Ducati doubles its pistons for sleek 2018 Panigale
It is, no doubt, history in the making, not quite as historic as if, say, Harley- Davidson dumped its big twin, but revolutionary nonetheless.
Every big Ducati sportbike since Paul Smart’s famed victory at the 1972 Imola 200 has followed the same format: Two big pistons arranged in an L- twin format with Desmodromic valve actuation to help spin the big beasts to ever higher rpm. Until now.
In a recent reveal of the Italian marque’s 2018 bikes, Ducati is, for the first time, using a V4 in its top- line sport bike. The rest of the lineup gets some welcome upgrades as well.
THE PANIGALE V4
The announcement of the Panigale V4 pushes forward the demise of the V- twin superbike. Oh, there will be plenty of Duke twins in the future, but all of its sportiest models — the ones the company goes World Superbike racing with — will now have four pistons, not two, arranged in a vee. At least, the classic 90 degrees between banks of cylinders is retained and, of course, the company’s trademark desmodromic valvetrain is retained.
One supposes the leap to four cylinders was inevitable. Ducati’s MotoGP bikes have always sported four cylinders. And certainly, there were signs, most notably the Desmosedici RR of 2008, that it might go with a similarly configured streetbike. But the RR was a pure MotoGP replica that sold for stupid money and, while the new Desmosedici Stradale engine is certainly MotoGPderived, the Panigale V4’s pricing is more in line with current Ducati production superbikes.
Nonetheless, it’s got some serious pedigree, even the 1,103- cc road- going version boasting 214 horsepower — 226 hp is available if you opt for the optional Akropovic exhaust system — and a 14,000 rpm redline. Like the MotoGP racer, the 90-degree V4 is rotated backward by 42 degrees for a very compact unit and the crankshaft rotates counter to the direction of the wheels to reduce gyroscopic effect (which slows down steering on a motorcycle).
Three variations of the Panigale V4 will be produced initially. (Interestingly, while the new Panigale V4 is obviously aimed at making Ducati more competitive in World Superbike racing, the initial models will displace 1,103 cc. Only later will a 1,000- cc WSBK- homologated version be produced.) While the base V4 rides on a Showa Big Piston Fork and Sachs rear monoshock (both mechanically adjustable for damping and preload), the S adds the latest Ohlins electronically adjustable suspension front and rear, various magnesium bits and a lightweight lithium- ion battery. The top- of- the- line Speciale gets all that plus an alcantara seat, adjustable foot pegs, a bunch of carbonfibre bits, Ducati’s latest data recoding system and that aforementioned Akropovic racing exhaust system.
Meanwhile, at the other end of Ducati’s l i neup, there’s a new Scrambler. Already the biggest volume model in Ducati’s lineup, the Scrambler gets a new 1,079cc iteration for 2018, the big V- twin joining in the 399cc and 803- cc machines to round out its lineup of iconic retro- modern ( quasi) dirt bikes.
Essentially, what Ducati has done is resurrect its previous- generation, large- displacement air- cooled twin, newly homologated it for Euro4 emissions standards and plopped it into an only slightly modified Scrambler chassis. Keeping with the Scrambler’s rider friendly motif, the 1,079- cc 90- degree twin only boasts 86 hp, but Ducati says its grunty 65 pound-feet of torque is available as low as 4,750 rpm.
Thanks to the new upper “trellis” sub- frame, the 1100’s wheelbase grows to a rangy 1,514 millimetres ( 59.6 inches), an increase of 69 mm ( 2.7 inches) over the 803-cc version. Nonetheless, the larger Scrambler should emulate its smaller sibling’s light handling with almost identical 24.5 degrees of rake and a short 111- mm of trail, not to mention the fact that its all- up wet weight is but 206 kilograms ( 454 lbs) and the wide upswept handlebar offers the rider plenty of steering leverage.
Despite its s t atus as the entry- level Ducati, the Scrambler gets a full complement of high- tech ridi ng aids. Cornering ABS prevents wheel l ock up even when leaned over and there are four levels of traction control. Like so many Ducatis, there are three electronically controlled riding modes as well: Active (which gives full power and the quickest throttle response), Journey (with max 86 hp as well, but more contained throttle response) and City ( power reduced to 75 hp, married to maximum traction control).
Of course, the Scrambler’s raison d’être is its urban styling and here the 1100 doesn’t stray too far from the design of the original. Oh, the exhaust system is noticeably larger and a new round headlight (with something t he company calls its X- grille, a feature Ducati says is “inspired by the tape once applied on offroad bikes back in the ’ 70s to protect the headlight assembly), but the rest of the newly enhanced Scrambler is very familiar, right down to the base model’s ’ 62 Yellow paint.
The Multistrada gets an upgrade to the XDiavel’s 1,262- cc V- twin with Ducati’s desmodromic Variable Timing technology. It’s a welcome addition. The XDiavel’s version of Ducati’s iconic 90- degree L- twin is the torquiest of them all ( 85 per cent of its 95.5 lb- ft of torque is available as low as 3,500 rpm) but still puts out a serious 158 horses. Hence the need for Ducati’s electronic Wheelie Control system. There’s even a new Pikes Peak version of the Multistrada 1260 commemorating the company’s three victories in America’s most famous street race. A longer swingarm, a new front end and top- of- the- line Ohlins suspension celebrate the Pikes Peak’s road- racing prowess, as does a special paint job.
959 PANIGALE CORSA
And finally in Ducati news there’s a Corsa version of the 959 Panigale with a titanium exhaust system by Akropovic that helps liberate 150 hp from the 955- cc V- twin. An Ohlins suspension makes the grade on the top- of- theline version of Ducati’s midsize sportster and there are enhanced electronic rider’s aids so that your trip to the track is made easier.
Ducati is, for the first time, using a V4 in its top-line bike.