Seduction on Two Wheels
The Panigale V4 replaces the iconic 1299 at the top of the Ducati supersport range
The Panigale V4 replaces the iconic 1299 at the top of the Ducati supersport range. This radically redesigned bike lives up to its racing heritage, and is nimble, quick and awesomely powerful
Back at the beginning of the year, Ducati Motor Holding S.p.A. introduced a new motorcycle to its already impressive line up—the Panigale V4. Not surprisingly, there is a lot to take in on the new motorcycle. One of the most important features is that it has the first mainstream production V4 engine from Ducati, surpassing the ‘big V-twin’ configuration, which made the firm a contender in the two-wheeled motorsport world. With the bike’s power to weight ration of 1.1 hp/kg, this bike sets a new standard in the supersport production bike segment. Portfolio recently had a chance to test this new ultra sophisticated Italian supersport. The name ‘Panigale’ is a reference to Borgo Panigale, site of the Ducati factory outside Bologna. Many don’t realize that the iconic motorcycle builder started business in 1926 when Antonio Cavalieri Ducati and his three sons founded Società Scientifica Radio Brevetti Ducati in Bologna to produce radio components. Even after numerous bombings, the company managed to survive World War II and after, focused its resources on building engines that could attach to bicycles. They achieved moderate success and took the obvious next step – developing motorcycles. In the 1960s, Ducati earned its place in motorcycling history by producing the fastest 250cc road bike of its time, the Mach 1. In the 1970s it began producing its large-displacement V-twin motorcycles (V refers to the placement of the cylinders), and in 1973, released a V-twin with the trademarked ‘desmodromic valve design’. Today, the company is owned by German automotive manufacturer Audi through its Italian subsidiary Lamborghini, which is in turn owned by the Volkswagen Group.
The new Panigale V4 is truly an impressive bike to behold. Its design is sleek and minimalist. How Ducati managed to tuck a V4 engine into the center frame is indeed an engineering marvel. As you would expect this bike comes with a startling array of orotund statistics. However, the one that really sticks out is its 214hp engine. Ducati’s not only made a four-cylinder engine to replace the older, two-cylinder 1299 V-twin Panigale – it has also given it a huge increase over the competition. Motorcycle companies like BMW, Aprilia, Honda and others have their supersport engines below the 1000cc mark, but the V4 Panigale mocks all other bikes with its hefty 1103cc displacement. With 214hp it means this bike is more like clamping your legs around a rocket rather than an Italian superbike. Ducati engineers explain that the larger displacement is “to boost low-to-mid rev torque and reduce maximum revs so that the power is easier to handle”. Translation: more power means you don’t have to choke the throttle. This engine just isn’t a replacement for the V-twin; this new engine has a character all its own.
The engine reaches its peak power at an eye-watering, cam-slapping 13,000rpms. Those revolutions are enough to send a normal automobile engine into a fatal cacophony of exploding parts that end up on the scrap heap. The power of this machine is totally seductive. Some riders claim it’s not that scary, and that you feel totally in control at all times – with its flawless fuel injection, and a real progressive, controllable feel at the throttle. Other riders find this beast more like a bucking bronco that seems untamable, which is its charm – raw power. When we tested the bike we found it to be a top performer but a bit terrifying. The Panigale V4 engine is the only motorcycle in the sports segment with an ‘L-shaped’ 90° V configuration. It’s also the only engine to use technology such as the counter-rotating crankshaft and twin pulse ignition. All in all, these modifications have a positive impact on bike dynamics, making it more agile during changes of direction, fast and stable on the straight and helps create easier out-of-the-corner torque handling.
For road rubber, there’s a new 200/60 rear tire, and a load of optimized frame and component tweaks to give even more grip all round. It is a wonder of engineering how the frame takes all the torque being rammed through it during each corner and throttle twist. The front is good too, with its Öhlins fork and hefty brakes that still allow for a lot of road feel to come through. To contain all the torque, Ducati developed an all-new frame where the power plant itself has a load bearing function. Called Front Frame, it’s more compact and lighter than a perimeter frame. The Front Frame has allowed designers to create a bike that is slender in the tank-seat merger zone, while ensuring nearly perfect bike-rider integration. Together with the design, and use of super light materials, the new frame keeps the curb weight down to an incredible 195kg. A lighter frame ultimately means a faster bike.
The new Panigale V4 also has the latest Bosch six-axis inertial platform. This system’s advanced electronics works together to increase active safety and dynamic vehicle control standards in all riding situations. The computer has a say in suspension and braking, much like you’ll find in modern supercars. The bike also has new additions such as controlled drift during braking and ABS Cornering on the front wheel only. Good when you want to burn the rear rubber. The six-speed gearbox is specially designed for the Desmosedici Stradale engine and features a rotary gear sensor to ensure optimal operation with Ducati Quick Shift (DQS) up and down. A sensor assesses the position of the gearshift drum and, consequently, of the gearshift forks, with extreme accuracy to ensure precise gear changes. The shifting system restores torque transmission only once the gear change has been completed, preventing undue gear mesh stress so shifts are always complete, precise and swift. In our test the shifting was accurate and precise. In conclusion this Italian superbike is a winner. It rides like a dream, is scary powerful, has a superb electronic suite, and looks like a sexy Italian socialite in high heels. So what’s wrong? Well, using the socialite analogy you’ve got to pay for this level of performance and styling, it’s not cheap. The price including COE is a cool S$86,000,which means it’s out of reach for many aspiring petrol heads. But if you want Italian coolness with abundant power, and can afford it, this is your bike.