Spied! Husqvarna Svartpilen 701

KTM 690 Duke-based scrambler appears ready for production.

Husky Svartpilen spy shots
The Husqvarna Svartpilen 701 is styled just like the smaller Svartpilen 401 that Husqvarna unveiled late last year, but the engine is taken from the 690 Duke rather than the 390 version.Photo: BMH Images

The fact that Husqvarna is developing a scrambler-style Svartpilen 701 based on the KTM 690 Duke comes as little surprise but this is the first time the motorcycle has actually been seen. Husky, which KTM boss Stefan Pierer bought from BMW back in 2013, has been on a new model offensive ever since, restyling and rebranding KTM machines to accelerate the process. But when it comes to road-going models its strategy is based around two key designs. These were revealed in late 2014 as the Vitpilen 401 and Svartpilen 401 concept bikes.

Both were based on the KTM 390 Duke, with the same single-cylinder, 373cc engine and trellis-style chassis. In styling terms, they straddle the past and future with retro hints combined with modern proportions. The Vitpilen ('White Arrow' in Swedish, taking inspiration from the 1950s Silverpilen 'Silver Arrow' Husqvarna street bike) was a café racer, while the Svartpilen—'Black Arrow'—was a scrambler. A year later, in 2015, Husky showed a larger Vitpilen 701, combining the same styling with the 73hp, 690cc engine and chassis from the 690 Duke. There was no scrambler Svartpilen 701, but it was always clear such a bike was on the cards. And here it is.

In appearance terms, its bodywork is the same as the Vitpilen 701 concept bike’s, with the distinctive stubby tail, oversized round headlight and sculpted fuel tank. For the Svartpilen version, there’s the predictable addition of wire wheels instead of alloys and wider, higher bars instead of clip-ons. In chassis terms, it’s pure 690 Duke, with the same frame and WP suspension. And that’s no bad thing. However, the riding position looks quite different, which should give the Husky a feel of its own.

Svartpilen 701 prototype
Tail-mounted license plate bracket—and mud on the prototype version of the Svartpilen 701—hint at serious off-road intentions.Photo: BMH Images

While road-oriented 'scramblers' like Ducati's Scrambler range are clearly the Svartpilen's primary target, Husqvarna and its KTM overlords aren't short of some off-road know-how. And it looks like they're handing the Svartpilen 701 some actual mud-plugging ability. The prototype's high-mounted license plate bracket is a notable departure, not only from the Vitpilen 701 that was seen testing alongside it (see separate story) but from the smaller Svartpilen 401 that was shown in production form late last year. Both those machines, and the Vitpilen 401, use tire-hugging license plate brackets bolted to the swingarm. Stylish, sure, but not great when the going gets mucky. The Svartpilen 701's design might be more conventional, but it's also more practical off-road.

The prototype spied here looks remarkably close to being production-ready, and since the mechanical bits are all proven KTM parts, it shouldn’t take too long to complete it. One notable missing element is the final headlight unit. While the case of the final, round unit is in place, the test bike has a mismatched KTM lamp bolted incongruously into it. The production version is to be round, with distinctive LED elements as daylight running lamps. In all, it would be a surprise if the production version isn’t revealed at one of the big international shows towards the end of this year, with production starting sometime in 2018 as either a 2018 or 2019 model-year bike.