Extraordinary car gets a power upgrade to 300bhp

What is it?

It’s unlikely that owners of the original 240 bhp KTM X-Bow models - four of them, all very similar - have found them to be down on power, but in case a few do, the company has anointed a reputable German tuner, ABT Sportsline, to come up with a 25 per cent power upgrade for the ex-Audi four-cylinder, 2.0 litre FSI petrol turbo engine.

It costs an additional £5300 including fitting, and gives the car a full 300bhp - and a Ferrari-beating power-to-weight ratio of 375bhp/tonne.

KTM bosses must also be hoping the extra power attracts more buyers. Having launched the car earlier this year, full of hope, they have been disappointed by sales, and production has been “paused” until next January. Around 300 vehicles have been sold, about 200 short of target, and there are enough X-bows in the system to fill orders until next year.

Meanwhile, there are stories that the KTM company has struck rough financial ground, and has been seeking investors.

What’s it like?

Extraordinary. The standard X-bow comes in four road-going versions, Street, Clubsport, RoC (for Race of Champions) and Superlight. All weigh around 800 kilograms. The X-Bow has an all-carbonfibre tub, a race-theory double wishbone suspension with the coil-over damper units mounted inboard, and its engine mid-mounted transversely behind the two occupants.

The styling is extraordinary, and very efficient aerodynamically, but reviewers have been unable to resist criticising its frontal resemblance to a hire kart, or to deride its unimpressive kerb weight, a clear 250kg more than a Caterham Seven or Ariel Atom 300, both £20,000 cheaper.

In most ways, the X-bow 300 is very little different from its 240bhp brothers. It has the same impressive flexibility, the same fine driving position (despite a complete lack of upholstery), the same slightly delayed-action brakes and crunchy six-speed stick-shift (you can have paddles, if you want).

The difference is when you rev the engine above 4000rpm, when the car simply accelerates faster. Performance figures are a bit hard to come by, but the extra 60 horses shave 0.4sec off the already-staggering 0-62 mph time of 3.9 seconds and boost top speed to 145mph - not bad, given the body shape delivers 200kg of downforce (and therefore quite a lot of drag) at 124mph.

Neither will the extra power improve cornering power (the standard X-Bow can generate 1.5g of lateral acceleration on road tyres, 1.8g on semi-slicks). But the power certainly will make the X-Bow faster around a circuit, which is what the car’s creators had in mind.

Should I buy one?

Maybe, though you’d want to know that the model was ultimately going to stay in production, and that KTM was going to stay healthy. And at £67,206, it’s really pricey, though there’s no doubting the car’s seed the integrity of its build. And if what you want is to be noticed as you drive by, there’s simply no better choice.


Steve Cropley

Steve Cropley Autocar
Title: Editor-in-chief

Steve Cropley is the oldest of Autocar’s editorial team, or the most experienced if you want to be polite about it. He joined over 30 years ago, and has driven many cars and interviewed many people in half a century in the business. 

Cropley, who regards himself as the magazine’s “long stop”, has seen many changes since Autocar was a print-only affair, but claims that in such a fast moving environment he has little appetite for looking back. 

He has been surprised and delighted by the generous reception afforded the My Week In Cars podcast he makes with long suffering colleague Matt Prior, and calls it the most enjoyable part of his working week.

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Add a comment…
Spudski 14 September 2009

Re: KTM X-bow 300

I have to applaud KTM for daring to build the X-Bow at all, and for daring to persue such radical styling.

It is automotive sculpture - a masterclass in ingenious use of surfacing and materials.

It's such a shame that as a car, it looks like sh*t on wheels.

Orangewheels 10 September 2009

Re: KTM X-bow 300

A fantastic but rather expensive toy at nearly £70k. how much does this upgrade actually cost, worth knowing as it's a common engine that can be chipped close to 300 bhp in a TT or S3 for between £500 & £1000.