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KTM 390 Duke review: ‘The Corner Rocket’ straight out of a Terminator movie

What you see here is the evolution of this hooligan, and in its latest avatar, the 390 Duke looks ready to bite your head off.

autos Updated: Mar 22, 2017 15:52 IST
Siddhant Ghalla
Siddhant Ghalla
KTM 390 Duke review,KTM 390 Duke,390 Duke review
What you see here is the evolution of this hooligan, and in its latest avatar, the 390 Duke looks ready to bite your head off.(AutocarIndia)

The 390 Duke, as with offerings from KTM, has been a bike that punches far higher than its class, to the effect that it could put some bigger bikes to shame. In fact, it has even inspired fear in riders that were not primed for its manic mannerisms.

What you see here is the evolution of this hooligan, and in its latest avatar, the 390 Duke looks ready to bite your head off.

This bike is sharp as a chef’s knife. There are lots of lines and pointy ends everywhere, so much so that this bike wouldn’t look out of place on the sets of Terminator 3. The split all-LED headlight looks like an inverted pitchfork, and crowning it is an all-new TFT colour instrument display that can connect to your smartphone and stream/control phone calls and music.

The fuel tank is also all-new, it’s built out of steel and capable of holding up to 13.5 litres. Not only is it bigger than the older bike’s 10.5-litre tank, its forward-set design gives the 390 a more purposeful, more aggressive stance. Underneath the tank is the KTM-typical exposed trellis frame that now features a bolt-on subframe. The subframe beautifully disappears under the pillion seat, portraying the 390 Duke as a wonderful sum of its parts.

Other cosmetic changes include a side-slung exhaust (as opposed to the erstwhile underbelly unit) and newly designed seats. On the whole, the new 390 Duke looks raw, ready, and built for purpose.

The 2017 390 Duke is powered by the same 373cc, liquid-cooled, single-cylinder unit as before, with the power unchanged at 43.5hp and peak torque bumped up by 2Nm to 37Nm. Other powertrain changes come in the form of BS-IV compliance and the addition of ride-by-wire throttle.

On the road, you immediately notice the effect of the ride-by-wire throttle – the power delivery is wonderfully smoothened out, giving you much more control over the engine’s grunt. You now have access to a whole lot of power almost anywhere in the rev range, though it is most concentrated between 4,500 and 8,500rpm. Keep the revs in that range and you will either have a grin or the God-have-mercy look plastered on your face. The 390 does not feel very comfortable in lower revs though, which might be an issue in traffic.

The 390 Duke’s claimed crowning glory, however, is not the explosive engine performance. The 2017 390 Duke had been nicknamed ‘The Corner Rocket’ by KTM, indicating, in a most unsubtle manner, that this one is for the bends.

It comes as no surprise that this bike is absolute dynamite around corners. The chassis, suspension and tyres all work together in wonderful sync to take you round gracefully, safely and most importantly, quickly. You can easily flick the bike in and out of a bend, and once again, the ride-by-wire throttle comes in handy, allowing you to modulate the throttle progressively as you make your way around the turn.

Brilliant cornering ability does not imply lacklustre stability on straights. The bike feels impressively stable when torpedoing down straight roads even past the 150 kph mark.

The suspension setup has been upgraded too – while the front suspension still consists of WP-manufactured 43mm upside-down forks, they now come with open-cartridge technology (better for absorbing rough roads); the rear suspension, meanwhile, continues with a monoshock that is pre-load adjustable. At low speeds, the ride on broken roads is a bit jarring, though things smoothen out considerably as you pick up pace. Bigger ditches are best handled at a crawling pace.

Also improved is the stopping power. The 390 Duke now comes with a Bybre 320mm front disc (as compared to its predecessor’s 300mm disc) chomped on by radially-bolted four-piston calliper and a 230mm rear disc bitten by a single-piston floating calliper, armed with switchable two-channel Bosch-developed ABS. The ABS too has received an upgrade, it gets three modes now – Off, Road and Supermoto. The Off mode, obviously, implies that the ABS is turned off, while Road implies that ABS is functional in the front and back. The Supermoto mode keeps only the front ABS on while switching the rear off, for those who want to have some fun.

And finally, we come to the seating position. The seat is slightly higher than before and the foot pegs are pushed back a bit, making for a more comfortable seating position. It is still very upright, perfect for urban riding and lesser cramped than before.

The 390 Duke receives a major upgrade in equipment and features. First up is that large colour TFT instrument cluster that allows riders to sync their smartphones via Bluetooth for phone call and audio controls. Furthermore, the bike will automatically switch the headlamp on if it senses poor ambient light conditions.

Also, the 390 Duke now gets adjustable brake and clutch levers to adapt to various gloves and rider hand sizes.

Overall, the 2017 390 Duke is yet another phenomenal bike from KTM. It is explosive to ride, razor sharp in terms of handling, comfortable for long stints in the saddle, decked to the brim with equipment and is striking to look at. And with the inclusion of ride-by-wire and stronger brakes, it is more manageable than ever. And while, at Rs 2,25,730 (ex-showroom, Delhi), it does cost a bit more than its predecessor, few will disagree that you get so much more for that extra buck.

(In partnership with AutocarIndia)

First Published: Mar 22, 2017 15:52 IST