Du­cati’s V-twin su­per­bike bows out in style

Motorcycle News (UK) - - FRONT PAGE - By Michael Neeves Chief Road Tester @MCNNEWS mo­tor­cy­cle­news

This, ladies and gen­tle­man, is Du­cati’s last-ever V-twin su­per­bike. The £34,995 1299 Panigale R Fi­nal Edi­tion is the firm’s fi­nal hur­rah be­fore next year’s new V4 ar­rival. Although Du­cati never said as much, you might have thought the re­cent­ly­launched, £72,000, lim­ited-edi­tion, car­bon-framed Su­per­leg­gera was the fi­nal big Panigale. But those cheeky devils in Bologna had this up their sleeve all along. So if you missed out on a Su­per­leg­gera, it’s the next best thing.

The Fi­nal Edi­tion isn’t an ‘R’ in the WSB ho­molo­ga­tion spe­cial sense (its mo­tor’s too big). It’s more the V-twin su­per­bike’s leav­ing cake, made with the very best Panigale in­gre­di­ents.

Elec­tronic rider aids are taken from the cur­rent 1299 (DTC EVO was first seen on last year’s Panigale An­niver­sario). Mean­while, the adjustable alu­minium mono­coque frame, swingarm, forged ali wheels, sus­pen­sion and brakes are from the 1198cc ho­molo­ga­tion-spe­cial Panigale R. The mo­tor is de­rived from the 209.5bhp 1285cc Su­per­leg­gera.

It’s not cheap, at al­most dou­ble the price of the not-ex­actly-slow 197bhp base 1299 Panigale. But it’s half the cost of the car­bon-fi­bre Su­per­leg­gera, so it seems bet­ter value… well, sort of.

We’ve been granted a few laps on the 3.2-mile Nür­bur­gring GP cir­cuit. It’s rain­ing – but that’s what it does here, and we’re not about to let a bit of water stop us say­ing good­bye to the ul­ti­mate evo­lu­tion of the ali-framed su­per­bike.

Du­cati have swapped the stan­dard Pirelli Di­ablo Su­per Corsa SP track­day tyres for Di­ablo Rain race rub­ber, and backed off the Öh­lins sus­pen­sion (man­u­ally adjustable like the R, not the S-model’s elec­tronic) for more feel and grip in the pud­dles. We’re in Race mode with its least in­tru­sive trac­tion, wheelie and en­gine brak­ing con­trol.

Even in the wet there’s no lack of speed, but like all big Pani­gales you have to keep the mo­tor on the boil and dance through the close-ra­tio box. With­out the Su­per­leg­gera’s car­bon chas­sis or the Panigale R’s sand­cast en­gine cases, this Fi­nal Edi­tion is only half-a-kilo lighter than the 1299 and S, but with all that power it leaps out of cor­ners like a ma­niac and short­ens the straights like they’ve been shrunk in the wash.

Dur­ing our re­cent 1000s test, the 1299 Panigale S proved to have the best power-to-weight ra­tio of any cur­rent full-pro­duc­tion su­per­bike. The Fi­nal Edi­tion’s extra 12bhp takes it a step fur­ther with even stronger ac­cel­er­a­tion and a more de­monic in­duc­tion roar.

At 23kg more than the Su­per­leg­gera, the new bike doesn’t ex­plode for­ward with such bom­bas­tic alacrity. With­out ‘the spe­cial one’s’ next-gen elec­tron­ics, its anti-wheelie, or slide con­trol, isn’t as re­fined either. But it still has some of the best rider aids on any road bike, which com­bined with its sin­gle­minded, racy chas­sis and all that power, will make it hard to beat on-track.

The V-twin lacks sand­cast crankcases and ali cylin­der lin­ers, like the Su­per­leg­gera, but the rest is the same. That runs from its high-com­pres­sion su­per­bike-spec pis­tons, to its high-lift cams, light­weight fly­wheel and crank with tung­sten coun­ter­weights, ti­ta­nium con rods, valves, ported head, lithium bat­tery and sexy, Wsb-style, Euro4-friendly un­der­seat ex­hausts.

Those ti­ta­nium Akrapovics are pretty quiet next to the stan­dard Panigale’s un­der­slung pipes, so noise-restricted track­days won’t be such a prob­lem.

Panigale han­dling has come a long way from that of the way­ward 1199. The 2012 bike wob­bled at the slight­est throt­tle, and gave the im­pres­sion you would set a lap record even when you were sec­onds off the pace. But with the 1299’s friend­lier chas­sis and re­fined elec­tronic aids, it’s a dif­fer­ent beast. It still feels crazy fast, but now it is fast.

You can’t push it to a frac­tion of what it’s ca­pa­ble of on a damp track – but then, you’d need the tal­ent of Shakey Byrne to ex­ploit what the race-bred chas­sis is ca­pa­ble of in the dry any­way.

It still takes a cer­tain rid­ing style to hus­tle the Du­cati quickly around a track, com­pared to any con­ven­tional su­per­bike. It detests big steer­ing, throt­tle and brak­ing in­puts, and still shim­mies in protest if you’re rough. In­stead, it re­wards with dev­as­tat­ing cor­ner speed and light­ning-quick direction changes when you tickle the con­trols and ca­ress it from kerb to kerb.

On the brakes, no su­per­bike can scrub off speed with such un­fet­tered, tri­cep-bust­ing vi­o­lence, with such sta­bil­ity, as a big Panigale.

Like the best Du­cati V-twin Rs and SPS, the Fi­nal Edi­tion bris­tles with spe­cial­ness, from its forged ali rims, Öh­lins and monobloc M50 Brem­bos, to the car­bon mud­guard, hug­ger and heat shield. In­er­tial Mea­sure­ment Unit-con­trolled elec­tron­ics in­cludes trac­tion, wheelie and en­gine brak­ing con­trol you can ad­just on the move, corner­ing ABS, three rider modes (Race, Sport, Wet), a quick­shifter, au­to­blip­per and dat­a­log­ger.

Qual­ity and at­ten­tion to de­tail are flaw­less, as you’d ex­pect from a £35k mo­tor­cy­cle, and it’s all topped off with that classy Ital­ian tri­col­ore paintjob.

Although the long- awaited V4 su­per­bike will be here next year, and the rest of the big Panigale range (with the ex­cep­tion of the 959) will be dropped, you’ll still be able to buy the Fi­nal Edi­tion. It’s a num­bered se­ries, but Du­cati will keep mak­ing them as long as there’s de­mand. What are you wait­ing for… apart from a lot­tery win?

‘It’s rain­ing – but that’s what it does at the Nür­bur­gring’

Fi­nal Edi­tion is the last of the line. Sniff

Tri­col­ore liv­ery is a lovely touch for this icon

A slip­pery Nür­bur­gring tested nerves and elec­tron­ics to the max

A clas­sic in the mak­ing, R Fi­nal Edi­tion is bet­ter – and more fun – than money in the bank

The new V4 will have to go some to have me­chan­i­cal art that matches the Pani

Brembo M50 monoblocs and Öh­lins NIX30 forks are pretty sub­lime, too

TFT dash is still one of the best in the busi­ness, even five years down the line

Euro4-spec Akras look like they’d wake the dead, but are ac­tu­ally fairly muted

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.