DUCATI PANIGALE V4S (2020 - on) Review

Highlights

  • Beautiful, classic Ducati styling
  • MotoGP tech, including wings
  • One of the best everyday superbikes

At a glance

Power: 211 bhp
Seat height: Medium (32.9 in / 835 mm)
Weight: Medium (430 lbs / 195 kg)

Prices

New £24,795
Used £23,000 - £24,800

Overall rating

Next up: Ride & brakes
5 out of 5 (5/5)

MCN’s 2018 Sportsbike of the Year, the Ducati Panigale V4S, 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 V4R 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.

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.

Superbike group test video: Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP vs BMW S1000RR M vs Ducati Panigale V4S

Ride quality & brakes

Next up: Engine
5 out of 5 (5/5)

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 V4R, which has more material machined out compared with the 2018 Panigale V4S 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 V4R 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.

Engine

Next up: Reliability
4 out of 5 (4/5)

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.

Reliability & build quality

Next up: Value
3 out of 5 (3/5)

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.

Value vs rivals

Next up: Equipment
3 out of 5 (3/5)

Panigale ownership doesn’t come cheap: it’s in the top insurance bracket, guzzles fuel at no better than 35mpg and standard-fit tyres are £300 a pair. The good news is servicing is simpler than Ducatis of old: once a year or 7500 miles it will require a minor service – oil, filters, software updates and a once-over. Belts and short valve check intervals are a thing of the past.

The Verdict: Ducati Panigale V4 S vs BMW S1000RR vs Honda Fireblade SP

Ducati Panigale V4S 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.

Equipment

4 out of 5 (4/5)

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.

New for this year is an optional STM dry slipper clutch, as found on the 1000cc, £35,000 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.

Specs

Engine size 1103cc
Engine type Liquid-cooled, DOHC 16v 90-degree V4
Frame type Aluminium alloy front-frame
Fuel capacity 16 litres
Seat height 835mm
Bike weight 195kg
Front suspension Preload, compression and rebound damping (electronic fixed/semi-active)
Rear suspension Preload, compression and rebound damping (electronic fixed/semi-active)
Front brake 2x 330mm discs, Brembo Stylema four-piston radial calipers
Rear brake 245mm disc, Brembo opposed piston caliper
Front tyre size 120/70 x 17
Rear tyre size 200/60 x 17

Mpg, costs & insurance

Average fuel consumption -
Annual road tax £93
Annual service cost -
New price £24,795
Used price £23,000 - £24,800
Insurance group 17 of 17
How much to insure?
Warranty term Two years

Top speed & performance

Max power 211 bhp
Max torque 91.5 ft-lb
Top speed -
1/4 mile acceleration -
Tank range -

Model history & versions

Model history

2017: Panigale V4 New model – MotoGP derived engine, new chassis, suspension, styling, brakes. Ducati’s first non V-Twin flagship since the 1970s, and spectacular, if challenging to do justice, and more than a little intimidating…

Other versions

Panigale V4: Same engine and frame, but uses cheaper Sachs/Showa suspension and cast alloy wheels to lower the price. Lacks the bling, but actually makes more sense for track use, as you’ll want to fit dedicated track suspension with fixed settings rather than the semi-active Öhlins suspension, which makes more sense on the road.

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.

MCN Long term test reports

Ducati Panigale V4 S: 8467 miles of V4 heaven

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

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