive mode.
Hero and Harley have paid special attention to the exhaust note, and in my opinion, it has paid off. While it may sound slightly raspy at idle, it improves significantly once you twist the throttle. However, where it truly shines is when the engine settles into a rhythm at higher speeds, revealing its V-twin heritage. The engineers at Harley have also designed the bike in a way that makes short shifting through the six-speed gearbox the best way to extract power. While testing the bike on Hero's test track, I found myself frequently downshifting into corners and then upshifting upon exits. While it’s not ideal for a bike that one would expect to have ample low-end grunt, I would like to reserve further judgments until I have the opportunity to conduct a thorough road test.
One aspect of the bike that truly impressed us was the handling. While the engine and transmission could have been tuned better, the overall grip and chassis dynamics of this motorcycle, I think are extremely well-sorted. The bike feels light and easy to tip into corners at high speeds if you are in the right gear. However, the position of the footpegs can be a hindrance to its handling. While the bike feels comfortable for everyday use, it was challenging to avoid scraping the footpegs in every turn on the track because the bike just feels so incredible around corners. Overall, the balance that the Harley-Davidson X440 offers is simply excellent. It is comfortable and stable at cruising speeds while delivering an equally enjoyable experience on twisty roads. It features 43mm KYB upside-down front forks, but what surprises me is that the bike performs exceptionally well with its dual gas-charged shock absorbers, which are 7-step preload adjustable.
Harley-Davidson X440 Review: Verdict
When it comes to choosing between the Harley-Davidson X440 and its rivals like the Royal Enfield Classic 350 and Honda H'ness CB350, I believe Hero and Harley have a definite winner on their hands. While the X440’s price, size, and features are enough to impress you, its handling and comfort make it simply irresistible, especially at a starting price of Rs 2.29 lakh (ex-showroom. It is a motorcycle that needs to be ridden to fully appreciate its capabilities, rather than just looking at the spec sheet. The only two areas that, I think, have room for improvement are the quality of parts and the footpeg position. But, then, these shortcomings can be forgiven considering the attractive pricing and overall comfort factor of the bike.