Husqvarna Svartpilen 701 (2019) | Review

 

Heard the one about the KTM 690 Duke, that walked into the Bike Shed for an oat milk flat white? No? You have now: welcome to Husqvarna’s Svartpilen 701: Swedish name, styled by a Frenchman, built by Austrians. And if that isn’t cosmopolitan enough, BikeSocial is at the launch in Portugal to find out if the Svartpilen 701 really is just KTM’s 690 Duke in a frock, or if it offers a genuinely alternative riding experience.

 

VIDEO: reviewed from the international press launch
Testing the 2019 Husqvarna Svartpilen 701 is Simon Hargreaves
Husqvarna Svartpilen 701 (2019) Review Price Specs

 

Who are Husqvarna?

Swedish motorcycle manufacturers since 1903, Husqvarna competed in Grand Prix and at the TT in the 1930s. In the 60s and 70s the company was focused on motocross and enduro, winning multiple world titles; in 1987 the business was sold to Cagiva and the factory moved to Varese in Italy. A group of employees remained in Sweden and founded Husaberg, continuing to build off-road bikes.

In 2007 BMW Motorrad bought Husqvarna with the intention of running it as a separate brand, but although the tuned, F800-based Nuda road bike was well-received, in 2013 BMW sold Husqvarna to rivals KTM – allowing Husaberg and Husqvarna to be reunited at KTM’s factory in Mattighofen. Since then, Husqvarna has continued as a side-brand to KTM, growing from just over 16,000 sales in from 2014 to in excess of 48,000 bikes in 2018.

 

Husqvarna Svartpilen 701 (2019) Review Price Specs

 

What’s is Husqvarna’s Svartpilen 701?

In 2015 Husqvarna released the Svartpilen (Black Arrow) and Vitpilen (White Arrow) 401 – KTM 390 Duke platform-based street bikes – and in 2018 they debuted the clip-on, café racer-style Vitpilen 701, built on a KTM 690 Duke platform.

Now it’s the turn of the Svartpilen 701, similarly styled around the single-cylinder 690 Duke engine, chassis and electronics, but swapping the Vitpilen’s clip-ons for handlebars, and adding flat-track form with a side number-board, 18in front wheel size, Pirelli MT60 flat track tyres, and extra wheel travel and suspension changes.

 

Husqvarna Svartpilen 701 (2019) Review Price Specs

 

Husqvarna Svartpilen 701 price, PCP deal, and availability

In dealers now

OTR: £8899

Colours: black, black or black

Husqvarna PCP deal

Price

£8899.00

Deposit

£2518.82

Monthly repayments

36 x £119.00

Optional final payment

£3479.69

APR

9.9%

Mileage

5000 miles p/a

Total payable

£10,282.51

 

Power and torque (claimed)

75bhp @ 8500rpm

53 lb.ft @ 6750rpm

 

2019 Husqvarna Svartpilen 701 Review

 

Engine, gearbox and exhaust

The Svartpilen 701’s single-cylinder motor is a direct, platform-style lift from KTM’s 690 Duke – same cases, crank, rod, piston, cams, cylinder head, bore and stroke (turns out KTM’s 690cc is rounded down from an actual 692.7cc). A claimed 75bhp at 8500rpm makes it the most powerful single in production; 2bhp more than the Duke’s 73bhp at 8000rpm as a result of minor revisions to intake, exhaust and engine mapping. The slight retune shifts peak torque 250rpm higher, but lowers the peak figure slightly – 53 lb.ft at 6750rpm instead of 54.6 lb.ft at 6500rpm.

The changes in performance are very small and probably more likely for differentiating between the KTM and Husqvarna brands on paper as much as providing a meaningful improvement; either way, think about those numbers for a moment, whichever badge is on the tank: over 70bhp from a single cylinder four-stroke with 6000-mile service intervals.

Just wow. That’s such a big, fat, ton of go-motion from an engine weighing less than 50kg. We can all probably remember when an inline four sports 600 didn’t make much more than 75bhp (or didn’t rev all that much higher than 8500rpm either, really). The 690 (or 701, ahem) is a remarkable engine and if you’re at all cynical about the point of a single cylinder in street bikes over 125cc, then five minutes in the company of the Austro-Swedish one-lung will forcefully show you the error of your ways.

And all that zap gives the Husky a super-aggressive edge to its explosive, instant grunt, shoveled out with snappy intensity from a light, quick-action throttle, barking through an aftermarket Akrapovic – or, to be fair, the equally loud standard exhaust. Peeling apart mid-morning downtown Lisbon traffic like a jet-black tin-opener on steroids, the Svartpilen is an urban weapon of considerable effectiveness, and the way it batters through its up/down quickshifter gearbox in a sonorous yelp of enthusiasm is as much time-saving as life-affirming. Why don’t more people commute like this? They’re mad, the losers.
Single cylinder motors offer just about the highest level of throttle-to-tarmac intimacy you can get from an engine, because their traction physics are easy for a human brain to decode and intuitive to control. We just seem to know, by magic, how much grip is available – and, in the Svartpilen 701’s case on its Pirelli MT60 flat-track knobbly tyres, it’s just as well because rear grip is at a premium. Give Husky a handful on rondabouts and corner exits and the back end will start to come round in a lovely mini-slip before it’s captured by the 701’s KTM-borrowed traction control. It’s not a liability, it’s a delight; the way the Svartpilen’s throttle squares off turns is a whip-cracking delight. But you’d be well advised not to switch the traction control off (especially, I would imagine, in the wet) – which you can, while the bike is moving, from a button on the circular dash, for wheelies. But better road tyres would give more confidence and grip.

 

Husqvarna Svartpilen 701 (2019) Review Price Specs

 

Traditional single-cylinder mechanical limitations don’t seem to apply to the Husky 701/690 Duke motor – it doesn’t vibrate particularly harshly and it revs to high heaven, made possible with a short stroke and wide bore to keep mean piston speed down. In the cylinder head, a single overhead cam carries a central lobe operating a forked rocker arm for the exhaust valves with lobes either side acting via rockers on each intake valve. This compact arrangement effectively frees-up space where the second camshaft would normally sit, and allows KTM to fit a second balancer shaft driven by the camchain (and in addition the conventional crank balancer), to help tame single cylinder vibes.

It works – at 80mph in top the Svartpilen is revving at 5500rpm and high-pitched vibes are present, but not insufferable (at that speed the Husky’s piston is travelling up and down at an average of 32.8mph). This in turn gives the Svartpilen a great deal more flexibility than a conventional single – this is a motor that can turn its hand to longer rides without requiring a visit to a dentist (or optician) afterwards and will happily sit at illegal speeds on a motorway all day. Although to do that would be a near criminal waste of the Husky’s true talent.

 

Husqvarna Svartpilen 701 (2019) Review Price Specs

 

Economy

The Svartpilen 701’s tank is 12 litres, of which 2.5 litres is reserve – at the start of the launch ride and with a topped-up tank, the on-board fuel range trip took 15 minutes’ of riding to warm up and register an estimated 150 miles. But after some 50 miles or so, the gauge had dropped to half and the estimated range now showed 70 miles to empty – and then after another 30 miles or so the display gave up and showed empty with a refuel warning. I wouldn’t expect much more than 100 miles before searching for a friendly fuel pump.

 

Husqvarna Svartpilen 701 (2019) Review Price Specs

 

Frame, suspension and weight

Like its motor, the Svartpilen borrows almost all its chassis from the KTM 690 Duke – same chrome moly steel tube trellis frame, same aluminium swingarm, same fully-adjustable WP suspension  – with internals from the 690 Duke R taking wheel travel to 150mm front and rear, 15mm more than the Vitpilen. This is partly to accommodate the new 18in front wheel size (see below) and partly to give the Svartpilen a slightly more refined ride than the ‘sportier’ Vitpilen. Dry weight is a claimed 159kg, which works out at around 175kg with fuel and fluids.

And boy is it light and agile. Narrowly waisted, knees almost touching beneath the tank, the Svartpilen is keener and leaner than a hungry whippet. It steers with breath-taking spontaneity; just think it and it’s already there, in and out of any gap and any corner in milliseconds. It’s the kind of handling that encourages the taking of ever-larger liberties – diving past cars, squeezing through improbable gaps, bouncing off the odd mirror here and there if needs be. The Svartpilen has the capacity to be a very, very effective, and naughty, town tool.

Out on the open road the steering isn’t nervous or hyperactive; at most speeds the Svartpilen tracks with steady determination. Crank it up to full volume and the lack of wind protection makes the scene go a bit blurry – hitting an apex starts to become guesswork – but Husqvarna/KTM have spent the money in the right place; the WP springs are quality suspension, and what a super-light chassis really needs to remain stable and have any chance of ride quality. Easy-adjust clickers on the fork tops make adjustment simple; compression on the left, rebound on the right.

 

Husqvarna Svartpilen 701 (2019) Review Price Specs

 

Brakes, wheels and tyres

The same 320mm Galfer disc and Brembo four-pot radial caliper at the front as the KTM Duke and the same Bosch ABS system generate plenty of anchorage – with only 175kg (plus rider, ahem) to haul up, twin discs would over-brake the front end.

The Svartpilen’s cast aluminium wheels are, as pointed out by a fellow journalist on the launch, the same style as the old 2008-2013 690 Duke’s cast items, only with a Husqvarna badge cast into the base of the spokes; that and the fact the front is an 18in rim as opposed to the KTM and Husky Vitpilen’s 17in. Tyres are Pirelli MT60 flat track-style knobblies.

Wire spoked wheels are available from May as an optional extra; no price at the moment.

 

Husqvarna Svartpilen 701 (2019) Review Price Specs

Styling, ergonomics and comfort

This is the most important part of the Husqvarna Svartpilen story; after all, it’s what truly differentiates the Husky from the KTM. And there’s a surprising amount to get into; it’s not all skin-deep cosmetics (although much of it is).

First off, the Svartpilen has a very different priding position to the Duke – it’s a lower, more-canted forward stance, much like a small naked bike, while the Duke still has more than a hint of upright, pulled-forward, off-road position.

The Husky’s bars are lower and pulled further back than the upright KTM, but the 701’s tank is much longer and its seat, although the same 835mm height, is further away. On the 690, the seat position is heavily sculpted and sits deep behind the tank; its lowest point is just set back from the frame’s swingarm pivot. On the 701, the seat is much thinner and much flatter, putting the rider’s hips a few inches still further back, and with less of a tank ‘hump’ to grip with knees or crotch.

The 701’s sportier stance is supported by the Husky’s footpegs, set back on rearsets and mounted a good six or seven inches behind the line of the swingarm pivot; the KTM 690 Duke’s pegs are directly in line with it.

The overall result is actually fairly comfy; hard seats don’t compress as much as deeply padded seats, meaning the initial impression is, “Cor, this is hard,”, but which doesn’t change much however many miles you ride. Deep seats feel more comfy initially, but soon flatten out and end up causing ‘hot-spots’ of bum-ache.

 

Husqvarna Svartpilen 701 (2019) Review Price Specs

 

The pillion gets less of a deal; the 701 has the same rubberised-style pillion pad material as KTM’s RC 390 – it’ll carry a passenger at a push, but no-one will want to be on it for long.

The Husqvarna’s clocks are a bit of a failure; the dial looks like a cheap, oversized tax disc holder. It’s hard to read its information partly because the crammed numbers are small and partly because the dash is perma-lit by reflected sunlight, so it’s hard to read. In the absence of a stronger contrast LCD, some sort of angle adjustment would be useful.

But surely everyone would rather Husky spend their money on quality suspension than clocks – and there are plenty of other details for build-quality nerds to get off on. The mag-style filler cap is cool, the fuel tank’s chamfered sides are cool, the slash-cut styling line from seat/tank, through side panel, pillion footpeg hanger, exhaust hanger and even into the swingarm casting, is a coherent motif.

And then there’s the Svartpilen’s styling – designed by Frenchman Maxime Thouvenin, the flat-track theme is evident but not overplayed; at no point to you feel particularly obliged to go round a corner wearing a steel shoe, poking your foot out or, indeed, away from tarmac. Personally, I find the asymmetric number-board naff, but love the Diavel/GS-style swingarm mounted rear plate holder. More fashionable chaps than I on the launch found the reverse to hold true. Horses for courses, etc.

 

Husqvarna Svartpilen 701 (2019) Review Price Specs

 

Equipment

No surprises; the Svartpilen 701 comes with the same level of kit as the KTM 690 Duke – ABS, basic and switchable traction control, excellent up-down quickshifter, slipper clutch, LED lights all round; but no rider modes, cruise control or nail-polishing service.

 

Husqvarna Svartpilen 701 (2019) Review Price Specs

 

2019 HUSQVARNA SVARTPILEN 701: VERDICT

KTM 690 in a frock? Well, the Svartpilen is a bit more than just that – there’s enough difference primarily in the riding position to differentiate between the two with your eyes closed; depending on your point of view, the Husky has kept all the good bits (that incredible engine, the light weight, the intensely agile chassis, the cracking suspension and brakes) and simply altered the look, style and feel of riding it. Empirically and dynamically they’re much the same – and the Svartpilen would certainly be on my list of about-town weapons if I actually lived in a city, loved carving up traffic with extreme prejudice, and didn’t particularly have a thing for orange.
But the Svartpilen’s big sticking point is its price. £8899; nearly nine grand for a single, however rampant, is a lot to ask. The 690 Duke, at £8299, is already a bit rich. You can get a 790 Duke for £8799, with over 100bhp, one extra cylinder, more gadgets and ton more versatility. You’d have to seriously not like orange to ignore that buying decision.

Three things I love about HUSQVARNA’S SVARTPILEN 701

• engine performance – the world’s most powerful single is also the world’s most fun

• suspension – quality WP items

• traffic-busting – the potential to display utter contempt for cagers is strong in this one

 

Three things I don’t…

• price – hard to swallow

• clocks – cheap and ugly

• black paint – but I suppose the clue’s in the name

 

2019 Husqvarna Svartpilen 701 Specs

Capacity

693cc

Bore x Stroke

105.0mm x 80.0mm

Engine layout

single cylinder

Engine details

8v sohc, l/c

Power

75bhp @ 8500rpm

Torque

63 lb.ft @ 6750rpm

Top speed

125mph (est)

Average fuel consumption

n/a

Tank size

12 litres

Max range to empty (est)

150 miles (tops)

Rider aids

traction control, ABS, slipper clutch, up/down quickshifter

Frame

steel tube trellis

Front suspension

43mm WP usd forks

Front suspension adjustment

fully adjustable

Rear suspension

WP monoshock

Rear suspension adjustment

fully adjustable

Front brake

320mm disc, four-pot radial caliper, ABS

Rear brake

240mm disc, one-pot caliper, ABS

Front tyre

110/80-18

Rear tyre

160/60-17

Rake/Trail

25°/119mm

Wheelbase

1436mm

Seat height

835mm

Kerb weight (est)

175kg

Warranty

unlimited miles/2 years

Website

husqvarna-motorcycles.com

 

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