Factory MotoGP rider Nicky Hayden Hayden rode the Diavel onto the LA Auto Show’s stage two days ago, culminating with a tire-smoking burnout. Ducati was there to share the spotlight with the AMG division of Mercedes-Benz, together announcing a new partnership that sees the high-performance AMG sub-brand sponsoring Ducati’s MotoGP team.
After Hayden’s smoky entrance, the hundreds of international automotive media promptly ignored the new 550-hp CLS 63 AMG and flocked over to the chunky Diavel.
The deal includes sponsorship of Ducati’s GP team for two years plus an option to extend it, and the marketing effort will also encompass test rides/drives at each other’s events. And company reps hinted about the possibility of one day cooperating on future products.
“I’m pretty sure our AMG Performance Studio will be able to capture the spirit of Ducati in a very special AMG someday,” teased Ola Källenius, CEO of Mercedes-AMG GmbH, “but that’s something for another show.”
“Our engineers and our designers will have a lot of input from them, and vice versa their designers,” Gabriele del Torchio, president and CEO of Ducati Motor Holding S.p.A, told Motorcycle.com.
Coincidentally, the companies share a history of using desmodromic valve actuation. Mercedes employed the mechanical-closing valvetrain design in its fearsome W196 Grand Prix racer from 1954, while Ducati’s legendary engineer Fabio Taglioni first used the system in the 1956 125 Desmo GP bike, and the Bologna-based company continues to use desmo valves in its current range of V-Twin engines.
The 1199cc V-Twin from the odd but successful Multistrada finds a new home in the Diavel, seen for the first time in North America at this week’s auto show. We were able to try it on for size shortly after Hayden warmed it up.
“I’ve got a Ducati 848 at home, but I might need to add one of these because it’s something different,” said the Kentucky Kid.
The Diavel is indeed different, and it’s often been derided by traditional Ducatisti who revere the brand’s performance heritage. However, the Diavel (“devil” in Bolognese) is directed at a new clientele.
“I truly believe that we’re going to open a new market segment, as we did many years ago when we introduced the Monster,” del Torchio commented. “It was a new category in the market, and we think the Diavel will do the same.”
Ducati reps are cautious about describing their new creation as a cruiser, even if its long and low stance points it in that direction relative to something like an 1198.
“It’s very comfortable, very powerful and easy to ride,” related del Torchio, who has ridden the Diavel in prototype form.
Getting a chance to see the Diavel in the flesh, it looks smaller than the impression it gives in photos. It takes but a short swing of a leg to get onto the 29.5-inch seat, made possible by a low-mounted horizontal rear shock. The saddle’s bucket-like perch feels comfy but doesn’t allow much fore/aft room, and it’s nicely highlighted by red stitching.
Don’t expect anything like ape-hanger handlebars on this pseudo cruiser, as they are set quite far forward relative to a traditional cruiser. Similarly, its footpegs are located forward compared to other Ducs, but they are placed comfortably just ahead of the seating area. A rider’s view is dominated by the large expanse of the 5.3-gallon fuel tank and side-mount radiators. Clutch pull feels quite light.
Pulling the Diavel off its sidestand requires little effort, as the “Carbon” version we sat on (with forged-aluminum wheels and carbon-fiber accents) is said to weigh just 456 pounds – less than any 750cc-plus cruiser we can think of. And this is a 1200cc “cruiser” with a 162 galloping horses, enough, said del Torchio, to reach nearly 150 mph.
Further putting the cruiser label to rest is the Diavel’s cornering clearance. Del Torchio says it has up to 41 degrees of lean angle. To put that in perspective, consider that Harley’s raciest bike, the XR1200X, can achieve a 39- or 40-degree lean before touching hard parts.
Pirelli played a key part in the Diavel’s development, creating a wide (240mm) rear tire with a more rounded profile than fat cruiser rubber. Pirelli reps claim that it offers neutral turn-in response unlike anything this wide that was previously offered. If that broad bun fails to get your attention, the imposing stacked mufflers (that look big enough to fire mortar rounds) will.
That steamroller tire is proudly on display thanks to a single-sided swingarm and a truncated tailsection that incorporates a faired-in taillight and clear-lens LED turnsignal strips. A stylish steel-trellis license plate bracket extends from the swingarm, further cleaning up the rear view.
Further adding to the Diavel's high-end appeal are the presence of aluminum body panels rather than cheap plastic. The fuel tank covers and the tailsection are fabricated from the lightweight metal.
Pillion accommodations are cleverly unobtrusive – footpegs fold down from the tailsection on thin brackets, while a grab handle slides out from its stowed area above the taillight.
So, although we don’t really yet know how the Diavel will ride, we have some positive first impressions. It has a captivating presence in person, and despite its cruiser leanings, it looks every inch like a Ducati with its red trellis frame and sport-spec suspension and brakes. There is literally nothing quite like it.
And consider the Porsche Cayenne SUV, which was roundly scoffed at by sports-car purists. It went on to become the brand’s best seller, providing an outlet for those who desired a 911 but couldn’t reconcile buying one because of family or comfort concerns.
We can imagine a segment of two-wheel performance enthusiasts who have long admired Ducati’s racing legacy and Italian style but have been intimidated by the company’s hardcore sportbike lineup. The Diavel might be seen as an easier introduction to Ducati membership.
The standard Diavel will retail for $16,995 when it arrives in dealers early next year. The upmarket Diavel Carbon rings in at a spendy $19,995 for the black version; it’ll cost another $400 to get it in red. The Diavel’s performance bona fides will be put to the test early in February of 2011 during its press introduction. Stay tuned for the real review!
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