We ride the Panigale V4 S, Ducati's new superbike, at Sepang International Circuit to find out how 211bhp of power translates onto the race track.
With over 5 and a half hours to kill before my flight to Kuala Lumpur, numbers like 4-cylinder engine, 1,103cc, 211bhp, 124Nm of torque and a mere 195kg of weight kept playing in my mind as I impatiently waited to board the flight. But that’s not all that was in my mind. I was also wondering if Ducati has raised the benchmark to a stratospheric level with the Panigale V4 or have they simply gone insane. The only way to know for sure was to saddle up and test the beast. But until then all I could do was to wait impatiently. What can I say, patience isn’t one of my strong suits! It all began when Ducati invited us to the Sepang International Circuit – which also plays host to the MotoGP Malaysian Grand Prix – to make sure that we experience what the V4 can truly achieve.
The big, bad wolf
The 4-cylinder Desmosedici Stradale engine has been developed in close collaboration with Ducati Corse – their MotoGP team and the V4 is the closest to what the 3-time world champion Jorge Lorenzo and Andrea Dovizioso ride. In case you don’t follow MotoGP and all this doesn’t sound very meaningful to you then, perhaps, this will grab your attention – the new 211bhp Panigale is the world’s most powerful production ready motorcycle, which basically means that you can ride it both in the city and on the race track.
The secret behind this 90-degree V4 engine is that it uses the same 81 mm bore as used by Ducati in MotoGP. But, Ducati has increased the stroke of the V4 to make it responsive in low-end and midrange power. The engine has been rotated 42-degrees backwards, which allows the V4 engine to go further back, leaving room for a longer swingarm and improving the motorcycle’s weight distribution. Just to give you an idea how much it has been optimised, the new V4 S has a front/rear weight distribution of 54.5/45.5 as compared to the 1299 Panigale S’s 53/47. Like its MotoGP cousin, the V4 also gets a counter-rotating crankshaft – a first for a Ducati street motorcycle – which rotates in the opposite direction of the wheels, unlike most mass production bikes. This also reduces the total gyroscopic effect and inertia-linked torque, thus reducing the bike’s tendency to do a wheelie when the rider opens up the throttle, while at the same time it also doesn’t allow the rear wheel to lift while braking hard. And that’s not all, the reverse rotating crankshaft also makes the V4 agile and faster in taking turns and changing directions.
faster in taking turns and changing directions.
On the track
Now, the Sepang Circuit is technically quite challenging, and the fact that it was my first time there just made the entire experience even more overwhelming. As I mounted V4 S variant and fired up the engine, to my pleasant surprise, it played the signature twin-cylinder symphony. I twisted the throttle, and the V4 S accelerated without even a hint of lag. As I entered turn 1, I'd no choice but to stay in the middle of the track and then enter turn 2 and take the apex late. And even though my mind was engaged with all sorts of permutations and combinations, trying to understand and predict the effect of my every move, the electronically adjustable Ohlins NIX30 43mm forks and TTX36 unit rear shock analysed the lean angle and the weight transfer and automatically adjusted the damping levels to aid me in taking the mid-turn without any hiccups. This also made me realise how forgiving the V4 S’s new all-aluminium monocoque chassis really is. The chassis or as Ducati calls it ‘Front Frame’ separates torsional rigidity and lateral rigidity to adjust to the road surface, especially while cornering.
Coming back to the circuit, the S-shaped 5 and 6 turns allowed me to take the racing line smoothly. With a stressed member engine, the V4 S managed to keep the weight down, as it didn’t need a balancing shaft, which would have added a few extra kilogrammes. The bike’s precision is the result of its race focused weight distribution. And its higher footpegs encourages you to take lean angles that you usually wouldn’t think of taking.
I finally reached the straight, and now, it was time to unleash the full power of the V4 S. I held the tank tight and opened up the throttle. As it reached 13,500rpm, I sat up, leaned left and slammed on the brakes. I couldn’t believe how powerful the Brembo Stylema callipers were, as it drastically reduced the speed from over 200 km/h to just below three-digit figure, with the help of engine braking. The V4 S remained stable and steered me into the corner without any unnecessary drama.
After a couple of sessions on the circuit, I realised the Panigale V4 S is not just Ducati’s new flagship but also the beginning of a new era for the manufacturer. Traditionally, Panigales have been very quick, but they were never easy handlers. For instance, 1299, with its breakneck speed, has a tendency to both understeer and tussle with you in corners. But that’s no longer the case, for the powerful V4 S is as rider friendly as it could possibly be. You don’t have to have phenomenal riding skills to enjoy this bike, but yes the use of common sense is highly advisable. It is one of the of easiest superbikes on the market, as it can be flicked around while gunning for apex, thanks to its cornering ABS, which allows you lean further, and precise two-way shifter.
The future is here
The Panigale V4 S comes fully loaded with electronic aids, along with a couple of new features like Slide Control, which controls the delivery of the torque when the rider brakes while leaning at an angle. This ensures that the rear tyre’s slide is under control and, at the same time, allows a faster exit out of the corner. But top honours go to the 1,103 4-cylinder engine, which offers such a wide range of power – from taking the slowest turns on the circuit to hitting ‘have you gone crazy’ speed limits, the motor has an unending supply of torque. The throttle is not just responsive but also smooth. It doesn’t try to bully you or dominate you, you can actually ride it like a touring bike, however, the aggressive riding stance may not agree with your back in a long-distance ride. Well, it’s a superbike, it’s not meant to be too road-friendly, but it certainly handles like a charm. At ₹25.29 lakhs (ex-showroom India), it’s certainly one of the most sophisticated scorchers that you’ll come across.
- Ducati Panigale V4 S
Engine: 1,103cc / 90-degrees V4 / Rearward-Rotating Crankshaft / 16 valves
Transmission: 6-Speed Manual / Up-Down Quick Shift
Power: 211bhp @ 13,000rpm
Torque: 124Nm @ 10,000rpm
Price: Rs 25.29 lakh (Ex-showroom India)
X-factor: With a wide range of torque delivery, there’s no hint of lag. And thanks to the new range of electronic aids, it takes corners with effortless ease.
• Smooth power delivery
• Smart features
• Looks gorgeous