World Launch: Ducati Panigale V4 S First Ride!
Roland Brown heads to Valencia MotoGP Circuit to test the new for 2018 Ducati Panigale V4 S at the World Launch... Review: Roland Brown, Photos courtesy of Ducati
The Panigale V4 begins a new era of mass-produced V4 superbikes for Ducati, ending the line of Desmo V-twin flagships that stretches all the way back to the mid-Seventies. With a maximum output of 211bhp it’s even more powerful than the 1299 Panigale that it replaces.
But after five hot, physical sessions aboard the new bike around the Valencia MotoGP circuit, the V4’s outrageous power output (check out our in-depth tech outline of the V4 here) and the bike’s stunning straight-line speed are not the overriding impressions. Remarkably, the thing that stands out most about the Panigale V4 is how sweet-handling and rider-friendly it is.
On reflection, perhaps that’s not so unlikely as it might seem. After all, a MotoGP bike has to be as controllable as it is fast. And the key to Ducati’s switch is not that a V4 engine can produce more power than a twin. It’s that this Panigale has been developed with the benefit of the Bologna marque’s hard-won experience with the Desmosedici in motorcycling’s most demanding proving ground.
All that MotoGP engine development and hard-earned expertise is now being used by the production Panigale V4, whose 90-degree, Desmo V4 powerplant shares the Desmosedici racebike’s 81mm bore size, combustion chamber design and reverse-rotating crankshaft arrangement.
And the same is true of the chassis, where the aluminium “front frame” is different to the Desmosedici’s, but the stiffness levels of the chassis, vital for supplying feedback at extreme angles of lean, closely follow the racer’s.
The new bike’s styling echoes that of the 1299, and riding position is unchanged apart from footrests that are 10mm higher. As usual with a Ducati superbike there are two main models, the standard V4 and upmarket V4 S, as ridden on the launch.
The S has forged Marchesinis instead of cast aluminium wheels, a lighter lithium-ion battery, and Öhlins Smart EC semi-active suspension and electronic steering damper, rather than conventional Showa forks plus Sachs shock and damper. (There’s also a limited-edition V4 Speciale which comes with Akrapovic race pipe, single seat, rearsets, data-logging and tricolore paintwork.)
The new TFT dashboard features a big, round analogue-style tacho, with gear indicator in its middle. At Valencia this frequently shows the figure 2 as the Ducati slices through the circuit’s tight infield before storming down the two straights.
The shorter of these has a thrilling, flat-out-in-fourth-gear kink just before I have to brake hard, flick down two gears and pitch the bike into a long left-hander. The V4 S is brilliant here, and in the almost-as-long right shortly afterwards.
Panigales haven’t always been the easiest bikes to turn, but the V4 S is outstanding in the way that it can be flicked onto its side with a nudge of the ‘bars, then steered towards the apex of the turn with a closed throttle, seeming to go where I want it to almost by thought transfer.
In reality it’s because its chassis (which puts 54.5 per cent of its weight over the front wheel, compared to the 1299’s 53 per cent, and has slightly less steep steering geometry) is beautifully balanced, and provides wonderfully precise feedback, assisted by superb suspension and sticky Pirelli Supercorsa SP rubber.
The quality of the Öhlins suspension is a major factor too. The Smart EC system continually adjusts damping levels depending on the bike’s acceleration and lean angle. The push-button adjustability allows fine-tuning for when braking, in mid-turn or exiting a bend. It’s a very intuitive system and helps me calm the Ducati’s initial head-shake (doubtless also triggered by my over-sized body) when coming onto the main straight.
The Ducati’s throttle response is excellent, too; and its punch out of turns is aided both by its flexible torque delivery and the fact that its high rev limit – 14,500rpm in most gears, and 500rpm higher in top – means it never has to drop too low.
Exiting the slowest bends, the tacho is indicating just over 6000rpm in second gear and the V4 still grunts forward with thrilling urgency, finding traction with the help of the irregular firing order (another MotoGP development) that gives a deep, almost V-twin-like exhaust note.
Then it breathes even harder and storms forward while I click through the box, holding on tight as the Ducati almost revs out in fifth (at an indicated 270km/h-plus) on the pit straight before I have to sit up and make use of the stunningly powerful Brembo Stylema calipers – and the two-way shifter, which is even more useful when going back down through the box – to make the Turn One left-hander.
So the V4 S is awesomely fast, handles and stops outstandingly well, and perhaps equally importantly it feels like a natural evolution of the 1299. The Panigale V4 brings a magical taste of MotoGP-derived Bolognese blood and thunder to the street, and looks to have taken superbike performance to a new level in the process. You will be able to read our full in-depth review as soon as we get our hands on one Down Under. Stay tuned…
2018 Ducati Panigale V4 S Specifications
Price: $37,490 + ORC
Warranty: Two years/unlimited kilometre
Claimed power: 157.3kW [211hp]@13,000rpm
Claimed torque: 124Nm[91.5ft-lbs]@10,000rpm
Wet weight: 195kg
Fuel capacity: 16 litres
Engine: Liquid-cooled 1103cc 16-valve DOHC Desmo V4
Gearbox: Six speed, quickshifter
Clutch: Wet multi-plate slipper
Final ratio: N/A
Final drive: Chain
Chassis: Aluminium steering head, engine stressed member, aluminium swingarm
Rake: 24.5 degrees
Suspension: 43mm Ohlins NIX30 forks, 120mm travel, Smart EC Semi-active adjustment. Rear: Ohlins Monoshock, 130mm travel, Smart EC semi-active adjustment.
Brakes: 330mm Brembo rotors, Brembo four-piston monobloc Stylema calipers, ABS, 245mm rear rotor, twin-piston caliper.
Wheels & Tyres: Forged alloy Marchesini wheels, 120/70-17, 200/60-17 Pirelli SC.
Instruments: TFT Display unit.