Despite the challenges of the current pandemic, Ducati is running the show in its own way. How? Well, with this – the most technologically advanced and performance-oriented naked bike in the world, which also happens to have a particular proclivity for the road.
With the equipment bag packed, and the tickets already on the smartphone, we were all set for what was one of the most anticipated presentations of the year – the Ducati Streetfighter V4, scheduled at the wonderful Ronda track in Spain. And then the COVID-19 tragedy hit. And the rest, well – we all know how it’s turned out! The presentation was cancelled, and so was our excitement and anticipation. But fate (or shall we say Ducati?) had something else planned for us. Only a few days later, Ducati sent us a blazing new specimen of its latest creation. And we were lucky enough to test its performance at our private test track in Vairano, both in circuit and road conditions – we used a section of the track to simulate a stretch of public road open to traffic.
Of course, we were trembling with curiosity. In recent times, many manufacturers have made their hyper naked bikes a real technological flag to be waved in the faces of their competitors. We know because we have been to the showcasing of the KTM 1290 Superduke R and Kawasaki Z H2 – two potential competitors of the bike from Bologna.
But no one had yet laid their hands on the sensual naked sister of the stunning Panigale V4 S. All we knew is that the Bolognese technicians had done a great job in bringing the Panigale's fearsome performance down to street level, so to speak. One would think that transforming a sexy performance bike like the Panigale V4 into a hyper naked would be the easiest thing in the world – off goes the dress, on goes a nice cross handlebar, and you're done.
But, as we were saying, the engineers worked really hard at Ducati, and the front of the Streetfighter V4 conspicuously exhibits this, welcoming us with a satanic grin. The LED lights reproduce the letter ‘V’, and just above the small 5" TFT, the dashboard finds its natural place without seeming to be ‘sitting there' at all.
It was obvious that simply taking the fairing off the Panigale V4 would not do unless, at Ducati, they wanted the bike to exude that 'provisional' feeling of some of its competitors. The idea behind the Streetfighter V4 was to create a design marvel – harmonious and unequivocally Italian. And we must say that they succeeded.
Coming to the design of the bike, the huge radiators seem to disappear between brushed aluminium profiles, connected to the bottom tip. In front view, the perfect oval of the motorcycle is impressive, almost as if it had a fairing – a sign that the Streetfighter has spent hours in the wind tunnel. A conjecture confirmed by the biplane wings – for now, the Streetfighter is the only naked motorcycle to have them. They have a lower lateral development than those of Panigale V4 because the Streetfighter has been designed predominantly for the road, and it doesn't give up squeezing into tight spaces easily. However, these appendages are capable of generating 28kgs of downforce at 270 km/h – 20kgs on the front wheel and 8kgs on the rear wheel.
The tail seems – if it’s possible – to be sharper than its SBK sister despite the modifications aimed at increasing passenger comfort. Even the rider doesn’t have a bad time – we instantly liked the riding position. The modification of the tank connections allows a wider saddle with rich padding, perfect for road use. The footrests are further away from the seating surface – placed at 845mm – making the riding posture very comfortable, at least for riders of ‘normal’ size. There is also the possibility to adjust the wide handlebar, making it, more or less, away from the driver to get that sporty position.
But… is it comfortable?
Cranking an Italian V4 always gives you an adrenaline rush – and this one is no different in that regard. Given the ‘twin pulse’ timing (0° to 90° and then 290° to 380°) because of the 90° V and crankpins staggered at 70°, the 1,103cc unit emits a sound that's unparalleled – you really feel it right into your sternum.
Even in this configuration, which is more road-focused, the official data for the bike is enough to keep you awake at night – 205bhp at 12,750rpm with a maximum torque of 123Nm at 11,500rpm, 90% of which is available in between 9,000 and 13,000rpm! The declared dry weight of the S version, the one at our disposal, is 178kgs. If you don’t grip the tank firmly, it might even take off!
Put the bike in first gear and forget about the clutch – the gearbox is equipped with an up and down quick shifter, with intervention logic that varies depending on the map set.
So, we began our ‘long run,’ but it only took a few kilometres of riding for us to be pleasantly surprised by the fact that the Streetfighter V4 S is seriously comfortable. Riding in Street mode – there are two others: Sport and Race – makes the ride-by-wire response spotlessly clean, while its semi-active suspension becomes decidedly soft and excellently absorbs imperfections on the road.
The engine slows down, without expressing any particular complaints. We rode the bike for some time only in fifth and sixth gears to check its ability to ride in long ratios. Our verdict? Excellent!
There are few Ducatis that we enjoyed so much riding in a relaxed manner. It seemed almost impossible to ride a Panigale V4 without a fairing, even with the appropriate modifications. We drove for more than an hour, enjoying the directional rigour of the Streetfighter V4 S, its absolute precision in handling and braking, which is simply perfect for the road. The Brembo system with Stylema callipers is very powerful but also extremely gentle during braking. And, as we did lap-after-lap of the Vairano circuit, our desire to go on a long ride on this new Ducati became insanely intense. After all, there are a few things that you can’t control.
Down with the Visor
Now, it was time to take off the street clothing and don a leather suit and find out how much of the extraordinary Panigale V4 has been retained in this naked, muscular avatar. Ducati is the master of riding modes – in fact, it was the first to introduce riding modes on an ADV (the Multistrada) over 10 years ago – and with the Streetfighter V4 S, it has further expanded the blanket, extending the possibilities of adjustment and transformation of the motorcycle. The highly sophisticated electronics uses a six-axis inertial platform capable of detecting pitch, roll, and yaw angles of the bike, based on numerous controls that oversee all riding phases.
We navigated through the menu and went directly to the Track mode, preparing the Streetfighter V4 S for maximum performance – the safety electronics remain present but become less intrusive and the suspension gets tuned for maximum performance on the track. The interesting thing here is that the bike offers you the option of customising every single aspect of every riding mode. The same is true for the Öhlins suspensions, which can be adjusted, and customised, according to the rider’s preferences through the ‘virtual clicks’ in the DES (Ducati Electronic Suspension) menu.
Even before we could complete the first lap of the circuit, which we know by heart, a side of this Ducati that until recently had remained well hidden emerged. Sharp, tense, powerful, and resilient – characteristics of the Panigale V4 S that had fascinated us so much during our test of that bike. And that engine, which, on the Panigale, seems to have no limits, on the Streetfighter V4 seems to be even more furious, thanks to the absence of aerodynamic protection. But despite being a close relative of the bike with a fairing, this hyper naked behaves in a very different way on the track.
The riding position makes a big difference, thanks to the wide handlebars – it even changes your approach psychologically. It allows you to go fast and strong, without looking for the presence of the limiter. The enormous torque allows you to use an extra ratio without affecting the speed when exiting corners. And although the performance of the naked version comes very close to its faired sibling, riding the Streetfighter between kerbs is more about having fun with the bike than clocking outright lap times.
Fun Bike Mission
The same naked bike philosophy dictates the rules here as well – the longer the ‘time attack’ riding, the more intolerable the air pressure for the rider. You see, the Streetfighter remains unperturbed – it’s the most powerful, refined, and exciting bike you can ride on a track like ours at Vairano, where the maximum speeds hardly exceed 260 – 270km/h.
In following the set trajectory, and also while covering fast bends, even with constant throttle inputs, the Streetfighter exhibits surgical precision. Perhaps the biplane wings also play a role here.
The bike is stable yet fast in changing direction, thanks also to the leverage of the high handlebars. The quick shifter's actuator shoots one gear after another at the speed of thought. At the end of a straight, all you need is two fingers on the front brake lever to make the Streetfighter V4 S come to a stop, ready to go for another round. And then another. And another again. And while we went on-and-on, increasing our confidence, we relied on its electronics, which watched us ride patiently, ready to intervene, but allowed us to have fun like crazy.
A two-faced hyper naked bike, then? On the track, the new Ducati Streetfighter V4 S seems to have all the cards to play against the Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 – currently the most effective hyper naked on the track.
The Streetfighter V4 accentuates the disproportional characteristic of the first Streetfighter – the imbalance between the muscular body and the small windshield.
Suspension and brakes are those of the Panigale V4 S, with Brembo Stylema callipers on 330mm floating discs and Öhlins suspension, with NIX30 fork, mono TTX36, and semiactive control.
There is no lack of attention to road riding: more padded and comfortable seat, lower footrests, and even heated grips – surprising for such an overtly ‘extreme’ bike.
The Streetfighter V4 S sets new benchmarks in the segment, and not only in track riding: the right side of the grid is the best. The only flaws are the load capacity and a really high price.
Ducati’s electronics are now really easy to manage, once you learn the logic of the keys. The 5” TFT display, which also manages the DDA+ data analysis and the LinkApp, is very clear and crisp.
- TECHNICAL DATA SHEET
Engine: 1,103cc / V4 / Liquid-Cooled / 16 Valves
Power Output: 205bhp @ 12,750rpm
Torque: 123Nm @ 11,500rpm
Electronic Controls: 3 riding modes + independent power management control, ABS, traction control, slide control and cornering ABS, Launch Control, Smart EC 2.0 electronic suspension
Chassis: Aluminium front frame, steering trail - 24.5 degree, Suspension (front) - Öhlins NIX30 USD 43mm fork Preload, compression & rebound adjustable, 100mm travel; Aluminium single-sided swingarm Öhlins TTX36 mono-shock absorber Preload, compression and rebound adjustable, 120/130mm travel.
Front: Dual 330mm discs, Radial 4-piston calliper
Rear: 245mm disc, 2-piston calliper, ABS cornering EVO
Front: 120/70 ZR17
Rear: 200/60 ZR17
Weight: 199kgs (dry 178kgs)
Tank capacity: 16 litres
• Performance, Technology
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