How the KTM X-Bow Works

Image Gallery: Exotic Cars The KTM X-Bow Clubsport. See more pictures of exotic cars.
Photo courtesy of KTM-Sportmotorcycle AG

What do you give the car enthusiast who has everything? How about something so good, you couldn't even buy it in the United States -- until now, that is: the KTM X-Bow. Hailing from Austria, it's the first car from sport bike manufacturer KTM.

The X-Bow (pronounced "crossbow") is small and aggressive, with a silhouette that vaguely resembles a Lotus. The longer you look, though, the more differences come to light. Most obvious is that the X-Bow is essentially an open-air go-kart, providing an "unfiltered" experience for "purists," according to the car's North American distributor, British Racing Group, L.L.C.

Deep-pocketed track enthusiasts have been waiting since 2008 to get their butts in the seat of the X-Bow, but KTM never finalized its long-rumored plans to import it. British Racing Group L.L.C., a boutique dealership chain that specializes in locating and selling hard-to-find cars, has taken over stateside sales efforts. They'll dodge sticky legality issues by marketing the X-Bow as a kit car -- in other words, they'll sell you the shell. Buying and installing the make-it-go parts is your problem (but it's a plight rather common with kit cars). Specifically, they say, "The North American specification KTM X-Bow is classified as a special construction vehicle by the EPA, NHSTA and state departments of transportation. As such, it is sold without engine and transaxle" [source: British Racing Group, L.L.C.].

British Racing Group's terms also include legalese that says, basically, just because they'll sell it doesn't mean the buyer will necessarily be able to drive it, at least according to national and state governmental regulations. (However, it's cleared for road use in most of the European Union, as well as the United Arab Emirates.)

The difficulties of owning the X-Bow seem only to contribute to its cult-like status. It's noteworthy that the X-Bow has created such a stir despite its modest underpinnings. Though the car comes unpowered, it was designed to work with a specific engine -- a rather common 240 horsepower four-cylinder that's borrowed from the Volkswagen-Audi family (more on that later). Though it's rather sprightly in a spartan car, the relatively low power output might be surprising for a track toy that sits just shy of a six-figure price tag. Suffice it to say, the numbers alone don't tell the whole story.

So, what makes the X-Bow so sought after -- is it just the "can't have it" factor? On the next page, we'll talk more about the X-Bow's design.