Ducati's latest street-legal superbike makes more than 240 horsepower
Yank Ducati's new Panigale V4 R out of its crate, replace the purely ornamental standard exhaust with a titanium Akrapovic race pipe and fill it up with a fancy "performance oil" from Shell, and you're sitting on a machine capable of 240.5 horsepower.
Already one of the most powerful production motorcycles in all of Christendom, the Panigale ascends to new heights of lunacy in its latest and greatest incarnation. In standard form, fully street-legal and ready to pass any pesky Euro 5 emissions tests you may run into on the way to the shops, its 998cc Desmosedici Stradale R V4 engine peaks at 218 horses and revs to a crazed 16,500 rpm.
I have a zippy little car that makes a hair over half that power. It weighs 8.3 times as much as the Ducati and it can carry five people plus luggage. The comparison is irrelevant, but I throw it in because it boggles my mind. I've ridden several bikes that beat the 200-horsepower mark, it's never been anything short of a religious moment finding full throttle at high revs on those things, and the thought of 240 makes me feel clammy, breathless and a little strung-out. These are wild times, and the motorcycle world maintains its capacity to shock me with its lurid excesses. Viva Ducati!
In order to boost the power and rev limit that high, Ducati has gone to "gun drilled" titanium rods, with internal lubrication channels, as well as piston skirts coated in diamond-like carbon surface treatment – just like the MotoGP and Formula 1 engines use. The pistons themselves have somehow shed five grams (0.17 oz), or a full 2% from the previous featherweight designs. The intake cams lift 1 mm (0.039 in) higher, the variable-length intake trumpets are now 5 mm (0.19 in) shorter in their lowest, high-horsepower configuration, and the gear ratios have been lengthened in the first few gears to match what the World Superbike team is running.
It's got a newly-designed dry clutch, 800 grams (28 oz) lighter, 24 mm (0.9 in) smaller in diameter and, as always, ready for riders to play extravagant tambourine solos on at the traffic lights. Most of the electronics are new, adapted from the 22/23-model Panigale V4; you now get four different "engine strategies" with engine maps and engine braking levels assignable for each gear. Low Power mode for rain and gravel riding now makes 160 horses, or basically about as much as the legendary K5 GSX-R1000 made flat-out.
The suspension is by Ohlins, naturally enough, with an NPX25/30 pressurized fork that travels 5 mm further than its predecessor and a TTX36 shock – both non-electronic, mechanically adjustable items for expert racers rather than hand-holdy, luxury electronic systems. The wheels are lightweight magnesium jobs, and the adjustable swingarm pivot sits a little higher in its standard position – all of which should make this thing a little quicker to steer, says Ducati, as if the previous version wasn't built entirely from dreams and unicorn tears.
There's more – there's always more – but if you've read this far, you've earned the right to have the details teased out in subtitled Italian, and we invite you to enjoy the relatively brief launch video below. To summarize, the new Panigale V4 R is a very fast, very sexy motor bicycle, probably the most outrageous machine in the superbike class – again – and we look forward to the next version that's surely cooking in the back rooms at Borgo Panigale, which will surface within six months and somehow make this greyhound look like a pig.