autoX Awards 2023: Let me begin by saying that the KTM 390 Duke has lost a lot of its X-factor since it first appeared in 2013. Back then, the 390 Duke was miles ahead of its competition in terms of performance, but, more importantly, it was the first motorcycle in the Indian market to truly embody the idea of value-for-money performance. The subsequent release of the second-gen model saw a slight increase in performance, accompanied by a more agile chassis. And by the time the third-gen motorcycle appeared, we already knew what the 390 Duke was all about.
So, what is it that still makes the 390 Duke stand out ahead of its competition? Quite simply, it has evolved to become a more friendly motorcycle to ride. Consider, for instance, the notable advancement in addressing the heating issues that plagued initial Dukes. KTM has effectively rectified the problem to the extent that unless you are pushing it during the sweltering peak of summer, the heating issues would remain a thing of the past. The engine’s compression ratio has been brought down, while the displacement has been increased, both of which have significantly contributed towards mitigating the previous heat problems.
Another distinctive characteristic of the 390 Duke was its lurchy throttle and inability to be ridden gently, and once again, KTM has put in considerable effort to address this aspect of the motorcycle. Given that it’s a single-cylinder pocket rocket, I was never expecting the Duke to completely calm down, yet the noticeable improvement in its behaviour, especially in heavy traffic conditions, deserves a word of praise. And while it still may not be perfect, it, nevertheless, has reached a level where one can learn to live with it.
Setting aside the rebellious exuberance of the 390 Duke, let’s look at some of its commendable traits. Foremost, the significant reduction in its weight undoubtedly stands out as the biggest highlight of the new-generation Duke. KTM has managed to bring down its weight by about 4kg, primarily from the unsprung mass of the motorcycle. This translates into increased agility, enabling the 390 Duke to effortlessly lean into corners and manoeuvre swiftly through traffic as if it were being controlled telepathically. Frankly, you may have a hard time accepting that a motorcycle in this segment can exhibit such exceptional cornering capabilities.
Furthermore, the engine, too, has undergone a notable evolution – instead of being a 373cc unit, it now is a 399cc powerhouse. This enhancement results in a more relaxed performance, not to mention a noticeable boost in both power and torque figures. While the 390 Duke never felt inadequate in terms of power, it’s good to have more power on tap now.
Lastly, the KTM 390 Duke used to be a bit intimidating for beginners, primarily because of its explosive power, but that’s no longer the case. While the power is still explosive, thanks to a host of electronic rider aids, it has now become a bit safer and less intimidating for new riders.
As for its lap time, the 390 Duke outshone every motorcycle in its vicinity by a margin, with only the more expensive motorcycles – those with the Ducati and BMW badges – managing to outperform it.
- KTM 390 Duke (Lap Time: 1.13.0)
|COMFORT & PRACTICALITY
|RIDE & HANDLING
|VALUE FOR MONEY