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For those seeking the ideal track day car that can comfortably handle public roads, this is your solution.
The Ariel Atom gets compared to motorcycles quite a bit. This makes sense, given the minimalistic approach taken to the car's construction, but what happens when an actual motorcycle maker turns their attention to building a rival track day car? Well, the result is the KTM X-Bow (pronounced "crossbow"), a car to which KTM have applied all of their knowledge in the field of grip and handling. KTM is an Austrian company which has been making dirt bikes for decades.
They have been expanding steadily for some time, with a big boom coming when they opened a North American division, headquartered in Lorain, Ohio, back in 1978. More recently they moved into building sport bikes for the road, but demand for these has not been high and it was clear that they would need to further diversify if they wanted to grow. Thus the X-Bow, a project so popular that KTM has had to double their production, from 500 to 1,000 units annually, to meet the high demand for their first car. There is a lot of motorcycle in the X-Bow. The inboard shocks for the pushrod-actuated front suspension are visible through the minimalist carbon fiber bodywork.
Although much was made of the Chevy Sonic's motorcycle-style instrument cluster, in the X-Bow it actually has been lifted from a motorcycle, and is even center-mounted. However, for all of the motorcycle thinking that went into the X-Bow, it isn't the lightest of track day cars. The 1,816lbs the X-Bow weighs would be a tiny amount for a car meant to be driven on the street, but there are a number of track day cars which weigh several hundred pounds less. For a track day car, the X-Bow is probably one of the most civilized cars in this series on the road. Hell, it even has a heater and available snow tires, if you're actually insane enough to want to drive it in the snow.
But for those in the US, this road handling isn't all that important, because although KTM do at some point intend to sell the car in street-legal US form, it isn't yet something that you can buy. What you can buy is the track-only version of the X-Bow, the FIA homologated X-Bow GT4, a car which can be used by privateer teams in a number of different race series. Power comes from an Audi-built 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, bolted to the standard Audi six-speed manual transmission. The engine produces 237 horsepower and is enough to get the X-Bow to sixty miles per hour in just 3.6 seconds.
There is also the option of buying the X-Bow R, a version with the engine tuned to produce 300hp. These numbers might not be quite as impressive as those from the Ariel Atom 500 or the Caparo T1, but then, neither is the price. At €45,000 ($78,000) the X-Bow is quite a bit less than either of the other two. Straight line speed really isn't the X-Bow's primary concern though, and the car tops out at 143mph. Handling is really where the X-Bow shines, and on R-compound tires it will pull 1.5g on the skidpad. That's quite a lot for any street car, even one that is only street legal in Europe.
The grip produced by the car is what makes it easily the best-handling track day car you can buy, and when you get right down to it, this will be more important for most buyers than out and out speed. The looks of the X-Bow are a bit odd, this is definitely a love-it-or-hate-it case of styling. It is also just one of the hints that perhaps the folks at KTM are slightly unhinged. Including a heater in a car with no roof would probably be another indicator, and the snow tires are clearly intended for crazy people. This is all a good thing though, this is the kind of insanity which produces interesting cars.
There is nothing even slightly strange about a Camry, and that's exactly why you would rather drive an X-Bow, possibly even in the winter. The X-Bow is still a relatively new car, and KTM is still struggling to keep up with demand, but we wouldn't be too surprised if a new X-Bow were to come out in a few years to slot above the X-Bow R. Something with a lot more power to compete with other $100k+ track cars out there. After all, that's the sort of thing crazy people do. But for now, the X-Bow is a wild-looking but sober-handling car of very good design.
The price and speed capabilities are a perfect fit for the vast majority of track day drivers, so it's hardly any wonder that KTM can't build them fast enough. Just the same, we'd be interested to see just how far they can push the platform.