Is Ducati Preparing a 659cc Single?

Dennis Chung
by Dennis Chung

We’re now a couple of episodes into Ducati‘s 2023 World Première launch series, but there are still another five parts to go. Ducati has already started teasing this week’s episode, which we expect will be for a GSA-battling Multistrada V4 variant, with a new Panigale V4 R, a Diavel V4, and a next-generation Scrambler expected in the weeks ahead.

None of these models we expect come as much of a surprise. They are all logical progressions of what Ducati has been offering the last few years, with the Diavel being the latest model to go from a V-Twin to a V-Four.

There may be at least one surprise in store, however, as we’ve found evidence suggesting Ducati will introduce an entirely new engine: a liquid-cooled 659cc four-valve Single.

The proof comes to us via a new vehicle identification number (VIN) decoder Ducati recently submitted to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

An updated VIN decoder for the 2023 model year lists new Ducati engines including an intriguing liquid-cooled 659cc four-valve Single.

The new VIN decoder was submitted Sept. 22 with an updated list of engines for the 2023 model year. For U.S. bound models, Ducati uses the seventh digit of its VINs to indicate the engine type. In 2022, Ducati’s VIN decoder uses the letters A through V to denote different engines (see the screenshot below). For 2023, Ducati added eight new engine codes, starting with a W representing the DesertX’s 937cc V-Twin.

The VIN decoder Ducati filed in 2022 included 19 different engines, including some from previous model years that are no longer in use (the VIN decoder technically covers years 2017 to 2022)

Most of the other new engines match what we expect: a 1000cc V-Four for the Panigale V4 R, an 803cc air-cooled engine for the next-generation Scrambler, and two versions of the 1158cc V-Four destined for the Multistrada V4 Enduro and the Diavel V4.

The one engine that sticks out is a new liquid-cooled 659cc four-valve Single. But what could it possibly be for?

When we think of Ducati Singles, the first thing that naturally comes to mind is the legendary Supermono, which we’ve recently discussed on MO last month in an excerpt of Ian Falloon’s The Art of the Ducati, and a couple weeks ago in an Ask MO column. The Supermono famously employed one engine cylinder with a dummy connecting rod to counter the vibrations of a single moving piston. The Supermono, however, was built for “Sound of Singles” racing, but there currently isn’t a similar class that calls for a 650-ish Single.

Of course, Ducati also built singles long before the Supermono, and even long before the 90-degree V-Twins that defined much of the brand. Ducati’s original Scramblers of the ’60s and early ’70s were Singles, so perhaps the 659cc engine is for a new entry-level Scrambler.

The 2023 VIN decoder suggests the 803cc Scramblers are getting an updated engine, with a new eight-disc hydraulic clutch. But there doesn’t seem to be a similar replacement for the 399cc Scrambler Sixty2 that previously served as the beginner model.

A 1965 Ducati 250 Scrambler. Photo by Tod Rafferty.

However, all of Ducati’s modern Scramblers are air-cooled, including the redesigned engine, and the VIN decoder describes the new Single as being liquid-cooled. Unless Ducati had a philosophical change about the Scrambler, the new Single is likely destined for something else completely.

Looking at Ducati’s World Première schedule, the remaining episodes are titled “This is Racing”, “Pushing Forward”, “Dare to be Bold”, and “Next Gen Freedom”. The Racing episode will likely be for the Panigale V4 R, and Ducati has already hinted “Next Gen Freedom” episode will be for the new Scramblers. A Diavel V4 could fit either of the other two descriptions, leaving the other for something else, perhaps with the new Single-cylinder engine.

We’ll find out for certain in a few weeks.

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Dennis Chung
Dennis Chung

Dennis has been a part of the team since 2008, and through his tenure, has developed a firm grasp of industry trends, and a solid sense of what's to come. A bloodhound when it comes to tracking information on new motorcycles, if there's a new model on the horizon, you'll probably hear about it from him first.

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