For more than 20 years the V-Max was part of the motorcycling lexicon. Reborn in 2009 with the first full overhaul since its introduction in 1985, the VMAX (note the tweaked nomenclature) boasts a nearly 500cc increase (from 1,197cc to 1,679cc) in engine capacity and a massive bump in power (see dyno chart). A modern cult bike without equal, the VMAX not only owns the power-cruiser class, it’s the bike that created the species.
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The arrival of the Diavel last year as a pretender to the VMAX’s crown, signifies a departure from Ducati’s unapologetic lineup of sporting models. The Diavel is not Ducati’s first feet-forward motorcycle, but this modern power-cruiser in no way compares with the damnable Indiana of the mid-’80s. “I'll admit it was weird to place my feet in front of me on a Ducati, that's something I've never done before,” says editor-at-large, Troy Siahaan.
Armed with the latest in electronic technology and motivated by a version of the Testastretta 11° V-Twin first seen in the Multistrada, Ducati certainly didn’t bring a knife to a gunfight. For the motorcycle/firearm aficionado, it’s a matter of preference between the sharp shooting accuracy of a high-powered rifle (Diavel) or the remorseless brutality of a rotary machine gun (VMAX).
A bike has to be straight-line fast to qualify as a power-cruiser, and the only place to prove its merit is at the dragstrip. We knew the results would be close before either bike was launched, but the end result surprised all in attendance.
In the capable hands of MO’s dragstrip specialist, Editor Duke put the Diavel through the lights at Famoso Dragway outside Bakersfield, California, in a very respectable time of 10.30 seconds at 131.3 mph. Corrected for temperature and air pressure, the ET converts to a seriously quick 9.95-second pass.
Switching to the VMAX Duke mustered a 10.16 at 136.1 mph (corrects to 9.81 at 140.9). Yep, 0.14 of a second is all that separated the two at the line, awarding the VMAX bragging rights, but only marginally.
Boasting an engine with two more cylinders, 481 more cubic centimeters, 41.8 more horsepower and 31.2 more foot pounds of torque, how could the VMAX not have obliterated the Duc by a larger margin?
The first problem is a result of the MAX’s choice of final drive. “Using a shaft drive makes the rear suspension rise up under acceleration, limiting the amount of traction-enhancement from a bike’s weight transfer,” Duke comments.
The shaft final drive harbors some responsibility, but the greatest contributing factor is the VMAX’s substantial heft.
At a claimed 683 pounds full of fluids the VMAX outweighs the claimed 527-pound wet weight of the Diavel by a whopping 156 pounds. Calculating the power-to-weight ratio of each bike is revealing, with a closer figure than that of their dragstrip times: 0.258 horsepower per pound for the VMAX vs 0.255 horsepower per pound for the Diavel – basically identical.
When raced head-to-head, the lighter, chain-driven Diavel left the VMAX at the Christmas tree. When the MAX built some speed, however, it managed to catch and pass the Diavel each time, after which the VMAX continued accelerating at a rate the Diavel would never match. “Its acceleration above 100 mph is ferocious, feeling more insane than even a ZX-14R due to its lack of wind protection,” Duke raves.
Outside the confines of the dragstrip environment and into the metropolitan wilderness, both bikes possess the aptitude for acquiring speeding tickets and embarrassing expensive sport cars. Both growl aggressively from their V-Twin and V-Four engines and look menacing in their predominantly black color guises.
While the two bikes are striking in their own right, the Diavel’s “stance is menacing, aggressive and mean, just as a bike in this category should be,” notes Siahaan. That said, if we were lost and had to approach one of the two bikes in a dark alley, we’d avoid the VMAX. The MAX has a profile convincing enough that in our nightmares it might actually transform into a Decepticon and bludgeon us to death while taking pleasure in the action.
It is this diabolical visual appeal alone that’ll draw perspective owners away from the Diavel or any other motorcycle with power-cruiser ambitions. The VMAX also attracts the bigger-is-better crowd, especially if the person in question is, himself, bigger. The MAX carries its 683 pounds of wet weight across a long 66.9-inch wheelbase (0.4 inches more than a Gold Wing) and sitting atop the exceptionally wide MAX is comparable to straddling a horse.
“With its giant V-Four motor between your legs,” Duke notes, “it feels almost like you’re riding a motorcycle with a car engine. The wide seat provides good support, but it forces short legs to struggle reaching the ground.”
The Diavel rider, on the other hand, sinks into a dished saddle and is greeted with the comfort of wrapping his legs around the narrowness of a V-Twin engine. Although the VMAX has only a 0.2 of an inch higher seat height, you’d never guess it sitting on each bike consecutively, the width of MAX making the seat height appear much taller.
U-turns, parking lot maneuvers, lane-splitting and other slow operations are obviously easier on the relatively diminutive Diavel, and as proven at the dragstrip, either bike is capable of holding its own at any impromptu stop-light rivalries. At some point, however, you’re going to leave the urban environment and travel the Interstate slabs and whatever constitutes a twisty road in your neck of the woods.
The long wheelbase, weight, fully adjustable suspension and, of course, power of the VMAX conspire to make the MAX an exceptional long-distance mount. Accessorized with the factory Touring Windshield (untested here) and the MAX will keep its pilot relatively comfortable during long hours in the saddle, punctuated with frequent fuel stops.
“No one will ever buy a 1700cc muscle bike for fuel-economy reasons, nor should they,” Duke comments. “It’s not uncommon to drain fuel from the MAX at a rate greater than 30 mpg. Combined with a trivial 4.0-gallon fuel tank, you’ll have ample opportunity to stop and stretch.”
The Diavel, too, makes for a good travelling companion. Our only real complaint is the sculpted seat which doesn’t allow for for/aft change in seating position. Troy mentioned that the reach to the bars was at his limit of comfort but otherwise liked the Duc on our freeway ride to Bakersfield. From the Diavel’s 4.5 gallon tank we managed a more respectable 38 mpg compared to the MAX’s 33-mpg average.
When the pavement narrows to two lanes, begins arching into blind corners and quick left-to-right transitions, the Diavel shines with the superiority only a lighter, more nimble motorcycle can in the shadow of a heavier, more powerful competitor. Contributing to the Diavel’s better handling are its 17-inch wheels, the sportbike standard, compared to the MAX’s 18-inchers.
While the Star gets around corners well for a machine of its size, there’s no ignoring its considerable weight.
“Its chassis is stiff enough to be thrown into corners,” Duke observes, “but that doesn’t mean it likes it. And the riding characteristic I cared for least in the VMAX is its annoyingly abrupt engine-braking response when off the gas, which makes it difficult to smoothly set up for the next corner.”
Ironically, while the MAX rolls on a 200mm rear tire, the Diavel utilizes substantially larger 240mm rubber, which is a little disconcerting upon initial impression. “When you get it leaned over, the front feels like it's going to slide out from under you,” says Siahaan. “It won't, but you have to slowly work up to that level of trust with the Diavel.”
Both bikes feature fully adjustable suspension to tailor settings for the task at hand. The Ducati a 50mm inverted Marzocchi fork, while the YamaStar uses conventionally oriented 52mm stanchions. Braking is also abundant on both models, with the MAX boasting Brembo master cylinders and dual six-pot front calipers and the Duc dual Brembo monobloc 4-piston calipers. ABS is standard on both motorcycles.
In terms of electronics, both bikes utilize Ride-by-Wire throttle control, and while the Star boasts Yamaha Chip Controlled Intake (YCC-I), the Ducati fires back with Ducati Traction Control (DTC) and selectable ride modes.
YamaStar’s intention for the VMAX was never mixing it up in the twisties with more nimble motorcycles. The MAX sticks to what’s made it the cult bike it is today, blistering fast straight-line performance coupled with intimidating looks and a sweet V-Four engine with a unique exhaust note.
“For anyone desiring a musclebike who lives far away from curvy roads, the Max is impossible to beat in terms of wildly impressive power and pure road presence,” says Duke.
If you do happen to live in close proximity to undulating ribbons of asphalt, you’ll likely prefer the relatively nimble Diavel for its ability to scuttle down a two-laner with help of Ducati’s track-bred handling knowledge.
Which really sums up this shootout. In no way does the Diavel usurp the MAX’s title of awesomest power-cruiser ever. What Ducati has done is create a new category we’ll dub sport-cruiser.
Don’t think we’re cowering away from claiming a winner – these two bikes are simply too disparate to heap into a single category. And, honestly, we’re not sure they’ll even attract the same customers.
But what a thrill it was piloting the top two musclebikes through the quarter-mile at the dragstrip without care or concern for cops or pedestrians. We suggest you choose your 9-second poison and do the same.
|By the Numbers|
|Star VMAX||Ducati Diavel Cromo|
|Engine Type||65° V-4||Testastretta 90° V-Twin|
|Transmission||5-speed, multiplate slipper clutch||6-speed, multiplate slipper clutch|
|Frame||Cast-aluminum perimeter-style||Tubular steel Trellis frame|
|Wheelbase||66.9 in||62.6 in|
|Front Suspension||Fully adjustable 52mm telescopic cartridge fork||Fully adjustable 50mm inverted Marzocchi fork|
|Rear Suspension||Fully adjustable single shock with remote reservoir||Fully adjustable Sachs monoshock|
|Front/Rear Tires||120/70 x R18 & 200/50 x ZR18||130/70 x R17 & 240/45 x ZR17|
|Front Brakes||Dual 320mm wave-type discs; radial mount 6-piston calipers, Brembo radial pump master cylinder||Dual 320mm semi-floating discs, radially mounted Monobloc Brembo 4-piston callipers with ABS|
|Rear Brakes||298mm wave-type disc, single-piston caliper and Brembo master cylinder||265mm disc, 2-piston floating calliper with ABS|
|Seat Height||30.5 in.||30.3 in.|
|Wet Weight||683 lbs||527 lbs|
|Electronics||ABS, YCC-I, YCC-T, RbW||ABS, Ride modes, DTC, RbW|
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