In size and shape, the KTM 390 Duke looks very much like its 200cc sibling, and it'd be tough to tell them apart if not for the 390 Duke's loud orange alloy wheels, powder-coated trellis frame and new graphics. A closer inspection reveals more differences. Apart from a bigger engine, there's a host of small details that set them apart – the KTM 390 Duke has a larger fuel tank, wider handlebars and different tires.
Although both the KTM 200 Duke and 390 Duke have the same chassis, the engine in the KTM 390 Duke is not merely an upgrade on the 200. It's an all-new single-cylinder unit with a Nikasil-coated cylinder, forged piston and new head crankcase, among other bits and pieces. This single-cylinder 375cc liquid-cooled engine produces a breathtaking 44 horsepower at 9,500rpm and 35Nm of torque at 7,500rpm.
The KTM 390 Duke's engine isn't as refined as the 200's, with vibrations prevalent at idle and a low speed. But this is all well and good given the power coming out of that single-cylinder. The juicy bit is at mid- and top-end. There are times when this engine behaves more like something of a higher cubic capacity engine – knocking and lugging at low revs – and smoothens out once past 3,500rpm. Past 4,500rpm, the surge of power is stupefying and you hit the 10,000rpm rev limiter in first and second gears almost every time you whack the throttle open. The gearing is taller compared to the KTM 200 Duke's, which in turn means fewer shifts on the 390 Duke. The KTM 390 Duke's exhaust sounds a lot healthier compared to the 200cc Duke with a very mechanical and hostile note kicking in after 7,000rpm. From standstill, the KTM 390 Duke sprints to 60 and 100km/h in well under three and six seconds respectively.
The tiny orange-lit fully digital instrument cluster houses a speedo, tacho, trip meter, as well as engine temperature and fuel gauges – most of them easy to read on-the-fly. ABS is standard on the KTM 390 Duke.
Below the Set and Mode buttons on the instrument cluster, there's an unmarked button to disengage the ABS. But this is only for those looking to pull off some stunts every now and then.
Everything about the KTM 390 Duke oozes aggression – from its familiar brawny design to that potent engine. Ride is still and very sport-oriented. Low-speed ride is a bit lumpy but things get more comfortable as you pick up the pace – which is ideal for a sinewy little street bike like this.
The KTM 390 Duke feels steady in a straight line, with all that torque spread well through the mid-range. Cruising the streets at 60km/h at around 4,000rpm in fifth gear, and 100km/h at 5,000rpm in sixth gear is effortless. The KTM engine loves to be revved, and works well with the chassis, suspension and brakes, adapting to enthusiastic riding styles as well. Grippy 110/70 – 150/60 Metzeler Sportec tires on the 17-inch rims makes cornering a easy thing to do even in wet conditions. The four-piston 300mm front and single-piston 230mm rear Byrne disc brakes work splendidly to rapidly shed speed and give the rider great confidence.