There's been talk of a mid-range twin-cylinder KTM to sit beneath the firm's big V-twin models for nearly a decade now but the all-new parallel twin seen in very polished-looking prototypes still comes as something of a surprise.
Not long after the first appearance of the KTM RC8 V-twin engine, KTM boss Stefan Pierer openly spoke of a smaller, 500cc V-twin that was under consideration. That project never made it, but the idea lived on and in early 2014 Stefan Pierer revealed that the firm was working on 500cc and 800cc parallel twins to be made jointly with KTM's Indian partner – and part-owner – Bajaj, just as KTM's current 200 and 390 singles are.
The prototypes appear to be housing one of those new parallel twin engines. First impressions are that the engine is large enough to be the 800cc model, but how visually different the 500cc version will be isn't clear at the moment – it's possible that the smaller engine will simply be a sleeved-down version of the larger one. The motorcycle it's mounted in is the Duke mould, but given KTM's pattern of spinning multiple models from each engine and chassis, versions as diverse as adventure bikes and even fully faired sportsbikes models can't be written off yet.
Given the intention to sell the motorcycle in emerging markets as well as more traditional ones, the use of a parallel twin rather than a V-tin makes sense. In-line engines are cheaper to build and easier to package, making it possible to reduce the cost and complexity of motorcycles using them.