FIRST RIDE:

2018 Du­cati XDi­avel S.

Calgary Sun - Autonet - - NEWS - DAVID BOOTH

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.

DaviD BOOTH/ Driv­ing

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