Ducati Panigale V4 S (2020-on) review
- Refined electronics help tame the beast
- Beautifully built and finished
- Unashamed trackday bike with lights
At a glance
Overall ratingNext up: Ride & brakes
The 2020 Ducati Panigale V4 S is a stunner – if you have the minerals for it. Over 200bhp and race-derived design created a hugely fast bike that can intimidate anyone short of a MotoGP test rider when you push it hard.
With the Panigale V4 R established as a front-running WSB contender (and BSB champion), Ducati have a lot of experience with their new-age four cylinder superbike, and they’ve learnt how to get a grip on that fearsome performance.
Moreover, the 2020 update isn’t just about giving elbow-dragging racers reduced lap times – Ducati say the lesser your track riding experience and ability, the more beneficial the changes.
The Panigale V4 2.0 was launched on Bahrain’s F1 circuit – which sounds glitzy (and it is), but the circuit is decidedly designed for cars, and has some fiendishly technical corners and complexes. Not the place for violent power or instability.
Watch: 2020 Ducati Panigale V4S video review
Thankfully, Ducati’s promise is delivered upon – rather than leaping toward the outside kerb, all the weight on the rear and the front doing as it pleases, as was the old bike’s habit in certain circumstances, it picks up more smoothly, and with less aggression.
We're currently on the launch of the 2020 @DucatiUK Panigale V4S. Using the aero design of the V4R, the second generation S gets a new fairing and wings, plus revised suspension for more accessible performance.— Motor Cycle News (@MCNnews) January 21, 2020
Why not refresh your memory here: https://t.co/BW7b4Rcotr pic.twitter.com/dmFhaYRwcZ
As a result, you can ride the bike harder – more throttle, more exit speed, which you carry along the next straight. The new traction control algorithms catch spin earlier when it exceeds an acceptable level, so it doesn’t have to cut as much, too.
It makes for a smoother intervention you can learn to really play with and if you have the stones and judgement for it, it’ll happily spin up through the mid gears with a little lean and opposite lock on, with the computer exercising that final bit of subtle control. Stunning.
When you get to a corner, the suspension and geometry refinements make it even easier to hit your apex. Switch the ABS to Race Mode (controlling the front tyre only), and it’ll only intervene if you’ve really botched it. The Stylema calipers are still a benchmark – the only limit is your ability to brace and not slide forward, out of the seat and over the nose.
Do the wings help? Maybe. It’s more stable at speed, but it still weaves in the right circumstances. With the scope of the changes across the bike, it’s impossible to single them out as a definite contributor to the newfound manners.
What is noticeable is the reduced heat – more vents in the fairing duct heat away from the rider, and when the bike is at idle in traffic, the rear cylinder bank stops firing, and generating heat right underneath your most precious assets. It’s still toasty, but not unbearable as it was before.
The only criticism is that while it is undoubtedly more effective and safer for most people, if you’re expecting a real firebrand, it’s lost a bit of the wild edge the previous bike had.
Ducati Panigale V4 S updated for 2021
For 2021 Ducati have refined the Panigale’s electronics even further, as well as a Euro5 exhaust and mapping upgrades, but it still makes the same monstrous power and is just as light. Traction control tweaks and the addition of extra race riding modes are aimed squarely at the trackday rider in a bid to make controlling this fiery superbike that bit easier.
Little has changed for the road rider, though apart from peak torque shifted down in the revs slightly, but it’s hard to detect on what was already a phenomenally quick motorcycle. It’ll still demands commitment to get the best out of, but that’s exactly what makes this drop-dead gorgeous motorcycle so special.
Once you've read this review and our owners' reviews, why not consider joining an online community to meet likeminded people? There's a great one at Ducati Owners' Club GB.
— Motor Cycle News (@MCNnews) January 21, 2020
Ride quality & brakesNext up: Engine
With a crankshaft rotating ‘backwards’, in the opposite direction to the wheels, rotational inertia is balanced more than a regular motorcycle, so despite relatively long and slack chassis geometry, the Panigale is quick to turn.
The V4S receives the same ‘front frame’ as the V4 R, which has more material machined out compared with the 2018 Panigale V4 S to introduce a little more flex and reduce stress on the tyres, as well as improve the Panigale’s already excellent front end feel.
Geometry is changed with a longer shock, shorter links and forks pushed 4mm further through the yokes to raise the centre of gravity (for increased agility) and ramp up the anti-squat effect the driving force has on the rear end (effectively extending the rear shock and pushing the nose in to the floor) to aid stability, too.
The 5mm raise in centre of gravity is reflected in the seat height, too, which is now 835mm.
In addition, the front fairing and screen is wider and taller, and of course, it joins the Aero Club with a set of carbon-fibre foils to generate downforce. These new touches were designed for the Panigale V4 R by Ducati Corse, and have filtered down to extend the benefits in rider protection and stability/anti-wheelie tendencies.
The Öhlins ERS suspension has new settings, but the same physical components – no spring-pressurised NPX forks, as per the 2020 Yamaha R1M, yet. The springs are lighter item but with more preload wound on, which Ducati claim improves the fork dive characteristics and make the turn-in characteristics more intuitive.
The improvement is small but worthwhile – there’s less tendency to 'pump' hard on the power, the bike holds a line better and it’s still super agile.
Update in 2021
Ducati haven’t messed with the Panigale’s ergonomics for its 2021 update, which is great news for trackday riders. Of all its rivals it’s laid out the most like a modern racing bike with lots of legroom, widely splayed and low-set clip-ons.
It gives you the room to clamber over it in the corners and get your weight over the front as you kiss your elbow on the apex kerb …probably. For the road the riding position and the hard seat that lets you feel for grip is a compromise – fine for short blasts, but over distance, especially with no cruise control, it tortures your wrists and backside.
EngineNext up: Reliability
The 1103cc Desmosedici Stradale motor, with it distinguishing backward-rotating crankshaft and 90° V-twin-aping firing order has more than enough power and torque – 200bhp, and 87ftlb on MCN’s regular dyno.
Wisely, they’ve not added any more. What it did lack was user friendliness when you tried to use all (or most) of it, especially compared with the Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory – similar on paper, but so much less aggressive you’d almost call it benign. That makes it less intimidating, but also faster.
The 2020 model has new ride-by-wire throttle maps, which (according to Ducati) make the relationship between twistgrip opening and torque delivery more direct and predictable in the track-specific user modes.
They also claim the delivery of that Latin firepower has been made more linear in the first three gears. Quickshifter settings have been adopted from the V4R, with reduced upshift times for quicker, smoother changes, especially over 10,000rpm.
All of which is apparent when you ride it – first to third are way more manageable, then the Desmo V4 really flies if you’ve the space to keep it pinned in to sixth - to 185mph, when the speedo goes blank but the revs keep creeping up…
Ducati laid on a second test bike fitted with an Akrapovic full system, which is claimed to increase power by 10bhp, and it’s obvious the bike has a fatter midrange too.
But it soon exhibited old trait of unwanted, drive-sapping wheelies and a greater tendency to weave or run wide. It underlines the sense in softening the Panigale V4’s mid and off-corner power.
If you have big feet, be aware the quickshifter is sensitive and will cut the bike if you accidentally nudge it, without shifting, and you’ll headbutt the screen. Some work is still needed there to remove that glitch.
Ducati Panigale V4 S engine revised for 2021
For 2021 the Panigale (and Streetfighter) V4 range gets new Euro5 friendly mapping and exhausts. The catalysts inside the silencer are 10mm longer and there are now four lambda sensors – one for each cylinder.
But the big change is the rear exhaust manifold: 100mm shorter with smaller diameter pipes - down from 42mm to 38mm. Peak power remains at a claimed 211bhp@13,000rpm and torque at 91.5lb-ft, but delivered 500rpm further down the revs at 9500rpm. On paper the V4 is now more flexible, but in the real world the Ducati is so searingly quick it’s hard to notice the difference.
With over 200bhp from its MotoGP derived V4 the 1103cc Panigale V4 still has more power than all but the most talented could extract on the track, let alone the road, but Ducati have somehow made it docile at normal speeds with flawless fuelling, although it needs a fair bit of clutch slip at very low speeds for smooth getaways.
We managed 37mpg – 5mpg better than the Streetfighter V4 S, thanks to superior aerodynamics.
For those of us without the throttle control of a superstar racer, the 2020 model’s second evolution traction control significantly calmed the stiff and powerful Panigale V4’s natural tendency to tie itself in knots out of corners.
It’s this wild behaviour that’s always made its rivals easier to ride quickly for normal riders. For 2021 the electronics are refined further with Ducati’s new ‘EVO 3’ system and operates in the least intrusive track TC settings (1 to 4) and level 7 (wets in the rain). That’s good news for those who want to emulate Redding or Miller on a trackday.
With so much grip from the Pirelli Super Corsa SPs and unflinching chassis composure you’ll never feel the new TC do its thing on the road unless you’re doing something very wrong.
Street, Sport and Race riding modes still have pre-set and customisable power levels and settings for traction, wheelie, engine braking, suspension and ABS control. For 2021 there are two Race modes: A and B.
‘A’ is the full fat option with direct power, minimum TC/wheelie/ABS intrusion and more controlled suspension for when you’ve got fresh tyres, a nice smooth and grippy racetrack to play with and three Shredded Wheat inside you.
‘B’ is still fruity, but perfect for gnarly UK tracks on worn rubber with tempered power in the first three gears, softened suspension and ramped-up rider aids.
Reliability & build qualityNext up: Value
The first two years of the Panigale V4 production have proven fit and finish is generally good: paint and metal finishes hold up well, though the underbelly exhaust discolours and isn’t easy to keep clean.
But the first iteration was recalled no less than five times: fuel leaks, brake issues and oil leaks were the main problems. Some were precautionary, though a handful of bikes have been documented catching fire in hot climates. Fingers crossed these are first generation teething issues, and Ducati is likely to have quietly addressed such gripes underneath, but it’s still a very similar bike to the originals.
We've yet to have any 2020 Ducati Panigale V4 S owners' reviews filed, but the 2018 bike scored incredibly well indeed, with the only blot in its copy book being relatively expensive servicing.
Value vs rivalsNext up: Equipment
There’s no escaping the fact this is a very expensive machine, but you get a whole lot of performance, technology and luxurious build quality for your money.
If your pockets are deep enough and you really fancy the idea of a soul-stirring, blood red Italian superbike you won’t be disappointed. Servicing is every 7500 miles, which is better than Ducatis of old and when you compare the Panigale V4 S to a similarly priced Kawasaki ZX-10RR it seems like the bargain of the century.
The Verdict: Ducati Panigale V4 S vs BMW S1000RR vs Honda Fireblade SP
Costing over a grand more than the already pricey expensive Honda Fireblade SP, the Panigale V4 S is even more the superbike for the fortunate few, but you can see where your money goes, with its perfect paint finishes, swathes of machined aluminium and juicy design touches.
Then there’s the tech - it sees Blade’s HRC bells and whistles and raises them with a counter rotating crank, single sided swingarm and colour dash that’s less PlayStation and more Swiss watch.
The new Panigale V4 S is more refined than before - fast and achingly beautiful, but it’s still a track bike that tolerates life on the road, rather than thrives on it. The Yamaha R1, Suzuki GSX-R1000 or Kawasaki ZX-10R are all probably better road bikes.
They are certainly more practical…. If a 1000ccc sportsbike can ever be called practical. And the BMW S1000RR is also an easier road bike, while still offering enough to tackle trackday action at the sharp end.
A class-leading electronics package, latest-generation Öhlins electronic suspension, forged alloy Marchesinis with superb Pirelli Supercorsa SPs as standard are well up to managing the power of the MotoGP-derived V4.
Critics point out the BMW S1000RR offers carbon wheels, heated grips and cruise control for £5000 less: all true, though they’re similar on all-up weight, and who buys a Panigale to ride in winter? It lacks nothing as far as performance goes, but you’re not buying an all-rounder.
There’s an optional STM dry slipper clutch, as found on the 1000cc Panigale V4R. Given the standard slipper clutch is superb (stabbing it back to second from the top of sixth as fast as I dared didn’t upset it), the dry option seems needless, especially with the downshifter/upshifter largely making the left-hand lever redundant.
|Engine type||Liquid-cooled, DOHC 16v 90-degree V4|
|Frame type||Aluminium ‘front frame’. Engine stressed member|
|Fuel capacity||16 litres|
|Front suspension||Öhlins NIX 43mm forks. Semi active damping, mechanically adjustable preload|
|Rear suspension||Öhlins TTX36 shock. Semi active damping, mechanically adjustable preload|
|Front brake||2 x 330mm front discs with four-piston Brembo Stylema monobloc radial calipers. Cornering ABS|
|Rear brake||245mm rear disc with twin piston caliper. Cornering ABS|
|Front tyre size||120/70 x 17|
|Rear tyre size||200/60 x 17|
Mpg, costs & insurance
|Average fuel consumption||-|
|Annual road tax||£96|
|Annual service cost||-|
17 of 17
How much to insure?
|Warranty term||Two years|
Top speed & performance
|Max power||205 bhp|
|Max torque||90 ft-lb|
|Top speed||175 mph|
|1/4 mile acceleration||-|
|Tank range||130 miles|
Model history & versions
- 2018 – Ducati Panigale V4 S introduced. MotoGP derived engine, partial ali beam frame, new suspension, styling and Stylema Brembos. Ducati’s first non-V-twin flagship since the 1970s.
- 2020 – Updated with the styling, wings and flexier frame from the V4 R. Changes to the mapping, rider aids and suspension to make it easier to ride fast on track.
- 2021 – Updated with Euro 5 exhaust and mapping tweaks, new traction control and extra Race riding modes.
- Panigale V4: Five grand cheaper base model Panigale V4 does without electronic Ohlins and forged Marchesini wheels, but otherwise has identical power, brakes, wings and electronics to the S.
- Panigale V4R: WSB-homologation bike with 999cc engine, unique suspension and a £35,000 price tag. Largely irrelevant unless you’re racing or a rich collector. Lovely though.
- Panigale V4 S 25 Degrees Anniversario 916: Special edition limited to 500 bikes. Features many parts from the V4 R and a £37k price tag.
MCN Long term test reports
Ducati Panigale V4 S: 8467 miles of V4 heaven
Update 9: Ducati V4 S - 8467 miles of V4 heaven Published 9 January 2019 A look back on my year with Ducati's stunner: 626 miles Friday 20th April: collect my V4 S from Ducati UK, Silverstone. Scoot around the corner to the paddock to show to my brother, who’s there with Bemsee. Being one of the fir…
Owners' reviews for the DUCATI PANIGALE V4S (2020 - on)
No owners have yet reviewed the DUCATI PANIGALE V4S (2020 - on).