The phrase “Super-Mid” is about as meaningless as they come in motorcycling, but nonetheless, Ducati has used it to label its smaller displacement sportbike; in this case the Panigale V2. Essentially the previous Panigale 959 with a facelift and V4-level electronics, this odd-displacement sportbike not only has a weird engine size – 955cc – but it’s a V-Twin to boot (and no need to “correct” me about not calling it an L-Twin, because even Ducati calls it a V2 now), putting it in a distinguished field of outliers in the sportbike class, joining the Suzuki GSX-R750, Kawasaki ZX-6R and its 636cc engine, and the now-discontinued Triumph Daytona 675. We’re not counting the Triumph Street Triple 765 since it’s not really a sportbike.
Without question, the Panigale V2 is the most advanced bike in this class, and after riding it at its press launch at the Jerez circuit in Spain, I came back with a smile over just how fun a motorcycle it is to ride. We’ve recently had a chance to get our hands on one on home soil, and after putting a couple miles on it both on the street and the track, here are five things you need to know about the Ducati Panigale V2.
I know beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but does this bike not look good? The slight facelift to align it more with its V4 sibling was a step in the right direction. Even better, at least for Europeans who might be reading this, the V2 exhaust is Euro5 compliant, meaning you don’t need to stick on two giant cans to the end of the exhaust like you did with the previous 959 to meet regulations. Not only is the new nose section more attractive, the intake funnels are much freer-flowing than before. The V2 also gets a single-sided swingarm for a little extra pizazz!
In this day and age, if your sportbike doesn’t have an IMU, is it even a sportbike? Apparently, Ducati looked at the previous Panigale 959 and thought the same thing. With the V2, you get the same electronics package as the big-boy Panigale V4, based around a Bosch 6-axis IMU. With that, you get the Ducati Traction Control, Cornering ABS, and Wheelie Control. Not to mention a quickshift up/down feature, and Engine Brake Control.
Like seemingly every recent Ducati sportbike of the past decade, the Panigale V2 runs hot. Like, really hot. Not surprising considering the rear cylinder’s exhaust routing is right under your butt. This isn’t so bad when you’re on a racetrack and have plenty of airflow going around, but on the street, the heat is simply brutal. It’s not until you’re going at speeds well north of the legal limits before you get enough air to move the heat away. So, road rides become a measure of how pink you want the insides of your leg to be. Medium rare, anyone?
If there’s a word to describe the Panigale V2, it’s balanced. The 955cc V-Twin makes enough power to have a good time but doesn’t scare the daylights out of you, and the chassis is matched well to that amount of power. Put it together, and you have a motorcycle that’s a blast on a racetrack and equally enjoyable on a canyon road (heat aside). It won’t set any track records, but it’s not like anyone looking to do that would pick this bike, anyway. The Panigale V2 is the choice for the discerning sportbike rider with nothing to prove.
Then again, at $16,500, the Panigale V2 is right in line with several Japanese and Italian sportbikes with proper 1000cc engines, similar electronics, and comparable suspension. What do you do then? The answer always goes back to: What do you want in a motorcycle? If the Ducati ownership experience is something you want, and the V2 offers the kind of performance you’re looking for, it’s not a bad choice. Then again, if it’s bang-for-the-buck you seek, there are better options out there.