When 77 spectators were killed at the 24 hours of Lemans in 1955, a ban on motorsports was enacted in France, Germany and Switzerland. Safety standards were improved and eventually the interdict was lifted in two of the three countries. Switzerland decided to continue the ban and it's been that way now for over five decades.
Regardless of this track-unfriendly environment, KTM officially unveiled their two-seater tarmac toy today in Geneva. Structurally, the X-Bow looks the biz, with acres of carbon fiber, exposed suspension components and meaty stoppers. We'd say that the Ariel Atom finally has some serious competition, but with an initial limited run of 100 units and some distinct differences between the two, this particular niche can probably support another offering.
We've got oodles of live and press pics in our gallery and KTM's press release is posted after the jump.
» KTM's first automobile
» Racing technology for the road
» Light and safe carbon fibre monocoque
» Spectacular design
» Four-cylinder TFSI from Audi
» Puristic, unfiltered driving experience
» Supersport performance
» Outstanding power-output values
» Production of a 100-unit pilot series begins at the end of 2007
» A decision about producing a small series will be made until April 2007
Premiere at the Geneva Motor Show
An aggressive design and sporty potential: the X-Bow is not merely a milestone in the KTM brand's more than 50-year history, it's also a new citation in the small, but elite segment of radical, lightweight sports cars. This exceptional position is the result of the concept: for their first car, KTM employs the finest materials, high-tech and the know-how of respected development partners such as Audi and Dallara. The result is a street-homologated sports car with racing technology, like an avantgarde, carbon fibre monocoque. Thanks to the basic version's light weight and the 162 kW (220 hp) Audi TFSI engine, the performance values of the KTM X-Bow outstrip those of super- sport cars with more than twice the power: with a deadweight of approx. 700 kilos, the KTM X-Bow accelerates to 100 kph in just 3.9 seconds. But the X-Bow isn't just a racing machine, even if it is going to accomplish spectacular performance feats on racing circuits. With its modern technologies and exceptional solutions, it's much more oriented towards sporty drivers who seek a purist's driving experience. By foregoing electronic assistants and today's standard comfort features, the X-Bow offers an unfiltered adventure - aided by its standalone wheels in the style of monoposto racing cars, transparent technology and the car's reduced concept, i.e. no roof, doors or windscreen. The sports car has only a 70- millimeter, transparent wind deflector. With all these unique features, driving the KTM X-Bow becomes an experience with an immediacy that otherwise can only be felt when riding a motorcycle.
The Next Step into the Future
For the Upper Austrian motorcycle manufacturer - Europe's second largest - the decision to expand its line of business into the automobile market was of great strategic significance. It was made possible by the company's extraordinarily dynamic growth over the past 15 years. Since 1992, KTM vehicle sales have risen an average of 21% each year, while the volume of sales even climbed to 25% each year. Today, KTM is the world's leading brand in the offroad segment and in recent years has successively expanded its model portfolio into the street sector. "Moving into the automotive sector is the logical continuation of this strategy. With the X-Bow, KTM can now offer the classic KTM driving experience to all those who don't have a motorcycle licence," says Stefan Pierer, CEO of the listed KTM Power Sports AG, explaining this investment in the company's future.
Carbon Fibre Monocoque: Racing Know-How from Dallara
Carbon fibre monocoques have been the Formula 1's safety net for years. On the road, this technology was formerly reserved for the elitist, supersports cars in the highest price classes. KTM would now like to be the first to offer this solution in a much more affordable environment. KTM has thereby been able to call upon the expertise of its development partner, Dallara. These specialists from Varano (near Parma) in Northern Italy have long been acclaimed as carbon technology experts, from the conception to the production of components made of this light, yet rigid material. The monocoque developed for the KTM X-Bow is not only extremely robust it is also safe, thanks to an integrated crashbox. And yet it weighs only about 70 kilos and is therefore a crucial factor in the vehicle's spectacular performance.
The Engine: TFSI Technology from Audi
KTM was able to gain Audi AG as its partner in developing the drive unit. The four- cylinder TFSI engine represents the X-Bow's construction principles in an ingenious way: by featuring lightweight, high-performance and intelligent technologies. The engine's outstanding attribute is its gasoline direct injection technology, FSI. In this case, it's combined with an exhaust turbocharger plus an intercooler. Thanks to FSI, the engine can utilize fuel better than one with ordinary intake manifold injection and it even gets by on less fuel in the frequently used partial load range. The injection takes place at a pressure level between 30 and 110 bar, valves in the intake system direct the inflowing air into a cylindrical movement. A continuously variable intake camshaft ensures optimal cylinder charging at any speed. Two balancer shafts compensate the second order inertia forces and so guarantee superior, low-vibration operation. The KTM X-Bow's long-stroking, four-valve engine delivers a powerful performance: 300 newton-metres of torque peaks at a level between 2200 and 4000 rpm. The peak performance of 162 kW (220 hp) is achieved at 5900 rpm. Even more powerful engine variations in the 300-horsepower range are planned at a later date. The drive unit package is complemented by a manual 6-gear transmission, which is also made by VW and can be equipped with a limited-slip differential if so desired. An optional S tronic transmission will also be offered. The drive comes from the rear wheels.
The Chassis: Direct and Competent
The X-Bow's driving dynamics profit not only from the car's low centre of gravity but also from its superior chassis, which also draws on racing technology for its basic principles. Suspended on double triangular wishbone axles, the wheels feature suspension and damping elements by WP Suspension, with a pushrod arrangement up front. The Italian brake manufacturer Brembo can also be proud of its reputation for excellence. KTM is also expanding this partnership (which began in the motorcycle sector) into the automobile realm. The X-Bow's powerful braking system consists of 305 mm discs at the front and 262 mm discs at the rear. The interaction of the vehicle's light weight, ideal balance, low centre of gravity and a 17-/18-inch tyre mix results in spectacular braking performance: when the brakes are warm, the KTM X- Bow needs only 33.1 metres to decelerate from 100 kph to a standstill.
The Aerodynamics: Exceptional Contact Pressure
The primary development goal for the KTM X-Bow was not attaining extreme final velocities, but in optimising the driving dynamics. The sports car is thereby aided by an ingenious aerodynamics arrangement, the result of many hours in Dallara's wind tunnel. The most vital element in this area is the underbody, which is equipped with a prominent diffusor at the rear. To make this diffusor work even more effectively, the linking points for the rear suspension were set as high as possible. This enables the KTM X-Bow to achieve a phenomenal downforce of about 200 kilograms at a speed of 200 km/h - about three times more than most other supersport cars. In combination with the high-performance chassis, this fantastic downforce makes extreme curve speeds possible. The transversal acceleration of 1.23 g that can thus be attained noticeably surpasses the usual values achieved by street homologated sports cars. The aerodynamic concept was a great challenge for the designer as well. It meant that sufficient air had to be channelled into the inlets located in the sides, behind the passengers. The radiator is also located at the rear of the vehicle, to avoid having to install longer, heavier cooling hoses. This mission was accomplished by using special air baffles, which are installed horizontally on the sides of the car so the passengers can also use them as boarding aids.
Safety: Racing Technology
The crucial component protecting the driver and the passenger is the solid, carbon fibre monocoque - safety technology straight from Formula 1. This structure is supplemented by a crashbox in the nose of the vehicle. The silencer, which is built into the rear of the car, was also designed to act as a crashbox; it absorbs the force of an impact to the rear of the vehicle. The driver and passenger are also protected by four-point safety belts, which were inspired by the racing world. If so desired, this unit can be equipped with a fifth securing point. The two roll bars are clearly visible. They not othey are skilfully integrated into the monocoque's structure.
Extras: for the Automobile and the Driver Supplementary equipment - like kits to increase the engine's performance or an aerodynamics package - give the sporty potential of the KTM X-Bow an even greater boost. Another segment of the accessories programme aims in the opposite direction: together with Dainese, the renowned Italian specialist for motorcycle apparel, a new line of clothing and helmets is being developed especially for the KTM X-Bow. These intelligent components are designed to assume functions that are normally performed by the car: weather protection, climate control and - thanks to integrated technology - even infotainment functions such as sound and mobile telephony.
The Next Steps: Premiere in Geneva, Building a Pilot Series of 100 Units
A prototype of the KTM X-Bow will make its first public appearance at the Geneva Motor Show. This prototype is also the basis for a pilot series of 100 units, which will be produced in Dallara's factory beginning at the end of 2007. The limited series is a result of the Italian company's manufacturing capacity: four to five vehicles can be built per week, with a large share of the work being done by hand. Due to the special status of this pilot series, KTM has decided to equip all the vehicles of this initial production with a number of first-rate accoutrements, which will later be offered as extras. Included in the standard equipment for the first series are the limited-slip differential, lightweight metal rims with a central nut mounting, and a Formula One racing steering wheel that can be removed via a quick-release mechanism to simplify getting in and out of the car. The four body panels - lacquered orange on the prototypes - are made of carbon fibre in the pilot series (later they'll be made of synthetic material), and the chassis's damping elements are adjustable. And of course other individual equipment requests can also be fulfilled. Because of the greater extent of the equipment range, the projected basic price of 40,000 Euros (incl. VAT) is naturally higher for an exemplar of this pilot series. A definitive price will be announced after the Geneva Motor Show. After the publication of the first drawings, the interest in the pilot series prototypes was overwhelming. Every spot on the list of prospective buyers was already filled in January, while the waiting list has got considerably longer.
The KTM X-Bow will be street homologated in accordance with European small series homologation regulations. But since the respective guidelines are defined differently throughout the EU, KTM currently anticipates standardising the X-Bow in the following countries: Germany, Finland, Greece, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Austria, Portugal and Switzerland.
The Vision: Producing a Small Series Beginning in 2008
Depending upon the reactions to the vehicle presentation in Geneva, KTM is considering extending the pilot series of the X-Bow into small-series production. This small-series production would take place in Austria beginning in 2008 and entail an annual production of between 500 and 1000 vehicles. Parallel to this small-series production, an efficient distribution structure would also be established. The plan includes a network of around 15 to 20 partners throughout Europe, who not only have experience in motorsports, but also a connection to the Volkswagen enterprise. A decision will be made concerning the small-series production of the KTM X-Bow by the end of April 2007.