Ducati superbikes have long been defined by their resolute gun-sticking V-twin format, with the pursuit of chassis perfection and light weight over multi-cylinder peak power. But this bike, the new Panigale V4 – unveiled in Italy prior to the EICMA Milan motorcycle show – changes everything. Or does it?
It still looks rather familiar, the name is the same, as is the red paint, single sided swingarm, and instantly recognisable Italian lines. But don’t be fooled by the book’s cover, this is a pivotal moment for Ducati, and if the incredible claims of 211bhp, 195kg and a quantum leap in electronic control are accurate – this will be the superbike to beat in 2018.
With so many leaks, and Ducati revealing the engine long before the bike, it feels like there are few things we don’t already know about the Panigale V4, but this is the first time we’ve had a clear picture of the whole package, the model differences, and those impressive new electronics.
The new family comprises the base Panigale V4 (£19,250), the Panigale V4 S (£23,895) with Öhlins semi-active suspension, forged aluminium wheels and a lithium ion battery, and a Panigale V4 Speciale (£34,995) which is a numbered, limited-edition (of 1500) bike with a dedicated livery, titanium exhaust and a host of carbon and billet upgrades.
That new Desmosedici Stradale V4 engine
This is the first mass-produced Ducati bike to have a four-cylinder engine, and it’s derived directly from the MotoGP bike’s Desmosedici V4, but with a displacement of 1103cc. Developed in very close collaboration with Ducati Corse technicians and riders, it steals directly from the race bike in terms of design and architecture, but still manages to deliver impressive service intervals of 7500 miles, with the valve check only required every 15,000 miles. The 90° V4 uses the same 81mm bore as the GP bike with a longer stroke for improved low-to-mid rev torque, and boasts a counter rotating crank and twin-pulse ignition.
And if that’s not enough, power can be boosted to ready high power of the standard Desmosedici Stradale configuration can be boosted to almost 220bhp with the optional titanium Akrapovic race exhaust.
On almost all road bikes, the crankshaft turns in the same direction as the wheels. But as with MotoGP bikes, the new Panigale V4 gets a counter-rotating crankshaft. Its benefits are in gyroscopic effect and inertia, improving handling and directional agility.
A counter-rotating crankshaft produces inertia-linked torque in the opposite direction, lowering the front of the bike, limiting the bike’s desire to wheelie, and therefore boosting acceleration performance. Similarly, during hard braking/deceleration the crankshaft itself also decelerates, producing an inertial torque that works to help to minimise rear wheel lift.
The 90-degree V layout evens up first order forces naturally without having to resort to a balancing countershaft to eliminate vibration. The V is banked rearward 42°, just like the MotoGP engine, optimising weight distribution, allowing for larger radiators and bringing the swingarm pivot as far forward as possible. A combination of 70° crank pin offset and 90-degree V layout generates what Ducati calls a Twin Pulse firing order because it mimics the firing sequence of a twin-cylinder, with ignition happening at 0°, 90°, 290° and 380°. The Desmosedici Stradale engine takes in air through four oval throttle bodies (52mm diameter equivalent), connected to variable-height velocity stacks for the first time on a Ducati engine, and weighing in at 64.9 kg, it is just 2.2 kg heavier than the 1285cc Superquadro V-twin.
The Panigale V4 introduces controlled drift during braking, ABS Cornering on the front wheel only thanks to a set-up specially designed for track riding and a bi-directional shifter that even takes lean angles into account. All these controls - developed on the track together with official Ducati riders and test riders - are incorporated in the three new Riding Modes (Race, Sport and Street) and can be adjusted via the advanced second-generation TFT dash.
The introduction of the 6D IMU has allowed the Ducati Slide Control (DSC) - developed in conjunction with Ducati Corse - to be added to the Ducati Traction Control EVO (DTC EVO). This new system provides the rider with further support by controlling the torque delivered by the engine as a function of the slide angle, improving corner exit performance.
Like the DTC EVO, the DSC controls torque reduction by acting on the throttle body valves, spark advance decrease and injection cuts.
The DSC has two different settings: switching from level 1 to level 2 results in easier control of slide angles that would otherwise be difficult to handle for mere mortals. DSC intervention levels can be changed by accessing a special menu, in which DTC EVO and DWC EVO values can also be set. It is also possible to set direct DSC control via the direct access buttons on the left-hand switchgear, and the setting is always shown on the display.
The Panigale V4 electronic package includes:
- ABS Cornering Bosch EVO
- Ducati Traction Control EVO (DTC EVO)
- Ducati Slide Control (DSC)
- Ducati Wheelie Control EVO (DWC EVO)
- Ducati Power Launch (DPL)
- Ducati Quick Shift up/down EVO (DQS EVO)
- Engine Brake Control EVO (EBC EVO)
- Ducati Electronic Suspension EVO (DES EVO)
The frame game
To minimise the inevitable weight gain from the extra bank of cylinders, Ducati developed an all-new frame, called the ‘Front Frame’. It's more compact and lighter than a perimeter frame and uses the engine as a stressed chassis element – keeping the kerb weight of the S and Speciale versions down to 195kg – 2.5kg lighter than the new 959 Corse.
Compared to the monocoque design, the Front Frame allows torsional rigidity and lateral rigidity to be kept separate, to better absorb any road surface roughness when cornering.
At just 4 kg, the Front Frame is secured directly to the upper half-crankcase of the front cylinder head and to the V4 rear cylinder head, with the engine also acting as a fixing point for the rear suspension and a fulcrum point for the single-sided swingarm.
Controlling the rise and fall
The Panigale V4 is equipped with a 43mm Showa Big Piston Fork (BPF), fully adjustable for preload, compression and rebound damping. The fork bodies house chrome sliders with Brembo radial caliper mountings. A Sachs steering damper completes the front-end package, while the rear gets a fully adjustable Sachs shock.
The Panigale V4 S and Panigale V4 Speciale are equipped with Öhlins NIX-30 forks, Öhlins TTX36 rear shock and Öhlins steering damper, with electronic semi-active control. The suspension and steering damper are controlled by the second-generation control system, Öhlins Smart EC 2.0, featuring Ducati’s new Objective Based Tuning Interface (OBTi).
The electronic suspension offers the choice between manual mode, allowing compression, rebound, and damping of the steering damper to be manually set via virtual clicks – or you can select the automatic semi-active 'Dynamic' mode. When Dynamic mode is selected, the system automatically adjusts compression and rebound damping in response to the rider's inputs and the road or track surface.
Huge little brakes
The new Panigale V4 range debuts Brembo’s new Stylema monobloc calipers - the latest evolution of the already high-performance M50. Machined from a single piece of alloy, they feature lighter-weight areas in the fixing bushings and in the body, making them 70g lighter each, without compromising on rigidity.
I can see clearly now
The Panigale V4 gets a new 5" full-TFT, high-res and high-brightness colour display, completely redesigned in terms of layout and graphics, including a new virtual circular rev-counter located on the right side.
Two different layouts are available: Track mode focuses attention on the lap time indicator, while Road mode shows Ducati Multimedia System (DMS) information, and highlights engine rpm values typical of road riding. Top speed, selected riding mode, and selected gear do not change position when the layout mode is changed.
This is the most advanced Ducati ever built – a marriage of brutal power, electronics, and minimalism. Could this be the best sportsbike of 2018?
MCN speaks to Stefano Strappazzon, Ducati Panigale V4 project leader
The Ducati Panigale V4 model line-up
Panigale V4, £19,250
- Ducati Red with grey frame and black wheels
- 43 mm Showa Big Piston Forks (BPF), fully adjustable
- Sachs monoshock, fully adjustable
- Sachs steering damper
- Latest-generation electronic package with 6-axis Inertial Measurement Unit (6D IMU): ABS Cornering Bosch EVO; Ducati Traction Control EVO (DTC EVO); Ducati Slide Control (DSC); Ducati Wheelie Control EVO (DWC EVO); Ducati Power Launch (DPL); Ducati Quick Shift up/down EVO (DQS EVO); Engine Brake Control EVO (EBC EVO)
- Riding Modes (Race, Sport, Street)
- 5" full-TFT dashboard
- Braking system with new Brembo Stylema® monobloc calipers
- New Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP tyres, 200/60 at the rear
Panigale V4 S, £23,895
As base model, plus:
- Ducati Red with grey frame and black wheels
- Suspension and steering damper with Öhlins Smart EC 2.0 system
- Öhlins NIX-30 forks
- Öhlins TTX 36 shock absorber
- Öhlins steering damper
- Aluminium forged wheels
- Lithium-ion battery
- Cast Magnesium alloy front sub frame
Panigale V4 Speciale, £34,995
As Panigale V4 S, plus:
- "Speciale" colour scheme with grey frame and black wheels
- Carbon fibre front/rear mudguards
- Machined-from-solid top yoke with identification number
- Alcantara seat
- Dedicated handle grips
- Adjustable foot pegs
- Carbon fibre heel guard
- Carbon fibre cover swinging arm
- Racing articulated levers
- Racing fuel tank cap
- Brake level protection
- Full racing titanium Ducati Performance by Akrapovič exhaust system
- Racing screen
- Plate holder removal kit
- Machined-from solid mirror replacement plugs
- Ducati Data Analyser+ GPS (DDA + GPS)
- Bike cover
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