Ducati Panigale V4 S track review: Red mist

    Some track time aboard the latest Ducati Panigale V4 S reveals that it is now a little easier, but even faster and more desirable than ever.

    Published on Jul 24, 2023 07:00:00 AM


    Make : Ducati
    Model : Panigale V4

    The last time I spent time with a Ducati Panigale V4 was when it was in its original form and I have rich memories of the most violent, exotic and exhilarating motorcycle I have ever ridden. The V4 was awe-inspiring, but also a tiny bit demoralising because it felt like you needed to be a professional racer to even scratch the surface of its abilities.

    Legend has it that Ducati has worked hard to make its mega motorcycle feel easier to exploit for us non-superhero riders, and this 2023 version is supposedly the most friendly version yet. The question is, by how much? And has that made the bike any less desirable?

    I finally had the chance to find out when Ducati invited us to its DRE Sepang experience (page 144). While it wasn’t a track-day style media test, it was enough to get a feel for the motorcycle.

    The Panigale V4 now makes a tiny bit more power at 215.5hp with a 14,500rpm redline. The gear ratios have been tweaked and Ducati has put plenty of work into the electronics, with new power modes, modified riding modes and a race-derived dashboard layout. We didn’t have a chance to really delve into the electronics at DRE, so I elected to focus on the rest.

    Two things stood out. First, Ducati’s effort to engineer more flex into the chassis and also mildly soften the suspension over the years has resulted in a bike that feels ‘easier’ to ride. It has shed some of that rigid, race-bike nature where it felt like you had to put tremendous loads into the suspension to get the bike to behave as the engineers envisioned. For non-professional racers like myself who aren’t good enough to carry huge speed into corner entries while trailing the front brake, that’s a good thing. The new seat and tank ergonomics also make it easier to grip the bike and hang off in the corners.

    The second thing – speed. There’s fast and then there’s this. The Panigale V4 is brain scrambling, world-blurring and, on an unfamiliar race track, almost overwhelmingly quick. At Sepang, I often found myself lost because everything was moving so fast that I couldn’t keep up with my limited knowledge of where the track went. It can really put the fear of god in you to exit a 140kph+ blind downhill left hander at near elbow dragging angles and then second guess what the correct line is for the next right hander.

    A few fellow riders on track visited the gravel traps when they found themselves entering corners at speeds too high for their skill level. I had a few moments with running wide as well, but thankfully managed to keep the bike within track limits – shoutout to the incredible Brembo brakes. With its bursting mid-range (80 percent of the 123.6Nm is available at just 6,000rpm) and raging top end, the Panigale V4 remains the fastest-feeling motorcycle I have ever ridden.

    As for the amazing electronics, they just keep getting better and better with every model update. This was the first time I felt Ducati’s Slide Control system in action after I opened the gas a little too hard on full lean in an idiotic attempt to try and keep up with my DRE coach and ex-MotoGP rider Karel Abraham. It was the last session of the day and I felt the sickening feeling of the bike sliding sideways as the well-used Pirelli Supercorsa rear tyre gave up.

    While my brain struggled to process what was happening and instruct my right hand on how to respond, the system smoothly reined the motorcycle in before it catapulted down the straight. What could have been a painful highside instead ended up being a deeply imprinted memory and that’s the beauty of all this electronic wizardry. 

    At Rs 33.06 lakh, ex-showroom, for the V4 S (Rs 27.41 lakh for the base model), it costs a whole lot more than any of its rivals. The Panigale, then, is frightfully expensive and it needs a GP-sized circuit to fully enjoy. So when it comes to the question of value, you need to consider what this bike has to offer and then question whether that appeals to you.

    The Panigale V4 remains the most exotic, intense and special feeling of the superbikes for me, despite its added approachability. I will still maintain that the BMW S 1000 RR is easier to ride fast, but there’s something so deeply desirable about this Ducati.

    Maybe it’s the exquisite design, or simply being perched on the tall seat and soaking in that vibrant, angry and deeply characterful motor. Or perhaps it’s the loving attention to detail and quality, or could it just be the seemingly insurmountable challenge of finding this bike’s limits?

    It’s hard to quantify, but I can tell you this – there’s nothing quite like a Panigale V4 when you’ve got one in the right environment.

    Also See:

    Triumph Speed 400 review: Bharatiya-British brilliance

    Tech Specs

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