Harley-Davidson X440 first ride review | Is Royal Enfield’s true nemesis finally here?
The 350-500cc laid back cruiser segment has been one that has been dominated by Royal Enfield for a long time now. Many manufacturers have tried, really hard, to dethrone Enfields but have far from succeeded. But all that might just change with what we have here. The first product of the Hero MotoCorp, Harley-Davidson - the X440. After seeing tons of spy shots and teaser photos, we finally got our hands on it. The bike has been developed in collaboration with Hero MotoCorp and Harley Davidson and it is one that is meant to do it all rather than just be a laid back cruiser, that you would associate a H-D to be. With prices starting at Rs 2.29 lakh (ex-showroom) the Harley-Davidson X440 is priced aggressively and seems ready to taken on the competition. But the question is, does it pack enough of a punch to convince you to stray away from a Royal Enfield? We headed to Jaipur with the hopes to answer just that question.
Harley-Davidson X440 design
The design is a major reason that anyone would be drawn to a motorcycle and to that end, the Harley-Davidson X440 is a bit polarising. There are some who love the design and some who don’t. Me? I’m still not completely sold. The bike definitely has a lot of traditional Harley-Davidson design cues. After all, the Milwaukee team did play a big role in the design process of the motorcycle.
The front end is made up of a circular LED headlight that sits on top of a 18-inch wheel with a metal fender. In fact, most of the body panels on the X440 are made using metal which should aid in giving it the robust Harley-Davidson feel. Above the headlight you have a 3.5inch TFT screen that sits in a circular pod that makes up the instrument cluster. The screen is bright and packs a lot of functionality across variants. You get bluetooth enabled features that allow you to pair your phone and control various functions like calls, music, notifications and even get turn-by-turn navigation via MapMyIndia integrated into the bike’s mobile application. The top-end S variant also gets an eSim which enables location based safety features as well. Behind the instrument cluster is a wide and flat handle bar and just beneath that is a large, muscular 13.5-litre fuel tank.
The seat is made up of a single piece unit and Harley-Davidson claims that it is the longest-in-segment. The rear end of the bike is where things don’t feel so cohesive in my opinion. The rear feels too boxy and the exhaust could have benefitted from having a slightly different design. The rear wheel is a 17-inch unit and it wears a 140-section tyre.
Design is subjective so you may like or even love what I don’t. But one thing that definitely needs to improve is the fit and finish levels. The bike, though amongst the best in quality from any product that has come from Hero MotoCorp could stand to have slightly quality of switchgear, panels and overall finish levels. That being said, we were told that these were prototype motorcycles so we can hope that the quality mingles are sorted out before deliveries begin.
Harley-Davidson X440 engine
The Harley-Davidson X440 is powered by a air-oil cooled, long stroke 440cc single-cylinder engine that gets a two-valve head. In terms of power and torque figures, the motor is good for 27bhp at 6000rpm and 37Nm at 4000rpm. These numbers mean that the X440 gets class-leading figures and Harley-Davidson also claims that the motor makes 90 per cent of its peak torque as early as 2000rpm. That is definitely apparent as soon as you thumb the starter and get going. The bike accelerates with vigour and that is backed by a meaty low and mid-range. In the performance track at the CIT I could, despite my large and rather heavy frame, easily see 130+kmph on the speedometer. Some of the lighter journalists also said that they clocked well above 140kmph.
Cruising is what you expect a Harley to do best and to that regard this bike nails the brief. You can comfortably cruise at 100kmph with the motor and bike feeling relaxed and planted, respectively. In fact you can even sit at 120kmph with barely any vibrations and some power left in reserve to make a quick overtake. Though beyond 120kmph, the bike does start to feel a bit buzzy. Especially at the foot pegs, tank and handlebar. Tractability is what you would expect from a low-stroke motor with this much torque. You can easily pull from as low as 50kmph in sixth gear all the way to redline without the slightest hint of rebellion from the engine. Speaking of gears, the engine is mated to a six-speed gear box with a slipper clutch. The gearbox is slick and tactile with positive shit action each and every time. The clutch Is also light and easy to pull which should make the bike easy to operate in city traffic as well.
The exhaust is one place that Harley says was crucial to the development of the motorcycle and to that end they have managed to engineer quite a pleasant exhaust note. It obviously doesn’t have the potato-potato tone that you associate with a large air-cooled V-Twin but it certainly has a strong character of its own. It’s loud, baritone and makes all the right thumps.
Harley-Davidson X440 chassis
The Harley-Davidson X440 uses a steel tubular perimeter frame that they claim is robust enough to handle anything that India can throw it and considering that is going to be an everyday bike, we surely hope that is true. The frame is suspended on a 43mm dual-cartridge KYB fork setup at the front and a gas-charged twin shock setup which is preload adjustable.
We rode the bike at CIT’s performance track and the handling track. Here the bike really surprised all of us. It is nimble, agile, predictable and most importantly a whole lot of fun. It was a lot of fun to thrash around the track and most went way past the claimed 37-degree lean angle and pretty much entirely ground out the footpeg feelers. The best part is that despite when the footpegs would make contact with the tarmac the bike would stay planted. The suspension setup seems rather well calibrated and great for handling twisty roads. The front 18-inch wheel didn’t seem to slow down the bike’s steering and the specially developed MRF Zapper Hyke tyres also maintained superb grip levels. The handling is not overly sharp and that for a bike of this segment is.a good thing. Something I couldn’t verify during our test ride is the ride quality because the roads we used had pristine tarmac. But the few undulations I found suggested that the ride quality should be plus. But I will reserve judgement till we get to ride the bike out in the open world.
In terms of ergonomics, the bike is rather comfortable and should be for riders of most shapes and sizes. You sit comfortably on an 805mm saddle with your feet almost under you and your arms reaching out to a wide and flat handlebar. This riding position allows for comfortable cruising and when you want to, gives you enough command over the bike to attack the corners. The bike also does a great job of hiding its 190.5kg kerb weight rather well.
Braking comes courtesy of ByBre callipers mounted on a 320mm disc at the front and a 240mm disc at the rear. The brakes have enough stopping power and Harley says that the system has been calibrated to have a progressive feel. That being said, I would have liked more initial bite and feel on the front brake to make braking more confidence inspiring. The bike on all variants comes with dual-channel ABS as standard and that is calibrated quite nice and I didn’t notice it intervening even once during my ride.
Harley-Davidson X440 variants and features
The Harley-Davidson X440 comes in three variants — Denim, Vivid and S. The Denim is the base variant and is priced at Rs 2.29 lakh ex-showroom, this gets spoked wheels and is available in a single yellow colour scheme. The mid-spec Vivid variant gets alloy wheels and is available in two metallic colour schemes and is priced at Rs 2.49 lakh. The top-end X440 S variant, priced at Rs 2.69 lakh gets diamond cut alloy wheels, diamond cut treatment to some of the engine casing, 3D badges on the fuel tank and gets the eSim as part of the Connected 2.0 suite on top of the base connectivity features that are standard across variants. Other features include LED headlights with an auto-illumination function (segment first), LED indicators and tail lamp, a 2A Fast Charge 3.0 capable USB socket and dual-channel ABS. Harley-Davidson also says that they will be launching a bunch of accessories for the bike, including engine guards, bash plates, different seats and so on.
Harley-Davidson X440 verdict
The X440 is the most affordable Harley-Davidson and it is also the first made in India and made for India bike that will eventually be exported to the rest of the world. The question is, does this feel like a Harley-Davidson? Well it doesn’t feel like an outright Harley in the sense that it’s not large, bulky, difficult to ride in the city and so on. What it can do though, is cruise comfortably, it feels stable, planted, relaxing and most importantly engaging to ride. Yes it doesn’t have that distinct exhaust note but it makes up for it in other regards. More importantly it allows aspiring riders to enter one of the most venerated communities of riders in the world at a fraction of the cost that you previously could. This motorcycle is a great step in the right direction for Hero MotoCorp and they have absolutely killed it with the pricing. What they need to make sure of now to ensure that the bike is the success story they hope for is to improve the fit and finish levels and to ensure solid after sales support, something that has been lacking so far. As far as how it fares against its rivals, well, the Harley-Davidson X440 has launched in a segment that not only has a fair bit of rivals and some (like Royal Enfield) that have been at the top of the hill for many years now. Whether or not you should choose one over the other is something I can tell you after doing a proper comparison test but what I can tell you is that in isolation, the Harley-Davidson X440 is a solid offering and definitely one that ticks all the right boxes for a bike in its segment.