When Ducati unveiled their all-new Panigale way back in 2011, it’s fair to say that every man and his dog got excited; not only did it look the absolute the absolute bees knees, but it came with some serious spec to back it up – not to mention a seriously exhilarating personality thrown in for good measure. And the thing is, it’s always been an animal on track, but whether the Italians stuffed the minimal chassis with their V-twin or V4 powerplants it’s not always been the easiest, nor most pleasant machine to ride on the road. But then again, fast forward nigh on 10 years, and the Panigale has been through a raft of improvements, making it sexier, smarter and now for 2020, softer and easier to ride. In last year’s Ultimate Sports Bike test, the big Panigale really did suffer on the roads, but after spanking the new one on circuit at the launch earlier this year, it really did feel like a much calmer animal.
But then again, it needs to be, as the updated V4 and V4S aren’t the only new kids on the block, with Ducati ditching their entry-level (per se) 959 in favour of the updated V2. See, although the little Pani can quite easily be seen as the middleweight or the runt of the litter in Ducati’s sporting line-up, it’s actually anything but.
Think about it this way, it packs more power than the original 999R, and very nearly the same amount of torque… and that was a world championship-winning superbike just 15 years ago. It’s no slouch then, and for this year Ducati have really ramped it up a notch; it’s been given some seriously saucy cosmetic surgery, a chunk of extra beef in the engine and somehow, the V2 has even managed to nick the top-spec, and utterly spellbindingly good electronics package from the range-topping V4R. Couple that with a softer seat and suspension setup, and it sounds like a seriously sensual recipe for a decent road bike.
So how would the two measure up together? As far as specs go, there’s a whopping 20Nm of difference where torque is concerned and a monumental 59 horsepower difference, which is massive when they weigh about the same-ish. But the biggest gulf? Well, there’s also an absolutely gigantic difference on price tag –the BS4 V4 S costs ₹26.5 lakh and the BS6compliant V2 is expected to launch at around ₹16 lakh. So the question is, is the V4S really worth an extra ₹10 lakhs? Or is the more modest V2 enough for the job? Well we wrapped up and racked up some serious road mileage in typically grim Blighty weather before self-isolation to find out…
With the temperature sitting just a notch above freezing, the roads caked in mud and the rain pissing down every time the clouds looked to be parting, it wasn’t exactly the ideal climate to be spanking two incredibly saucy sports bikes. But then again, that was the point in this test; we know these bikes are great on track, but we wanted to give ’em a pasting in the real world as well.
And to be honest, even with no sun glaring down, the duo of Panigales looked absolutely incredible from a distance; now the V2’s been equipped with a single-sided swinger and sharper bodywork, you could be fooled into thinking they were twins – if those wings weren’t sticking out the side of the V4, anyway. It’s only on closer inspection that the little differences make themselves known. The V4S actually looks a bit chunkier, and those monstrous wings are impossible not to notice and almost impossible to avoid… I’m not sure I’d want to be walking around my garage with those puppies sticking out. Now I’m going to let you in on a little secret for full disclosure; I’ve actually spanked a load of my own cash on a V2 already this year, to turn into a race bike for the Ducati Tri-Options Cup. This meant, although I’d had a few sessions at Jerez last year, I opted for the baby Panigale first – you know, short of a week’s testing in Spain it made sense to get some mileage in before the start of the season, whenever that may be. Plus, after seeing how well behaved the V2 was on track, I was really excited to see if it could hack the local roads just as well.
I know it’s expected to be a whopping ₹16 lakh, but I’ve got to say, little details like having the ‘V2’ logo etched into the seat make it really look the part, and the baby Panigale did feel both special and premium when I lost the warmth of the van and hopped on. Like with most modern Ducs, the cockpit really is a nice place to be; the dash is actually easy to use, the buttons to toggle modes are where they should be, and even little details like the placement of the indicators just feel right from the get-go. Alas, the same can’t be said for the sidestand, which is a real pain in the ass to flick up or down. After some serious fumbling, and a few other ‘F’ words thrown in for good measure, it was ready to go, and with that gorgeously sounding V-twin fired up, it didn’t take long for me to have a smile back on my face.
PANIGALE V2: WHAT WE SAID ON TRACK: “From its track-spanking tekkers to its devilish attention to detail, the V2 ticks all the boxes with way more zest than any recent middleweight I’ve had the chance to thrash. It handled like a dream, had enough go to keep things exciting, but best of all, was the easiest Ducati to ride, and ride fast, I’ve ever had the pleasure of abusing. I used to ride an 899 in the Ducati Tri-Options Cup, and I spent three seasons trying to chase the feeling I got from spanking the bog-stock V2. So, is it the ultimate middleweight? Well, now it’s faster, comfier and damn right sexier, I’d have to say so. Yeah, it gets a bit hot, and it’s got a serious price tag on it, but if you think of it as a serious alternative to the V4, it doesn’t seem so silly. I’m not sure about you lot, but I’ve stuck it on my Christmas list already…”
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