It’s hard to deny the visual draw of Husqvarna’s Vitpilens and Svartpilens, but the first three beautiful machines penned by Maxime Thouvenin of Kiska sacrificed comfort for style. After riding the latest of the ’Pilens, the Svartpilen 701, comfort, style, and performance have dovetailed into what is undoubtedly the best of the Swedish Arrows.

Svartpilen translates to Black Arrow, and has, in the current naming philosophy of Husqvarna, been used to label the more scrambler-styled machines. This time it's more a tracker scrambler with hardware paying homage to flat track. It's not a full-on repli-racer but rather a simple and modern take. Upright seating, pulled-back handlebars, and a side number plate talk the talk, but also walk the walk.

Swedish design
Flat-track-inspired Swedish design is the most concise description of the Svartpilen 701.Husqvarna

Sharing much of the underpinnings as the café-style Vitpilen, the tracker-inspired Svartpilen is powered by a dual-counterbalanced 692.7cc single tucked tightly within a steel tubular trellis frame. This 75-hp (claimed), KTM-developed LC4 engine is used in a bevy of machines including the Husky Vitpilen 701, 701 Supermoto, and 701 Enduro. It also finds a home in the KTM 690 Enduro R and 690 SMC R. And it's with good reason; no other single-cylinder thumper delivers tire-twisting torque (a claimed 53 pound-feet) like the LC4. It's truly a legendary powerplant that is smoother than it should be considering its raucous delivery. Many a twin could only hope to have as much character.

692.7cc Svartpilen engine
One of the great singles, the 692.7cc Svartpilen engine is torquey and smooth.Husqvarna

The chrome-moly trellis frame that uses the engine as stressed member is also lifted from the Vitpilen and nearly identical to all of the LC4-powered machines in the Husqvarna family. And once again, that is a great thing. The chassis is stiff, muscular, and willing but not ever harsh. It flexes when needed, imparting a connection to the suspension and road that is confidence inspiring while still being lively and quick.

Whereas the racier nature of the Vitpilen asks the rider to forego comfort for the look, the Svartpilen has the looks and the comfort. The seat is firm, but very comfortable despite the hard edges and thin padding. From the seat to the pegs is a comfortable bend in the knees for my 5-foot-10 frame; some 6-foot-6 riders complained the stylized bulges in the fuel tank cover invaded their knee space. So taller riders take note. A pulled-back, track-styled handlebar is not quite a tiller bend you’d find on a true-to-life flat-tracker; it’s also not just a motocross bar. It is happily in the middle with a nice rise that puts the hands at a comfortable height and squares up the shoulders allowing the rider to impart loads of torque into the grips, pushing the 18-inch wheel where you want it with ease.

Svartpilen 701
Despite a firm and thin seat, the Svartpilen is all-day comfortable.Husqvarna

And that’s another key difference that makes the Svartpilen more fun than its white stablemate. While the Vit is fit with 17-inch wheels with Bridgestone Battlax tires, the Svart rocks an 18-inch front wheel and 17-inch rear wrapped with Pirelli MT 60 RS tires. On the road, the MT 60 RSs provide more grip than would be expected from its chunky block pattern; when as the limit is approached the tires give you plenty of warning with a squirm and loose feeling that is completely predictable—and entertaining.

Pirelli MT 60 RS tires
Pirelli’s MT 60 RS tires have more traction than you would expect and behave predictably.Husqvarna

On the rough, cobbled streets of metropolitan Lisbon, the 150mm (5.9-inch) travel of the 43mm WP split function fork was plush and followed the road imperfections with composure. That extra 15mm of travel is essential front-end comfort not found in the Vit’s 135mm (5.3 inches) of travel. At the rear, it’s the same situation. Even with that longer travel, the suspension is balanced and doesn't pitch excessively on hard braking or acceleration.

Svartpilen 701
The Svartpilen 701 is a blast in the corners.Husqvarna

Corners on the Svart are a blast—every bit of them. Corner tip-in is quick and precise with just the slightest transfer of your weight and pressure on the bars. Midcorner is rock-solid stable, even if you ask a little too much of the MT 60 RS tires. Finishing the corner gets even better as you can get on the gas early and hard while still on the side of the tire. The front will just slightly push when you charge out too early, but roll back a slight bit on the throttle and you will be right back on line.

Fuel metering via the Svartpilen’s ride-by-wire throttle is well sorted—response is smooth yet snappy at any opening, and doesn’t exhibit any herky-jerky tendencies on midcorner throttle changes. A healthy wallop of the right wrist while on the side of the tire will have the little yellow traction control flashing, but the electronic aid is seamless without any real discernable cut. Only when lofting that 18-incher toward the sky will you find a hard cut if the momentum up and away is too quick. Otherwise, the power tapers the wheel back to earth fairly gently.

Turning off the TC takes a long push of an unmarked button on the round dash. It’s a bit of a pain and is finicky. It seemed that sometimes the answer to the TC-off ask is just no. Move forward 20 feet, try again and it’s a go. With the TC off, third-gear wheelies are more satisfying and easy than any of the other LC4-powered Huskys or KTMs. The bend of the bar and locked-in seating position lets you lean back, relax, and enjoy the impossibly wide balance point.

While you can turn off the traction control, unfortunately there is no such option for the ABS. A tracker should be able to slide the rear into a corner. Other 701 models (Supermoto and Enduro) have an option to switch off the rear ABS, so why not on this tracker? The front 320mm disc and Brembo four-piston radial caliper offer excellent feel and plenty of stopping power, and the rear single-piston caliper and 240m disc also are excellent. You can back it in (just barely) bumping up against the the Power Assisted Slipper Clutch (PASC) but it requires crazy speeds and abusive downshifts. Even then, the PASC does its job well and returns the rear tire back in line with the front quickly. Safe and responsible, but less fun than it could be.

Brembo units
Braking feel and power are excellent from the Brembo units. It’s a shame the ABS cannot be turned off for some fun.Husqvarna

Fit and finish on the Black Arrow is impeccable. Except in one area—the dash. This disappointing Tupperware-looking contraption is hard to read, and even harder to look at. The rest of the motorcycle is so sexy, so stylish, and then there is this lump staring you in the face every time you ride. The $11,999 price point demands better; the overall aesthetic deserves better; and the Husqvarna brand deserves better. It’s the only real disappointment of the Svartpilen 701.

dash
A lackluster dash is the only real blemish on an otherwise exemplary motorcycle.Husqvarna

After a full day on the Svartpilen 701, it is a winner—the best Pilen yet. Plain and simple. It’s svelte Swedish looks, comfortable riding position, stonking single-cylinder engine, and impressive handling all combine for something greater than the specs and equipment would suggest. An arrow should fly true to its target, and Husqvarna’s Black Arrow does just that.

2019 Husqvarna Svartpilen 701 Specifications

MSRP: $11,999
ENGINE: 692.7cc, liquid-cooled, SOHC single
BORE X STROKE: 105mm x 80mm
TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE: 6-speed/chain
CLAIMED HORSEPOWER: 75 hp @ 8,500 rpm
CLAIMED TORQUE: 53 lb.-ft. @ 6,750 rpm
FUEL SYSTEM: 50mm Keihin throttle body w/ RBW
CLUTCH: PASC slipper clutch, hydraulic operation
ENGINE MANAGEMENT/IGNITION: Keihin EMS, double ignition
FRAME: Chromium-molybdenum steel trellis
FRONT SUSPENSION: 43mm WP-USD fork fully adjustable; 5.9-in. (150mm) travel
REAR SUSPENSION: WP monoshock; 5.9-in. (150mm) travel
FRONT BRAKE: 4-piston radial caliper, single 320mm discs w/ Bosch 9M ABS
REAR BRAKE: 1-piston floating caliper, 240mm disc w/ Bosch 9M ABS
WHEELS, FRONT/REAR: Cast aluminum, 3.0 x 18 in. / 5.0 x 17 in.
TIRES, FRONT/REAR: 110/80R-18 / 160/60R-17
RAKE/TRAIL: 25°/4.7 in. (119mm)
WHEELBASE: 56.5 in. (1,436mm)
GROUND CLEARANCE: 6.5 in. (164mm)
SEAT HEIGHT: 32.9 in. (835mm)
FUEL CAPACITY: 3.2 gal. (12L)
CLAIMED DRY WEIGHT: 349 lb. (158.5kg)
CONTACT: husqvarna-motorcycle.com