KTM's 700kg 300 bhp carbon fibre X-BOW roadster
By Mike Hanlon
February 11, 2007
February 12, 2007 Austrian motorcycle manufacturer KTM has consistently shown over 50 years that it can create fast, razor-sharp off-road motorcycles with qualities appreciated by the elite yet still evident to the ordinary rider. A better than average rider on a KTM steps up a class – from journeyman to expert, finding it’s possible to carry an extra few mph almost everywhere. There is nothing extraneous on the KTM – it’s uncompromisingly bare bones, just what you need to go fast. The company’s motorcycles have won world titles almost every year in every form of off-road competition, and apart from an ill-fated venture into MOTOGP, it has become competitive at everything it has attempted. The company went through a renaissance in 1992 courtesy of becoming insolvent, and the restructure conceived and built a framework for the future, forging a world class infrastructure to match its core expertise of designing and building no-nonsense, ready-to-race machinery. Over the last 15 years, the company’s average annual sales growth rate has been 21 percent with an even better growth in turnover of 25 percent. In that time, annual production has grown from 6000 to 85,000 bikes, the labour force has grown by a factor of ten and the Austrian marque is now the second largest motorcycle manufacturer in Europe. Its first ventures into roadgoing two-wheeled machinery such as the 950 Supermoto and 990 Adventure received global acclaim from the motorcycling press and sketches of a KTM Quad bike circulated last year. The company’s aspirations are seemingly a long way from fulfilled as it now intends to deliver the same purist, filterless riding experience to four wheels.
The X-Bow is a four wheeled motorcycle track car for the road, air-conditioned to perfectly match ambient conditions – that is, when it rains, you get wet. Like most KTM fare, the X-Bow is ready-to-race – the suspension is designed to enable you to drive at ridiculous speeds safely. At less than ballistic speeds, it will be Spartan and uncompromisingly rigid. The sophisticated carbon fibre monocoque chassis probably weighs less than you do at around 70 kg, yet offers superb rigidity and safety. Built in cooperation with tradition-rich racing car specialist Dallara, the chassis is of an ilk currently reserved for use in Formula One and elite street sports cars. Through a new construction and production process, the development partners have created a method of mass producing the technology far more cost-efficiently than previously, cutting the traditional price from US$500,000 plus to less than US$100,000. The engine is a lightweight, compact four cylinder engine made of aluminium boasting the most modern engine technology: four valve technology, FSI direct fuel injection, high pressure injection valves, turbo charge, a smooth, adjustable intake camshaft and two balancer shafts. With this engine, the basic version of the KTM X-Bow will achieve 220 hp and a 0-100 km/h time under four seconds, but there will also be a version with 300 bhp at its disposal. All up, the car will weigh only about 700 kg. The EUR 40,000 basic version will make its first public appearance at the Geneva Motor Show next month and the first production run of 100 units will be available later this year.
As different as cars and motorcycles may be, KTM has managed to transfer its development principles from two wheels to a sports car in every way. In this way the unique driving experience and the spectacular merits of the drive are not just dependent on the performance of the engine. Just as they have managed to do with motorcycles, the KTM developers have kept the weight of the vehicle extremely light by using the latest materials, an intelligent construction and a purist styling.
The interaction between the sophisticated aerodynamic concept and a motor sports-oriented chassis makes the X-Bow clearly superior to a far higher performance sports car. Thanks to its open form of construction, the just 70mm high windshield and the free standing wheels after the style of a Formula racing car, it is not only the appearance, but also the driving experience that is immediately evident as entirely unique.
Aggressive, edgy, dynamic, a personality from every angle: the design of the KTM X-Bow originates unmistakably from the house of Kiska. Austria’s biggest design studio has had close links to KTM for almost 15 years and is not only responsible for the design of the motorcycles, but also for the corporate image of the company. The design of a lightweight sports car is where passion and challenge meet, resulting in a product that fits seamlessly into the KTM brand family.
The stylish hallmark of the X-Bow is its light-footed, visual presence evoked by the apparent floating panels of the bodywork, the rangy wheels and the transparent area that allows a perspective of the vehicle technology, which for example makes parts of the suspension and damping visible. The technical elegance of the carbon chassis has been used as a design element for the graphic concept. The two outer mirrors which are fixed to double guided stays are symbolic of the lightweight construction.
The purist attitude of the X-Bow also finds its expression in the striking headlights and rear lights. The rear is dominated by a central silencer and a powerful diffuser which is an indication of the level of painstaking work on the aerodynamics of the vehicle.
Cooperation with Dallara: The carbon fibre monocoque
The core of the KTM X-Bow is the sophisticated carbon fibre monocoque. This high-tech solution was until now reserved for use in top class motor sport and for elite street sports cars. Through a new construction- and production process developed together with the Italian development partner, the tradition-rich racing car specialist Dallara, this technology can now be offered in a significantly cheaper version. The KTM X-Bow therefore takes on the role of a forerunner that can use new insights and production processes to its benefit.
With an extremely light weight of around 70 kg, the chassis of the X-Bow offers a maximum amount of rigidity and safety. A crash box in the front nose of the monocoque absorbs collision energy, while the roll bars are integrated into the structure.
An options kit is available on request which increases the recognized safety levels to that of the motor sports authorities FIA: this includes having additional struts mounted at already designated points.
KTM was able to secure Audi AG as a partner for the engine, which when delivered from the company in Ingolstadt Germany, is a congenial extension for the slim concepts of the KTM X-Bow. The four cylinder engine completely made of aluminium is light, compact and includes the most modern engine technology: four valve technology, FSI direct fuel injection, high pressure injection valves, turbo charge, a smooth, adjustable intake camshaft and two balancer shafts.
With this engine, the basic version of the KTM X-Bow will achieve 220 hp. An additional version will have a performance in the area of 300 hp at its disposal. First simulations for the KTM X-Bow in any case demonstrate its superior characteristics; the acceleration to 100kph should be comfortably under four seconds.
The transmission versions also come from Audi AG. A manual six-gear transmission comes with the series production, while an optional DSG-transmission will also be offered.
Apart from the optimal distribution of weight with the engine mounted between the axles, a guarantee of high speeds in the corners comes from the chassis’ high quality suspension and damping elements. In this area KTM can call upon competence in its own company: the KTM Netherlands subsidiary White Power has at its disposal chassis experts for both on road vehicles and motor sports.
The brakes also come from the best possible source: KTM has had a long-term and fruitful partnership with the Italian specialists Brembo.
And for further improvements in the traction, KTM will offer a limited slip differential for the rear axle. This component part is particularly targeted at drivers who want to engage in certain activities on racing circuits.
The lightweight concept also demands some limitations. This is why the X-Bow deliberately does away with many comfort features which, because with their weight and the space need for construction have a negative effect on the performance of the vehicle. These include such features as a sound system and an air conditioner.
On the other hand, because of the X-Bow’s concept, it is not dependent on many weighty elements. Its lightweight makes power steering redundant; the narrow windscreen requires neither windscreen washers nor blowers; the sloping lines of the side of the vehicle and the seat height make it possible to get into the car without having a door; and lastly the carbon chassis together with the four-point safety belt create a safety package that makes airbags unnecessary.
It was also a conscious decision to reject any electronic driving aids. The KTM X-Bow is designed as a piece of high-tech sports equipment for experienced customers who prefer a filter less driving pleasure.
By doing away with the roof, both the driver and passenger of the KTM X-Bow are exposed to the elements in a similar way to that of a motorcycle. For this reason a decision was taken concerning an accessories program that has parallels with the world of motorcycles.
Special overalls for use with the KTM X-Bow have been developed together with the northern Italian clothing experts Dainese. These garments will take over some of the comfort functions that are usually available with a vehicle with a roof – for example entertainment and communication systems. These functions are directly integrated into the clothing, which will also naturally serve as protection against cold and windy weather.
An important part of the custom-made driver equipment will be a helmet specially designed for this project. Wearing of the helmet is not required by law but is recommended by KTM. In this way the X-Bow also represents a bridge to a motorcycle. Special storage space is also provided for these two helmets.
A light, easy to install tarpaulin to cover the interior of the car will also be available.
This lightweight sports car with innovative technology will make its first public appearance at the Geneva Motor Show in March 2007. In the same year, 100 units of the comprehensive pre-series will be manufactured in-house by Italian racing car specialists Dallara and sold by KTM.
Dependent on the reaction to the presentation of the car and the success of the pre-series, KTM plans further small series productions of this car. This production will take place in Austria and begin in the year 2008. KTM is working on the basis of a projected 500 units per year for this small series production.
The decision concerning this small series production will be taken at the end of April 2007. If it is positive, KTM will establish a small but efficient sales structure up to the time of the commencement of production at the end of 2008. It is planned to have a dealer network of up to two qualified sales establishments per country. Where these will be located depends, not the least on the planned European-wide conformity for the norms of small series homologation. According to the present situation, sales offices for the X-Bow could be considered for the following countries: Germany, Finland, Greece, Britain, Netherlands, Austria, Portugal and Switzerland.