2023 Royal Enfield Bullet 350 Review: Timeless Classic!
By Preetam Bora
10 mins read
Published on September 3, 2023
- Royal Enfield Bullet 350 gets the J-series engine
- New dual-cradle chassis, updated suspension & design
- Prices range from Rs. 1.74 - 2.15 lakh (Ex-showroom)
“Time has a wonderful way of showing us what really matters,” once said a wise person. And in the world of motorcycles, nothing comes close to being as timeless as the Royal Enfield Bullet 350, a motorcycle which is synonymous with the identity of Royal Enfield. And no less than Siddhartha Lal underscored the importance of its most iconic brand, crediting the Bullet on the back of which the entire Royal Enfield empire has been built.
Eicher Motors MD Siddharha Lal, flanked by Mark Wells, Chief Design Officer, Royal Enfield and B Govindrajan, CEO, Royal Enfield at the 2023 Bullet 350 launch.
“The Bullet is our north star that keeps us honest and real. The rest of RE can go a little bit further left and right; a little bit more adventure or touring. But the Bullet made the modern Royal Enfield – the one that is the world’s largest mid-size motorcycle company today,” said Lal at the launch of the new Bullet 350 at the company’s Vallam Vadagal plant in Chennai on September 1, 2023. And the new Bullet 350 will be a global product, making its way to its place of birth in the UK, and to the rest of the world.
The Standard Maroon is an attractive new colour option offered in the 2023 Royal Enfield Bullet 350, priced at Rs. 1.97 lakh (Ex-showroom)
So, is the 2023 Royal Enfield Bullet 350 good enough to be a new Bullet, and to take the “Bullet Meri Jaan” slogan across the world? After all, the Bullet has been an iconic and legendary model in Indian motorcycling history, as much as part of culture, and tradition, winning the hearts of generations of Bullet lovers within the same family. We spent a few hours with the new Bullet 350, to see if it still has the charisma to charm riders of all age groups, in India as well as overseas.
The Bullet holds the distinction of being Royal Enfield's longest continuous production model. It was first launched in 1932.
The Bullet Story
Royal Enfield was established in 1901 as a British motorcycle brand, and the first Bullet was introduced in 1932, and it has been in production with different engine displacements and models since then to now. The Bullet is synonymous with the history of the Royal Enfield brand, a model around which the Royal Enfield brand grew exponentially over the past two decades and more, in India. In fact, the Royal Enfield brand was introduced in India first in 1955, when CKD assembly of the Bullet 350 first began in partnership with Madras Motors India. By the mid-1960s, Madras Motors started making all the components of the Royal Enfield Bullet 350 in India.
The Bullet 350 has been produced in India since the 1950s. The 2023 model gets the fourth-generation engine, with the new J-series 350 cc engine.
While the original Royal Enfield factory in Redditch, England, shut shop in 1967, Enfield India continued making the Bullet 350 over the years, introducing a 500 cc model as well and exporting it in limited numbers. By the 1990s, Enfield India collaborated with the Eicher Group, and merged with it in 1994. The Royal Enfield brand name was re-acquired, and the Bullet 350 got its first new engine in India since the 1950s, the 350 cc aluminium AVL engine in the late ‘90s. This was followed by the unit construction engine (UCE) introduced first in the Classic 350 and then the Bullet 350 in the late 2000s, and now, the J-series 350 cc engine makes its debut in the Bullet 350. It’s a platform shared with the Classic 350 and the Meteor 350.
The 2023 Bullet 350 retains the familiar silhouette and design lines, with the iconic hand-painted pin-stripes on the fuel tank and the classic badging.
RE Bullet 350: Design & Ergonomics
The new Bullet 350 retains the iconic silhouette and design elements of the original 350 cc Bullet. It still retains the iconic hand-painted pin-stripes in the standard and top-spec variants, as well as the Royal Enfield and Bullet 350 badges taking pride of place on the sides of the fuel tank and side covers.
The ergonomics offer an upright riding stance, and much of the appeal of earlier Bullet 350 models has been retained visually in the new model.
With the single-piece ribbed seat and slightly taller handlebar, the ergonomics of the new Bullet 350 are slightly different than the Classic 350, even though the kerb weight of 195 kg is the same, but 4 kg more than the outgoing UCE Bullet 350’s kerb weight. The 805 mm seat height is the same as the Classic 350’s but for those who may find it daunting, there’s an optional low seat available with a height of 785 mm, and a long list of homologated genuine motorcycle accessories.
A gear position indicator, as well as distance-to-empty read-outs would have been useful features on the small digital screen.
The instrument console is the same as the Classic 350’s, although eagle-eyed viewers will notice that the mph readings on the inside of the speedometer diameter have been done away with, at least for the India-spec Bullet 350. The small digital console is the same, offering a fuel gauge and odometer, but gear position indicator and distance to empty readings are still not offered. The Tripper navigation pod will be offered as an additional accessory through the Make-It-Yours customisation program.
The 349 cc, single-cylinder, air-cooled, SOHC engine makes 20.2 bhp at 6,100 rpm and 27 Nm at 4,000 rpm. What could have been better are some welds on the frame, and some wires could have been tucked away neatly.
RE Bullet 350: Engine & Performance
The most significant change is the new J-series engine, which now gets a single overhead camshaft (SOHC), departing from the age-old pushrod architecture. The idea is to reduce mechanical noise, as well as loss in performance, with a primary balancer shaft introduced to reduces vibrations. But the signature long-stroke character is still intact, and purists will welcome the torquey nature of the engine, and the lazy, relaxed vibe that the Royal Enfield Bullet has carved out a fan following for.
The Royal Enfield Bullet 350 is made for relaxed, easy riding. The long stroke J-series engine retains the signature thump, but is more refined than before.
Younger readers (and riders) will probably yearn for more performance for the latest-generation Bullet, but moving away towards more performance and a higher-revving engine would have robbed the Bullet of its intrinsic personality and character. The good news is, this engine has given the Bullet more refinement, across the rev range. In 5th gear, you can lazily thump through in traffic at 40 kmph, and 90 kmph is the engine’s sweet spot, although it will go up to 115 kmph, when prodded, but the Bullet is happiest between 85-95 kmph.
Also Read: All You Need To Know About RE Classic 350
The sweet spot of the new Bullet 350 is between 85-95 kmph, although it will hit 115 kmph top speed if prodded.
It’s not a deal breaker but considering the new Bullet 350 is positioned as a global product, a 10-15 kmph bump in top-end performance would have certainly made it more relevant in today’s age. The engine isn’t one that likes being revved, nor is it about chasing high-speed, back-slapping acceleration. As long as you accept the Bullet for its relaxed, easygoing character, its performance will not disappoint. After all, an enjoyable outing on a motorcycle isn’t always about adrenaline-pumping excitement or chasing others to the next red light in a tearing hurry. The strong torque and the signature thump though still retains that magic, as long as you’re short-shifting, while listening to the sound, rather than chasing the engine’s redline.
The Bullet 350 is no sports bike, but it's got comfortable ride quality which will sail over all kinds of road surfaces.
RE Bullet 350: Ride & Handling
Ride quality is as plush as the Classic 350, and even over broken surfaces and the occasional pothole, the new Bullet 350 remains planted and sure-footed. The suspension manages to soak all kinds of surfaces easily, and when you do leave tarmac behind, it manages to glide over what can also qualify as “off-road”. After all, the Bullet is as much about decimating all kinds of surfaces, as it’s about the torque and signature thump. The dual downtube chassis which we’ve already seen in the Classic 350 and Meteor 350, makes the bike feel planted, and handling is now definitely better than the outgoing UCE Classic 350.
The 2023 Royal Enfield Bullet 350 is offered in a choice of 5 colours, across three variants.
RE Bullet 350: Variants & Pricing
With the new Bullet 350, prices have also increased and apart from the base model (which doesn’t get the signature Buller pinstripe and badges, or dual-channel ABS), the Standard model is closer in pricing to the Classic 350, and the top-spec Black Gold model is in fact more expensive than a few variants of the Classic 350 (except the top-spec model). Prices begin at Rs. 1.74 lakh (Ex-showroom) for the base variant, with the standard models (in Standard Black and Standard Maroon), priced at Rs. 1.97 lakh (Ex-showroom), going up to Rs. 2.15 lakh (Ex-showroom) for the top-spec Black Gold variant.
The Bullet 350 retains its charm, with the advantage of better engine refinement and better dynamics and ride quality.
Royal Enfield Bullet 350 Verdict
The Bullet 350 certainly retains its original character, personality and silhouette, while getting all the advancements of modern technology, with engine refinement, better dynamics and ride quality. Yes, a few things could have been better. For a motorcycle built in 2023, the Bullet 350’s fit and finish and build quality could have been better.
The electrical wires and plumbing could have been neatly concealed, giving a cleaner overall look, the welds on the frame definitely leaves room for improvement. More features on the console, as well as better braking performance and slightly better top-end performance could have given the Bullet 350 more ammunition to make a mark in every market it will be offered on sale.
Also Read: Opinion - Why We Ride Motorcycles?
But as a motorcycle steeped in nostalgia, with much better refinement and dynamics, the Bullet 350 almost nails it in its new avatar. The new Bullet 350 definitely has everything going for it, possibly making it more relevant, not just with born-again bikers, but maybe even appealing to a set of riders who wants to slow down in the race of life and enjoy a relaxed ride out there.
With its timeless appeal, the new Bullet 350 has once again proved that sometimes what matters are the simple pleasures, like the signature thump of a 350 cc Bullet, or the relaxed, slow pace of a motorcycle ride, taking in the sights and sounds. After all, the journey itself is more important than the destination.
Last Updated on September 4, 2023
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