Track test: 2020 Ducati Panigale V4

| | New Bikes
Picture: Milagro

Ducati’s winged V4 dominated the British Superbikes series last year, taking first, second and third in the championship. In World Superbikes Ducati looked unstoppable at one stage.

Aerodynamic wings are dominating racing and the technology is filtering down to the end-user on the road, which is great news for me and you.

For 2020 Ducati has added the distinctive wings to their V4S. But the wings only tell half the story, other improvements include updated electronics, revised handling, and easier-to-use power characteristics. We sent international journalist, Chad to Bahrain to test out the new £24,795 V4S around the very fast 5.4km F1 track.

This is quick, this is one fast bike. The V4 1103cc Desmosedici Stradale remains the same at 212bhp, but to make the V4S more user-friendly, Ducati has reduced the torque in the first three gears.

This makes the bike more rideable, by allowing the rider to get on the power more smoothly and safely. But don’t be fooled; this doesn’t mean slower – you can get on the power sooner, and without traction control intervention it ultimately means your top speed is higher on the straight and your lap time is reduced with less effort from the rider.

Exiting the tight right-hander onto the main straight in wet conditions and it’s time to find out. Full throttle in second gear, trust the rider aids and let the clever electronics take over.

The TC light illuminates as I’m propelled forward in rapid acceleration. Now tuck in behind the new bodywork, which is taller and wider, push my arse against the seat hump and tap up the gears. The up-and-down quickshifter is also faster and smoother than before.

Torque is limited in the first three gears, but once into fourth it’s full torque and speed is rapidly rising. 250kmph shows on the clear, full-colour, dash with incredible ease. I stay tucked in, 280, 290 then at 299kph the digital speedo stops recording and it’s time to think about braking. In a straight line, the aerodynamic wings are working overtime. Like an aeroplane wing (in reverse) they only work at high speed.

At 60mph they create 4kg of downforce; at 120mph, 16kg; and at 180mph, 37kg. This downforce has several benefits, chief among them a reduction in power wheelies as all that weight is pushed down onto the front end, meaning less electronic intervention by traction control and, for the rider, less rolling off of the throttle. At high speed the front is more planted, which in fast corners allows the bike to steer better and hold a tighter line.

It’s not all about the wings, Ducati has dramatically changed the chassis, again with their prime objective to make the bike easier and more forgiving to ride. The centre of gravity has also been raised, which allows the bike to steer more easily, in the same way, a tall boxer is easier to knock over than a short boxer because his centre of gravity is higher.

The disadvantage of raising the C of G is that it tends to reduce the tyres’ edge grip at high angles of lean. To offset, Ducati has softened the rear suspension to give more grip and feel. The bike undoubtedly turns with ease, and again wet conditions highlighted the improvements in front-end feel. You can feel the front tyre squirming and finding grip, both on and off the brakes. The cornering ABS isn’t too intrusive and allows you to feel the grip.

Did I not mention the cornering ABS? Yes, the Ducati is riddled in rider aids, which have been improved for 2020 and some of the best on the market, and rescued me from crashing on multiple occasions in the tricky conditions. For 2020 the Ducati V4S gets the DTC EVO-2 electronics package derived from MotoGP and WSBK and already deployed on Ducati’s premium V4R.

All parameters, like throttle position, are in constant communication with the six-axes IMU, which measures lean angle plus pitch and yaw. The list of rider aids is jaw-dropping: cornering ABS, traction control, slide control, wheelie control, launch control, engine brake strategy, up-and-down quickshifter and electronic Öhlins suspension.

Verdict

The undisputed fact is that wings help on track, as speed increases so do their benefit. Wings on the racetrack will become more common and will eventually filter down to us, the end-user, on the road.

With added wings, improved rider aids, reduced torque in the lower gears and a more flexible chassis, Ducati has almost done the unthinkable and made a 212bph exotic race bike rideable, for everyday riders. You must no longer be a former racer to get the most out of the powerful superbike. Yes, we only managed to ride in the wet, but if the new V4S is easy to ride in the wet, then it will almost definitely work in the dry.

In back-to-back testing with the now old model, Ducati found that an experienced, ultra-quick test rider, Michele Pirro was 0.4s quicker on the new bike, but an average track rider was over a second faster, highlighting how much easier the new bike is to ride.

Tech Feck

Make and model: Ducati Panigale V4S
Price: £24,795 (from)
Engine: 1103cc water-cooled, fuel injected, Desmosedici Stradale V4
Power: 211bhp @ 13000rpm
Torque: 91.5ftlb @10000
Frame: Aluminium alloy ‘Front Frame’
Wheelbase: 1469mm
Brakes: Front 2 x 320mm discs, radial mounted Brembo Stylema 4-piston monobloc caliper. Rear 245mm disc, two-piston caliper
Transmission: 6 gears & chain final drive
Suspension: 43mm Ohlins NIX30 fully-adjustable forks, with electronic damping. Single Ohlins TTX36 fully adjustable, with electronic damping.
Wheels/tyres: Front 120/70x17, rear 200/60x17.
Tyres: Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP
Seat height: 835mm
Fuel capacity: 16l
MPG: Not tested (est)
Weight: 174KG (DRY)
Warranty: 2-years
Contact: www.Ducati.com
PCP £265 per month after deposit £5794

Picture: Milagro
Picture: Milagro

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