Radical sports car aims straight for the heart of the track day market with hi-tech design and extreme looks.

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

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KTM’s first car sets fresh standards in this niche market segment. With its carbon fibre chassis and race-inspired construction it brings new levels of innovation, too. It’s a car designed purely for fun with no day-to-day practicality whatsoever, but it has an impressive blend of technology, safety and simplicity. Most importantly, it delivers undiluted driving pleasure, great performance and totally unique looks.

Meet the outrageous sports car that’s taking aim at Lotus! This is the X-Bow, the first four-wheeled model from famed Austrian bike maker KTM.

Designed to face up to Brit favourites the Lotus 2-Eleven and Ariel Atom in the growing market for track day machines, the X-Bow – pronounced crossbow – is road legal and unlike anything else in the class.

The exposed frame shows that the KTM takes its styling inspiration from motorbikes, but serious car knowledge has been employed, too. The firm recruited the world’s biggest racing car maker – Italian firm Dallara – to develop the chassis, while the engine and gearbox come from Audi.

The result is a wonderfully simple and beautifully built product, at the heart of which lies a unique carbon fibre chassis. Using the same technology as found in racing cars, the composite tub forms a hugely stiff and rigid platform to which the suspension, rear sub-frame – including the engine and gearbox – and a front crash box are mounted.

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Road tests

This simple assembly means the X-Bow requires no welding or painting – and while you might not think it is attractive, the raw engineering is great to behold. The cockpit is roomy, and the fixed upright seating position fully adjustable thanks to an ingenious sliding pedal box and a steering wheel that adjusts for rake and reach. With all the controls on the steering wheel, plus an easy-to-read digital display, the cabin is spartan but functional.

Crucially, everything feels thoroughly well engineered and the controls are light and user-friendly. But don’t be fooled – this is a serious enthusiasts’ car that shuns modern intervention systems such as ABS, power-steering and traction control in the name of driving purity.

The version we drove had fully adjustable suspension to allow fine-tuning at the track. It was set up softly, and on the road the ride had a surprising amount of compliancy, while the carbon chassis cushioned the driver from vibration.

But it’s at the circuit that the X-Bow can be fully explored. Weighing only 790kg, the car’s 238bhp 2.0-litre T-FSI engine gives excellent straight-line performance, although the turbo unit is very quiet and somewhat lacking in character. In the corners the steering is light, communicative and direct. The handling is docile and forgiving, and thanks to plentiful grip you can really feel the G-forces through fast bends. KTM says that tightening the damper set-up increases composure even more, plus improves agility in the tighter bends.

With the optional limited-slip differential fitted traction is impressive, while the six-speed manual gearbox has a lovely accurate action, and the pedals are perfectly weighted.

Crucially in this market, the X-Bow is communicative and rewarding. Put simply, the more skilfully you drive it, the more it comes alive. And it’s this sense of undiluted fun that customers will love. Performance cars are getting heavier, more powerful, less fuel efficient and ever more remote, but the lightweight KTM is a toy which those lucky enough to have the time and money to drive will certainly enjoy.

Rival: Ariel Atom
With its exposed chassis, mid-mounted transverse motor, light weight and amazing performance, the Ariel is very similar in concept to the X-Bow. We look forward to putting this pair head-to-head in the UK.

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