Today marks the end of the V-Twin superbike era, with Ducati announcing its 2018 Panigale will run a counter-rotating 90-degree V4 engine. Fear not, though, the Panigale V4 is the most powerful bike ever in the superbike class, with a head-spinning list of electronic rider aids.
Ducati's Panigale L-twin superbike has brought the company great success, coming second and fourth in this year's World Superbike championship, and remaining the motorcycle of choice for rap video producers unable to budget for a Lamborghini.
And now, at EICMA, Ducati has announced a complete overhaul for 2018, with an all-new, 1103cc, 90-degree Desmosedici Stradale V4 engine reminiscent of the one that's consistently topped the straight-line acceleration charts in MotoGP for the last 10 years or so. And it's the new horsepower king of the superbike showroom.
Ducati Panigale V4 Desmosedici Stradale engine
The addition of an extra two cylinders has a small weight penalty attached; the new motor is 2.2 kg (4.9 lb) heavier than the outgoing 1,285 cc twin, and the curb weight bike itself ends up being 5.5 kilos (11 lb) heavier. Not to worry, there's a significant horsepower injection to go along with it, boosting the peak power to a huge 214 horses, or an even crazier 226 hp if you fit a full titanium exhaust. Either figure would put Ducati right at the top of the class. These numbers are ludicrous.
The Desmosedici Stradale V4 revs to 14,000 rpm, and has a sky-high compression ratio of 14:1. One key feature, as on the MotoGP bike, is the counter-rotating crank, which spins in the opposite direction to the wheels. This is all about canceling out some of the wheels' gyroscopic inertia at high speeds, and should help make the bike easier to turn in fast corners. It'll also help keep the nose of the bike down under acceleration.
It should sound like the famous Desmosedici MotoGP engine, with ignition points at 0, 90, 290 and 380 degrees forming a twin-pulse firing order that sort of mimics a v-twin, in that, in theory, there's two decent gaps in the power delivery allowing the tire to recover a bit between pulses.
Naturally, given the high revving nature of the motor, the valves are opened and closed using Ducati's desmodromic system, which mechanically opens and closes them rather than relying on springs, which struggle to rebound quickly enough at high speeds. With four cylinders instead of two, the desmo system here is miniaturized.
And of course, given the constraints of Euro IV emissions regulations, the whole thing's ride-by-wire, with variable length intakes to help maximize low-end grunt and top-end power.
On a practical note, service intervals are pretty impressive: 12,000 km for a minor service, 24,000 for a major (7500/15000 miles).
Like the previous Panigale, the V4 is designed to use the engine as a key part of the frame. In this case, a new "front frame" bolts onto the front and rear cylinder heads, and the swingarm mounts off the back of the engine casing.
Suspension is Showa Big Piston Forks, with a Sachs shock and steering damper on the standard model. The S and Speciale models get Ohlins gear at both ends, with a new Objective Based Tuning Interface giving these models a semi-active suspension setup.
Brakes are the new Brembo Stylema monoblocs – the latest evolution of the M50 calipers, some 70 grams lighter per side. They should be ferocious.
With a full Bosch 6-axis IMU, the Panigale V4 gets a ton of electronic rider aids. Here's a quick breakdown:
- ABS Cornering Bosch Evo: a 3-level lean angle-sensitive system, in which 2 of the 3 levels let you back the bike into a corner.
- Ducati Traction Control EVO: multi-level lean angle-sensitive traction control system, which again has track focused settings called "spin on demand" allowing advanced riders to slide the back end out and tighten corner exits. The system's intervention is said to be extremely smooth.
- Ducati Slide Control EVO: multi-level system allows you to determine just how far out of line you're happy for the wheels to get under acceleration.
- Ducati Wheelie Control EVO: helps maintain maximum acceleration without the front wheel lifting too much.
- Ducati Power Launch: three-level launch control system for super-fast starts.
- Ducati Quick Shift up/down EVO: bidirectional quick shifter that interfaces with the ECU to control engine speed when upshifting and downshifting. Auto-blips for the win.
- Engine Brake Control EVO: stops the rear wheel from breaking traction under engine braking by feeding it a touch of throttle if necessary.
- Ducati Electronic Suspension EVO: only available on the S and Speciale versions, this offers the choice between a traditional fixed suspension setup that you can adjust through the electronic dash, and an active system that dynamically adjusts compression and rebound damping depending on road conditions, riding style and other parameters. The Ohlins Smart EC 2.0 system lets riders adjust how the active suspension responds to individual events like braking, acceleration and cornering to suit individual tastes. That'll be fun to play with.
- Riding modes: Race, Sport and Street modes change the throttle mapping and response, as well as the other riding aids above and even suspension modes on the S and Speciale versions.
- TFT dash: the 5-inch, high res, full colour dash changes completely in different riding modes, and handles regular dash duties as well as the giant pile of electronics settings you can play with. There's also an advanced lap timer system.
- Ducati Multimedia System: as an optional extra, you can fit the Panigale with a Bluetooth multimedia system that connects to your phone and your helmet comms system to let you filter phone calls, read SMS notifications on your dash, and scroll through music on your phone.
- Ducati Data Analyzer + GPS: again optional, this is a full track telemetry system allowing you to track, download and analyze data from racetrack sessions.
Ducati Panigale V4 S model
The S model gets the active Ohlins suspension and steering damper, as well as lightweight forged aluminum wheels and a featherweight lithium battery.
Ducati Panigale V4 Speciale model
The Speciale model gets everything the S model gets, plus carbon mudguards, a fancy top triple clamp, Alcantara-trimmed seat, adjustable footpads, and a bunch of other sparkly farkles.
It also comes with the full titanium exhaust system to unlock that 226 horsepower figure, a race screen, license plate removal kit, machined mirror plugs, the Ducati Data Analyzer system, a bike cover and a racing cap for the fuel tank.
Check out the video below, this thing sounds like pure anger.
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