Snapshot: The Austrian blade gets a newly painted scabbard, but is still sharp enough?
The KTM RC series is not new to the Indian market and for this year the Austrian motorcycle maker gave a surprise in the form of the new RC series and the new Dukes. The RC series was launched in India a few years back but for 2017 it received quite a number of updates in the form of the new paint scheme, exhaust, ride-by-wire throttle, adjustable levers and bigger front disc brake. These are quite a number of updates to count but how can they make something better which was already excellent?
The new 2017 RC 390 comes with the same razor sharp design as seen before but for this year it receives a new paint job which clearly looks more alluring than the one present earlier. The previous one used whole white fairing while the new one uses black-white-orange paint combination along with the similarly colored black tank. The front-end remains the same with the twin sharply pointed head lights and transparent windshield while the rear view mirrors are new. The mirrors are updated so as to provide a better view of the rear and the new ones clearly serve their purpose better and are extremely easy to adjust.
Apart from the paint scheme, the overall styling and design remain exactly the same while a new side mounted exhaust sits in place of the earlier underbelly unit. Because of the use of the new side-mounted exhaust unit, the ground clearance has been upped and the bike now clearly looks higher from the ground.
The use of the standard adjustable levers also makes the bike feel more premium than before. So overall, the new 2017 RC 390 is slightly more attractive looking package than the earlier models.
Engine and Performance:
The bike still runs on the same 373cc single-cylinder water-cooled engine that deliveries 43.5bhp of maximum power which is same as previous but the torque is up by 1Nm and now stands at 36Nm.
The engine comes mated to the same 6-speed transmission which is precise, well-spaced and easy on the foot. There isn’t any major difference in terms of acceleration or peak performance but since the bike now rides on ride-by-wire throttle, it follows throttle inputs more linearly. The bike has gained around 6.5kgs in the process of becoming cleaner but this extra weight is nearly impossible to notice on the new bike. The addition of the new side-mounted exhaust has contributed to a slightly heavy sound which feels refined and pops out with more bass especially at higher revs but due to this, the signature KTM knocking sound is gone.The earlier RC bikes were infamous for heating up enormously and shutting down, we still wonder if the new bikes are any better or still the same as we couldn’t test the overheating issue in the short span of test time.
Ride, Handling and Comfort:
The RC has been one of the most aggressive bikes in its class in terms of riding ergonomics and the new RC is no different. You really have to put in your back to ride it on a daily basis as the riding position is highly demanding. It comes with 43mm WP USD front forks and a mono shock unit at the rear. The front remains on the stiffer side for the best handling while the rear felt relatively softer to deal with the daily roads without unsettling the rider. There is no change in the steering geometry and it still handles like a dream. The RC 390 feels superlight on its feet and it changes directions as quick as a house fly. It still stays sharp when it comes to holding cornering lines like a pro and that is what makes the RC a brilliant track machine which is not only aggressive in terms of picking up the pace but also confident when leaning hard or making corrections mid corner.
The new RC 390 now boasts a bigger 320mm disc up front which has certainly given more braking power at the front. With the braking improved, the new RC is even more focused and safer than ever. Thanks to the adjustable levers, the rider can now alter the reach to the brake lever or clutch lever as per need. Like before the bike still comes with the Metzeler tires which are by far the best in class tires for the amount of money you invest. The new tires are the same but with a slightly less speed rating on them. The only place where the new RC seems to lack is in the overall body vibrations which are significant when cutting down speeds.
The RC 390 still remains the undisputed king when it comes to hair rising track performance and with the added technology and features, the new RC 390 becomes safer, more predictable and alluring. But with the technical progression, KTM engineers can surely take a lesson or two from its Japanese rivals in terms of controlling overall body vibration levels. But that aside, RC 390 comes out as the best supersport package for the riders upgrading to higher capacity motorcycle and it well justifies its price tag for everything it offers.