Numbers game: At just 790kg, KTM’s all-carbon X-Bow uses an Audi-fied version of VW’s EA888 two-litre engine to make plenty of power.
Austrian carbon wunderkind sportscar limited to 25 units a year for Australia
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9 March 2017
By TIM ROBSON
RENOWNED motorcycle brand KTM has broken through in Australia after a four-year
battle with local bureaucracy, teaming up with new Lotus importer Simply Sports
Cars (SSC) to import a limited number of its light-weight X-Bow sportscars.
Priced from $169,990 plus on-road costs, the Austrian-built X-Bow R is limited
to 25 units a year under the Specialist and Enthusiast Vehicle Scheme (SEVS) –
a number which, if achieved, will a total a quarter of KTM’s total annual
production of the highly specialised two-seater.
The car will be sold locally through SSC’s store in the Sydney suburb of
Artarmon, as well as through Brisbane sports car retailer Motorline.
They will be offered with a two-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.
The brand was mooted to arrive in Australia in 2011 via a company called The
DIY Group, but the SEVS requirements – including crash testing – meant the
KTM’s foray into four wheels is now ten years old, and the brand has sold 1000
cars worldwide since 2007. The entry level R model is the only one in the
three-model X-Bow range that can be road-registered in Australia, although the
company is also investigating the more road-focused GT model.
Price- and purpose-wise, its nearest competitors are the Nissan GT-R at
$189,000 plus on-roads and Porsche’s Boxster S at $143,100.
KTM Cars Australia chief operating officer Richard Gibbs told journalists in
Sydney that he and partner Lee Knappett – who founded SSC in 2003 – had been
working on the project to import KTM for five years.
“We started working with KTM even before we became a Lotus dealer,” he said.
“Even way back then, five years ago, we recognised that this car fit in with
the lifestyle business that we’re in. We’re as invested in their lifestyle as
much as they are.
“If you broke it down to pure dollars and cents, then people would ask why are
you doing this. It’s not about dollars and cents. It’s about the lifestyle we
get to enjoy along with our customers.”
The process to get approval for SEVS required SSC to crash-test a vehicle, but
the biggest single change made to the car for Australia was the addition of a
seatbelt warning light.
“There is certain criteria to meet before the car can sit the SEVS scheme, then
one it’s on the SEVS register, it’s up to us to go and prove compliance to all
the ADRs that we have to comply with,” said Mr Knappett.
“We’ve met all of these requirements, and this car has full European approval,
including the more recognised ECE approvals. Unfortunately a couple of the ADRS
didn’t match up with the ECEs, even though they are closely aligned, so we went
ahead and did crash testing to ADR specifications.”
The car was crashed to ADR69 standards at a TUV facility in Germany.
“It was a pretty significant test and it passed with flying colours,” said Mr
Knappett. “It’s frustrating to have to do it, but I wouldn’t say it’s a bad
– its what governs the car market here in Australia and we get some good
benefits from it too.
“We had to raise the ride height to 100mm from 90mm, and add tyre and
fuel consumption stickers, as well as the seatbelt light. That’s it.”
The crashed car has been repaired, and is actually still used by SSC as a
Mr Gibbs said the X-Bow was unlikely to steal sales from its newly acquired
Lotus import business.
“It rounds out the stable of options you can get through the SSC group,” he
said. “The value proposition between the two brands is different. It doesn’t
create a conflict between our two brands within the business, and there will be
customers for which this car will be a perfect fit. We’re under no illusions;
this is not a car for everyone.”
The X-Bow R is built around a full carbon-fibre tub with a deformable crash
structure on the front and adjustable A-arm suspension at all four corners. All
body panels are also rendered in carbon fibre and have been designed in a wind
tunnel to produce downforce and reduce drag.
A small deflector screen acts as a windscreen, and there is no ability to add a
roof or cover to the X-Bow cabin. SSC will supply the X-Bow with a pair of
multi-use helmets equipped with Bluetooth intercoms.
“It’s not a requirement to wear a helmet at all, but on a longer trip, and at
the track, it can make things more comfortable,” said Mr Gibbs.
There is no boot or storage in the X-Bow.
The front springs and shocks operate via a rocker arm arrangement, while the
rear has a more traditional coil-over design. Fixed-rate anti-roll bars are
used front and rear on the R.
Brembo callipers adorn all four corners, with 17-inch rims up front and 18-inch
rims on the rear shod with Michelin Super Sport tyres.
An Audi-sourced, mid-mounted EA888 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
engine that makes 220kW and 400Nm supplies the power. KTM claims the 790kg car
can dash from rest to 100km/h in 3.9 seconds, and returns 8.3 litres per 100km.
A VW Group six-speed manual gearbox with a limited-slip diff and a short-shift
gear lever is standard fitment on the car, with an Australian-made Hollinger
six-speed sequential gearbox on the options list.
Inside, the X-Bow has fixed seating for two, with Recaro-supplied seat padding
that is available in different thicknesses and attached with Velcro. The
steering wheel is detachable and is adjustable for both reach and rake, and
four-point three-inch wide fixed harnesses are supplied for driver and
In a patented design, the KTM’s pedal box can be adjusted easily via a lever on
the floor that slides the whole pedal arrangement back and forth.
A tiny centrally mounted dash supplies a digital speed reading, engine
parameters and gear position display, as well as lap times that can be recorded
via a button on the steering wheel.
The steering wheel features an infra-red connection between its buttons and the
dash, and a double-locking collar and back-up screen message ensures the
removable wheel is installed correctly before proceeding.
The options list is extensive, and includes air-conditioning and an