The latest Multistrada, with its superb V4 engine and electronic wizardry, is an adventure bike in a league of its own.
I’ve been putting off writing this review for a couple of weeks since returning the Multistrada V4S to Ducati. It isn’t often that a motorcycle manages to leave such an indelible impression that objectivity goes for a toss! Which is why I’ve waited for time to do its thing and make me drop those rose-tinted glasses to see the bike with more clarity and answer the question. Is the latest Multistrada really that good?
Straight from the heart
The Ducati Multistrada, from the 1200 S to the 1260 S and 950 S, has always been my pick among adventure motorcycles. Simply because of its sportbike on stilts formula, raw power and aggression paired with every road usability.
The new V4 continues in the same vein, while elevating the ‘Multistrada’ experience to a completely new level. And the main ingredient behind this is the new 1,158cc Granturismo V4 engine. It makes about 10hp more than the previous 1260’s L-twin while also being lighter and compact. Ducati’s decision to ditch tradition and use conventional spring valves instead of the Desmodromic ones comes as music to the ears of potential customers.
V4 engine is remarkably quick-revving.
After all, a valve clearance check at 60,000km (instead of the earlier 30,000km) and a less complicated system to work on, both translate to reduced service intervals and maintenance costs. But, those are just the peripheral benefits of the new V4. It’s the way it performs that makes it such a gem of an engine.
V4 par excellence
Fire it up and you’re greeted with a unique (for an ADV) V4 sound owing to its twin-pulse firing order. At idle and low revs, it isn’t as loud as the V4 in the Panigale/ Streetfighter and I’m fine with that given the adventure touring application. Rishaad, meanwhile, thinks the sound is a tad mellow, going as far as terming that, and its shockingly improved urban manners are “almost too civilised” for a Ducati.
Side-mounted fins deflect heat from the rider
While he is right to some extent, take the rev needle past 5,000rpm and that characteristic Ducati grunt is both heard and felt. In fact, this Jekyll and Hyde nature of the engine works incredibly well in our conditions. With the ride mode set to ‘Urban’ (more on the modes later), I dived into Mumbai’s traffic-infested streets and was in for a surprise from the V4. There’s no low rpm judder as is the case with Ducati L-twins, it’s tractable enough to hold 20kph in third and the heat management is unbelievably good.
The idea of installing split radiators and fins over the fans is genius as hot air is drafted away from the rider. Then there’s the rear cylinder bank deactivating at idle, improving heat management. To top it off, the hydraulic clutch doesn’t have that typical Ducati effort and judder in choc-a-bloc traffic either. The Multistrada V4’s ability to handle the urban jungle is impressive indeed. But, the real joy of this motor is best experienced out on the open road.
Upon reaching the highway, with an empty stretch of tarmac giving out an invitation to let the Multistrada loose, I selected ‘Sport’ mode and went for it. The series of events that followed left me, figuratively, in splits. Off the line, the acceleration is manic as the V4 unleashes its 170hp and 125Nm. The rate at which the tacho needle races to the 10,000rpm redline and the numbers on the speedo jump to unlawful figures is mind-blowing. “Holy $@c*” is something you’d repeatedly yell out loud every time you give it the beans, for the performance is truly astonishing for a big ADV. And with the up/down quickshifter offering seamless transition between gears, at any speed, the experience is something else.
All that performance, however, comes at the cost of fuel economy and this engine will return below 10kpl if you go excessively throttle happy. Keep the right hand in check, cruise at low triple digit speeds and you should manage to extract a decent 14-16kpl.
There couldn’t have been any way to handle all that performance without a comprehensive electronics suite. And the Multistrada V4 is equipped with one of the best out there. The four riding modes – Urban, Touring, Sport and Enduro – make the necessary alterations to the power delivery and the traction control system to make the Multistrada V4 surprisingly easy to ride. Each mode can also be individually tailored between low or full engine performance, traction control intervention levels or the amount of leeway that wheelie control offers. The amount of permutations and combinations on offer is what makes the Multistrada V4 non-intimidating for the beginner who’s treading into new waters with a big ADV and an absolute treat for the experienced rider who’s far up the learning curve.
Our test bike being the ‘V4S’ gets Ducati’s awesome Skyhook semi-active suspension and this alone makes it worth spending the extra money over the standard model. From tackling Mumbai’s pathetic roads, with the suspension in the softest setting, to attacking corners with a fully stiffened suspension on a race track, there is practically no road that the Multistrada can’t manage. I also liked the suspension’s ‘auto-levelling’ feature that sets the correct preload, whether you’re riding two up or with luggage, at the touch of a button.
Auto-levelling saves the hassle of adjusting preload.
The cherry on top of this electronics-laden cake is the radar-based adaptive cruise control and blind spot detection. The front radar is placed cleverly between the headlights and accurately detects everything from a bicycle to a bus. After selecting the desired gap you want from the vehicle ahead, the system works accurately, accelerating or reducing speed to maintain the gap. It’ll even apply the brakes in case the vehicle ahead slows down rapidly. All you need to do is drop gears in accordance with the bike’s speed.
The rear radar, located below the tail light, detects vehicles that are in the blind spot. There are amber LEDs on the inner top edge of the mirrors that light up to indicate a vehicle in the blind spot. These are quite bright and visible even in the afternoon sun. That said, you can’t ignore the fact that the shape of the pretty mirrors by default causes a big blind spot! Nevertheless, blind spot detection is a welcome feature and, although it can be turned off, I’d recommend leaving it on as it isn’t a distraction at all – just be prepared for it to never stop flashing in city traffic.
Windscreen adjustment mechanism is flimsy.
All of these electronics settings are accessed via a large TFT display with resolution so crisp, it’ll leave a mid-range smartphone to shame. Among its many functionalities, it can also mirror your phone using the Ducati connect app. Turn-by-turn navigation is another useful feature, but, the Sygic app that runs the maps needs the phone display to remain on continuously. To prevent your phone from running out of juice, the nifty cubby behind the fuel filler cap has a USB port and is large enough to fit a phone with a 6.5-inch display.
Get a handle
Ducati has developed a new aluminium monocoque chassis for the V4. The compact size of the engine has also allowed them to position it in the chassis in such a way that the weight distribution is spot on. In fact, despite a 22-litre fuel tank, the bike doesn’t feel top-heavy. This, along with the Skyhook suspension and the Pirelli Scorpion Trail II tyres, lend the Multistrada V4 with super nimble handling.
243 kilos are no concern for these Brembos
Whether it’s slicing past traffic as if on a street naked or leaned over into a fast flowing corner, there’s no dearth of confidence in the handling abilities of the bike. This is despite the 19-inch front and 17-inch rear wheel setup. The Brembo Stylemas on the S variant are also a big factor in giving you the confidence to push hard, safe in the knowledge that they will haul this 243kg bike down to a stop in a jiffy.
The 19-inch front wheel, 220mm ground clearance and Enduro mode were handy in riding down a dirt trail that led to the edge of a lake that I’d randomly spotted.
Given the danger of bending the alloy rims over rocks, I didn’t venture into hardcore trails. However, if that’s a concern, Ducati offers optional tubeless wire spoke rims.
The takeaway from my limited time with the Multistrada V4 off-road was that it felt more manageable than the Ducati Multistrada 1260 Enduro. The standing up ergonomics were ideal, with ample purchase for my knees to grab onto the tank while the handlebar was within reach for my 5ft 10in frame. Speaking of, a few short riders will find the reach to the handlebar a tad too much while seated. What they won’t complain about is the adjustable 840-860mm seat height, with a clever (but somewhat cheap feeling) mechanism to make doing so a breeze. Plus, the shape of the tank also makes it easier to place your feet down.
The seats are super comfortable for day-long trips, while the tall windscreen and spoilers that flank it do a wonderful job of deflecting head-on wind. So much so that your perception of speed is diminished massively and you’ll find yourself cruising at speeds way above what you think you’re at.
The Multistrada V4’s design comes across as a nice blend between form and function. It looks distinct among the sea of adventure bikes, by way of its aggressive face, the shape of the fuel tank and the exposed trellis subframe. It may not look as good as the Multistrada 950, especially from the rear and the conventional aluminium swingarm can’t match the beauty of a single-sided swingarm. But the V4 cuts a handsome figure, with a sense of premiumness attached.
Goodbyes are hard
Sitting by the lakeside and admiring this incredulous motorcycle, it was hard for me to think of faults with it. If I had to nitpick, some of the plastics don’t feel as expensive as they should and the standard windscreen, with its slightly flimsy adjustment mechanism, doesn’t feel polished either. Since the bike has keyless ignition, a keyless fuel filler cap should’ve been standard. But I’m willing to look past all of this, simply because of what else the bike offers. For Rs 23.10 lakh, ex-showroom India, you get a top-tier adventure motorcycle with all the electronics you’d want and more than all the power you’ll ever need.
The Multistrada V4’s ability to chew miles at a breathtaking pace, while keeping you entertained in the corners and comfortable over long hours in the saddle, is what makes it so endearing. This is possibly one of the best motorcycles to roll out of Bologna.