2024 KTM 390 Duke First Ride Review: The pocket rocket is back

The KTM 390 Duke changed the rules of motorcycling in India when it first arrived a decade ago. Such was the impact that performance motorcycling took a new direction, especially at an accessible price point, given the locally built nature of the bike. The first generation 390 Duke was launched at 1.8 lakh (ex-showroom) in 2013, which feels like a steal in today’s inflated market prices. The power-to-price ratio was unheard of and while many have come close, few managed to replicate the formula as successfully as KTM did.

By: Sameer Fayaz Contractor
| Updated on: 17 Sep 2023, 10:04 AM
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The 2024 KTM 390 Duke gets comprehensive upgrades including a new aluminium subframe, larger displacement engine, lighter wheels and more (HT Auto/Kunal Thale)
The 2024 KTM 390 Duke gets comprehensive upgrades including a new aluminium subframe, larger displacement engine, lighter wheels and more

Now, there’s an all-new generation of the KTM 390 Duke on sale. The third generation 390 Duke takes a giant leap compared to its predecessors. Costing almost twice as much, this iteration promises to bring the best of the first two generations in performance and desirability. But can it tug the same heartstrings as the original did? Can it provide the same visceral experience that the 390 Duke has been known for? We rode the 2024 KTM 390 Duke recently and here’s what we think.

2024 KTM 390 Duke: Super Duke-inspired design

The third generation KTM 390 Duke builds on the learnings from the first two generations. The styling is bolder, inspired by the larger 1290 Super Duke. The new headlamp cluster is positioned lower with the LED DRLs flanked on the outside. The redesigned fuel tank has a capacity of 15 litres, 1.5 litres more than the previous generation. It looks more aggressive too with the tank shrouds extending at either end beyond the front forks.

The 2024 KTM 390 Duke looks sharp, mimicking the bigger Duke range in design. The road presence remains strong with the bold styling
The 2024 KTM 390 Duke looks sharp, mimicking the bigger Duke range in design. The road presence remains strong with the bold styling (HT Auto/Kunal Thale)
The 2024 KTM 390 Duke looks sharp, mimicking the bigger Duke range in design. The road presence remains strong with the bold styling
The 2024 KTM 390 Duke looks sharp, mimicking the bigger Duke range in design. The road presence remains strong with the bold styling (HT Auto/Kunal Thale)

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There’s a new side panel, a first on the 390 Duke, which blends well into the new aluminium subframe. The new unit joins the trellis frame and is an absolutely gorgeous unit mimicking the larger Duke models. There’s a new swingarm too, intended to make the bike more agile than before. The new 390 Duke is still as compact as before and the wheelbase too has shrunk by 3 mm at 1354 mm. But the road presence remains strong. The bold new face makes it an attention seeker and there’s no real way to keep things low-key. Then again, you already knew that when you decided to bring one home.

The tail section is sharply styled with the new LED taillight looking smart and further adding to the nice presence of the bike on the road. There are new wheels too borrowed from the latest generation RC 390. The new 390 Duke gets clamps across the crucial bits for additional reinforcements. The stepholders and footpegs use forged parts for weight savings. KTM retains the orange paint scheme throughout the motorcycle, which is now available in two colours - Atlantic Blue and Electronic Orange.

2024 KTM 390 Duke: Weight savings

The new KTM 390 Duke has also seen a weight reduction over its predecessor. The motorcycle has shed weight from crucial areas. The new engine is lighter by 1 kg, while the wheels are 1.7 kg lighter with fewer spokes, an open hub design and a hollow axle. The bike also loses a tyre hugger, helping shed about 800 grams of critical mass. Overall, the new 390 Duke is 3.6 kg lighter than its predecessor with a kerb weight of 168.4 kg, allowing for an ever better power-to-weight ratio.

The 5-inch TFT screen on the new 390 Duke comes with a dedicated display for the Track mode that shows a lap timer. The unit also gets Bluetooth connectivity with turn-by-turn navigation
The 5-inch TFT screen on the new 390 Duke comes with a dedicated display for the Track mode that shows a lap timer. The unit also gets Bluetooth connectivity with turn-by-turn navigation (HT Auto/Kunal Thale)
The 5-inch TFT screen on the new 390 Duke comes with a dedicated display for the Track mode that shows a lap timer. The unit also gets Bluetooth connectivity with turn-by-turn navigation
The 5-inch TFT screen on the new 390 Duke comes with a dedicated display for the Track mode that shows a lap timer. The unit also gets Bluetooth connectivity with turn-by-turn navigation (HT Auto/Kunal Thale)

2024 KTM 390 Duke: New digital console

The third-gen 390 Duke gets a massive update in the form of its new 5-inch TFT screen. The digital console is not only much easier to read but the layout is simpler and easy to operate too. The console shows all the critical information including access to the many features from adjusting between ride modes to turning on/off traction control and ABS. The new digital console also comes with Bluetooth connectivity bringing turn-by-turn navigation via an app, a first and much-needed feature on the bike. You can accept or decline calls or change music as well. The switchgear is new and feels premium with a nice tactile feel.

The 390 Duke comes with three riding modes - Rain, Street and Track. While Rain limits the power and torque output, Street and Track give you full access to the streetfighter’s prowess. The Track mode also gets its own display with an independent screen layout showing the Launch Control mode, a lap timer and more.

Ergonomics are on point and the new fuel tank and seat do a better job at accommodating the rider. The India-spec version gets a lower seat height at 800 mm
Ergonomics are on point and the new fuel tank and seat do a better job at accommodating the rider. The India-spec version gets a lower seat height at 800 mm (HT Auto/Kunal Thale)
Ergonomics are on point and the new fuel tank and seat do a better job at accommodating the rider. The India-spec version gets a lower seat height at 800 mm
Ergonomics are on point and the new fuel tank and seat do a better job at accommodating the rider. The India-spec version gets a lower seat height at 800 mm (HT Auto/Kunal Thale)

2024 KTM 390 Duke: Ergonomics

Rider ergonomics have improved dramatically. The wheelbase is shorter by 3 mm but the overall seating is much better. You now sit “in" the bike rather than on the bike, says KTM, and that’s because there’s more mass around the seat covering the rider. The new riding position makes you feel more connected to the motorcycle, nearly becoming one with it.

You still get rear-set footpegs and a wide handlebar but the legs can hold on to the fuel tank much better. The upright riding posture is just right and the bike feels more accommodating than before for taller riders. In fact, the new seat design feels roomier with just enough space to wiggle further back for a more dedicated riding posture. The cushioning is medium hard, which will keep you comfortable on longer rides and is contoured rather well. The seat height measures 800 mm for the India-spec model, which should easily accommodate riders of all sizes. That said, the export-spec motorcycle gets a taller seat height of 820 mm. KTM says it’s working on making the taller seat an accessory for the Indian market, should taller riders want to upgrade.

The new 399 cc motor brings better levels of performance and refinement to the new 390 Duke. It's still a high-revving unit but gets more tractable than before
The new 399 cc motor brings better levels of performance and refinement to the new 390 Duke. It's still a high-revving unit but gets more tractable than before (HT Auto/Kunal Thale)
The new 399 cc motor brings better levels of performance and refinement to the new 390 Duke. It's still a high-revving unit but gets more tractable than before
The new 399 cc motor brings better levels of performance and refinement to the new 390 Duke. It's still a high-revving unit but gets more tractable than before (HT Auto/Kunal Thale)

2024 KTM 390 Duke: Performance

The 2024 KTM 390 Duke's big talking point is its new engine. The displacement has gone up from 373 cc to 399 cc, thanks to a larger stroke. The bore size remains the same. The result is higher power and torque figures that come in much earlier in the rev band. The motor develops 44.2 bhp at 8,500 rpm and 39 Nm of peak torque at 6,500 rpm, both kicking in 500 rpm earlier than the Gen2 motorcycle. The engine immediately feels a lot more refined than before while retaining its high-revving nature.

The new motor is also more tractable than before. About 30 Nm or 80 per cent of torque kicks in right from 5,000 rpm, which gives it dollops of performance right from the start. It’s still very much a high-revving engine but can handle low speeds much better. The mid-range and top-end continue to be the strongest but there are far fewer vibrations across the rev band. Power comes in no time and you will be doing well over 100 kmph in the third gear without even realising it. The big difference is that power delivery is more seamless and unless you are explicitly looking down at the console, you won’t know how fast you are going.

On-road mannerisms are equally better. Manoeuvrability is sharp and the new 390 Duke slices through traffic like a scalpel
On-road mannerisms are equally better. Manoeuvrability is sharp and the new 390 Duke slices through traffic like a scalpel (HT Auto/Kunal Thale)
On-road mannerisms are equally better. Manoeuvrability is sharp and the new 390 Duke slices through traffic like a scalpel
On-road mannerisms are equally better. Manoeuvrability is sharp and the new 390 Duke slices through traffic like a scalpel (HT Auto/Kunal Thale)

The 6-speed gearbox remains a slick shifter and comes with an assist and slipper clutch that comes in handy in peak-hour traffic, while the quickshifter is decent and helpful on the racetrack. The 390 Duke also gets a new radiator from RC 390 that helps in better cooling. KTM claims a top speed of 155 kmph on the new 390 Duke and the company is just being conservative with that.

This writer managed to hit 155 kmph without breaking a sweat at the Bajaj test track in Chakan, Maharashtra, with ample room left for the engine to stretch its legs. The big takeaway though is just how composed the bike is at high speeds, bringing a more mature characteristic to the motorcycle without having to compromise on the fun quotient.

Also Read : KTM launches 390 Duke motorcycle in India. Check price, features and specs

Handling remains seamless and the new 390 Duke remains composed at high speed around a corner
Handling remains seamless and the new 390 Duke remains composed at high speed around a corner (HT Auto/Kunal Thale)
Handling remains seamless and the new 390 Duke remains composed at high speed around a corner
Handling remains seamless and the new 390 Duke remains composed at high speed around a corner (HT Auto/Kunal Thale)

2024 KTM 390 Duke: Handling & Braking

The new 390 Duke almost behaves like its older siblings. It flows into corners more seamlessly at high speeds. As another journalist pointed out, it feels like the 790 Duke at times, and I couldn’t agree more. The composure around a bend certainly gives it the big bike feeling without the extra displacement. It also helps that the bike finally gets an adjustable suspension, configurable for compression and rebound at the front and rear. The mean settings work like a charm and you can stiffen the suspension for the track or soften it up for the road.

Find the right setting for your liking and the 390 Duke feels agile and corners more effortlessly. The track feels right at home, especially with the higher ground clearance at 183 mm allowing for better lean angles. The H-rated Metzeler tyres work well but higher-rated tyres would justify the motorcycle’s capabilities much better. On the road too, the bike is comfortably manoeuvrable and slices through traffic like a scalpel.

Braking performance remains as sharp as ever, especially since the second generation 390 Duke came around. The 320 mm front and 240 mm rear disc brake setup works well and there’s little to complain here. The bite is strong from the front lever and the ABS intervention is just right. The new Supermoto mode will disengage the rear ABS for some rear-wheeled fun. There’s also Launch Control that ensures you don’t pull any unwanted wheelies by modulating the traction control and is only operable in the Track mode.

The 2024 KTM 390 Duke is priced at <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>3.11 lakh (ex-showroom, India), only <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>12,000 more expensive than its predecessor, bringing stellar value
The 2024 KTM 390 Duke is priced at 3.11 lakh (ex-showroom, India), only 12,000 more expensive than its predecessor, bringing stellar value (HT Auto/Kunal Thale)
The 2024 KTM 390 Duke is priced at <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>3.11 lakh (ex-showroom, India), only <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>12,000 more expensive than its predecessor, bringing stellar value
The 2024 KTM 390 Duke is priced at 3.11 lakh (ex-showroom, India), only 12,000 more expensive than its predecessor, bringing stellar value (HT Auto/Kunal Thale)

2024 KTM 390 Duke: Price & Verdict

The third-generation KTM 390 Duke feels like an old friend, only the one that has returned from its travels, more mature and experienced this time. But it still has the same soul. It’s still as entertaining if not more but a lot more forgiving than before. And yes, it does tug the right strings of the heart.

The new 390 Duke remains as dedicated as ever to bring performance without compromise. Try to find more and you’ll be doing a disservice to what the bike is intended for. Priced at 3.11 lakh (ex-showroom), it’s just 12,000 more than the previous generation and feels so much more value. While it had lost the power-to-price ratio in recent times, the new 390 Duke fabulously resets the status quo.

When it seemed the competition was finally catching up, KTM once again set a new benchmark with the new 390 Duke. The ideal pocket rocket then? You bet! This is still the best-performance motorcycle under 400 cc. Go take a test ride, you won’t be disappointed.

First Published Date: 17 Sep 2023, 10:04 AM IST
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