It Won't Be Long Before You See A KTM X-Bow On The Street

For a country so famously fond of cars, the United States has some pretty stringent rules of the road. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has high standards for safety and sets strict limits on what a road-legal car can do on American roads. On the whole, that's good news for American drivers: NHTSA-mandated safety features like seatbelts, airbags, and electronic stability control have consistently reduced the rate of crashes and injuries in the United States.

The strict rules of the NHTSA have kept some stunning cars off American pavement, however. NHTSA requirements helped sink could-have-been classics like the Porsche 959 and Jaguar XJ220 in the U.S. market. A recent instance of this is the KTM X-Bow, first manufactured in 2008. This bonkers Austrian cross between a supercar and a go-kart would seem to be tailor-made for wide American highways and offroad shenanigans, but, with one important caveat: it has never been street-legal in the States. Here's why.

Too much and not enough for American roads

First, the caveat: a street-legal X-Bow is coming to the U.S. in 2023. Based on KTM's successful GT2-class racer, the X-Bow GT-XR makes a few safety concessions — like turn signals and a roof — that hardened motorheads will no doubt consider nanny-state nonsense. The hardcore will have to content themselves that KTM is offsetting any added weight with a 600-horsepower turbocharged Audi inline-five straight from the racetrack, more than doubling the power of the original. The current GT-XR prototype blasts from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 3.4 seconds, all the way up to a top speed of 174 mph (via KTM).

As for what kept the stock X-Bow off American roads since its 2008 debut? Be serious. The thing shipped without a roof. Even Top Gear, which ranked the KTM among the best sports cars of 2008, derided it for the absolute absence of creature comforts and user-friendly design. An NHTSA ban was so certain that KTM never even tried for street legality; in the U.S., the X-Bow has always been sold exclusively as a track toy. As of 2023, the GT-XR is primed to break that streak and finally put an X-Bow on American asphalt.