Writing about bikes for 20 years. Published in dozens of titles on five continents. Mildly obsessed with discovering how things work.
Ducati has taken the unusual step of officially confirming rumours that a V4-powered Multistrada is in the works despite the fact we won’t see the bike for more than a year.
It’s not a huge surprise. A Multistrada test mule sporting a derivative of the Panigale V4 engine was spotted on test earlier this year and it’s clear that Ducati is distancing itself from the old image of being a purely V-twin-building firm. However, it’s strange for a manufacturer to officially confirm the existence of a new bike this long before it’s ready for production.
Ducati buried the announcement in the tail of a self-congratulating press release about the production of the 100,000th Multistrada since the original, Pierre Terblanche-penned model hit the market in 2003. It turns out that the 100,000th bike – a range-topping Pikes Peak model – was handed over to its German buyer by none other than Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali, complete with a laser-etched top yoke to commemorate its production number.
The V4 was announced in a single line: Development is ongoing, and in 2021 the Multistrada family will expand to see the twin cylinder 1260 and 950 motorcycles joined by a version with a new, specific V4 engine.
That tells us that Ducati will still be making the existing V-twin machines, and the new V4 will be an additional model at the very top of the range. The use of a ‘new, specific V4 engine’ means that it’s not simply going to borrow the Panigale V4’s 1103cc unit. Spy shots and logic suggest that the new engine will still be closely related to the Panigale’s ‘Desmosedici Stradale’ motor, but for the Multistrada it makes sense to give it a new state of tune, emphasizing torque over peak power and adding to the low-rev grunt. The easiest route would be to boost the capacity with a longer stroke crankshaft, although given Ducati’s enthusiasm for adopting new technology it’s also possible that the firm will adopt a variable valve timing system. The spied prototype was already clearly fitted with the Bosch radar system that will appear on at least one production Ducati – almost certainly the planned ‘Multistrada Grand Touring’ – in its 2020 range.
The only problem with a detuned, lower-revving, torquier V4 engine is that it risks treading on the toes of the V-twin-powered Multistrada 1260. Is there really room for both bikes in the line up? While Ducati says there is, having both bikes in the 2021 range means updating the V-twin engine to meet future emissions laws while simultaneously developing the V4 that’s sure to steal its sales. In the longer term, just as in Ducati’s superbike range, it makes sense that the V-twin will be kept for the Multistrada 950 while the larger twin is eventually replaced by the four-cylinder model.
Of course, once Ducati has a torquier, second version of the V4 engine in production, the firm is sure to start looking for other applications to use it in. A Diavel V4 in 2022, perhaps? It certainly makes sense.