Du­cati dou­bles its pis­tons for sleek 2018 Pani­gale

National Post (Latest Edition) - - POST DRIVING - David Booth Driv­ing. ca

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 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.


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.

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