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Review: Ducati Panigale V4 S
Another red Ducati sports bike! Looks stunning, though
Stunning indeed. But this isn’t just any other red Ducati. It’s the ultimate Ducati sports bike on sale today and going by our saddle time at the highly technical Sepang circuit, the Panigale V4 S is one of the most rider-friendly litre-class motorcycles you can have between your legs on an open track day.
Aah, the V4. But isn’t it the most powerful road-legal Ducati? And still not a monster?
That’s the beauty of this machine. It’s not just the most powerful Duc, but at 211bhp, it certainly is the most powerful production sports bike worth your money. But alongside all that leather suit-wetting power, there lies a web of best-in-class tech wizardry that shall work overtime to make life easier on that surprisingly comfortable saddle. It’s a lot more forgiving when compared to most of its litre-class rivals and that sort of reassurance isn’t easy to come by. More on that in a bit.
I believe the talking point in the V4 is the ‘V4’ itself, right?
Absolutely. While Ducati has already made public the amount of time and money spent to develop that stonker of an engine, it must have killed them to let go of their trademark L-twin architecture for a class-standard four-pot design. However, like the name suggests this isn’t an in-line four, but a V-angled four-cylinder motor, and we’re glad they chose this path because the end-results are staggering. Heavily derived from its famed-MotoGP powerplant, the new Desmosedici Stradale V4 may be slightly heavier than the L-twin it replaces, but it offers far better packaging thanks to its overall compact dimensions.
Like the 1000cc MotoGP motor, the Stradale continues to feature an 81mm bore and a 90-degree V-angle, however, the engineers had to increase the stroke to extract 1103cc of displacement for the simple reason of having a greater, wider and smoother surge of torque, which will be appreciated on a road-going sports bike. So now, the V4 gets class-leading figures of 211bhp @ 13,000rpm , 124Nm @ 10,000rpm and even better power-to-weight ratio of 1082bhp per tonne. Then there’s the counter-rotating crankshaft, just like in the GP bike, that not only adds to the V4’s overall stability during acceleration and braking but also improves agility by further tightening the line when accelerating around corners.
You’d mentioned something about ‘best-in-class tech wizardry’. Could you explain further?
Oh yes, Ducati has gone all out in bestowing its flagship with every little piece of tech its engineers have developed lately. They haven’t just taken the electronics from the 1299 and made it work more efficiently, they’ve also added new bits that can even make an amateur sports bike rider, like yours truly, look graceful out on a technical race track such as Sepang. We aren’t just talking about the three different rider modes that alter various settings and remaps the ECU, we’re talking about electronics that will actually make you go faster on racetracks and look darn good while doing so.
It starts with Ducati’s own Traction Control Evo that’s much smarter and less intrusive than before; Slide Control that allows for controlled (intentional and unintentional) slide angles while exiting corners; Wheelie Control Evo either lets you pull a monster wheelie in a controlled manner or helps you keep the front wheel grounded under quick acceleration; bidirectional Quickshifter that also smoothens out the downshifts when leaned into corners; Engine Brake Control Evo; Electronic Suspension Evo that gives better freedom to setup for compression, rebound and preload; Cornering ABS Evo gets new Slide-by-brake feature that now lets you slide into corners using the rear brake; and Power Launch.
It’s amazing how Ducati has managed to squeeze all of that in an existing platform.
What existing platform? The Panigale V4 is as new as a freshly brewed coffee, from the finest of beans, that too. It may have more than a passing resemblance to the 1299 Panigale, but the similarities end right there. Gone is the older 1299’s monocoque chassis and in comes a newly developed ‘front-frame’ that is mounted to the front of the motor. Using the engine as the stress member, the single-sided swingarm is then connected to the motor and also the front frame. I know, it sounds confusing, but look at the picture and you’ll get it.
Then there’s the semi-active Ohlins suspension on the V4 S (the standard V4 gets Showa Big Piston Fork upfront and a Sachs at the rear). These Ohlins are simply fantastic on a track outing, knowing exactly what you need depending on the rider mode and your actions on the saddle. It’s also got a great companion in Brembo’s new Stylema calliper, which is basically the advanced version of the famed M50 Monoblock. Another interesting detail is that the part of the 16-litre fuel tank is located under the rider seat, allowing for all the electronics and the Li-ion battery to occupy the front half of the conventional fuel tank area. So with this packaging, Ducati has managed a front biased 54.5/45.5 per cent weight distribution, similar to that of its MotoGP bike for better handling on the track. With the new chassis, truckloads of electronics and two additional cylinders for the new engine, the Panigale V4 S weighs 195 kilos wet, only 5 more than the V-twin engined 1299. And if you have deeper pockets, opt for a full titanium racing Akrapovic exhaust and further save 7 kilos while adding 12bhp into the equation. That’s weight management Level 99 for you.
My bad! So, tell us about your riding impressions. Were you able to ‘tame the beast’?
Well, to be honest, it’s a beast just on paper. Okay, with its angry front end it does look intimidating at first, but after spending some quality time on its saddle and treating it with much-deserved respect, the Panigale V4 S came across as one of the most humble litre-class motorcycles of the modern age. Despite riding on one of the most technical race tracks that is the Sepang International Circuit, the V4 felt equally at home on its twin long straights and the scores of tricky corners the track is peppered with. Yes, it may have taken half a dozen laps to find my rhythm, but that had nothing to do with the motorcycle – the constant change in elevation made it slightly difficult to memorize the 5.5-kilometre circuit. But once that was imprinted in my tiny brain, it was time to unleash the Italian brute.
Sport mode was put to good use as with moderate levels of intervention from the electronic nannies did help me learn the track and V4’s behaviour, boosting confidence and urging me to up my pace. To my surprise, riding the biggest, the most powerful Panigale didn’t feel terrifying at all. Okay, all that brutal acceleration past 8000rpm was too much to comprehend at the beginning, but the more laps I clocked in, the easier it became to whack open that throttle. So much so that after a point I started enjoying the front wheel taking off (just slightly off the ground) on the back and main straights; displaying just how well the Wheelie Control works even at the hands of a nervous rider.
Get to the new motor’s performance, will you?
Yes, the motor. It’s one of the smoothest Ducati motors I’ve ever tested. It does sound gruff, to begin with, like a typical Ducati twin, but the roar only gets deeper and thunderous as you dial in more revs. Ever heard a Desmosedici GP at full chat? The V4 S sounds quite similar going down the main straight past 10,000rpm. It’s deafening at times, but it’s quite addictive. Talking of addiction, the V4’s performance can surely be one. It’s got 211 Italian stallions rearing to go at the slightest of provocation, but the collected manner in which they do, that’s something to die for. It’s no torque surge-monster like the L-twin, but the midrange is pretty strong and once you keep that throttle pinned, the V4 lunges forward with an unfathomable thrust, enough to scare the living daylights out of an unmindful rider. I quickly realise, while fiddling with the new controls and the TFT screen, I’d accidentally switched rider mode to ‘Race’. Quick-thinking; I switch it back to ‘Sport’ as I chose to save myself from any potential embarrassment. However, one good thing is that even in the snappiest mode, acceleration isn’t snappy and once you get your brains wired to the intensity at which the V4 can rocket past 250kph, life is much more relaxed in the fast lane.
How’s the handling like?
It handles like a dream. It’s a litre-class motorcycle but its agility is akin to an 800 Supersport. Okay, I may be exaggerating here, but it really does bowl you over with its ease of rideability. Yes, the V4’s electronics play a huge role in the way the motorcycle behaves on the track, but the best part of it all is that neither of it feels unnecessarily obtrusive – it lets you feel you’re in total control of the situation while the system constantly figures out the best configuration for every corner on the track! You can still choose to override it all by switching to manual, but you’ll also need very big balls to do that.
I certainly relished the company of the Italian nannies as they allowed me to concentrate on the simpler things like accelerating, braking, leaning into corners and accelerating hard again. There’s no denying, the V4 did make me look and feel like a far better rider. For instance, wring the throttle hard and you’ll see the traction, wheelie and slide control carefully intervening to keep things tidy. And the moment you brake hard from say 267kph (that was my top speed before I chickened out) the V4 feels so much more composed, allowing you to repeatedly push your marker at every corner. I would often see myself overcook corners, but the electronic steering damper, the Ohlins, the Brake Control, Cornering ABS and the likes are constantly at work allowing you to carry insane corner speeds and lean angles. Thanks to these aids, you can now continue braking and downshifting as you start leaning in and heading for the apex – it all feels so much neutral.
Sounds promising. Was the V4 S running on slicks?
It felt like, but no, the V4 S comes with specially developed Pirelli’s Diablo Supercorse SP with a revised tread pattern and a new compound. And believe me, for a road tyre, the grip levels out on the track, around the corners were simply mind-blowing. Full marks to Pirelli.
How much does the Panigale V4 cost?
If you go for the standard version without the Ohlins and forged wheels, it will cost you Rs 25.6 lakh, on-road, Mumbai. While the V4 S can be had for Rs 31.5 lakh.
Your final thoughts
Here’s a silly question. What’s your one-point-agenda when you get a litre-class motorcycle on to a race track? To clock faster time, lap after lap, and boost your ego, right? So if you try that on a V4, the chances are you would probably eat in to your lap times at a faster rate than you’d imagine – thanks to the entire bouquet of tech at your fingertips. The 1299 Panigale was an iconic motorcycle in its own right and it needed something special from Ducati to give the world its worthy heir. And that’s exactly what it has in the V4. Developed in close collaboration with its Corse division, technology from the racing world has been neatly incorporated to offer a road-legal masterpiece that’s also the closest thing possible to its MotoGP counterpart. With the V4’s enhanced performance, improved rideability, and class-leading electronics, the best of the Ducati experience is now accessible to riders of varied skill levels, broadening its ever-so-growing fan base. The Panigale V4 is a new chapter, a new direction that Ducati is heading into and from the looks of it, things only seem promising.
Panigale V4 S
1103cc, liquid-cooled, V4, 211bhp, 124Nm, 6A, kerb weight: 195kg, fuel tank: 16 litres, price: Rs 31.5 lakh, on-road, Mumbai
With performance, agility, and rideability on its side, the V4 S is one of the best litre-class motorcycles you could buy today.