It’s been a while since I was in over my head at the track, yet there I was. One session in and it was like learning to drive again. That’s not to say the KTM X-bow Comp R is particularly hard to drive. Quite contrary. With its gummy BFGoodrich R1-S tires (215/40-17 front, 265/35-18 rear), roughly 1,900-pound weight and a 300hp turbo Audi motor behind the driver, the X-bow Comp R sticks like stink and goes like the dickens with no unpredictable handling characteristics. Still, I was lost on a racetrack I largely knew, awkwardly trying not to do anything dumb.
Two sessions later, I’m passing a C8 Corvette while chasing down a McLaren 650S Spider. It’s amazing how things change.
The X-bow’s tech sheet is the stuff of dreams, and it all adds up to being one of the most capable cars I’ve driven on the racetrack – and I’ve driven a few during my 15 years of road racing with the SCCA. But my experience is largely production-car based, and that might have been the problem since the Comp R is essentially a formula car in disguise. So as I first crested WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca’s relatively straight Turn 1 carrying enough speed to feel the front axle go light while the track’s outward edge rushed into view unexpectedly fast, I was intimidated and doubt crept into my helmet.
Let’s back up a little. The car I’m tucked behind the wheel of is a 2020 KTM X-bow Comp R powered by a 2.0L turbo. The version I’m driving is largely a base model, albeit with a smattering of options, like a DSG transmission replacing the factory Audi 6-speed manual tranny and the addition of a limited slip differential. The driver’s seat is essentially a Recaro unit with head containment incorporated into the two-seat-wide carbon fiber monocoque, with the steering wheel and pedal box sliding fore and aft for correct control placement – plus there’s no windshield. It’s all quite slick and feels very much like a racecar.
It should be said that the Comp R is not a racecar, yet at the same time, it kind of is. KTM offers a GT4 version of the X-bow that is currently campaigned by Marco Polo Motorsports in SRO GT4 SprintX competition. Muellerized builds and prepares their X-bows, taking five pole positions and three wins in the 2020 SRO GT4 SprintX season. The GT4 X-bow is not a twin, but a sister to the KTM Comp R; they share the same monocoque and front impact structure that’s at the heart of all cars KTM has released, including the new five-cylinder GTX/GT2 X-bow, but after that, each car is unique in its configuration. Notable differences between models include power output, gearbox, suspension settings and brake setup. For example, the GT4 features Bosch Motorsports ABS while the Comp R has no ABS on its non-boosted brake setup.
In regards to the suspension, the X-bow boasts push-rod front suspension, and the Comp R does everything it can to show it off. In fact, it’s a proud beast that openly showcases all of its exotic automotive sexiness, and that helps make the driver of the Porsche in front of you feel better when he lets you by as you rocket out of Turn 9 after finally nailing Laguna’s world famous Corkscrew.
I was at Laguna Seca driving the X-bow Comp R courtesy of John Mueller, owner of Muellerized X-bow Sales & Support, who is the Southern California distributor of KTM Sport Cars. Mueller himself has an impressive racing history that spans amateur and pro series, and his dad was also an accomplished racer. Mueller has a wealth of racecar setup knowledge, so expanding his business to include the KTM X-bow is a natural evolution.
“The X-bow’s carbon monocoque, which is unique for sports cars, was derived directly from a Dallara Formula 3 chassis,” Mueller explains of one of the key features of the X-bow. “The extremely high shoulders of the monocoque protect much more effectively than any other technical solution in the event of a side impact. The front impact structure, thanks to its carbon-aluminum sandwich construction, is a bolt-on replaceable component and meets the Formula 3 and sports car standards.”
The monocoque, Mueller notes, is a four-layer construction that’s double-walled from the driver’s torso on. “The result is a carbon fiber construction that provides the highest levels of safety, but only weighs 176lbs, with an extremely high level of torsional stiffness,” Mueller adds.
This creates a tub that’s both stiff and safe in an impact, with roll hoops capable of carrying 2.5 times the weight of the vehicle – all key components for keeping occupants protected.
Currently, Muellerized has three different models of X-bow for sale in the company’s Santa Ana, Calif., location. The X-bow Comp R brought out for me to test drive was equipped with the Audi DSG, offering paddle shifts on the steering wheel for easy gear selection, although technically I could have gone one easier and popped the DSG into full auto mode. A largely stock Audi manual with a traditional clutch pedal is also available on the Comp R, as is a true sequential box.
“For the ultimate track experience, a version of the Comp R is available with an air shifted, paddle operated Holinger sequential racing gearbox,” Mueller says. “It brings the ‘crossbow’ theme even further with its extremely high strength and amazing low weight and ease of operation. It weighs 77lbs compared to the DSG at 176lbs and provides ultra-fast shifting – 65 milliseconds.”
Truly, the DSG is everything most people will need for paddle-shifting track-day fun, but I can certainly see diehards opting for the sequential upgrade.
The Comp R DSG I drove rings up at about $120,000, which includes more than $10,000 in options over the base X-bow Comp R. Add the bells and whistles that come on the Comp R 1st Batch Edition, like aero pieces, upgraded brakes and the Holinger, and you’ll need $170,000. But it should be noted that this not only includes the destination charge, but also a full day of track support by Muellerized.
What does this include? The Muellerized team will, of course, ensure the new owner is comfortable in the car as well as discuss any technical and service components, but as in my simulated support weekend, it also includes some driver coaching, which utterly transformed my time behind the wheel lapping Laguna Seca. In fact, by the end of my third track session, my lap times had dropped from “embarrassing” to a more respectable high-1m36s.
Mueller’s skill in articulating how to make quick lap times happen made the coaching process a pleasure. I had gone from being utterly intimidated to concentrating on corner entry and mid-turn intricacies far faster than I anticipated. I would like to believe I would have gotten there eventually myself, but the gentle coaching and professional analysis of my driving inputs greatly sped the process and made for a more enjoyable day at the track.
Who does Mueller see as the X-bow Comp R’s target audience? “People who want an extreme track day experience with unparalleled safety features and mild operating costs focused on only including elements that directly add to the performance and function of the vehicle – trim away and leave off everything else,” he concludes. “No other car epitomizes the term ‘super sports car’ as thoroughly and uncompromisingly as the KTM X-bow.”
Plus, when the drivers of a C8 Corvette and McLaren 650S Spider point you by on track, it’ll make you feel mighty good, too.