Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 first ride review | The 390 Duke, but more affordable
Husqvarna, a Swedish company that was acquired by KTM a little over a decade ago didn’t really shoot out of the barrel the way the company hoped it would. The Svartpilen and Vitpilen 250 were seriously good lookers but were way too small for larger riders to even consider. And for the shorter riders who did fit, the seat was way too tall with an 840mm+ saddle height. But for 2024, the Swedes have decided to take a slightly different approach and have refreshed the model lineup a little. Now, India gets the Vitpilen 250 and the Svartpilen 401. No 250 for the scrambler and no 401 for the cafe racer. The highlight apart from all the mechanical and electronic upgrades is the fact that the bike is now 20 per cent in all the right dimensions and even shorter (seat height) where it matters. Husqvarna had us over to get our first taste of the Svartpilen 401 and here’s how we got on.
Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 design
The Husqvarnas have always been immensely popular with their designs. Very methodical, minimalist and surgical. Clean lines, lots of flat surfaces, and an almost monoblock theme to the design. The 2024 bikes carry that same design language to a large extent. But to everyone’s relief the bike does look a bit bigger than its predecessor. 20 per cent larger. That is the number that we’ve been told that the bike has grown by. It is 20 per cent taller, wider and even the seat is 20 per cent bigger and this does actually translate in the real world. The design is quintessential Husqvarna and is actually quite polarising. I quite like the way it looks. Very purpose built. The scrambler stance is now further accentuated by the tubed spoked wheels that wear Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR tyres. The headlight is now slightly larger than before and also sports a small fly screen which hides a non-circular, rectangle 5-inch colour TFT screen. This is the same unit as the one on the KTM 390 Duke and the bike also gets the same handlebar and switch cubes as the Austrian. The now larger (13.5-litre capacity instead of 9.5-litre) fuel tank has a similar design with a mount for adding a tail bag.
The seat is bigger and roomier and extends all the way till a little below the fuel filler cap, making it roomy even for a larger (healthy, five-foot ten-inch) rider like myself. The cushion on the tank means that your family jewels are protected even if you were to slam on the brakes for whatever reason. The rear of the bike continues with a similar design as before with the one major difference being that for regulation reasons, this doesn’t get the tail tidy anymore. This one is a bit of a miss in my opinion. Overall, as I said before, I quite like how this bike looks and more so now because it fits my large self much better than before.
Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 engine and performance
Powering the Svartpilen 401 is the same engine that does duties in the gen-three KTM 390 Duke. It gets this new 399cc, single-cylinder, liquid-cooled mill in the exact same state of tune along with the same sprocketing and gearbox as well. Meaning it makes the same 44.4bhp at 8500rpm and 39Nm of torque at 6500rpm. This is a great thing. The performance is almost identical to the KTM 390 Duke. If you didn’t already know, I’ll tell you again. The 390 Duke in it’s gen-three avatar has amongst the best engines in this class of motorcycle and the fact that Husqvarna has picked it up as is is the best possible thing the company could do. The performance is addictive and explosive, all while also being tractable and usable in everyday living conditions. The engine on this bike for some reason, while still a little vibey, felt a smidge more refined than on KTM 390 Duke. The gearbox also felt just as good again with the quickshifter feeling a little more refined even at slower speeds. Apart from that there’s nothing I can say here about the engine that I haven’t already before.
Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 chassis, ride and handling
The chassis setup on the Svartpilen 401 is very familiar as it uses the same main frame, and suspension setup as the gen-three KTM 390 Duke. This means the same frame that uses the sweet engine as a stressed member that hangs off of the adjustable WP Apex suspension. The subframe on the Svartpilen is not the aluminium one found on the KTM, but is a steel unit to make this more robust and tougher, considering that it is a scrambler. The ride quality of this bike is very similar to the KTM in the sense that it is a lot more pliant than you would expect a bike of this sort to be. It is also adjustable, which allows you to set up the bike closer to your exact requirement. In terms of handling, this bike is not as sharp as the 390 Duke but it is not far off. To make it easier for you to perceive, I would say that this slots in between the Speed 400 and the KTM 390 Duke in terms of outright handling. Which is really saying something because both those bikes are great handlers.
The seating position on this bike also differs slightly from the KTM 390 Duke. The seat, while taller than the orange bike, is shorter than its predecessor. At 820mm off the ground with a relatively narrow inseam, shorter riders too won’t have a hard time straddling this bike. You sit in a nice upright stance with your feet placed ever so slightly behind your waist. This gives you a commanding stance, making for a comfortable commuter or tourer and when you’re in the mood for attacking the corners, it allows you to do that with a lot of comfort as well. The larger dimensions mean that I have a lot more space to move around making it that much more appealing now. Now this is a scrambler and to that end, the higher 177mm of ground clearance, the suspension setup, the spoked wheels and the Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR tyres inspire a lot more confidence in taking this bike through rough/off-road patches. But as far as riding off-road is concerned, while the bike is capable, the standing up and riding ergonomics are far from ideal. So as long as you’re not required to stand, this bike should handle most of what you have to throw at it.
The braking setup is taken care of by the same callipers as the Duke but the brake discs are more traditional in their design. The braking performance is strong with good initial bite and progressive feedback as well. But the ABS system could stand to receive a different algorithm, one that better suits the tyres and the fact that this bike will see loose/off-road surfaces a lot more often than the 390 Duke.
Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 features and electronics
In terms of features, the Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 gets the same colour TFT screen as the 390 Duke but it has a bespoke layout. Electronics-wise, the bike gets a ride-by-wire system but a single ‘street’ riding more. Even the dual-channel ABS and traction control system, both switchable (supermoto mode for the ABS and off for the TC) are not IMU based and therefore not lean sensitive. I can do without the TC being IMU-based but the lack of cornering ABS feels like a bit of a miss. Navigating the screen is identical to the Duke, but on the Svartpilen 401, the bluetooth enabled connectivity features are a paid extra.
Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 verdict
The Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 is priced at Rs 2.92 lakh, ex-showroom, making it nearly Rs 18,000 more affordable than the KTM 390 Duke. For the price, you get the same engine, almost entirely the same chassis setup, 7/10th the electronics and a bike, that with all the scrambler accoutrements is more adept at handling our poor road networks. So if you’ve always wanted a Duke but didn’t want to commit to the always aggressive riding lifestyle, the Husqvarna Svartpilen, especially with the Swedish styling, is a great and a more affordable alternative.