As we had previously reported last month, Ducati is introducing a new Panigale V4 SP2, a numbered series production model it bills as “The Ultimate Racetrack Machine.” Internationally, the SP2 is a 2022 model, but for North America, it will arrive in dealerships in the fourth quarter as a 2023 model.
In addition to the updated Supersport 950 recently announced, Ducati has also unveiled a new member of the Panigale V4 family – the 2021 Panigale V4 SP. Essentially a Panigale V4 R but with the S model’s 1103cc engine, carbon fiber wheels, and electronic Öhlins suspension, the SP marks a return for the Sport Production initials after several years away.
You all know the saying, “You get what you pay for.” It’s an important life lesson that rings true for many aspects of life. Like cheap tools, the pleasure we get for the minimal cost outlay quickly evaporates as soon as it breaks much sooner than it should. Shoulda bought the good one is what we inevitably say to ourselves every time.
As the world is flying past at a rapid pace, it’s all I can do to mentally process the rate of acceleration and the sheer speed of the Ducati Superleggera V4. When all 234 horses are unleashed from the mighty Desmosedici Stradale R, forget turn one – all of these thoroughbreds are hell-bent on launching me to the future, completely bending my perceptions of time, speed, and reality. I’m Captain Picard to the Superleggera’s Starship Enterprise, warp drive has just been engaged, and we’re about to leave behind streaks of starlight as we blast off. Doing it again and again is intoxicating, it’s breathtaking, and it’s simply incredible. This is what it’s like when Ducati engineers are allowed to let their imaginations run free and build the baddest machine they can. God bless ’em.
Poor Ducati. It seems as though the mystical powers that be simply have something against its new model, the Streetfighter V4. After all the hype surrounding a naked version of the mighty Panigale V4, nothing has gone to plan. First was the death of Carlin Dunne while en route to a commanding victory at the Pikes Peak hill climb, then came the cancellation of the international press intro for the SF V4 at the Ascari Circuit in Spain due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
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.
According to various online weather services I looked at prior to jumping on a plane to Bahrain, the desert country only gets about 10 days of rain for the entire year. With those kind of odds it’s no wonder Ducati chose this location to hold the international press launch of its new and improved 2020 Panigale V4 S in the middle of January; with beautiful sunshine, a world-class Formula1 track, and stacks of Pirelli tires at hand, it’s every track rider’s dream, and a perfect venue to test the improvements Ducati have made.
I didn’t like the Ducati Panigale V4 S when I rode the first-generation version a few years ago. Despite the fact the Panigale has been the best selling superbike in the market for two years running, to the tune of one-in-four superbikes sold worldwide is a Panigale, I just never got on with it. In our head-to-head test of the Panigale V4 S and the Aprilia RSV4 RF, I noted how the Desmosedici Stradale 1103cc 90º V4 is an absolute monster of an engine. Unfortunately, it was wrapped in a chassis completely unable to provide any feedback to the rider. Where the RSV4 could carve a racetrack with scalpel-like precision, the Panigale was more like a butcher knife, chopping up swaths of racetrack with brute power instead of agility and precision. Sure it could set a fast lap, but trying to repeat that performance over the course of a 20-lap race would be next to impossible.
For the past few years, the collective motorcycling world has lost its minds with the Ducati Panigale V4. Understandable, considering how much of a departure it is for Ducati to abandon the V-Twin for its flagship sportbike, but also because the Panigale V4 and V4R are absolute knockouts in the engine department. Lost in the hoopla of the Ducati V4 engine sat the lowly 959 Panigale, a pleasant and capable machine, it serves as a gentle reminder to everyone that Ducati hadn’t completely abandoned the V-Twin. A part of the “Super-Mid” category of sportbikes (“Standard-Mid” being something in the 750cc-ish category, we assume?), it’s a little funny to think Ducati’s lower-displacement sportbike, at 955cc, is now larger than it’s former legendary flagship, the 916 family.
Lost in the buzz Ducati’s Panigale V4 stirred since its introduction was the fact its baby brother, the 959 Panigale, had remained untouched. Squashing any concern that the model was going away (at least for now), Ducati today announced the Panigale V2 – the new name for the 959 Panigale – featuring updates and technology from its V4 sibling. While they were at it, the V4 family received some updates too, which we’ll get to later.
If you type in “Ducati Panigale V4 R Review” in Google, you’ll notice not many publications have gotten their hands on one – including us. Ducati’s been very selective about who gets to ride the pinnacle Panigale, and we’ve been told, for 2019 anyway, Ducati won’t have a single V4 R in its US press fleet. Meaning we won’t get to ride the bike that forms the base upon which Alvaro Bautista has been dominating World Superbike.
Despite the fact Ducati has hit it big with the Panigale V4R this year, racking up numerous World Superbike victories with Alvaro Bautista (and, let’s be honest, likely the 2019 WSBK title), it appears as though Ducati isn’t done with the Panigale V4, as these spy photos Motorcycle.com has received would indicate.
Every year Motorcycle.com gets invited to the press introductions for several new motorcycles – it’s the biggest perk of our job, and the reason all of us have stuck around as long as we have! The cycle goes like this: at the end of one year or the beginning of the next, manufacturers talk a big game about a new model launch, and/or the internet goes wild with social media rumors and opinions about a new bike. In turn we, the media, can’t wait to be the first to throw a leg over said bike to see what the fuss is about. Sometimes the motorcycle in question is a dud, other times it exceeds beyond our wildest dreams. Then you get the rare model that didn’t get much fanfare but turns out to be unexpectedly awesome.