The R models in Ducati’s range have always been extraordinary, and the 2015 Panigale R continues the tradition. The 1198cc race-bred engine features titanium valves and rods to minimise inertia, while Ducati have worked hard to reduce internal frictional losses, all contributing to a claimed peak power of 202bhp – astonishing for a V-twin. The torque is no less impressive, 100.5ftlb, delivered at a dizzying 10,250rpm. This isn’t an engine that’s been developed with the road in mind. Peak power arrives at 11,500rpm, 1000rpm higher than the 1299 Panigale, which also makes peak torque at a more road-friendly 8750rpm.
The acceleration is brutal, so much so that it upsets your mental rhythms. The engine is immense; it feels like there’s no inertia as it spins up with lightning speed. I’ve never ridden a twin that can rev faster, or that delivers the full force of its hedonism so high in the rev range. If you really want the best from it you’ve got to keep the revs in five figures. The exhaust note from the full titanium Akrapovic system is utterly intoxicating, swathing you in tides of delicious music. If you think you don’t need rider aids, this bike will change your resolve. You need all the help you can get.
The electronics are so good they don’t hinder the bike’s performance, or your fun, there’s no backfiring or spluttering when the traction control kicks in, so why risk offending the animal by slapping away its helping hand?
When everything clicks and you’re on your A-game, it’s breath-taking. It feels so incredibly light, flicking through the tight chicanes with phenomenal ease. It holds its line, has incredibly accurate steering, and will hunt the apex with telepathic clarity. At full lean, or when brushing the brakes deep into the corner, it feels sublime. It delivers corner speeds and lean angles that other bikes can only dream of, and the riding position is fantastic. Wide bars, narrow-waisted tank, and accommodating pegs all conspire to make you feel like part of the bike, and it’ll carry you all the way over to elbow-down angles of lean. The clutchless shift works perfectly too, leaving you free to concentrate on your lines.
The 1198cc Superquadro twin-cylinder engine has a huge bore and an incredibly short stroke, (112mm x 60.8mm). Each twin-ring piston has specially developed crowns. The crank has been balanced and lightened and the rods and valves are titanium with dedicated cam profiles and timing.
Made in conjunction with Akrapovic, the exhaust is obviously street legal – but not exactly quiet! The Panigale R gets a full titanium system with larger pipes than the 1299, while the mufflers are finished with a carbon end cap. The system is an impressive 2.5kg lighter than the old version.
Ducati's nightmare years of build quality and reliability woes are long behind them. The post 2007 bikes are as fault free as any other major manufacturer, and with a solid dealer network and swift factory support, problems are very few and far between. That's no reason to skimp on servicing and maintenance though.
Despite the race bike performance, the service intervals are exactly the same as any normal Ducati, while the exclusivity of the firm’s R models will always mean they command a premium on the used market.
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The list of rider aids is huge and exactly what you’d expect from a range-topping superbike. EBC (Engine Brake Control), DQS (Ducati Quick-Shift and auto-blipper), DWC (Ducati Wheelie Control), DTC (Ducati Traction Control) with IMU (Internal Measurement Unit) and cornering ABS. The IMU is the multi-axial brain that ties all of these systems together and works with the Bosch braking systems to give a level of control and safety we could only have dreamt of five years ago. The R features new handlebar controls with a thumb and finger paddle to make accessing the menu easier. .