2020 Ducati Panigale V2 Test:
Super-Mid = Super Fun
“Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s off to Circuito de Jerez—Ángel Nieto we go (to ride the 2020 Ducati Panigale V2), heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s off to Jerez we go!”
Listen, it almost works. And, when you’re trapped inside a plane for over ten hours, you’ll get creative enough with the rhyme scheme to shove the proverbial round peg in the square hole.
Between butchering classic Disney tunes and skimming the unending list of Tom Hanks films available on modern airliners, I had time to consider the 2020 Ducati Panigale V2. It shares the same monocoque chassis and 955cc Superquadro V-twin as the Panigale 959, but with the fire-breathers that make up the V4 platform now ruling the lands, the Bologna-based brand saw fit to spruce up its ‘super-mid’ bike.
To that end, the 2020 Ducati Panigale V2 now has a top-tier six-axis IMU supported electronics package derived from the V4, an up-and-down quickshifter, a single-sided swingarm, Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa II tires, a V4-influenced styling update, and other bits.
The middleweight sportbike is crucial to Ducati’s overall strategy. Starting way back when with the 748, middleweight machines encompassed all the steel-trellis handling flavor a rider could handle in a more approachable package. The 748 and 749 were also able to compete with 600cc inline-fours of the day, checking the all-important racing box for Ducati.
When the 848 was released, emissions standards and the never-ending quest for power set the middleweight Ducatis on a path of displacement creep, relieving them from duty in the Supersport World Championship series.
The paddock might be missing out, but we certainly aren’t. Middleweight twin-cylinder sportbikes have always been a hoot to ride and, because they aren’t able to compete, they’re intended for the enthusiast. In truth, these bikes are loaded to the gills with useable performance. The 899, 959, and now the V2, delivers an exciting, accessible, and sophisticated track-ready machine to the average motorcycle maven.
Visually, and much to the Ducati marketing team’s delight, the Panigale V2 has received a styling refresh mirroring the V4. All-new bodywork and LED lighting are in play and, outside of the 4.5-gallon fuel tank, everything is fresh.
The prominent headlight ports not only house LED lighting, but double as revised air-intake ports, lowering the positive air pressure loss. While the typical admirer is wiping the drool from the chin, the V2’s powerplant is breathing much better—and so we begin our Euro 5 spurred engine improvements.
Brand-spanking new dual fuel-injectors (two per cylinder) feature an increased flow rate, while also refining the spray pattern. An updated exhaust silencer and catalyst solution keep it up to snuff with Euro 5 emissions standards, as well as performance goals. Together, these changes gave engineers more leeway when tuning, but also helped refine the motor to new heights.
The list of changes is short, but the list of benefits is long. In all, the Panigale V2 boasts peak increases of +5 horsepower and 1.5 ft/lbs of torque over the Superquadro motor in the 959. Valve checks remain at 15,000 miles, and fluid services are every 8000 miles or 12 months.
Just like the super-mids before it, the V2 is not supposed to be an outright horsepower beast that is its unique strength when compared to its big brothers. Superbikes have a reputation for overloading the senses and mimicking the atmospheric re-entry scenes from Apollo 13. The V2 doesn’t evoke that kind of response – this is a confidence-inspiring, buttery, soulful engine that riders can wrap their heads around.
Producing claimed peaks of 155 horsepower at 10,750 rpm and 77 ft/lbs of torque at 9000, the free-revving Superquadro engine is an absolute darling, ready to snap off a piece torque-rich performance at a moment’s notice without overwhelming the rider. It’s a Goldilocks moment in motorcycling.
Ducati claims that roughly 60 percent of the engine’s available torque is available from an easily attainable 5500 rpm to the rev limiter, which is a huge help in some of the slower sections of the luxurious Jerez circuit. Slow second-gear corners are easily handled with all the friendly, progressive torque. Great low-end power feeds directly into massive mid-range, transitioning seamlessly as the 955cc V-twin hits full sprint down the straights, flirting with the redline.
The fueling and throttle response has improved dramatically over the 959 and, while it’s slightly odd to chirp about proper fueling, it does make all the difference. Regardless of the mode, the connection to the rear wheel is superb, egging the rider on to continue exploring the motorcycle’s potential.
This Superquadro’s power delivery is so tractable and smooth that the V2’s wheelie-control almost isn’t necessary, though I’m glad it’s there, if only for those just-in-case moments. It takes a genuinely ham-fisted hand to make the front-end lift uncontrollably. That is quite a different story on most, if not all, modern superbikes.
Banging through the slick six-speed gearbox is better than ever, thanks to Ducati’s Evo 2 up/down quickshifter. Part of the Evo 2 evolution is refined kill times, especially when shifting above 9000 rpm. Primarily, it’s aimed at track riding. In either direction, kill times are superb and are quite handy when grabbing an upshift during the quick transition from turn 2 to 3.
In severe braking zones where you’re pegging the revs, you may have to let the engine speed settle before grabbing your final downshift. That is to protect the motor from over-revving and damaging anything. It’s also something I see on many, many engines these days. But, unlike many competitors, I didn’t feel the need to clutch through the final downshift.
Riders have three fully customizable riding modes to choose from—Race, Sport, and Street. All modes alter the throttle map, electronic intervention, and are tailorable to your liking. Race mode offers the most direct throttle connection, with a perfectly taut response that never ventures into abrupt territories. More relaxed TC, ABS, and wheelie-control settings are in play, although levels 1 in ABS, WC, or TC need to be sought out manually. For me, the pre-set Race mode is perfect. Sport mode tugs on the reins a tad with a friendlier throttle response, and settings that don’t get in the way when still figuring out which way to go at Jerez. Street raises it all, keeping things quite prim and proper.
The six-axis IMU electronics suite is arguably some of the most refined tech on the market, and a noticeable step above the 959. Coupled with the inviting power of the V2, and you have a seriously potent package. Eight-level lean-angle-detecting traction-control, three-level cornering ABS, four-level wheelie-control, an up-down quickshifter, and three-level engine braking control make up the rider aids.
That list of features isn’t new and has been part of the Ducati electronics package for some time now. What is new is the illustrious Evo 2 traction control solution, which reacts to the spin intensity instead of each instance of slippage, smoothing TC intervention.
It also aims to predict future events. Whatever the case is, the TC is exceptionally refined. When pouring on the gas out of long, leaned over corners such as turn 8 at Jerez, the only way I knew the TC was working was when the light would flash. It’s that good.
ABS settings are a bit more involved. Level 1, which requires manual access, disables the cornering support and kills ABS in the rear, reserving it for experts only. If you carry too much brake and lean, well, that’s on you to sort out. Level 2 maintains cornering ABS and ‘slide by brake,’ but disables rear-wheel-lift control. For someone of my skill level, I found it to be a lovely setting. Luckily, Euro 5 ABS standards didn’t step in prematurely, virtually anywhere. Level 3 is for street use or low-grip situations.
The monocoque chassis uses the engine as a stressed member, eliminating the long-standing tradition of steel-trellis frames. Geometrically, the V2 is comparable to the 959, but there have been a few tweaks to increase maneuverability.
A fully adjustable Showa BPF fork returns with updated settings and still relies on a sporty 24-degree rake. Meanwhile, the trail has been slightly shortened to 3.7 inches (-2mm). The fully adjustable Sachs shock is 0.08 inches (+2mm) longer. Also, a taller 180/60 rear tire profile is used, which helps raise the rear ride height further and encourage tip-in rates. A steering damper is thrown in to reduce headshake, should it occur.
In all, those geometry changes netted a one-percentage-point increase in front-weight bias—the front wheel now carries 52 percent of the load at rest.
The fancy new single-sided swingarm is in place, though the wheelbase hasn’t changed by a significant margin, growing less than a quarter-inch to 56.5 inches. Still, quite sporty. Interestingly, it wasn’t just part of the V2’s beatification process; the single-sided swingarm was used to make room for the Euro 5 compliant exhaust. By utilizing areas previously taken up by a traditional swingarm, engineers were able to rid the motorcycle of gag-inducing European exhaust silencers.
In practice, the Panigale V2 handles superbly. It quickly, yet predictably tips into high-speed corners, just as confidently as it does slow, 2nd gear turns. Transitions are effortless; if I had to boil it all down to a word, it would be balanced.
Though Jerez is one of the most pristine tracks I’ve ever circulated on, all the feeling I desired comes through the monocoque chassis. If I gave it too much gas over the negative camber exit of turn 5 or put too much feedback into the bars while on the edge of the tire, the V2 let me know. Its handling qualities pair perfectly with the kind of power on tap.
The Brembo M4.32 dual calipers work in conjunction with 320mm floating rotors and provide loads of power. The initial bite is soft and inviting, as is the overall feel. Power isn’t a question, as those Brembos will slow you down lickety-split. For those looking to get more attack out of the brakes, moving to a higher-performance pad could give the front end a bit more bite. In the rear, a single-piston Brembo caliper clamps on a 245mm rotor and does just dandy. It’s great for tightening up corners and scrubbing a little speed now and then.
New Y-shaped five-spoke wheels are part of the packaged and a result of the SS swingarm. A standard hub doesn’t work, so new alloy wheels are part of the package. For our Jerez test, we made use of track-oriented Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SC rubber, while prospective buyers can expect the canyon or track capable Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa II tires in 120/70 and 180/60 sizes.
Ergonomically, Ducati engineers worked to free the cockpit up and make it more comfortable. 0.2 inches of extremely cushy foam is added to the redesigned seat. Also, the saddle is extended by 0.8 inches, and the profile slimmed where the seat meets the tank. Taken together, it allowed me more range of motion when in the saddle and more maneuverability as well, especially when tucked under the windscreen. If that isn’t enough room, you can spring for the accessory single-seat tail and ditch the passenger seat.
The 4.5-gallon tank is the only returning component when it comes to the appearance. While a rail-thin chassis makes a motorcycle feel light, squeezing the svelte tank when braking is a bit more fatiguing for those accustomed to more voluptuous figures. I know all Ducatisti simultaneously spit out their espresso when reading that, but it is something to consider for neophytes of the brand, and you will become accustomed to it over time. Get some tank grips or buy an ab-wheel, I say. Positively, the slim tank makes for a solid anchoring point while on the edge of the tire.
When stating that the 2020 Ducati Panigale V2 is nearly peerless, I’m speaking about its power, sophistication, and price. In many ways, Ducati has carved out a niche within the track-oriented sportbike world, and it did so knowingly.
The Italian and Japanese waved goodbye to one another in this class many years ago, leaving the older MV Agusta F3 800 ($16,998) and the new Triumph Daytona Moto2 765 ($17,500) as the only comparable bikes on the market. At $16,495, the 2020 Panigale V2 is asking quite the premium, as is traditional for Ducati.
That premium price often delivers more sophistication than its competitors, and the V2’s electronics package, alone, is an excellent example of that. The $1100 price hike from the 959 isn’t all that much when we consider what’s in store these days.
While it is several thousand dollars more than your average 600cc supersport, the V2 is a completely different animal. You could also be picking up a Japanese superbike for that coin, but again, we’re talking about a completely different species and experience. The V2 is a Ducati, through and through, while also being unique within the market.
Unfortunately, I don’t have access to your bank accounts and can’t tell you how to spend your money. If I did have your PIN, I’d buy a V2, maybe even two.
The Panigale V2 is a knockout in terms of its performance, striking a perfect balance between power and agility. Its stellar engine, excellent handling, and refined electronics are critical components to how positively my time on this motorcycle was spent.
This is the type of motorcycle that makes me giddy to strap on my helmet and lineup early on the grid during a track day, knowing that I’ll be able to revel in its ability, instead of riding apprehensively, as I might do on something more powerful. And that’s the point—the 2020 Ducati Panigale V2 is meant to be ridden.
Photography by Alberto Cervetti and Marco Zamponi
- Helmet: Arai Corsair-X
- Suit: Alpinestars NdS custom suit
- Baselayers: VnM Sport Compression Top and Pant
- Gloves: Alpinestars GP Pro V3
- Boots: Alpinestars Supertech R Randy Mamola Legends Series
2020 Ducati Panigale V2 Specs
- Type: Superquadro 90-degree twin
- Displacement: 955cc
- Bore x stroke: 100 x 60.8mm
- Maximum power: 155 horsepower @ 10,750 rpm
- Maximum torque: 77 ft/lbs @ 9000 rpm
- Compression ratio: 14.0:1
- Valvetrain: 4vpc w/ desmodromic actuation
- Fueling: EFI w/ twin injectors per cylinder
- Transmission: 6-speed w/ straight-cut gears; bidirectional quickshifter
- Clutch: Hydraulically actuated
- Final drive: Chain
- Frame: Aluminum monocoque
- Front suspension; travel: Fully adjustable Showa BPF 43mm inverted fork; 4.7 inches
- Rear suspension; travel: Fully adjustable Sachs shock; 5.1 inches
- Wheels: 5-spoke aluminum
- Front wheel: 17 x 5.50
- Rear wheel: 17 x 3.50
- Tires: Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa II (Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SC, as tested)
- Front tire: 120/70 x 17
- Rear tire: 180/60 x 17
- Front brakes: Semi-floating 330mm discs w/ Brembo M.4.32 4-piston calipers
- Rear brake: 245mm disc w/ 2-piston caliper
- ABS: Cornering ABS Evo standard
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- Wheelbase: 56.5 inches
- Rake: 24 degrees
- Trail: 3.97 inches
- Seat height: 33.1 inches
- Fuel capacity: 4.5 gallons
- Estimated fuel consumption: 39 mpg
- Curb weight: 441 pounds
- Color: Ducati Red
2020 Ducati Panigale V2 Price:
- $16,495 MSRP
2020 Ducati Panigale V2 at Jerez Photo Gallery