Sometimes, you have to adopt change, perhaps completely changing course with respect to your previous history, and abandoning cherished convictions. This happens to all of us in our everyday lives, and it also happens in the automotive industry, whether the vehicles are two or four-wheeled. Just think of Porsche, who continue to receive complaints from fans for having abandoned the 911’s air-cooled engines, or Harley-Davidson who were eventually obliged to mitigate the famous, but somewhat uncomfortable, “good vibrations.” Before you jump onto a Ducati Panigale V4, you may well ask why the brand decided to abandon one of its most characteristic features, in favour of an engine arrangement used by just about all motorbike constructors.
Four-cylinder engines for series bikes
Even though it will be difficult for die-hard “Ducatists” to come to terms with the demise of the L-twin, advances in technology and electronics made it essential to remain competitive in the Superbike class. In fact the Panigale V2 has not yet been able to win a world title, and if it doesn’t succeed this year – notwithstanding an extra 200 cc with respect to the four-cylinder competitors – it would be the first Ducati not to win the championship featuring tuned versions of series-made motorbikes. So, after fifteen years of MotoGP with V4 engines and a world title, the four-cylinder engines have been used for series bikes, and more specifically on the latest descendant in the legendary family of Superbike motorbikes that saw the light in 1987 with the 851, with the most famous model undoubtedly the 916.
From 0 to 100 in under 2 seconds
The new 90° V4 engine has enabled a total redesign of the Panigale. Its principal dimensions have been changed, with a shorter wheelbase and better weight distribution, fundamental when a motorbike is designed for extreme performance. The four-cylinder 1,103-cc power plant produces 214 HP at 13,000 rpm and 123 Nm at 10,000 rpm, loads of power that can be used to propel a bike weighing just 175 kg. The other performance figures are a consequence of all this power, with a top speed in excess of 300 km/h and an acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h in under two seconds. It is immediately obvious that the Panigale V4, like its competitors in the Superbike championships, is not a bike for everyone.
Just consider the fact that in first gear alone, you can go faster than the speed limit on motorways. This fact makes it abundantly clear that this motorbike was designed and developed for use on track, and that taking it onto the roads is a purely secondary consideration. When you are on the track, and if you have the skill and courage to exploit all its power, it is the thrust of the engine that continues to be its most stupefying characteristic. This Italian V4 seems to have bottomless, never-ending torque and every acceleration feels like a launch into hyper-space. Its stability around corners is incredible, and when you have to slow down, the Brembo calipers do an amazing job. The deceleration is as savagely heart-thumping as the acceleration. It takes a while to get used to this sort of performance. And when it feels like you’re going fast, you can be sure that in reality you’re still dawdling.