Goodbye V-twin Ducati superbike era—the 2018 Ducati Panigale V4 has arrived. Ducati has created a monstrous powerplant that somehow sounds and feels like a V-twin down low, but when cranked past 10,000 rpm it has the feel of something new—something that power-hungry motorcycle junkies will continue to crave.
After spending five sessions on the 2018 Ducati Panigale V4 S—the upgraded model with Öhlins electronic suspension and forged Marchesini wheels—at Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia, we have these essential facts for you.
1. The 1103cc Stradale V4 produces a 214 horsepower at 13,000 rpm, and 96 ft/lbs of torque at 10,000 rpm—all in the sexiest mechanical voice ever. The powerplant, up 17 horsepower over the race-focused 1299 Panigale—though down 15 ft/lbs of torque—revs extremely quickly to the 14,500 redline. The motor required 110 percent focus as I topped out fifth gear on the Valencia’s front straight at just over 170 mph.
2. The sweet spot on the racetrack is from 8,000 to 12,000 rpm. The torque is immediately available when exiting a corner, or adding some speed on Valencia’s long sweeping left before the front stretch. Although that’s the sweet spot, torque is available throughout the power range, which will make the Panigale V4 an optimal street bike.
3. The engine arrives with a Twin Pulse ignition that replicates the firing order of a V-twin. This provided a feel, and sound, similar to the 1299 twin at lower rpm. However, when the motor gets above 10,000 rpm, it is something completely new. Ducati also used a Twin Pulse ignition on the highly collectable (only 1,500 produced!) Desmosedici RR from a decade ago, which happens to share the Panigale V4’s 81mm bore. To get the V-twin feel, the two left-hand cylinders fire close together, as do the two right-hand cylinders—a 0°, 90°, 290° and 360° firing order.
4. The 2018 Ducati Panigale V4, which is naturally balanced due to its 90-degree design (no balance shaft needed), has a counter-rotating crankshaft that reduces the gyroscopic effect. This assists in quicker turn-in and side-to-side transitions. It also reduces wheelies and rear lift under hard acceleration and braking. This is a major reason why the Panigale V4’s handling feels like a 600 supersport with massive power.
5. Due to revised fueling system, the Ducati Panigale V4 has extremely responsive and smooth throttle response. There was never a lag when pinning the V4 when exiting corners, or finely modulating corner speed at full lean.
6. The Panigale V4’s Evo electronic suite is improved tremendously over the 1299, especially in regards to traction control, Bosch cornering ABS, and wheelie control. While in Race mode (others are Sport and Street), I relied on traction control of 2 of 7, ABS on setting 1 of 3, and wheelie control of 2 of 7. Wheelie control on 1 still allowed for massive wheelies, and requires fine throttle control. I’m no Chaz Davies, so I stuck with 2. When combined with traction control, this allowed me to twist the throttle wide open while driving out of corners at serious lean. It’s downright magical.
We got to ride with this guy – Ducati Official Test Rider Alessandro Valia
7. Other electronics include Ducati’s Engine Brake Control, plus a quickshifter for clutchless up and downshifts. With the EBC on 1, there was a noticeable difference in slowing when getting off the throttle. As for the quickshifter, I used the clutch to pull out of the pits and that was it; the system performed flawlessly and I never had one botched shift. Ducati also includes a Power Launch system for quick starts.
8. The newest edition in Ducati electronics is Slide Control, which helps slide the back tire when backing it in. This is not typically my riding style, but I gave it a go a few times. When ABS is on level 2, you basically just smash the rear brake ahead of initiating a corner. The electronics, run by a six-axis IMU, slow the rear wheel down just enough to cause a controlled slide. Fun, but of no use to me—though it can surely make for some rad photos.
9. I tested a Panigale V4 S model, which is upgraded over the base model with Ducati Electronic Suspension Evo. It features the same Öhlins suspension found on the 1299 S, but in version Smart EC 2.0. An associate asked me about the suspension after our second session, and I realized I didn’t even think about it. That tells you how refined the system is in the Dynamic setting, which electronically adjusts the suspension damping. I did play with some custom settings during the end of the test in sunny Spain, but I felt faster with the suspension in the fully automatic dynamic mode.
10. Accessing and changing the settings for the suspension and electronics has never been easier. The settings aren’t hidden deep in the menu. It is accomplished via a simple adjustment pad on the left control pod. All settings, save ABS, are switchable while on the go.
11. The Panigale features an evoltion of the monocoque frame, that uses the engine as a load-bearing feature, but it’s now called a “front frame.” I had no complaints with the chassis; it offers just enough flex to truly feel in control of the bike, especially at mid-corner. The new frame—which uses the desmodromic engine as a stressed member and only weighs 9.2 pounds—is based on what’s used in MotoGP, and optimized for bending and torsional stiffness. The single-sided swingarm grows by 11mm over the 1299, but weighs the same—11.2 pounds.
12. The light frame and swingarm help bring the Panigale V4 S’s claimed curb weight to 430 pounds, which is 11 pounds more than the 1299 Panigale R FE. Though a bit heavier, the Panigale V4— which shed some pounds from a magnesium headlamp and mirror support— feels easier to toss around than the 1299.
13. Also attributing to agile handling of the 2018 Ducati Panigale V4 is its front/rear weight distribution of 45.5/54.5. This is drastically different from the 1299 Panigale (47/53) and the 1098/1198 (50/50). Combined with the V4’s counter-rotating crankshaft, the weight distribution helps produce that small-bike feeling.
14. The Panigale V4 receives the all-new Brembo Stylema brake calipers. These new calipers are a huge upgrade from the M50s. The Stylema provides more feel at the lever – especially when hard on the brakes. Ducati works exclusively with Brembo, and the Stylema will only be found on the Panigale V4 for 2018. Afterwards, the Brembos go to market for other brands.
15. The 2018 Ducati Panigale V4 S and upgraded Speciale both sport Marchesini aluminum forged wheels that are wrapped in new Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP tires (200/60 rear; 120/70 front). These tires, designed for the Panigale V4, provided endless grip throughout the Valencia test. They never suffered from cold tearing or lack of traction, even though the motorcycles were sometimes pitted for a bit without tire warmers.
16. The Panigale V4’s fairings are completely redesigned for better aerodynamics, and I never suffered head buffeting. The fairings look a bit wider than the slim 1299, but it’s all for better performance. The visual highlight is the large intakes below the LED headlights, and the sharper lines.
17. The new V4 also takes some knowledge from MotoGP, and includes a gas tank that continues under the rider seat. This helps with weight distribution, which aids in serious agility.
18. It’s tough for an engine producing 200+ horsepower to not make loads of heat. Impressively, the V4 presenting no butt- or thigh-roasting on the racetrack. Even while sitting at idle in the pits, heat remained minimal. It’s nothing like the leg-burning 1299.
19. The V4 provided all-day comfort, whether on the seat or hanging off. This was unexpected, as I was never a huge fan of the 1299’s ergonomics and they are similar, including the 32.5-inch seat height. The main difference between the V4 and the 1299 ergos is that the V4’s foot pegs are 10mm higher. The motorcycle’s ergonomics worked comfortably for my nearly six-foot frame, and didn’t cause any numbness in my right leg—something that normally happens during track days due to the rod in my femur.
20. Finally, a Panigale is equipped with a simple dash layout! The V4’s new five-inch full-color TFT dash, features a high-resolution screen (nearly 200 pixels per inch) displaying data that’s easy to read and, a personal favorite, the analog-style tach. When scrolling through menu items with the new left control module, all data is simply displayed for easy digestion. Thanks, Ducati, this has always been a huge gripe of mine.
21. Speaking of gripes, the main one I had with the V4 was minor, but a PITA—the kickstand. I could not engage it with my Alpinestars Supertech R Boots, and was forced to use my hand every time.
22. I also rode a fully accessorized bike, which was highlighted by an extremely awesome sounding Akrapovic exhaust that helps create a claimed 226 horsepower. The difference in power is undeniable in situations such as being WOT up Valencia’s front straight. The non-accessorized S model was no match on the straights. A few times I challenged the non-Akrapovic bike on the front straight, and it provided zero response.
23. The 2018 Ducati Panigale V4 S is definitely a fun track weapon, but due to comfort, lack of heat, and electronics that add to overall safety, it will make an optimal street bike. It has enough mid-range torque for in-town situations, unlike the 1299 that suffered in slow-speed scenarios. When the need is there, the Panigale V4 will provide endless enjoyment in the canyons as you quickly crank the throttle and rev the upper rpm range.
24. If you were considering a 1299, budget an extra couple grand for the 2018 Ducati Panigale V4. The premium is an increase over the 1299 base and S models, but the new V4 quickly puts the 1299 to shame, and I stress quickly.
- Helmet: Shoei X-Fourteen
- Suit: Alpinestars GP Plus
- Undersuit: Moto-D Racing Cool-Tec Undersuit
- Gloves: Racer High Speed
- Boots: Alpinestars Supertech R
2018 Ducati Panigale V4 S Specs
- Type: 90-degree V4 w/ counter-rotating crankshaft
- Displacement: 1103cc
- Bore x stroke: 81 x 53.5mm
- Maximum power: 214 horsepower @ 13,000 rpm
- Maximum torque: 92 ft/lbs @ 10,000 rpm
- Compression ratio: 14.0:1
- Valve train: Desmodromic w/ 4vpc
- Fueling: Twin injectors per cylinder
- Transmission: 6-speed w/ straight-cut gears
- Clutch: Hydraulically actuated
- Frame: Aluminum monocoque
- Front suspension; travel: Fully adjustable Öhlins NIX30 43mm fork w/ electronic damping adjustment and active suspension adjustment; 4.7 inches
- Rear suspension; travel: Fully adjustable Öhlins TTX36 shock w/ electronic damping adjustment and active suspension adjustment; 5.1 inches
- Wheels: 3-spoke forged aluminum
- Front wheel: 3.50 x 17
- Rear wheel: 6.00 x 17
- Tires: Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP
- Front tire: 120/70 ZR17
- Rear tire: 200/60 ZR17
- Front brakes: Semi-floating 330mm discs w/ Brembo Stylema 4-piston calipers
- Rear brake: 245mm disc w/ 2-piston caliper
- ABS: Bosch Cornering ABS Evo standard
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- Wheelbase: 57.8 inches
- Rake: 24.5 degrees
- Trail: 3.9 inches
- Seat height: 32.5 inches
- Fuel capacity: 4.2 gallons
- Estimated fuel consumption: 34 mpg
- Curb weight: 430 pounds
2018 Ducati Panigale V4 Prices
- Ducati Panigale V4: $21,195 MSRP
- Ducati Panigale V4 S: $27,495 MSRP (tested, specs shown)
- Ducati Panigale V4 Speciale: $39,995