Ducati Panigale V4S Review (2020)

 

‘Now with wings’; sounds more like an advert for a lady’s bathroom consumable, or an Austrian energy drink. To give them their full official name, Ducati’s press release reads: monoplane single-element foils made from fibreglass-reinforced thermoplastic. But we’ll just call them wings, and they feature across the 2020 Panigale V4 range instead of exclusively on the V4R. With a wealth of less obvious upgrades including further aerodynamic tweaks alongside chassis, geometry, frame and electronic additions and amendments, is Ducati just playing the game rather well, or reinventing it?

So, what is new? Let’s break it down: 

  1. Aerodynamics: the 2020 bike has the R’s wider nose and fairing as well as the wings, of course. It’s 76mm wider, while a taller and more steeply-angled screen adds to the reduction of aerodynamic drag while increasing rider protection. Speaking of which, the shark-gill style cooling vents in the side panel are said to aid heat extraction from the engine.
  2. Frame: the front frame comes straight from the V4R which was WSBK-derived in the first place. It’s optimised for stiffness which in real life should mean less stress on the front tyre and an improved feel through the front wheel while strong braking at high lean (as you do on the way to the office).
  3. Riding Controls: keeping it simple, the Traction Control and Quickshifter (up and down) systems have been improved. DTC EVO2 is now the same as the V4R and allows the bike to be more predictive on corner exit with less spin and therefore more acceleration.
  4. Chassis Set-up: a higher centre of gravity and therefore taller seat height has been achieved by raising the front suspension by 4mm and the rear shock by 2mm, while the rear shock linkage is shorter by 5mm. All in the name of better bump absorption and increased grip at max lean.
  5. Engine Mapping: revised torque settings in the first three gears, especially in first and second mean more a predictive throttle opening phase and more control if grip is lost. 

During trials at Vallelunga, Ducati test rider Michele Pirro lapped 0.4s faster on the 2020 bike than on the 2019 model, despite no change in power or weight, putting the new machine just 3.3 seconds behind a full SBK-spec machine in the same rider’s hands. A non-processional test rider found an even greater benefit, slicing 1.3 seconds off their best time on the 2019 model.

Overall, the objectives were to offer better performance and repeatability while giving the rider more confidence, all with less effort. Off we went to Bahrain’s International Circuit with its 5.4km length, 15 corners, four straights (which are each met with full throttle in second gear) plus five hard-braking zones. A test for any machine with aero upgrades.

 

Above: glamorous from all angles

 

2020 Ducati Panigale V4S Price

The Ducati Panigale V4 base model will cost £19,995 with the ‘S’ version costing £24,795, which represents just a £500 increase on the 2019 ‘S’ model.

If you’d rather look at monthly payments on a PCP deal then an example offer looks like this:

Deposit

£6,294.71 (25%)

Agreement duration

37 months

Annual mileage

5,000

Monthly repayments

£265

Optional final repayment

£12,618

APR

7.5%

Total amount payable

£28,452.73

 

Power and torque

Because the Desmosedici Stradale 90° V4 remains untouched from the 2018 model, the claimed, impressive power and torque figures of 211.21bhp (157.5kW) @ 13,000rpm and 124.0 Nm (91.5 lb-ft) @ 10,000 rpm don’t change.

That said, new for 2020 is the “specially-developed Ride by Wire system mappings with several torque delivery control logics”. The idea that a more predictable throttle opening will result in more control if grip is lost would result in a safer ride. Marketing guff, I thought. Then I rode the bike and the nail was hit firmly on the head. The final corner at Bahrain’s International Circuit (it plays host to Formula One after all) is a slightly downhill 2nd gear right which has a tight entry that opens out onto the 1km start/finish straight and because of that plenty of corner speed is needed, like a 250, critical to swallow up the straight as quickly as possible and plough through the revs and gears. So, you can almost mistreat the V4S by dialling up the throttle assault as soon as you finished decelerating. In this equation, aggression doesn’t equal high side. The rear spins but the clever electronics only permit so much so as not to interfere with acceleration too much. Then comes the £25k feeling of absolute exhilaration while pinning the throttle of a 211.2bhp V4 monster and keeping it against the stop as the quickshifter does its job at 13 – 14,000rpm in each gear. The world passes by very quickly as the speeds approach 300kph (186mph) before hitting the anchors for T1. It takes your breath away and for the majority of that straight there’s one long joyous expletive filling my helmet!

 

Engine, gearbox and exhaust

Whatever the Italian for “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is, I’m sure the expression was used when the 2020 Panigale V4 and V4S models were in development. No sooner as a manufacturer unveiled a bike you can virtually guarantee they’ll be working on its successor and in this case, thankfully there was no need to change the headline-grabbing engine.

Not only is the 1103cc V4 identical to the outgoing 2019 model, it therefore ‘only’ meets Euro 4 emissions regulations which is peculiar given that the first wave of Euro 5-spec machines are already in dealerships. My guess is that they’ll be able to get that engine past Euro 5 fairly easily, so it could simply be a case that they haven’t tested it to Euro 5 levels and had it certified as Euro 5-compliant yet.

Either way, let’s concentrate on this work of art. The MotoGP-derived 90-degree V4 with counter-rotating crankshaft and twin pulse firing order is still one of the finest examples of automotive engineering. Slice it in half and anyone with an interest in bikes or cars will drool over the operational detail without even considering how so much power and torque this little lump covered in die cast magnesium makes.

A raucous, resolute powerplant with a combination of grunt and noise that go as well together as fish and chips, or perhaps meatballs and spaghetti in this case. Underslung exhausts direct the V4’s cry downwards so as not to upset too many neighbours or track day noise monitors and they emit what you assume is the greatest sound you’ve ever heard until the bike with the full Akrapovic system fires up, heads out of pit lane and then comes thundering down the start straight two minutes later. MotoGP bikes make a hell of a sound but remember this is a production bike that, when appropriately tooled-up, costs under £30k.

On track and, once the relevant settings have been dialled with personalised riding modes (Road, Sport and Race) the bike continues to threaten senses. Like that time when you were 10 and trying the top diving board for the first time, the attraction of holding the throttle to the stop becomes addictive once you’ve mastered it for the first time. Out of a slow corner and in low revs the controlled violence is a little subdued but the revs and speed quickly climbs as does the tingly feeling of epic performance. It too is both addictive and rewarding.

 

Launch report: Panigale V4S (2020)
Updated for 2020, the Ducati Panigale V4S gets a workout at Bahrain's International Circuit at the press launch. How do those new parts affect an already stupendous machine?

Above: flattering any rider to look like they know what they’re doing

 

2020 Ducati Panigale V4S Economy

Nobody buys a sports bike for its frugal nature. Ride it hard on track and you’ll be filling up every couple of sessions, although realistically you might want to add half a tank per session to keep the weight down for optimal track performance.

The Ducati is fitted with a 16-litre fuel tank and the engineers from Bologna claim 41mpg which should see a 170-mile tank range, although realistically I’d expect no more than 130-miles before you’re desperately seeking petrol station.

Unfortunately, our press test ride didn’t yield any conclusions on this front, in fact it was possibly the least economical possible with long, flat-out straights into tight 2nd gear corners and back on the power hard once again.

 

Handling, suspension, chassis and weight

We talked earlier about the high speeds at the end of the start/finish straight but there are three other occasions on the Bahrain track where you approach the top of 5th gear before some hard-braking. The choice of circuit was deliberate for the press launch due to the ability to demonstrate impressive stability under high speed, heavy braking and when picking the bike up out of a slow turn and giving it some welly. Wings, suspension settings, centre of gravity or chassis amendments synchronising to offer the feeling of a well-controlled ride. And this is evidence of Ducati’s aims to make the Panigale V4S an easier bike to ride but also to be able to repeat lap times, hitting apexes and making the bike more predictable lap after lap.

As well as DWC (electronic wheelie control), the wings also assist with regulating wheelies. Ok, so in level 1 - the least interference without being switched off – at mid-rpm under full acceleration the front wheel can be encouraged up and it rises slowly and hovers at a suitable level for a sweet photo but under hard acceleration the wings keep the front end grounded with less ‘floating’.

The reduced stiffness in the front frame coupled with suspension upgrades and that higher centre of gravity all contribute to a smoother faster transition from upright to high lean angles and back up and over again, the agility is cat-like the way in which it can turn with ease, precision and regularity. Picking the bike up onto the fat part of the tyre isn’t required before pushing the throttle because the beautiful pose of the bike with its tyres (slick Pirelli’s on this occasion), suspension refinements and an electronics package that can flatter any rider. The rear will spin but it’s all part of the feel-good factor the Panigale V4 offers, like a mood-enhancing narcotic. The smaller efforts required with the physicality of riding an 1100cc super bike here pays dividends in the long run in terms of fatigue, if on a track day for example. Once that 6th session of the day rolls around, you’ll be as fresh as a daisy.

What’s extra impressive about the cornering ability of the Panigale V4 is not only the comfort with which it turns but how subtly precise it is in the turn, making the bike easier to understand. When fighting a bike you lose concentration, performance and therefore confidence, meaning you become hesitant to push. You end up back in the pits not enjoying it, or wanting to change settings to compensate.

 

Above: wings and gills. As seen on flying fish.

 

2020 Ducati Panigale V4S Brakes

The classy, and class-leading when it comes to road bike stoppers, Brembo Stylema (M4.30) cling on to twin 330mm discs. They’re equipped with a Bosch Cornering ABS EVO system allowing for plenty, and I mean plenty, of trail braking deep into a corner. With a machine that is so electronically furnished and powerful, it’s easy as it is to rip the throttle back and remain stable in the twisty bits but brakes that aren’t up to standard will wreck your confidence and experience which will be hard to recover from. Thankfully Brembo’s finest, even on track when seriously punished i.e. 299kph in 6th to 55kph in 2nd at the end of the front straight, stood up to the task. No doubt the racers will want something a little stronger but as a road bike which can be used as track weapon now and again, these are an accomplished set that work seamlessly well alongside the ABS, front end feel and overall geometry of the Ducati.

Brake as hard as you dare and the V4S will hold tight, do its job and allow a degree of rear end waggle. Enough to feel like a racer but without losing traction of interfering with your corner entry. Of course the new aerodynamic attachments help keep the front stable while engine brake settings can be adjusted via the display. Overall, I felt I could brake harder and later while retaining control.

 

Rider aids and electronics

Time is both required and recommended to learn the array of electronic options on the Ducati. There’s very little change from the 2018 model; as described above it’s the Traction Control and Quickshifter settings that have been evolved. DTC manages spin to make you feel like a MotoGP-god while, for very fast riders, the revised DQS algorithm reduces the time of ignition cut in the high rpm between gears, namely above 10,000 rpm. That doesn’t mean that short-shifting below that threshold is any nicer, with a pffft-like piston/actuator noise between up-shifts are noticeable and the blink-of-an-eye speed of change isn’t apparent. Sometimes clunky, sometimes missed. However, in Ducati’s defence I did ride a different bike and even though the speed of change wasn’t there below 10k rpm, I missed no gears and therefore retained the paint on the top of my helmet instead of offering it to the screen.

The Ducati electronics package is a simple one to understand and operate. The two three-way switches on the left bar are a cinch to use but finding the most appropriate setting for commuting, Sundays or track days is all about using them at each end of their scales and taking the time to find a level that suits. They’re of gold star standard, have been properly engineered by those that understand how to emphasise riding characteristics of a particular engine and how to offer a cloak of security to riders of every standard. Once my confidence grew with two scenarios – under hard braking with the back looking to step out i.e. backing-in, and then under full acceleration while still picking the bike up out of a corner – I began playing with the settings ahead of each session, buoyed with self-belief that I was in control yet knowing full well the bike was doing most of the work.

 

 

Rivals

The new Panigale V4S bosses the opposition on the spec sheet in terms of power to weight ratio and torque figures. It also has an enviably sophisticated electronics package too that can be stripped right down if you’re professional, highly skilled or just a thrill-seeking nutter.

The performance bar gets shunted higher and higher each year, so much so that Kawasaki (despite their World Superbike successes) and Suzuki really have to pull their fingers out if they want a space at the table.

Bike

Power (in bhp)

Torque (in lbft)

Kerb weight

Bore x stroke

Ducati Panigale V4S

211.21bhp @ 13.000rpm

91.46lbft@10,000rpm

195kg

81mm x 53.5mm

Honda CBR1000RR-R

214.56bhp@14,500rpm

83.35lbft @ 12,500rpm

201kg

81mm x 48.5mm

Yamaha

YZF-R1

197.26bhp @ 13,500rpm

83.57lbft @ 11.500rpm

201kg

79mm x 50.9mm

Suzuki

GSX-R1000R (2019)

199.14bhp @ 13,200rpm

86.74lbft @ 10,800rpm

203kg

76mm x 55.1mm

Kawasaki

ZX-10RR (2019)

201.15 bhp @ 13,500rm

84.75lbft @ 11,200rpm

206kg

76mm x 55mm

BMW

S1000 RR

203.84bhp @ 13,500rpm

83.35lbft @ 11,000rpm

197kg

80mm x 49.7mm

Aprilia V4 1100 Factory

214bhp @ 13,200rpm

90lbft @ 11,000rpm

199kg

81mm x 52.3mm

 

2020 Ducati Panigale V4S verdict

Assertive and graceful. Sublime in its handling characteristics yet effortlessly violent with its brutal acceleration. This high-class Italian stands out on the podium of modern day sports bikes. The BMW is a serious rival as an overall package, Aprilia’s RSV4 1100 Factory is a wild card while Honda’s 2020 Fireblade could well take a spot in the top three. In which order they finish remains open for debate and depends on the rider’s requirements.

The Panigale’s ability to leave the rider on the edge with its savageness has long been its charm, and while the developments on the 2020 model have opened its user-friendliness to a wider range of riders, the fact that underneath the layers of protective electronics lies a World Superbike-related beast that only the most accomplished of riders can get near to taming. It’ll flatter more than ever, making any rider feel like they have a chance at BSB, egging them on with an air of persuasion usually reserved for the very best salesmen.

I look forward to trying it on the UK roads and in a more real life situations and reporting back of course. ‘Launch fever’ is real with bikes set-up for track use, slick tyres with warmers, a swarm of mechanics and an F1-standard circuit. Let’s see how we get on with the standard Supercorsa SPs, the B660 and some UK weather. But I’ll bet a case of that Austrian energy drink that the Panigale V4S proves to be the real deal on the roads too.

 

 

Three things I loved about the 2020 Ducati Panigale V4S …

  • For such a power-laden monster, it’s outrageously easy to ride
  • Easy-to-operate electronic settings to suit all riders
  • Refinements have added to the Panigale experience, not taken away

 

Three things that I didn’t…

  • Some riders want to be scared by a bike that appears, at least on paper, untameable
  • Quickshifter hesitancy sub-10,000rpm. We’re talking a blink of an eye but if it wants to be the best then there must be a solution for a faster (seamless) shift that is 100% accurate 100% of the time
  • The cost of just a handful of top-spec accessories on top of the bike soon pushes the price nearer to £30k

 

2020 Ducati Panigale V4S spec

New price

From £24,795

Capacity

1103cc

Bore x Stroke

81 x 53.5mm

Engine layout

Desmosedici Stradale 90° V4

Engine details

Rearward-rotating crankshaft, 4 Desmodromically actuated valves per cylinder, liquid cooled 4 valve per cylinder

Power

211.21bhp (157.5kW) @ 13,000rpm

Torque

124.0 Nm (91.5 lb-ft) @ 10,000 rpm

Transmission

6 speed with Ducati Quick Shift (DQS) up/down EVO 2

Average fuel consumption

41mpg claimed

Tank size

16 litres

Max range to empty (theoretical)

170 miles

Rider aids

6-axis IMU, Riding Modes (Race, Sport, Street), Cornering ABS EVO, Ducati Traction Control (DTC) EVO 2, Ducati Slide Control, (DSC), Ducati Wheelie Control (DWC) EVO, Ducati Power Launch (DPL), Engine Brake Control (EBC) EVO, Ducati Quick Shift (DQS) up/down EVO 2, Full LED lighting with Daytime Running Light (DRL), Ohlins steering damper, Auto off indicators, auto tyre calibration

Frame

Aluminium alloy ‘front frame’ with optimised stiffness and magnesium front sub-frame

Front suspension

Ohlins NIX30 43mm fully adjustable fork with TIN treatment

Front suspension adjustment

Electronic compression and rebound damping adjustment with Ohlins Smart EC2.0 event-based mode

Rear suspension

Ohlins TTX36 shock

Rear suspension adjustment

Electronic compression and rebound damping with Ohlins Smart EC2.0 event-based mode

Front brake

2 x 330 mm semi-floating discs, radially mounted Brembo Monobloc Stylema M4.30 4-piston callipers with Bosch Cornering ABS EVO

Rear brake

245 mm disc, 2-piston calliper with Cornering ABS EVO

Front tyre

Pirelli Supercorsa SP 120/70 ZR17

Rear tyre

Pirelli Supercorsa SP 200/60 ZR17

Wheelbase

1469mm

Seat height

835mm

Kerb weight

195kg

Warranty

Unlimited miles / 2 years

Website

www.ducati.com/gb

 

Looking for bike insurance? Get a quote for this motorcycle with Bennetts motorbike insurance

 

Aero, frame and electronic upgrades make the Panigale V4 easier to ride and with more confidence.
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