2018 Ducati XDiavel S.
Quick, what is the fastest Ducati motorcycle to 100 kilometres per hour?
Did you guess, the 1299 Panigale? Close, but no cigar. By most accounts, it’s a close second. The fearsome MotoGP Desmosedici? Well, almost. Its sub-10-second quarter mile is plenty quick, second only to Kawasaki’s supercharged H2, but for that quick burst off the line, it’s some way down the list, all its horsepower blunted initially by a tall first gear.
In fact, the surprise is that the quickest Ducati out of the hole isn’t even a superbike. Not even one of the company’s naked Monster sportsters or even that super-cum-dirt bike, the Hypermotard.
Surprise, surprise — especially for those who like to denigrate cruisers — it’s actually the company’s latest power cruiser, the XDiavel S. Yup, a Ducati’s Harley V-Rod competitor.
In fact — and again, this might surprise you — the whole cruiser motif is the reason the XDiavel is so quick off the line. For one thing, its wheelbase, at 1,615 millimetres (that’s a whopping 63.5 inches), is positively gargantuan. Those extra eight inches compared with a trueblue sport bike reduces its propensity to wheelie when you dump the clutch. For another, that “slammed” profile lowers the XDiavel’s centre of gravity, which combined with that aforementioned stretched wheelbase further minimizes wheelies (which, as dramatic as they are, reduce acceleration). Throw in the Porsche-like launch control system, Ducati Power Launch, which manages the engine output to maximum. Add that cruiser de rigeueur 240mm wide rear Pirelli and you have traction to spare.
Indeed, maximizing XDiavel acceleration is childlike simplicity (though not quite idiot proof, as you’ll read). Just select the DPL, max the throttle and then (semi-gently) let out the clutch (for God’s sake, don’t be an idiot and just dump it or you’ll flip over backwards), and you’re on your way to 100 km/h in about two and a half seconds.
Molto veloce — or however you say OM-freaking-G in Italian.
Of course, you have to have the motor to exploit all this traction and, again, this the XDiavel S has in spades. Basically, Ducati takes it 1200 Multistrada Testastretta 11 V-twin (itself good for 160 hp) and strokes it to 1,262 cc for more torque. So, even though horsepower isn’t increased (it’s actually slightly reduced to 156 ponies), the XDiavel’s torque is huge, with a mighty maximum of 95 pound-feet.
Better yet, 90 per cent of that moxie is available all the way from 4,000 to 8,000 rpm, an incredible breadth of grunt for a motorcycle and a credit to Ducati’s variable valve-timing system. Yet, despite being grunty as all get out, Ducati’s big cruiser redlines at a very sportbike-like 10,000 rpm.
And it feels like a sportbike engine. Get on the gas hard and the whole thing quakes in excitement of letting loose; the exhaust, even in streetlegal stock mufflers, sounds like a refugee from the Daytona speedway. And, at full whack, things start getting blurry in a big way. The only downside is that the big Testastretta is still a Duke V-twin at heart and isn’t particularly happy below 3,000 rpm. Load it up in top gear at low rpm — which is supposed to be a big-twin forte, by the way — and all manner of unhappy noises emanate from the XDiavel’s lower crankcase.
That said, Ducati has made huge inroads into its reputation for quirkiness and unreliability. Quality control is up so much that official oilchange intervals for the XDiavel are every 15,000 km, one of the longest in motorcycling. And that once-finicky desmodromic valve-actuation system — OK, it’s still a little finicky — only needs attention every 30,000 km. Ducati is even promising that 85 per cent of its spare/replacement parts will be available to consumers just 48 hours after ordering. Perhaps its association with auto-making giant Audi is paying off.
Of course, handling is something the legendary Italian motorcycle manufacturer already knew about. And despite that extended wheelbase and gargantuan rear tire, the XDiavel S handles pretty well. Oh, it doesn’t steer quite as delicately as a Panigale (you have to force it into sharp turns) or even a Multistrada, but once the corner is initiated, the S holds its line well. And the suspension is very well damped (if a little stiff ) and fully adjustable at both ends. Perhaps more importantly, especially for a cruiser, Ducati claims there’s 40 degrees of lean angle available. Compare that with the 20-something degrees available to a Harley Softail rider and you have some idea of the magic Ducati has conjured up in its cruiser.
The XDiavel is a mixed bag for comfort. The seat is surprisingly comfy (though the passenger portion is a joke) and the handlebar nicely curved, but the foot pegs are placed well forward. Not quite Harley V-Rod spine curving, but lower lumbarchallenging nonetheless. The riding position is very much adjustable, with the standard foot pegs offering three different locations. There are four choices for the seat and Ducati is also selling three different handlebars for the XDiavel. More importantly for those of use with fragile spines, there’s an optional Central Footpeg package ($1,072) for a more rational, rearward-focused riding position. If I were considering an XDiavel purchase, it would be accessory No. 1.
Speaking of dollars, the S version of the XDiavel starts at $25,995 (2018 pricing), a relative paltry uptick from the base XDiavel. You get mostly cosmetic goodies for that price but the standout feature, believe it or not, is some machined-from-billet mirrors. More functional, though still pretty, are the DLC-coated fork stanchions, their Diamond-Like Coating adding both toughness and smoother action. It’s also worth noting that the S gets higher-spec M50 front Brembo brake calipers, all managed with Bosch’s Cornering ABS, which coordinates its anti-locking functions with how far the XDiavel is being leaned over.
If this all sounds like a cruiser with a superbike heart, well this is still, after all, a Ducati. And while you can dress Borgo Panigale up in disco wear, its heart still beats to rock and roll.
2018 Ducati XDiavel S.