KTM X BOW 2008 Concept

Odd like the product of some unlikely union between Picasso’s pencil and a Formula 1 racing team’s software for computational fluid dynamics. Odd like something cleaved from a huge block of carbon fiber with a big, ugly axe. Odd like nothing the automotive world has seen since the Lamborghini Countach. Odd as in good, actually.


It is the 2008 KTM X-Bow, an Austrian-funded, German-powered, Italian-engineered pocket-size supercar. It is what you get if an ambitiously minded European motorcycle manufacturer (KTM) and an open-minded German car manufacturer (Audi) get jiggy in the back of a camper van. And it can be yours in February 2008 for about $50,000.



The Latest, Greatest Track Toy
With the X-Bow, — pronounced like “crossbow” — KTM is unashamedly taking on Ariel, Lotus, Noble and Radical, the core of British manufacturers that have created an ever-growing market in racetrack-ready cars for weekend driving enthusiasts. That’s one of the reasons we’re here at Brands Hatch. KTM is intrigued, as are we, to gauge the reaction from punters attending a typical British track day.


KTM Sales Manager Florian Kecht is astonished by the reaction. Four serious orders are taken on the spot. “We knew Britain was a significant market for us, but now that I’ve seen a track day, I know why,” he says. “We have nothing like this in Austria — nothing.”


For all its aesthetic bravura, the X-Bow is a speculative dip into an uncertain new market for KTM. In recent years, the Austrian manufacturer of expensive, high-tech off-road motorcycles has expanded into ATVs, and it began to explore the manufacture of a super-fast, super-sized ATV in the summer of 2005. For a short time Audi considered branding the project, but then decided it could only contribute the powertrain at a friendly price. Designed by KTM’s longtime partner Kiska Design, the X-Bow project was engineered by KTM with assistance from Dallara, the famous Italian manufacturer of open-wheel racing cars.


KTM didn’t finally decide to proceed with production until after the strong response to the X-Bow concept car at the 2007 Geneva Auto Show. Since then, demand has been so great that the initial batch of 100 cars has quickly sold out and another 600 orders have been registered. Dallara had been commissioned to build the first hundred X-Bows, but further production has been switched to Magna Steyr in Graz, Austria, and there’s talk of 1,000 cars being built in 2008.

Originally penned by Kiska Design with a remarkably open design brief, the X-Bow is a striking union of dirt-bike aesthetics and track-car requirements. Kiska identified an opportunity to make the carbon-fiber structure not only a structural hanger for the components but also an aesthetic component.

Like a supermodel wearing the eensy-weensiest bikini, the X-Bow’s chassis — not its clothes — draws the eye in the bright Brands Hatch sunlight. In fact, so unashamedly does the X-Bow flounce its carbon-fiber tub that it’s hard to see where the chassis ends and the bodywork begins. Two flared, vaguely L-shaped panels appear to float over the front suspension components, then spear off toward the outer edges of the front crash structure.


At the rear a similar pair of L-shaped panels encloses the engine compartment, their role seemingly undefined other than providing something else that can be painted the signature corporate orange of KTM.

Like an Ariel Atom, the KTM X-Bow has that inside-out feel, a minimalist expression of high performance.

The carbon-fiber monocoque weighs 154 pounds and features an integral crashworthy structure. The KTM’s thickly woven carbon fiber might not be aesthetically pleasing, but its satin finish is deeply satisfying on a tactile level. (You just can’t stop stroking the bloody thing.) The wishbone-type suspension arms have been fabricated from aerodynamic sections of steel (aluminum would be too bulky), and the front, racing-type pushrod suspension units improve packaging.

The engine is Audi’s familiar direct-injected, turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4. Apparently KTM had planned to work jointly with Audi on the X-Bow, but the German company’s reservations about a car without street-legal safety equipment (Audi wanted airbags) made it impossible to display the four rings of Audi anywhere on the car. Nevertheless, Audi has made its powertrain available.


Three engine options of the turbo 2.0-liter will be offered: the familiar 220-horsepower version, plus the chipped 260-hp and 300-hp alternatives. In either format, that’s a hell of a lot of horsepower for a car that weighs just 1,598 pounds when its 9.2-gallon fuel tank is full of gasoline and it’s equipped with a six-speed manual transmission or 1,644 pounds with its Audi S Tronic dual-clutch gearbox. KTM expects the majority of X-Bows to be spec’d with the twin-clutch gearbox with the shift paddles mounted on the steering wheel. Track-car one-upmanship gets no better than a DSG-equipped 300-hp X-Bow, you’d think.

There’s More to Life Than Looking Good
So KTM is on to a winner. The car has all the ingredients for success and demand is already looking increasingly like it will outstrip supply. Job done then? Not quite.


Such is the promise of the 2008 KTM X-Bow that it has to deliver like perhaps no other car of its type. It will have to be sensational to drive — rampant like a supercharged Atom, delicate like a Caterham, stable like a Radical and as well integrated as a Noble. It should deliver if it comes through with the 1.0g-capability on the skid pad that KTM promises. We’ll find out later this year.

And get this: KTM has not ruled out developing another car, which makes the X-Bow less of a car and more of a manifesto for Europe’s newest automobile manufacturer.


Scribbled on October 21st 2007 in KTM, KTM X-BOW, Miscellaneous
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