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KTM X-Bow GT (2014) review

Published:10 December 2013

KTM X-Bow GT (2014) review
  • At a glance
  • 4 out of 5
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  • 4 out of 5

By Ben Pulman

CAR's editor-at-large, co-ordinator, tallboy

By Ben Pulman

CAR's editor-at-large, co-ordinator, tallboy

This is the KTM X-Bow GT, but it’s not a gran turismo in quite the sense our long-term Aston Martin DB9 purports to be. Instead it’s a more practical version of the Austrian track day car, with a windscreen, a set of side-windows-cum-doors, and a roof.

How has KTM X-Bow become a X-Bow GT?

KTM hasn’t just plonked a windscreen and doors on the X-Bow. There have been changes to the carbonfibre monocoque chassis (which is why the windscreen and doors can’t be retrofitted to an existing X-Bow) and the aerodynamics have been tweaked too, with KTM claiming there’s now less drag and more downforce.

The engine, a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder from Audi, has been worked on too. Compared to the X-Bow R peak power is down from 296bhp to 281bhp, but there’s now an extra 15lb ft produced 100rpm lower, and KTM has tweaked the electronics for improved driveability.

Do the windscreen and doors feel flimsy?

Not a bit of it. The screen and door-window-things have the same level of fit and finish as the rest of the X-Bow, a high-quality feel that easily bests a Caterham, and would shame some manufacturers of ‘proper’ cars too. There are windscreen wipers and washer spray nozzles as well, and a heater, and all-in-all the GT’s extras add 57kg to the weight of a X-Bow. But it means you no longer have to wear a silly hat (or a helmet) to drive a X-Bow.

The downside is that the windscreen’s A-pillars block your view of the exposed front wheels, so unlike a Caterham or Ariel, you can watch the tyres skimming over the road of the springs in the suspension compressing. And although that’s not crucial to the driving experience, the reduction in visibility to place the X-Bow neatly through corners is.

As for the roof, it’s called the X-Top, and means your X-Bow needn’t fill up with water each time it rains. Alas it looks like the sort of flat cap worn by Glenn ‘Leatherman’ Hughes from the /Village People/, and all the tugging at straps, zips, rubber seals and tight leather that must be endured before your KTM is finally watertight will get even the most ardent bondage fetishist frothing through their gimp mask. If you wish to be even more practical there are optional ‘Powerparts’ (including a luggage rack) and ‘Powerwear’ (presumably making you look like a Power Ranger).

How does the GT drive?

Flip open the door, be careful not to tread on the side sill, then clamber over the carbonfibre tub and drop down on the Recaro seat that’s formed from waterproof padding. Fiddle with the race harness, adjust the steering wheel for reach and rake (no such option on a Caterham Seven or Ariel Atom) and then slide the moveable pedal box (ditto) into your ideal setting.

It’s been a little while since I last drove a X-Bow, but in this one more so than ever you drive it using the mid-range torque of the turbocharged engine, rather than thrashing it to the redline. Used to the high-rev hysterics of a Caterham or Ariel? The X-Bow’s turbocharged motor is much more relaxed, without the frenzied top-end that’ll have you screaming into your helmet in a Seven or Atom.

But all that torque, and the low kerbweight, means it’s monstrous when it comes to overtaking. It’s mega on the morning commute, with any-gear-go, and with the optional carbonfibre airbox sucking and slurping over your shoulder, it sounds like a Bugatti Veyron Vitesse too.

Anything else?

The unassisted steering is still wonderfully informative, the gearchange is light, and the huge 17- and 18-inch Michelin Pilot Supersport tyres and massive Brembo discs and calipers mean high grip levels and massive braking power. The carbon monocoque is obviously super-stiff as well, but that does mean the occasional jolt will shake the chassis and your spine.

Verdict

There’s no doubt the windscreen makes the X-Bow easier to live with, but I’m not sure it’s the route KTM should have taken. The GT is £14k more than the standard R, so if you’re going to spend £73k on a carbonfibre track day toy you’ll probably want it to be as extreme as possible.

Yet the X-Bow, being turbocharged, and bigger and heavier than a Caterham, already couldn’t match the visceral experience of the iconic Seven. And by fitting a windscreen and doors it’s removed you still further from the puristic driving experience these sorts of cars are supposed to deliver.

Specs

Price when new: £73,000
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 1984cc 16v turbocharged 4cyl, 281bhp @ 6400rpm, 310lb ft @ 3200rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 4.1sec 0-62mph, 144mph, 34.0mpg, 189g/km CO2
Weight / material: 847kg (dry)/carbonfibre
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 3738/1915/1202

Rivals

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  • KTM X-Bow GT (2014) review
  • KTM X-Bow GT (2014) review
  • KTM X-Bow GT (2014) review
  • KTM X-Bow GT (2014) review
  • KTM X-Bow GT (2014) review
  • KTM X-Bow GT (2014) review
  • KTM X-Bow GT (2014) review
  • KTM X-Bow GT (2014) review
  • KTM X-Bow GT (2014) review
  • KTM X-Bow GT (2014) review
  • KTM X-Bow GT (2014) review
  • KTM X-Bow GT (2014) review
  • KTM X-Bow GT (2014) review
  • KTM X-Bow GT (2014) review
  • KTM X-Bow GT (2014) review
  • KTM X-Bow GT (2014) review
  • KTM X-Bow GT (2014) review

By Ben Pulman

CAR's editor-at-large, co-ordinator, tallboy

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