After seven long years of selling the Svartpilen 401 in the international market, Husqvarnafinally launched it in India this year, that too, in its latest iteration. But where does it fit under the Bajajumbrella that already has the KTM 390 Duke, 390 Adventure, and the Triumph Scrambler 400X? Plus, since this is based on the new KTM 390 Duke, which one would you be better off purchasing? These, and a few other questions are what we have answered in this review.
The Svartpilen 401 looks attractive and muscular in person. It’s a neo-retro offering with a rugged build and is positioned as a scrambler. Going by the looks of it, the Svartpilen 401 seems to fit in the urban environment and should appeal to younger buyers. If you prefer a bike that looks different from the herd but subtle and isn’t very shouty, then the Svartpilen 401 ticks that box.
We particularly like certain elements, including the round LED DRL and the main LED headlight inside. If you look at the Svartpilen 401 from the front, the tank protrusions make the Husqvarna appear slightly more pronounced. And just like we saw on the older 250s, the new 401 also gets a tank rack. Another neat and subtle touch for the Svartpilen 401 is the branding. We like that it's kept to a minimum.
Husqvarna has offered all the bells and whistles with the latest generation of the Svartpilen 401. It features full LED illumination, traction control, ABS modes, various screen layouts, bi-directional quickshifter, five-inch TFT console, phone charging port, and optional smartphone connectivity too. While the instrument cluster also displays a ‘Street’ ride mode, the said feature is redundant and the Svartpilen 401 has no ride modes per se.
One of the highlights of the Svartpilen 401’s features is the ‘Reduced’ screen layout. It only displays the essential readouts, including the speedometer, rev counter, and the gear position indicator. The display looks quite neat in the said form.
As we already know, the Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 borrows its engine and the entire drive from the KTM 390 Duke. It uses a 398.6cc, single-cylinder, liquid-cooled engine and belts out 46bhp at 9,000rpm and 39Nm at 7,000rpm. The engine is linked to a six-speed gearbox and gets a bi-directional quickshifter. So, the overall character, too, is similar. The revs climb in a spritely manner, and with the provision of clutchless shifts, it's fun to run through all six gears as the speeds increase. The motor is quite tractable and city riding at low speeds is as easy as it gets. You can modulate the clutch with minimal effort to keep the momentum at crawling speeds too.
However, we found the quickshifter to be slightly clunky as it resisted both, up and downshifts multiple times. The meat of the Svartpilen 401’s performance is at around 5,000 rpm as the engine accelerates with a punch and approaches triple-digit speeds before you notice. Complimenting the characterful engine is the chassis. You can switch directions on the Svartpilen 401 in a jiffy as the bike feels nimble. We belted the bike across the quaint twisty roads of Tamhini Ghat and the ride was engaging to say the least. The Svartpilen holds its composure fairly well and flicks without much effort.
Though Husqvarna has offered adjustable front and rear springs, we rode the Svartpilen 401 in its stock setting and found the setup to give ample comfort. Even the brakes on the Svartpilen 401 offer commendable bite and proved to be reliable during the ride. Then, the adjustability of the levers is the cherry on top. That said, we would recommend replacing the organic pads at the rear with sintered ones for better braking prowess.
But the two areas that feel like a miss-match for the Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 are its ergonomics and the tyres. Although the brand calls it a scrambler, you sit on this bike like you would on a cafe racer or a sports bike. This robs you of the leverage that is needed while off-roading or riding through broken patches since you sit crouched forward. This gets tiring after 35 to 40 minutes and you start feeling the pressure on your shoulders and arms. Moreover, the Svartpilen 401’s sporty handling takes a hit from the Pirelli Scorpion Rally tyres which don’t inspire a lot of confidence in the corners.
Then, the said tyres are shod to tubed 17-inch wheels which isn’t a very off-road friendly setup, and there needs to be more suspension travel along with a large front wheel. The Svartpilen 401 also needs more ground clearance. The belly scraped a few times on off-road patches on our hunt for photogenic locations.
The Husqvarna Svartpilen 401’s neo-retro styling, extensive list of features, likeable ride quality, laudable brakes, and a characterful motor make it an enticing package. Plus, with an ex-showroom price of Rs. 2.92 lakh, it is almost Rs. 20,000 more affordable than the 390 Duke, while offering much of what the Austrian bike does.
As we mentioned above, the Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 may be positioned as a scrambler offering, but its characteristics indicate otherwise. The sporty nature of the bike with the mismatch of hardware is an area that you will have to make do with if the Svartpilen 401 is the pick of the litter for you. It can be partly fixed by either switching to alloys and tubeless tyres or adding handlebar risers for a slightly better scrambler-like setup. But if you prefer something sportier and road-oriented, then there are other options as well.
Photography by Kaustubh Gandhi
Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 Front View