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Road Test

KTM X-Bow GT driven

Driven September 2013

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We've already been unkind about this car. The first pictures came out and - well - X-Bow-with-a-windscreen isn't exactly a looker is it? But you know what? It's one of those cars. Cars that look better when viewed with the naked eye. Still not pretty, but definitely better integrated.

The trouble with the windscreen-less X-Bow was that it didn't make complete sense. It's always been a much bigger, heavier, better-riding, more companionable car than a Caterham Seven or Ariel Atom, but it's only now, driving the GT, that you realise it was missing something all along.

The windscreen is no half-hearted add-on. Flick a little lever by the headrest and, after a nudge, the ‘doors' sweep open noiselessly and expensively on gas struts. The screen itself not only has a wiper and washers, but super-fine heating elements, too. And, don't laugh, but there's even a roof. Actually, do laugh, because it's a complete joke. You have to screw, press, latch, popper and zip it into place, and, after five minutes of struggle, you can still only use it at up to 60mph. It also looks like Batman's mask and massively complicates an already tricky entry/exit procedure. Of more use is the bolt-on rucksack. This attaches to the rear deck and gives 50 litres of much-needed storage, should you and your mate want to go somewhere overnight.

And suddenly the KTM makes more sense. It was never deft or agile or lunatic enough to be a track warrior. But now, with no need to don a helmet (although you do still have to fiddle with a five-point harness) and an admirably calm cabin, it makes for a thoroughly nice way of blatting about the countryside. It's an expensive toy, of course, but ergonomically the drawbacks are minor: the door's upper hinge comes close to dusting your knuckles when you turn the wheel, the glass itself is near enough to be more visor than windscreen, and I'd also prefer the thinner of the two seat bases so I could sit a bit lower and stay snugger.

The GT's engine has also been slightly detuned, or rather retuned, with 15bhp less but 15lb ft more for improved drivability - not that mid-range punch was something the turbocharged KTM ever lacked. What it's always missed is purity and response, and that still holds true. The power arrives in lunges punctuated by slightly blunt gearchanges, and the steering geometry means the X-Bow takes corners in a series of snatches. But it's truly fast, feels safe and reassuring (only up to a point, as there are no electronic safety nets) and has a delicious induction snarl. Plus it looks like a robotic wasp. Now wearing goggles.

Ollie Marriage
1984cc, 4cyl turbo petrol, 285bhp, 310lb ft, 34.0mpg, n/a g/km CO2, 0-62mph in 3.9secs, 144mph, 847kg, £78,160

The verdict
KTM has found a niche that works for the X-Bow. The windscreen brings civility and usability to match the rest of the car's manners.

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