The Austrian sports car gets its first facelift, comes to the U.S. in 2017

Launched in 2008 by Austrian motorcycle manufacturer KTM, the X-Bow is the company’s first actual car. A competitor for the likes of Caterham Seven and Ariel Atom, the X-Bow is a lightweight, street-legal sports car that weighs less than 800 kg (1,763 pounds). It was built around a chassis developed by Dallara and uses an Audi engine to move about. The turbocharged four-cylinder is offered in three configurations, each powering a different model. The lineup includes the X-Bow R, the X-Bow RR, and the X-Bow GT. After eight years of soldiering on unchanged, the Austrian sports car received a minor facelift for the 2017 model year.

The upgrade was announced just as the 1,000th X-Bow rolled of the assembly line during a special ceremony at the company’s factory. The facelift doesn’t bring many changes to the sports car, but it’s a great way for KTM to mark an important benchmark in the X-Bow’s career. Granted, 1,000 units might not mean much to mainstream manufacturers, but it’s an important achievement for a niche vehicle.

"A success story in so many ways. This was of course a steep learning curve for us, in part due to the global economic crisis that started when the product was launched. However, after selling 1,000 cars to many delighted and enthusiastic customers, the KTM X-BOW cannot be seen as anything other than a success story – especially in purely economic terms!" said KTM CEO Stefan Pierer.

The so-called facelift also brings important news in the availability department. For the first time since its introduction, the X-Bow will be sold in North America starting in 2017, when KTM will have a subsidiary and a network of dealers in both the United States and Canada.

Continue reading to learn more about the 2017 KTM X-Bow R.

  • 2017 KTM X-Bow R
  • Year:
    2017
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Transmission:
    six-speed manual
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    296
  • Displacement:
    2.0 L
  • 0-60 time:
    3.9 sec.
  • Top Speed:
    143 mph
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • size:
  • Purpose:
  • body style:
  • Overall:
    8.3/10

Exterior

2017 KTM X-Bow R High Resolution Exterior
- image 682716

Visually, the facelift is rather mild. That’s not necessarily a bad thing since most customers buy the X-Bow for the performance and not the looks, but don’t look for more than just a few nips and tucks. Up front, the most notable change is the addition of LED daytime running lights, revised headlamps, and a bigger, more aggressive splitter. Everything else remains unchanged, including that sexy X-shaped shell that covers the nose.

KTM has yet to publish photos of the car’s rear end, but said that the engine lid now has ventilation slits similar to those on the X-Bow GT. Speaking of the latter, KTM said it will continue to offer fixed windscreens and glass side doors to those who’d rather have a more conventional body configuration.

Interior

KTM didn’t have much to say about the interior, but it’s safe to assume that nothing changed. Not exactly a big deal given that the X-Bow’s cockpit is as spartan as they get. The sports car comes with just two seats and a carbon-fiber shell. Instead of the dashboard, door panels, and center console, there just a tiny screen in front of the gear shifter for all the information a driver needs during a hot lap at the ’Ring. That’s speed, rpm, gears, acceleration, lap times, and top speed. The steering wheel comes wrapped in leather for better grip and contains 10 buttons that activate the lights, the turn signals, the horn, as well as allow to browse through driving modes. Simple and fun!

Drivetrain

Moving onto the oily bits, KTM says that the facelifted X-Bow carries over with "a few minor improvements" under the hood. Although it doesn’t give out specific details, it mentions that the turbocharged, 2.0-liter engine sourced from Audi cranks out the same 300 PS (296 horsepower). It mates to a six-speed manual gearbox, also borrowed from Audi, and a Drexler limited-slip differential. The minor updates shouldn’t alter the car’s performance specs, meaning that the X-Bow R will continue to sprint from 0 to 62 mph in 3.9 seconds and toward a top speed of 143 mph.

The X-Bow R will continue to sprint from 0 to 62 mph in 3.9 seconds and toward a top speed of 143 mph.

The chassis should also carry over unchanged, including the pushrod suspension derived from the world of Formula One. The system includes compression damping with high and low-speed settings as well as adjustable rebound damping. This kind of suspension is rarely used on a production vehicle and is arguably one of the X-Bow’s most expensive components.

Stopping power comes from a Brembo braking system, featuring a four-piston, fixed-caliper brake on the front axle, with an internally ventilated, slotted disc measuring 305 mm (12 inches) in diameter; the rear unit is a two-piston, fixed-caliper brake with a diameter of 262 mm (10.3 inches). The wheels are wrapped in Michelin Pilot Supersport high-performance tires that provide excellent handling in both the dry and the wet.

Prices

Pricing for the facelifted will will start from €74,900 (about $82,940) in Europe. The sticker doesn’t include VAT, which means that the X-Bow R will actually fetch around €89,000 (around $98,550,) depending on the market.

The good news here is that KTM is about to roll out the first vehicles designed specifically for the North American market. According to the company, they will arrive in the U.S. and Canada in spring 2017, when KTM will have established a North American subsidiary along with a small network of dealers. No information on pricing, though.

Competition

Caterham Seven 420

2015 Caterham Seven 420 High Resolution Exterior
- image 623313

The KTM X-Bow was specifically developed as a competitor for the Caterham Seven. Arguably the oldest and most iconic lightweight, no-nonsense sports car, the Seven is offered in many specifications in both Europe and the U.S. Available in North America via Superformance, the Seven crosses the pond in four "trim" levels: 270, 360, 420, and 620R. The latter is about on par with the X-Bow R in terms of horsepower at 310 horses, but because it’s significantly lighter, it’s more than a second quicker. The 210-horsepower 420, on the other hand, is right up the X-Bow R’s alley. Don’t let the less powerful 2.0-liter Duratec engine fool you, the 420 needs only 3.8 seconds to hit 60 mph from a standing start. Top speed sits a tad lower at 136 mph, but this won’t make much of a difference on a twisty track like Laguna Seca. When it arrives in the U.S., the X-Bow R will need to defeat the Seven 420 to make a point. The 420 retails from around $50K, but the sticker doesn’t include the drivetrain. Also, the Seven can get really expensive with options, especially if you want the wider body and the carbon-fiber parts.

Find out more about the Caterham Seven 420 here.

Ariel Atom

2015 Ariel Atom 3S High Resolution Exterior
- image 572507
The Ariel Atom 3S is insanity pushed to a whole new level.

Sporting a unique design that does not include a proper body, the Ariel Atom is also a new entry to the superlight sports car market. Much like the X-Bow, its engine is mounted just behind the cockpit, but Ariel sourced its motivator from Honda. Specifically, the Atom gets its juice from a 2.4-liter four-cylinder rated at 230 horsepower, which pushes the 1,350-pound vehicle from 0 to 60 mph in a scant three seconds. The transmission is a close-ratio six-speed manual, which routes to a limited-slip differential in the back. The stock brakes are single-pistons, but can be upgraded to either Wilwood Dynalite four-pots, or Alcon racing four-pots. Pricing starts from $64,500 in the United States.

Read more about the Ariel Atom here.

Conclusion

2017 KTM X-Bow R
- image 682715

While I’ve been a big fan of the Caterham Seven ever since I was a little boy, I must admit that the KTM X-Bow is a pretty good option to the British icon. But only as long as you don’t want to hit 60 mph in less than three seconds. If you’re not a stickler for figures, you’re only aim is to post lap times that would make any Ferrari owner throw his hat in the ring, and you don’t fancy the Seven’s classic bodywork, than the KTM is one of the best options to consider. The big news here is that the car is finally coming to the U.S. and, who knows, maybe the "facelift" will also spawn a version light and powerful enough to give the Seven 620R a run for its money.

  • Leave it
    • * Likely very expensive
    • * Significantly slower than top-end competitors
    • * You can’t go wrong with a Caterham Seven

Press Release

The KTM X-BOW is “1,000”: on 07/06/2016 – exactly eight years after the start of production in June 2008 – the 1,000th KTM X-BOW was completed during a press conference held at the production plant in Graz. Over 100 of the hand-made Austrian supercars drive out of the factory each year.

2017 KTM X-Bow R High Resolution Exterior
- image 682716

KTM CEO Stefan Pierer: “A success story in so many ways”
During the press conference, KTM CEO Stefan Pierer first emphasized the importance of the unique supercar to the KTM Group: “Firstly, it has changed the way that KTM is perceived in the automotive industry. Not many people believed that we could succeed in getting such an extraordinary vehicle on the road. The fact that this didn’t turn out to be a flash in the pan, despite all the challenges we faced, has also improved our reputation. In addition to the production plant in Graz – a popular showcase of Styrian technological prowess – subsidiaries such as Salzburg-based KTM Technologies have also been established, which play a crucial role when it comes to technological innovation within our Group.”

Pierer stressed that the KTM X-BOW is also an economic success story: “This was of course a steep learning curve for us, in part due to the global economic crisis that started when the product was launched. However, after selling 1,000 cars to many delighted and enthusiastic customers, the KTM X-BOW cannot be seen as anything other than a success story – especially in purely economic terms!”

The KTM majority shareholder and Chairman of the Executive Board is also putting a lot of thought into the future of the KTM X-BOW: “We have successfully established ourselves in the extremely specialist niche of lightweight supercars, and we are the largest small series manufacturer in mainland Europe. Thanks to Georg Silbermayr, organizer of the X-BOW BATTLE, we have one of the most successful one-make cups in Europe. And with the high-tech KTM X-BOW GT4 race car developed in collaboration with Hans Reiter and Reiter Engineering, we have also achieved international success in the field of customer racing. We will of course be continuing this success story in the future, and with Gerald Kiska as the designer, the development team for the KTM X-BOW are already coming up with some exciting ideas!”

Minister Christian Buchmann: “An ambassador beyond Austrian borders”
Dr. Christian Buchmann, Styrian Minister of Economic Affairs, also attended the Graz factory to take part in the anniversary celebrations, where he made the following statement: “The KTM X-BOW is an ambassador for the Styrian flair for innovation in the automotive sector - and not just in Austria. The production of this supercar in Graz is an international showcase project.”

According to Buchmann, this was all made possible thanks to the commitment and passion shown by KTM CEO Stefan Pierer: “Last year we were able to welcome Stefan Pierer and KTM parent company CROSS Industries as a new partner in our ACstyria mobility cluster. The business location – and in particular ACstyria’s 250 partner companies – benefit from the innovative flair demonstrated by CROSS Industries and its subsidiaries, such as Pankl Racing Systems or KTM itself. This creates added value and jobs for both small and medium-sized suppliers.”

Audi AG Project Manager Romolo Liebchen: “Showcase for Vorsprung durch Technik”
KTM’s X-BOW project was only made possible with the help of Italian sports car chassis manufacturer Dallara and support and technical assistance from Audi. Romolo Liebchen, project manager for sport derivatives at Audi AG/quattro GmbH, supported the development of the vehicle and the collaboration between Audi and KTM right from the start. “Working with KTM was also very exciting for us. Some of the technologies used, such as the full carbon monocoque or extreme aerodynamic downforce, had never even been considered before in series car production. This presented us with completely new challenges, which we have overcome together with KTM. I cannot think of a better showcase project than the KTM X-BOW to affirm our company motto ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ and competence as an engine and components supplier. We are looking forward to a bright future with KTM and to continuing our successful partnership!”

KTM CSO Hubert Trunkenpolz: “We have set new standards in customer racing”
KTM CEO Stefan Pierer was naturally joined by his colleagues on the KTM board, including CSO Hubert Trunkenpolz, COO Harald Plöckinger, CFO Friedrich Roithner and CFO Viktor Sigl. CSO Hubert Trunkenpolz, who occasionally gets behind the wheel of a KTM X-BOW racer in his spare time, spoke on behalf of his fellow board members: “We have set new standards in customer racing on account of our revolutionary concept. Thanks to the technology used, the KTM X-BOW race car is extremely safe and very cheap to run. This combination is attractive to semi-professional as well as professional drivers and teams, and I am confident that the KTM X-BOW GT4 in particular will bring us many more international successes in the future!”

2017 KTM X-Bow R
- image 682715

The 1,000th KTM X-BOW and the facelift for the KTM X-BOW R
The 1,000th model is not a “standard” KTM X-BOW, but rather the first KTM X-BOW R to get a facelift. Careful renewal of the body elements, based on the 2013 KTM X-BOW GT with its fixed windscreen and glass side doors, has attracted a wider variety of customers. The change in design approach taken by Gerald Kiska and his team can also be seen in the “R” version.

The body elements have a more vivid appearance, and sharply drawn lines help to structure surfaces clearly. The engine cover, which now has grill-like ventilation slits (similar to the GT), connects extensively with the rear bodywork elements, which make the rear part of the vehicle appear even more muscular and powerful thanks to its new shape. The front of the car also received a makeover: the headlamp surrounds have become narrower and the front body elements sit on the front splitter at a distinctive angle - the entire front section exudes raw power.

The technical basis of the vehicle is the tried-and-tested complete package, including the 2.0 litre TFSI engine from Audi with 300 PS, however with a few minor improvements. The new net purchase price is 74,900 euros (excl. VAT).

The KTM X-BOW is coming to the North American market in 2017!
All good things come in threes, just like the latest ingenious addition to the X-BOW project from KTM. Together with Audi, a solution has been found for the launch in North America - it looks as though the first vehicles designed specifically for the North American market will be arriving in the US and Canada in spring 2017. In the meantime KTM Sportcar GmbH will gain a North American subsidiary, along with a small network of dealers selected exclusively for the planned “Track Day” car.

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