Proven in MotoGP and brought to a street application is the all-new Desmosedici Stradale engine that has been getting impressive reviews so far. The general consensus is how smooth and quickly it revs to around 14,000 RPM at redline but pulling in peak power(214) and torque(96) around the 10,000-13,000 RPM range. In everyday riding situations low-to-mid range power has been increased thanks to a bump in CC's. The most impressive of all is how controlled it all feels. Just when everyone thought the 1299's V-Twin was the best, this new V4 has become ideal successor.
How does this all-new motor feel when you open it up? Quite special is the answer. There's definitely the feel of a twin low-down: the extra capacity and the 'twin pulse' firing order of the V4 both conspire to give that big twin impression. But it's got a character all its own and, as the revs rise, you have to force yourself not to change up too early. Hang on up towards peak power at 13,000rpm and you get a barking, howling yawl that's utterly seductive. Not that you can pay too much attention to the aural delights mind – the thing is pulling like a fecking rift between alternative universes. It feels like you need to steel your upper body just to stay in this one.
It's not scary though: you feel totally in control at all times, with clean, crisp fuelling, and a real progressive, controllable feel at the twistgrip.
The infield section here is all second and third gear, so it's not until the main straight that you get into fourth, then fifth. Valencia's last turn is notoriously tricky, with a long left-hander that manages to be blind and downhill, before running into essentially a 90° bend onto the main straight. Out of here, drift over to the pit lane entrance, and get the hammer down.
A choice of three riding modes (Race, Sport and Street) allows you to better tame this beast regardless how you ride is along with other advanced riding tech (more on this below). While adjusting the Stradale V4's profile alone is a big deal, this change in power distribution is complemented by different suspension, ABS and traction control mapping. All settings can be fine tuned to what Ultimate Motorcycling discovered to be a magical experience when ripping the V4 through Valencia.
Ride modes in the Ducati ecosystem have evolved into so much more than throttle maps. Yes, when you select Street or Sport or Race you can expect a different feeling from the bike, but it’s not just the engine that will change. Depending on the scenario and mode, the electronic suspension will adjust, the ABS functionality will change, and traction control will make certain assumptions about your intentions. The good news is that each facet of each mode can be tuned to suit your style. So even though the suspension might be more aggressive in Race, the mode is tunable to have more or less intervention from any and all of the other systems. And yes, you can change the throttle map too.
Trundling down pit lane for the first time and the four sounds similar to a twin, burbling away thanks to the characteristics of its firing order. The first session I spent in the ‘Sport’ riding mode, one of three and in between Street and Race, while I got used to the bike and circuit. All the settings can be manually over-ridden using the two menu function buttons on the left handlebar via the new 5” hi-res TFT dash but with the traction light warning me that some mph’s were being soaked up, I soon switched to ‘Race’ which keeps wheels on the ground while somehow applying all of the bikes vast array of clout.
The power of the V4 is extraordinary - the speed at which it generates the forces to propel both it and you along is astonishing and thank goodness the upgraded Brembo-assisted brakes are equally as powerful and ably assist the accompanying engine braking, demonstrating a willingness to slow just as excited as it is to launch out of each corner. If you play cricket, golf or even football the exciting bit is smashing the balls as hard as possible hoping it goes in the right direction. A tap for a single run, a putt or a backwards pass don’t give you the same thrill. Thankfully Ducati has found a way to offer the permanent feel-good moments throughout any ride with a stunning concoction of metal, aluminium, plastic and electronics. Who knew motorcycle riding could be this rewarding.
The Panigale V4’s Evo electronic suite is improved tremendously over the 1299, especially in regards to traction control, Bosch cornering ABS, and wheelie control. While in Race mode (others are Sport and Street), I relied on traction control of 2 of 7, ABS on setting 1 of 3, and wheelie control of 2 of 7. Wheelie control on 1 still allowed for massive wheelies, and requires fine throttle control. I’m no Chaz Davies, so I stuck with 2. When combined with traction control, this allowed me to twist the throttle wide open while driving out of corners at serious lean. It’s downright magical.
- Ultimate Motorcycling
All the advancements made with the new V4 couldn't be complete without adequate weight reduction. As a result its lighter and easier to toss around than the 1299, this plays in well to how we can fine tune the ride modes for specific riding situations. How Ducati accomplished this was impressive. Starting with a frame that uses the engine as a stress member thus eliminating the need for a balancing shaft. A generous amount of aluminum throughout the V4 further decreases weight in the following areas; front section, single-sided swing arm, fuel tank. In addition we got lighter wheels and a lithium ion battery.
Losing weight isn’t just difficult for humans, but Ducati has pared ounces wherever possible. Its monocoque frame design uses the engine as a stressed member in accompaniment with an aluminum front section that incorporates the steering head. It’s said to scale in at just 9.2 lbs, which is 8 lbs lighter than the exotic carbon-fiber full frame on the HP4 Race. Its single-sided aluminum swingarm is 76mm longer than the 1299’s for better traction, but weighs the same 11.2 lbs. To gain perspective on the relative weights of these structural pieces, consider the Panigale V4’s exhaust system: at 21.4 lbs, it weighs more than the frame and swingarm combined.
Aluminum, rather than heavier steel, is used for the Panigale’s fuel tank, a portion of which is positioned below the rider MotoGP style. Its total capacity is 4.23 gallons. The curb weight for the V4 S is stated at 430 lbs, 6 lbs lighter than the standard Panigale V4 because of its lighter wheels and lithium-ion battery.
The Panigale features an evoltion of the monocoque frame, that uses the engine as a load-bearing feature, but it’s now called a “front frame.” I had no complaints with the chassis; it offers just enough flex to truly feel in control of the bike, especially at mid-corner. The new frame—which uses the desmodromic engine as a stressed member and only weighs 9.2 pounds—is based on what’s used in MotoGP, and optimized for bending and torsional stiffness. The single-sided swingarm grows by 11mm over the 1299, but weighs the same—11.2 pounds.
The light frame and swingarm help bring the Panigale V4 S’s claimed curb weight to 430 pounds, which is 11 pounds more than the 1299 Panigale R FE. Though a bit heavier, the Panigale V4— which shed some pounds from a magnesium headlamp and mirror support— feels easier to toss around than the 1299.
- Ultimate Motorcycling
When it comes to advanced riding technology, the all-new Ducati V4 is a prime example of what the industry is capable of. Already you seen in the points above how much the three ride modes and their tunability greatly contributes. Higher trim V4's like the V4 S and Speciale get all the tech Ducati has to offer for a total of 8 tech options. Publications like Motorcycle.com and UltimateMotorcycling.com raved about how these come together. While you might not be able to push it around a track like Rossi, Ducati's Official Test Rider Alessandro Valia got close enough to it as you will see below:
The Panigale V4’s electronics are state of the art, employing a new six-axis Bosch IMU to provide a host of aids that keep riders safer while helping them go faster. Most are evolutions of existing aids, but there are a few new ones like slide control, drift braking and lean-angle sensitive quickshifting (up and down) and engine-brake control. All are independently adjustable via intuitive left-side switchgear and visible on the brilliant TFT instrument panel.
- ABS Cornering Bosch EVO
- Ducati Traction Control EVO (with “spin on demand” when set to levels 1 or 2)
- Ducati Slide Control (DSC)
- Ducati Wheelie Control EVO
- Ducati Power Launch (DPL)
- Ducati Quick Shift up/down EVO
- Engine Brake Control EVO
- Ducati Electronic Suspension EVO (on V4 S and Speciale models)
After fettling with various settings, I preferred ABS 1 (ABS on front wheel only), DTC 3 (allowing controllable sliding), and DWC 2 (because I like wheelies). I didn’t have time to experiment with EBC. The quickshifter swapped cogs up and down as seamlessly as any gearbox I’ve toggled.
In a world that has impressive but high priced and limited high performance products like the Ninja H2, pricing of the new V4 doesn't seem so bad, although some publications found this to be a deal breaker, even with how magical it can feel riding one under the right conditions. In that case a 1299 is still a great deal and offers performance that will keep most riders happy. However, there's no doubt that if you want cutting edge riding technology proven in MotoGP and brought to a street application, the V4 is for you.
You didn’t think all this technology and Italian craftsmanship would be cheap, did you? The Panigale V4 S we tested retails for a healthy $27,495. That’s a lot, but it’s a whole lotta sport motorcycle. Riders on a budget might prefer the base model, which rings in $6,300 cheaper at a more palatable $21,195.
In case it’s not yet obvious, let me state unequivocally that the Panigale V4 S is the best sportbike you can buy for less than $28,000. It’s packed with performance and technology that shames anything else in its price range, and the fact that its lovely Italian styling adds a certain panache is the cherry on top. It simply sets a new standard for sportbikes.
We don't like
Still not sold 100% on the looks, price will put it out of reach for many. The quickshifter did miss a few upchanges, which might improve with miles on the gearbox.