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The most influential bikes of the last decade: Ducati Panigale V4

As part of MCN Compare’s countdown of the most influential bikes of the last decade, this week we chose to look at this year’s Ducati Panigale V4.

While the Ducati Panigale V4 is unlikely to have a gigantic influence on the motorcycle world as a whole, the impact that launching a V4 sportsbike has had on Ducati as a company is enormous as it signifies the firm turning its back on nearly 50 years of V-twin sporting heritage.

Ducati and V-twins have been a winning combination on track since the 1969 750GT and 500GP race bikes, however it is in recent times that the firm’s sporting twins have really hit the headlines. The Bologna-based manufacturer’s utter domination of the World Superbike series, where they have won a staggering 14 rider’s titles, 17 constructor’s titles and a mind-blowing 341 race wins to date, has elevated their status within the motorcycle world to one similar to Ferrari in the car scene. And this prestige allows them to charge a premium for their vehicles. However by turning their back on the V-twin engine, whose sound, feel and performance is so intrinsically linked with Ducati and its passionate fan base, the firm has taken an enormous gamble. But it was one they simply couldn’t afford not to take.

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To put it bluntly, in sporting terms the V-twin had reached the end of its life. Ducati have long been given dispensation to run extra capacity to allow them to match the more powerful inline four engines that their rivals run, but with the Panigale now up to 1200cc, a ceiling had been reached. A fact clearly demonstrated in recent seasons where even Chaz Davies’ super-human efforts on the Panigale can’t match the Kawasaki ZX-10R.

Why can’t the V-twin be pushed any further?  

 

On track power is key and the way to make power is through revs. In an inline four this is relatively easy as you have small pistons, so mechanical stress is reduced, but in a V-twin you have two massive pistons. To reduce the internal stress, you can increase the diameter of the pistons and reduce their stroke, which gets more air/fuel into the motor and reduces the pistons’ speed, but there are limits to just how far you can go – especially when you can’t use exotic materials as the motor has to be mass produced. And then there are environmental restraints.

With emissions and engine noise laws becoming even more stringent for road bikes, Ducati’s performance V-twin format was starting to become an issue. The noisy dry clutch went with the 1199 Panigale in 2012, but Euro4 required ever more bulky catalytic converters and on a sportsbike where power and weight is key, not to mention styling, this was another issue. Add to this the fact V-twins are tricky to fuel at the best of times and meeting emissions laws often results in a lean fuel map, and therefore aggressive throttle response, not to mention owners’ expectations of high service intervals and again to reiterate, the V-twin had run its course as a top-end sportsbike motor. Luckily Ducati had been working on a replacement – the Desmosedici.

In prototype MotoGP racing, where Ducati’s engineers could start with a blank sheet of paper rather than be bound by road bike heritage, the future of Ducati’s road sportsbikes was being developed. Still a 90-degree format, but now a V4 and based on the MotoGP motor, Ducati have been very clever to ensure that the Desmosedici Stradale engine that powers their new generation of road sportsbikes both sounds and feels like a traditional Ducati V-twin. The ‘Twin Pulse’ firing order mimics the twin’s lazy drone and delivers smooth drive, just like a twin. In essence they have engineered the ultimate V-twin, a motor that can rev like an inline four but deliver torque like a twin – it just happens to be a V4…

Whether or not the V4 will capture rider’s imaginations in the same way the V-twin engine has is yet to be seen and there are certainly a fair few worried people within the Bologna factory. However if the Panigale V4 enjoys some WSB success (the V-twin Panigale is the only V-twin Ducati to never win a WSB title), it will go a long way to persuading riders that while V-twins are enshrined in Ducati’s history, the V4 will shape its future…

Interested in owning your own V4? Why not compare insurance quotes now? The average premium costs £2643 per year. The price calculated from average quote premium for base models, based on an average MCN Compare customer.

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