The KTM X-Bow offers eccentric looks and sharp handling but it's an expensive first effort from the motorcycle maker
What is it?
An updated, upgraded KTM X-Bow aimed at releasing more of the latent potential of the company’s carbonfibre two-seater.
The headline news is a power upgrade to 295bhp courtesy of the 2.0-litre turbocharged engine from Audi’s S3, which has a different turbo and cylinder head from the standard 237bhp model.
But there’s more to it than that. The engine sits 19mm lower in the chassis, which brings a 15mm centre of gravity drop overall, and the donkey’s now fixed rigidly to an aluminium rear subframe, rather than via flexible mounts.
Springs are stiffer too, dampers are uprated, while to increase steering precision and reduce front-end stiction, the front wishbone washers are Teflon.
What’s it like?
Better. We’ve had a few issues with the X-Bow in the past, and these changes go quite a long way to curing many of them.
First, it now feels more like it’s as quick as it ought to be. KTM claims a 3.9sec 0-62mph sprint, which sounds about right, given how fast it feels. It’s still a relatively torquey motor, too – it makes 295lb ft from 3300rpm and, although it’s a bit laggy down there, the 790kg (dry) X-Bow still picks up pretty quickly.
KTM says the seating position is unchanged, with a fixed insert inside the carbonfibre tub, with a widely adjustable steering column and pedal box. A carbonfibre deflector is optional, but for my money essential, given how much more habitable it makes driving quickly. A full windscreen will come next year.
And to drive? The X-Bow R's now getting close to where it should be, too.
It’s still a short, wide car so has lots of grip but less straight line stability than some cars. It’s very agile, one thing that could get you into trouble before: as the engine moved during cornering, particularly as you got back on the power, the weight shift could upset the cornering balance. And in a short, mid-engined car with what feels like some roll-steer and a limited-slip differential, that was never going to be a bundle of laughs.
That’s much less of an issue now. The changes to the front end improve not just steering precision but also feedback, so it weights up nicely and passes on decent road feel through the rim. But the key is that the chassis is more progressive – you can more easily influence how both ends contribute to the grip levels. Give it a lift here, trail the brakes there, more throttle than might be sensible on the way out; you can do all these with the confidence that the chassis is working with you, rather than against you.
Should I buy one?
Maybe. KTM expects the R to be the choice of most X-Bow buyers from here onwards, and I wouldn’t recommend the cheaper standard version over it. The R is easily £8000 better.
Whether either is worth their asking price is a slightly different matter – the R is £64,850. At that price you’ve got to love the X-Bow as a piece of engineering and product design as much as you’ve got to love the driving experience. But these things are indulgent purchases that come from the heart, and I can see how the KTM could win you over.
KTM X-Bow R
Price: £64,850; Top speed: 144mph; 0-62mph: 3.9sec; Economy: 34.0mpg; CO2: 189g/km; Kerbweight: 790kg; Engine: 4cyls, 1984cc, turbo petrol; Power: 295bhp at 5500rpm; Torque: 295lb ft at 3300rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd manual