KTM Duke 390 Review
The Duke 390 has staggering performance, impossible to match at this price.
It might be raining cats and dogs in Mumbai but the thought of riding the hot new KTM Duke 390 makes you almost water proof. I say so because in spite of the heavy rains, I rushed for the keys of KTM’s hot new pocket rocket only to come out drenched but thoroughly satisfied with a wide grin on my face and a thumping heart. My stint with the bike was limited so this is just a brief review of the India-spec KTM Duke 390. We will bring you a more detailed review of the motorcycle in the near future but till then, here is our first ride impressions of the KTM Duke 390 and boy are we impressed by the sheer thrust from this 2-wheeled monster.
The Duke 390 is identical to the Duke 200 in almost every visual way. KTM has given the Duke 390 a different colour treatment which helps in distinguishing what lies beneath. The orange coloured Trellis frame looks really eye catchy and the orange wheels are a bit too flashy but very youthful nonetheless. A close look at the brakes will reveal the ABS module while the handle bar now features hand guards as standard. The Duke 390 looks very purposeful and muscular in person but a bit small considering it is powered by a 373.2cc engine.
The instrument cluster is also the same as the Duke 200 which means it is a tech laden console which can give luxury cars a run for their money, that is the amount of information displayed on the cluster. The only difference with respect to the Duke 200 is the ABS check light on the top right (this is blank in the Duke 200). A hidden ABS turn off button is placed below the SET button. There is nothing written on it and KTM clearly wants everyone to have their ABS on, unless of course you are into stoppies.
Me being 6-feet 2-inches tall found the 10 mm reduced seat height a bit of an ergonomic issue. While I feel fine on the Duke 200, I should get used to the 390’s seating position with time. However short riders can rejoice as the 800 mm seat height will suit them well. The pillion is not very welcome on the 390 though and I say this because of the insane thrust belted out by this motor. The single-cylinder engine on the Duke 390 is quite a high-tech one. It uses Nikasil coating (improves engine life and performance), forged pistons and is 95% different than the Duke 200. Fire up the KTM Duke 390 and you will witness some vibes which are not that big of a bother as they disappear once you are on the move (above 2500 RPM). The motor simply doesn’t like to run at low speeds in high gears as the engine starts to knock a bit. However performance is breath taking but not frantic like on the Duke 200. That said, the Duke 390 is properly quick and accelerates with such brutality that you simply forget everything around you.
To put it into perspective, as I slotted the Duke 390 in first gear at a traffic light, waiting for it to go green, I never anticipated what was in store. The Duke 390 feels a bit easy going at low revs but once past the 5000 RPM mark, power starts to really build up. Around 6000 RPM a definite shove is felt and the Duke 390 simply takes off with such ferocity that you no longer keep a tap of the speed or RPM on the console. The small readings on the console along with rains made it a bit difficult to monitor data on my short ride. The insane performance also made me too alert to have a look on the speedometer but off my mind, I can recollect hitting 57 km/hr in first gear, 81 km/hr in second gear and a top speed of around 148 km/hr. The Duke 390 does 0-100 km/hr in less than 6 seconds (in third gear) with the top speed being 160 km/hr, more than enough for our roads. You whizz past 130 km/hr in no time, performance is that quick and urgent. Fueling is crisp and one can expect a mileage of 25 km/l from the bike.
What really benefits the Duke 390 is it’s low weight (154 kgs with fuel). The power to weight ratio is an heart tingling 300 PS/ton and that is what really sets the Duke 390 apart. With 44 untamed ponies under your seat, the Duke 390 on full steam is so brutal that you might have to hold the handlebar tightly to stay put (specially in windy conditions). With 35 Nm of turning force, the Duke 390 shows its strong engine characteristics even in high gears. In-gear acceleration is properly strong and a shift into fourth gear and a complete twist of the right wrist will make the Duke 390 accelerate in such a eager fashion, you feel you are in second gear. First gear is the most fun and you are fighting with the throttle to keep the bike down as it has heavy tendency to wheelie. The gearbox shifts smoothly and the gearing is spot on which enables you to do timely upshifts without hitting the rev limiter abruptly. The Duke 390 is LOUD, more so in the top-end of the powerband.
The chassis on the Duke 390 is identical to the Duke 200 but I was pleasantly surprised to not find the bike too stiff. Yes the Duke is a stiff motorcycle but the 390 isn’t as harsh as I expected. KTM has tuned the suspension for Indian conditions and the ride quality is acceptable even on our terrible road, although we reserve our judgment as the tarmac on which the Duke 390 was scorching earlier today was quite smooth.
One big change on the Duke 390 over the Duke 200 are the Metzeler Sportec M5 tyres. Now this rubber from Germany is known to be extremely grippy, which coupled with the fantastic chassis of the Duke 390 yields the bike extremely good cornering ability and high speed stability. On the wet roads, with heavy rain pouring, the Duke 390 generated a lot of confidence through high speed turns. There is so much feedback that you can push the bike and it glides through with splendid composure. The ABS unit is very well calibrated and brakes perform extremely well, even in wet conditions to stop the Duke 390 dead straight in its tracks.
So did I come out impressed? You bet I did. While everything else was known (we already know how capable the Duke’s chassis is), the Duke 390’s engine performance in Indian conditions remained a mystery. A short stint on the saddle gives away most of the story. The KTM Duke 390 is insane fun and you will be grinning under your helmet every time you exercise your right wrist. The taller sixth gear keeps the engine comfortable while cruising (100 km/hr in sixth is at 5000 RPM, redline comes in at 10,500 RPM). However it’s really the price which simply blows everything away. At Rs. 2.07 lakhs (on-road, Mumbai), the KTM Duke 390 completely re-writes the value for money game.
The KTM Duke 390 is fast, fun and extremely responsive. The brilliant chassis, eager engine and splendid brakes give a terrific riding experience.