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ADV NewsNew KTM Engine In The Works May Power Future 990 Adventure Model

New KTM Engine In The Works May Power Future 990 Adventure Model

Next-gen 990cc LC8c parallel twin breaks cover in engine design filing.

Published on 01.06.2023

Just when you think you know what KTM is up to, another twist in the trajectory of the popular Austrian manufacturer’s lineup is revealed. At the end of the year, there was the revelation that a 790 Adventure was back in the stable for 2023 after a brief hiatus. And now, to kick off 2023, we have official design registration drawings for a 990cc version of the company’s LC8c parallel twin, spurring much curiosity about what new models it might power. 

The design registration, also known as a drawing registration, is not to be confused with a patent, though it might co-exist with one. Instead, a design registration grants certain protections related to the external innovation or appearance of a product. 

KTM’s new LC8c engine (left), shows a complete redesigned compared to the current LC8c version (right). KTM/CFMoto

So, while there’s been prior knowledge the 990cc LC8c was planned and we’ve even seen spy photos of it being tested for a likely 2024 initial release in a Duke, the registered drawings give us our first detailed look at the design. What’s revealed is a reworked machine that maintains the 890 twin’s outer dimensions for the efficiency of mounting seamlessly with existing frames, as well as ride-by-wire throttle bodies, ignition coils and water pump covers already in use. 


But before we delve into what kind of performance this new liquid-cooled parallel-twin engine is likely to deliver, and when it might be available in an Adventure model, it’s important to untangle the LC8c engine’s legacy, especially since, yes, there was already a 990cc Adventure in KTM’s lineup back in the early two thousand teens. That bike, however, carried KTM’s LC8 V-twin engine, a design that lives on today in the 1290 Super Adventure. 

The LC8c (Liquid Cooled 8-valve, compact) parallel twin made its debut in KTM’s 2018 790cc Duke model, though as early as 2017 the engine was also being tested in a 790 Adventure R prototype, which would become a production model, alongside a standard 790 Adventure, both of which we tested in 2019. Being one of the rare middleweight adventure bikes on the market at that time— and the only truly hard-core off-road 800cc ADV bike offering, the LC8c-powered 790 Adventure and Adventure R were instantly popular. 

The original 990cc LC8 V-Twin engine from the 2012 KTM 990 Adventure R produced 113 horsepower and 73.8 ft-lbs of torque.

Yet by 2021 the 790s were usurped by the all-new 890cc Adventure and Adventure R models, also powered by the LC8c engine, which had gained a 90cc increase in displacement from 799c to the 889cc. Both bore and stroke were added, along with additional compression and 20% more mass at the crank, which not only increased top end power but also also added a nice shot of torque, bringing the 890’s output to 105 horsepower and 73.76 ft-lbs of torque, over the 790’s rating of 95 horsepower and 64.9 ft-lbs of torque. 

And even more enviable than the displacement and power bump was the vast array of refinements that came with the 890s, including reworked suspension and upgraded braking systems, improved ABS and traction control, faster gear changes, plus chassis upgrades and other changes. 

The next-gen KTM engine (left) shows taller cylinders suggesting a longer stroke and longer-throw crankshaft were incorporated to enhance power and torque. KTM/CFMoto

And then, at the end of 2022, KTM not only announced a host of improvements to the 2023 890 Adventure, but also the reincarnation of the 790cc Adventure, due in 2023 overseas with a complete makeover that includes fresh components, tech upgrades and new 890-inspired aesthetics. The LC8c powering the fresh 790 Adventure is unchanged performance-wise, however, save for emissions adjustments to meet EURO5 standards. 

And now, here comes the 990cc LC8c, making for a full bouquet of displacement options for KTM to move among its many models as well its Pierer Mobility Group familial brands. And speaking of Pierer relationships, we recently reported China’s CFMoto, longtime partner with KTM, is bringing the 800cc Adventura adventure bike to the States, and yes, that’s the bike that’s powered by an LC8c, the 799cc version CFMoto now builds in China. That is likewise the same LC8c we’ll see in the 2023 790 Adventure, which, while re-designed in Austria, will be manufactured at a CFMoto factory in China, with KTM personnel on the ground to oversee operations. 

Another angle showing the next-gen engine (left) and the current one (right). KTM/CFMoto

Which finally brings us back around the all-new LC8c 999cc twin we see in the registered design images recently published by Cycle World. This engine will also be produced by CFMoto in China. And while we all have opinions about Chinese manufacturing, we can all agree that what comes from the manufacturing facilities of the world’s 2nd largest economy is consistently more affordable than similar items manufactured in Japan, Europe or America. If the quality is there, as KTM assures it is, CFMoto’s involvement only means select KTM bikes will be more affordable and available in more parts of the world. 

Okay, good, now that all the background is wrapped up, let’s talk about what this new engine has going on. When you look at the 890 next to the 990 in the renderings, it’s obvious the cylinders are taller, revealing a longer stroke and longer-throw crankshaft were incorporated to enhance power and torque. As a result, new, more compact cylinder heads were necessary to retain the twin’s original outer dimensions. Additional new castings are seen in the cases and there are also likely thinner cylinder walls, as evidenced by additional external reinforcement. The oil sight gauge has been relocated from the crankcase to the clutch cover. We also noticed there is now a cutout for the catalytic converter, which will allow the exhaust to tuck in closer to the frame and be more protected from trail damage.

What kind of power are we thinking? Well, the existing 889cc LC8c already utilizes a significantly longer stroke than the original V-twin 990, and matches its torque. So we’d expect a notable jump from the 890 to that of the new 990 parallel twin’s output. Since the design appears to show the new 990 will use a longer stroke, there’s good reason to believe it will be a torquey beast, just what you want from a capable off-road adventure bike. Something in the range of 115 horsepower and 84 ft-lbs of torque could certainly be achieved. As for weight, the 790 to 890 transition added a 15-pound gain, so maybe something similar here, which means a new 990 Adventure would still be lighter than the original 990 Adventure, yet would offer cutting edge components and tech commodities, as well as a noticeable gain in performance. 

We’ll see an example of the new 990 LC8c’s output numbers as soon as KTM lets loose its 990 Duke. And while there has been no announcement the new engine will power adventure bikes in KTM’s stable, we know from history, where the Duke goes, the adventure bikes follow.  

Author: Jamie Elvidge

Jamie has been a motorcycle journalist for more than 30 years, testing the entire range of bikes for the major print magazines and specializing in adventure-travel related stories. To date she’s written and supplied photography for articles describing what it’s like to ride in all 50 states and 43 foreign countries, receiving two Lowell Thomas Society of American Travel Writer’s Awards along the way. Her most-challenging adventure yet has been riding in the 2018 GS Trophy in Mongolia as Team AusAmerica’s embedded journalist.

Author: Jamie Elvidge

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