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Review: Ducati 959 Panigale

Driven May 2016

Review: Ducati 959 Panigale

Emission seems to be a cause of worry not only for the carmakers but bike manufacturers as well. Case in point is the Ducati 899 Panigale, which did not comply with stringent emission norms. This has prompted the Italian bike maker to ditch the 898cc motor for a bigger, cleaner 955cc unit with the 959 Panigale. More power is obviously welcome, especially here at TG.

There are changes to the bodywork and you have to look hard to spot them. According to Ducati, the front fairing is wider, for better aerodynamics, although the most noticeable change is the side mounted double-barrel exhaust pipe that replaces the 899’s sleek, under slung silencer. All is not lost though; you can still buy a sleek Akrapovic exhaust, which is available as an aftermarket accessory.

It’s almost comical to call the 959 a baby Panigale. The L-twin, 955cc motor makes 157bhp (3bhp less than the 2006 Ducati 1098) and 107Nm of torque. And with that many horses propelling a 200kg motorcycle, there’s plenty of shove to keep you entertained.

At the Chang International Circuit in Thailand, we had a chance to see all that power in action. Down the straights, with the throttle wide open, the 959 does 220kph without batting an eyelid and that’s nowhere near the bike’s top whack. There’s an incredible burst of power in the mid-range between 4000-9000rpm and you feel it every time you exit a corner. The 959, as quick as it is, isn’t only about straight-line speed. It is just as good around corners, helping you shave seconds off your lap time.

As with any modern Ducati, the 959 is equipped with tech wizardry. There are three riding modes that you can choose from; ‘Wet’ – where power is restricted to 100bhp, ‘Sport’ – suited for city riding and ‘Race’ – for track days.

We tested the Sport and Race mode (it makes 157bhp in both these modes) at the track and found the bike feels best in ‘Race’ mode with traction control and ABS left in the default setting.

Speaking of useful rider aids, the quick shifter and the slipper clutch have to rank as favourites, especially out on a racetrack with the Panigale being pushed hard. You could carry too much speed into a corner and downshift aggressively and rely on the slipper clutch to sort you out without locking up the rear wheel.

The brakes have solid bite, too, and after a couple of laps on the track, you find yourself braking later for a corner than before as you get used to the twin 320mm discs at the front and a 245mm disc at the rear. Couple these with the Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa rubber, 120/70 R17 at the front and 180/60 R17 at the rear, and the 959 is one heck of track tool.

Ducati has got a fitting replacement of the 899 in the form of the 959. It borrows a lot of kit from the bigger 1299 – traction control, ABS, riding modes, a quick-shifter, slipper clutch, Brembo brakes and Pirellis tyres. Oh wait, that’s not all, it gets fully adjustable suspension, too. The side mounted exhaust is a bit of an eyesore in the overall scheme of things, but you could always opt for an after market one to remedy that situation.

The Ducati 959 Panigale looks like a million bucks and retails at a competitive price of Rs 14.04 lakh, ex-showroom Delhi. Not bad at all for an Italian exotic.

Superquadro L-twin, 955cc, 157bhp, 107.4Nm, 6M, fuel tank: 17litre, 200kg

Italian style, power and race tech at a bargain price

Abhinav Mishra

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