Photography: Pawan Dagia
The past few weeks have been very exciting. It all started with the 2017 KTM RC range, followed by the all-new KTM 250 Duke and 2017 200 Duke, all of which we rode at Bajaj Auto's Chakan facility. The Austrian bike maker then was clearly keeping the best for last and that is the 2017 KTM 390 Duke. The motorcycle that really brought affordable performance to the masses, the new 390 Duke witnesses a generation change and rightly so, a plethora of upgrades and perks have been added in the process. Before we delve deeper into what the new 390 Duke is all about, let us tell you one thing - if you liked the current version, the 2017 KTM 390 Duke will make you love it even more. Read on to find out why.
Check out the 2017 KTM 390 Duke image gallery here.
If 'dressed to kill' has an automotive equivalent, it is the 2017 KTM 390 Duke. I loved the way the older generation KTM Duke looked like and this one only wins me over for the second time. It's made to look like a baby KTM 1290 Super Duke R and that works perfectly. More so, since the philosophy remains the same on both motorcycles - hooligan power cocooned into a naked body. The minimal bodywork is fantastic and most of the styling is concentrated on the fuel tank. The tank is, in fact, larger at 13.5 litres making for better range and is now made of metal instead of plastic. I really like the fact that KTM has added more layers to the colour scheme while keeping everything orange. The extended fenders on the tank look sharp, but the orange monotony is broken by the gloss black finish, while the new rear sub-frame and rear panels are now finished in white. The alloy wheels remain orange but now get a black stripe.
The previous generation KTM 390 Duke was aggressive in its riding posture and this one is no different. The 2017 edition feels a tad bit more aggressive as you continue to sit upright on the naked Austrian with your arms falling onto the handlebar. The foot pegs are now further rear set than the previous model. That is possibly due to the slightly shorter wheelbase at 1357 mm, 10 mm shorter than the older version. The seats for both rider and pillion are now wider and more contoured than the outgoing model and very, very comfortable. Another major change is the taller seat height on the 2017 390 Duke at 830 mm. The difference is a good 30 mm higher from the previous version and is most evident once you take to the saddle. That being said, the new Duke will be appreciated by taller riders a lot and the bike offers more legroom as well. You also get adjustable levers that we first saw on the 2017 KTM RC 390.
You also get the option of pairing your smartphone to the instrument console using Bluetooth. The console will tell you about incoming calls and even display SMS' on screen. In fact, you can even control music settings once your phone is paired. We would have also liked if KTM would've introduced navigation on the Duke using phone pairing. Getting greedy, are we? Or perhaps KTM is saving that feature for the 390 Adventure when it arrives sometime in 2019.
KTM had a big task at hand on new 390 Duke to meet Euro 4 emission norms without having to compromise on power or performance. The result has been the addition of ride-by-wire, E-VAP system; a larger catalytic converter (thus warranting the side mounted exhaust) and an increase in weight by 9 kg. The new 390 Duke continues to use the same 373.2 cc single-cylinder motor that I am happy to say performs even better. Power output remains the same making 43 bhp at 9000 rpm, while torque is up by 2 Nm at 37 Nm available at 7000 rpm. Most noticeably, the motor is a lot more refined and certainly sounds way better with a heavier bass. There is also a difference in vibrations on the new 390. You do feel lesser vibes being passed on to the foot pegs or handlebar, even close to the redline. The ride-by-wire system has played an important role in this by improving the fueling on the engine making it eco-friendly and slightly more fuel efficient as well. It also opens rooms for adding riding modes in the future, something we are certainly thinking KTM would be exploring for the next update.
The 2017 KTM 390 Duke is an enthusiastic bike and loves being pushed to the redline. Unlike the older version, we did feel the overall cooling was far better on the new model and something that most new Duke owners will be happy about. That said, a run on actual roads will be a test for the same. Coming to the 6-speed transmission, the unit is precise and you even have the power assisted slipper clutch (introduced on the 2016 edition) that makes the clutch action easier while making aggressive downshifts more controlled avoiding rear wheel lock.
KTM folks told us that the intention was to remain five years ahead of the competition and that can be seen in terms of the equipment level. The suspension setup has seen a major revamp. You now get the more sophisticated open cartridge upside down (USD) 43 mm front forks that offer a more supple ride quality without compromising on the handling of the bike. The rear too gets a new monoshock suspension setup with individual chambers for oil and gas. The ride quality is improved significantly on the bike and you can feel the new suspension absorbing undulations with ease. There are lesser thumps and thuds going up to the rider and that is a welcome change. The open cartridge also opens room for an adjustable front suspension using dials on top, something seen on bigger motorcycles till now. That, however, is still some time away.
I'll be honest, the 2017 KTM 390 Duke was a bike I was eagerly looking forward to riding, ever since it debuted at EICMA last year. It promised so many changes beyond the usual upgrades and I am happy to say that it has lived up to all that hype. With the list of changes, the new KTM 390 Duke is also now pricier than the previous version. At ₹ 2.25 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), the new 390 Duke is a good ₹ 20,000 over the older version. But is it worth the upgrade? Well, the answer is an absolute yes. While the specs may look similar on paper, the bike offers a lot more for the price with a tonne of new features being segment first. It looks fantastic, has a certain character of its own and gives you a bike that is same as its global version.
When we rode the 2017 RC 390 last month, we told you to wait for the new Dukes if you were looking for a more extensive upgrade. The 2017 KTM 390 Duke turns out to be worth the wait and something you can put your money on. I know I would!