MCN overall review verdict: After years of stunning V-twin sportsbikes, Ducati pulled off a masterstroke giving their top-of-the-range superbike a V4. It’s genius – the perfect way to move on a V-twin concept that had reached the end of its development path while still allowing the bike the soul it needs.
Watch: 2019 Superbike Shootout featuring BMW S1000RR vs Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory vs Ducati V4S Corse
There is no doubting that this is a step forward from Bologna and they’ve made the most desirable sportsbike on the planet, with amazing, light handling, superb power delivery and the kind of top-end rush that skews your senses and tests your sheer ability to hold on. It’s the real deal.
The launch report
With 211bhp, a new MotoGP-style frame and some of the most advanced electronics in the world, Ducati’s V4 Panigale replaced the 1299 Panigale in Ducati’s superbike line-up and forms the basis of their 2019 WSB challenger.
The bike is simply astounding. Ducati said at its launch that it was the fastest, most powerful production bike that the world had ever seen and after that first session we had no reason to doubt them.
The engine makes power in the kind of glorious, linear way that makes it easy to exploit, but once it gets revving it simply takes your breath away. It’s got loads of soul and goes through gears so fast it blows your mind. Despite being a V4 it still sounds and feels like a Ducati but it’s all we can do to hold on!
The chassis is impressive too. Just like their MotoGP bike, Ducati have given the V4 a reverse-rotating crank, which means that it rotates in the opposite way to the wheels to counteract their gyroscopic forces. It means the bike is nimble and easy to steer.
The electronics are some of the most advanced on the planet and on the conservative settings we’re running at the moment, allow you open the throttle with impunity, but without ever feeling like you’re being restricted. It's a great bike for all levels of trackday riders, but pretty civilised on the road as well.
There is so much to learn with a huge amount of different settings, modes and electronic interventions, but it’s pretty obvious that the mechanical side of things is bang-on. It’s proper.
So proper, in fact, that it was given the opportunity to take on superbike royalty in the shape of the RSV4 1100 Factory and BMW S1000RR in our 2019 Superbike Shootout.
How fast is a Ducati Panigale V4 S?
The two-mile runway at a cold and damp Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground was the location for MCN’s speed test – and the V4 didn’t disappoint here either. MCN speed tester Bruce Dunn used a 2D datalogging setup and hit the limiter in top gear, recording a GPS-verified 191.3mph. So that also makes the Panigale V4 S the fastest production sportsbike we’ve ever tested as well.
Not only does this top speed indicate there is no speed restrictor within the Ducati’s electronics (the speedo stopped reading at 186mph as per the 1299), it also hints at more to come. Bruce said the Panigale was still accelerating when the limiter chimed in, meaning it can certainly take higher gearing and therefore probably crack 200mph.
"The V4 is astoundingly quick," Bruce said. "It accelerates so fast that you can’t feed it gears quickly enough - it just eats one up and instantly demands another. I’ve not ridden a production sportsbike that is so fast to accelerate. It’s also totally stable at speed, without a hint of weave, which is amazing.
"You can feel the counter-rotating engine’s presence as the V4 is far less wheelie-prone than the V-twin, making it accelerate very quickly from a standing start once you get the clutch out."
However, Bruce did add that the bike’s 0-60mph run was hampered by a grabby clutch – some things never change!