Review & Video: Some real world – Ducati Panigale V4 S in Sabie and on Kyalami
Story: Mat Durrans
Ducati’s all-new V4 Panigale arrived at The Bike Show offices after another publication had used it at a track. It was still in its most potent Race setting when I fired it up for the first time in Sabie, moments after pulling it out of the back of our van.
Okay, I thought, no sense delaying the inevitable, I might as well sample the full monty 214hp straight from the get-go. Less than a kilometre into this first ride and I’m stopped by the side of the road, prodding the comprehensive yet easy to operate electronic dash so that I can engage Sport mode.
Race mode is very much what it says on the tin, the bike is set up to work with a committed racer at the controls on a smooth track. The suspension is too hard for the often dubious road surfaces of Mpumalanga and the Panigale is struggling to deal with the bumps.
And I’m struggling to deal with the performance in Race mode which also sharpens the throttle response so much that any inadvertent input, no matter how slight, results in the bike leaping forward as if some hidden after-burning rockets have been ignited.
Less than a kilometre into my next stint I’m stopped once again, changing the mode to the ‘softest’ Street setting. I’m getting somewhere now, the throttle response becomes manageable within the narrow confines of the legendary Sabie to Hazyview route and the suspension is noticeably more compliant.
After delving even deeper into the seemingly endless options for setting the Panigale to suit your tastes I make the suspension even softer. At last I have a willing partner for these mountain passes, a bike that doesn’t respond too aggressively to throttle inputs and can ride the bumps without pitching me out of the seat every few metres.
But it’s still fast, oh my, is it fast. At low rpm it sounds and feels very much like a twin, with a definite sense of more guts in the lower reaches of the rev range compared to the usual in-line four-cylinder superbikes.
Once the revs climb beyond the half-way point to the very nearly 15 000 rpm redline this engine feels every bit as awesome as the 214hp headline figure suggests. Acceleration is of the ‘Holy Moly, is this really happening?’ variety, speed piling on in an exponential rush that needs a brave rider to resist the overwhelming urge to roll off the throttle.
This outrageous performance would be totally unmanageable without a sublime handling package, and the Panigale delivers more than is required. No superbike I’ve ridden is this easy to ride at pace, it’s borderline spooky the way the V4 changes direction in reaction to input so slight it feels like you haven’t even finished thinking about what you’re going to do next.
Although it looks like a very small bike, the riding position is roomy enough for the tallest of riders to clamber about in comfort. Get up to racing speeds and there’s space to shuffle back and tuck yourself away behind the low screen. Small details, but they make a huge difference to your riding pleasure.
And of course, being a Ducati, part of the delight of ownership is down to the wow factor. The family resemblance to the outgoing V2 Panigale is undeniable, and also initially a bit disappointing; the new V4 represents a major change for a company built on twin-cylinder power and so the new looks are surprisingly evolutionary.
As is often the way, the bike is much better in the flesh, with a suitably more imposing face and a profile that looks a touch more hunched up over the front end. It may only be a subtle progression for the aesthetics, but I don’t think I’m out of order when I tout the Panigale as the best looking of all the current superbike contenders.
I think it might possibly have them nailed dynamically, too. Two days after returning the Panigale to Ducati South Africa I was blasting around Kyalami on Pirelli’s international launch of its latest sport tyre. Superbikes from nearly every manufacturer were available and after sampling as many as possible there was only one I wanted to keep riding.
At R350 000 the Panigale V4 S is not exactly cheap, but for this level of performance, in a package this beautiful, for a bike that will make you a better, faster, safer rider, it’s a positive bargain.
Ducati contact details:
Tel: 011 919 1600
See the Ducati Panigale V4 S video review below: