Why does it need an exhaust and mods to be up to snuff, what's your comparison? My 350 EXC-F was leaps and bounds better out of the box than any of the comparable offering by the Japs. I put an exhaust and tuner on it just because I can't leave anything stock. It didn't actually need it though...
The exhaust on the 690 runs super hot, right next to the fuel tank. Going to the wings or Acro exhaust cuts the heat significantly and looses probably 10 lbs, if I remember right.
The headlight sucks if you try to ride at highway speed at night swapped to a baja designs unit, 3X the output. Steering stabilizer, which wasn't 100% necessary.
Rear subframe bolts, which are necessary. Revised fuel cap to replace the weird inset factory one, which will get dust and mud in the tank.
Ausi air filter to correct the poor airbox design. Lower temp thermostat switch to turn on the fan earlier. Seat concepts seat over the factory 2x4. All of which are necessary.
Also added some guards, skid plates revised shift and brake levers. ditched the factory dual mirrors, they sucked for a better single mirror.
There is still no real competition for the 690 the Japanese 650 are all ancient designs with low power and too much weight. They are also a lot cheaper.
The KTMs are great bikes, they have developed and are filling a lot of market segments that the Japanese aren't even in.
I just think for the price that KTM charges it shouldn't need so much, but without a whole lot of competition I doubt it will change.
Don't regret buying the bike, nothing on the market compares to it and it rides great.