Harley-Davidson takes another step in its quest to expand its market with the expected announcement of a new small-displacement model for 2023, the X500, a platform intended for overseas markets and as a cost-effective option here in America.
It’s not the first time the MoCo has flirted with this strategy. The Street 500/750 platform was introduced for the 2014 model year with liquid-cooled V-Twin engines. But its build quality and riding experience didn’t appeal to Harley loyalists nor to metric-minded riders in America, and it was axed a couple of years ago.
The new small alternative from Harley won’t be powered by a V-Twin but rather a parallel-Twin motor that has roots in China. Harley has thus far been tight-lipped, so we’re using “type approval” documentation for reference.
Harley-Davidson will produce two new motorcycles for Asian markets in a partnership with Qianjiang, the Chinese company that acquired Benelli in 2005. The HD500 and the HD350 are derived from existing Benelli platforms, with the HD350 mirroring much of the Benelli 302S and the HD500 sharing an engine and chassis with the Benelli Leoncino 500.
As for the American market specifically, it’s yet unclear if Harley will be importing both bikes or just the 500, which will be dubbed X500 on our shores. It uses the same steel-trellis frame and tubular-steel swingarm seen on the Leoncino 500, as well as its 500cc parallel-Twin engine said to produce 47 hp and a 99-mph top speed.
Commonality with the Benelli is also seen in the 500’s suspension and brakes, with an inverted fork and 320mm dual discs with radial-mount 4-piston calipers in front. Wheelbase is 57 inches, and its wet weight is a fairly lardy 456 lb.
The HD350 has boxy styling inspired by Harley’s XR750 flat-tracker and similar to the 338R prototype that Harley showed off in 2019. Its 353cc parallel-Twin engine makes a claimed 36 hp with a wet weight of 430 lb and a top speed of 89 mph. The HD350 shares the 55.5-inch wheelbase, inverted fork, and petal-style front disc brakes of Benelli’s 302S.
While these two new bikes are nothing like the big V-Twin Harleys that American riders covet, their smaller size will make them more accessible to various riders here and abroad, especially on pricing. The Leoncino currently retails for $6,799, so we hope the Harley badge will add a premium of less than $1,000, keeping the MSRP below $8,000.
Harley-Davidson’s new-product announcement for the 2023 model year didn’t include information on the X500, but we hope to see more details soon. At this point, we’re certain we’ll see the X500, but we’re unsure if the X350 will make it here.