By: Mike Ginsca
When Ducati announced that it would move away from the L-twin engine in their premier superbike – the 1299 Panigale – for a new V4 engine, it raised a lot of eyebrows. They also said that they wanted the new bike to be more user friendly and not as intimidating as the older generations. The culmination of those changes have led to the 2020 Ducati Panigale V4S. So have those changes worked?
Engine – The new V4 engine displaces 1,103 cc and produces 214 hp at 13,000 rpms & 91 lb-ft of torque at 10,000 rpms. If you’re wanting for more though, you can get the V4S with an optional exhaust system that adds 12 hp and sheds just over 13 lbs of weight. But back to the 214 hp version of the engine and …. Wow, it truly is like getting shot out of a cannon; to use an overused metaphor. Ducati used their knowledge from MotoGP & World Superbikes to develop this engine as well as the extensive and advanced rider aids such as multi-level traction control, ABS, wheelie control, etc.
In 1st & 2nd gears, the ECU limits the engine’s torque to better control the monstrous power to the ground. In 3rd, the intervention is a bit less while 4th through 6th get full power. On streets, you don’t really notice any lack in power because the Panigale V4S picks up at almost any rpms and it pulls hard right up to the 14,500 rpm redline. Ducati’s engineers tried to make the torque and power delivery more linear and predictable to make the bike more controllable to those that are not as skilled. The result is a Ducati superbike that genuinely doesn’t feel as intimidating as previous versions, even to those that have very few trackdays under their belts or none at all.
Transmission – The 2020 Ducati Panigale V4S uses a 6-speed sequential with a slipper clutch and Ducati’s Quick Shift EVO2 is standard on all variants of the Panigale V4. Using the quickshifter and auto blipper in mundane city traffic is pretty smooth at low rpms and part throttle. Open up the throttle more and the shifts are a bit more abrupt and you feel a good “kick” with each upshift. For the 2020 model year, Ducati tweaked the quickshifter a little bit to better work with all the other electronics on this bike. So even if you’re riding hard through twisty mountain roads, you can upshift mid-corner without breaking traction – or getting the feeling of instability.
Braking – Brembo calipers do a fantastic job of bringing the V4S to a stop. Combined with varying levels of engine braking, it hardly takes any effort of your right fingers on the brake lever to stop the Ducati in everyday city riding. Under more spirited riding, it’s hard to notice any intervention from the ABS system – a good thing – unless you’re riding like a maniac squeeze as tight as you can on the brake lever. ABS and corner ABS are standard features on the Panigale V4 with varying adjustments for your specific preference.
Handling – The 2020 Ducati Panigale V4S received the frame from the 2019 V4R and has also been raised by 0.2-inches. The V4R frame is 30% less rigid as the previous year’s V4S frame which allows for better feel & feedback from the wheels. The increased ride height makes the 2020 V4S easier to turn into corners and just like the 2020 BMW S1000RR, it feels like it wants to keep turning. The 2020 V4S also receives softer springs to not only provide a slightly better ride over bumps but to also provide better feedback to the rider. All of these changes make the 2020 Ducati V4S an easy to ride superbike. Sure, you may feel intimidated by riding such an expensive motorcycle but once you put that in the back of your mind, it is an enjoyable bike that you can go fast on even if you’re a novice or amateur rider.
Ergonomics – The 2020 Ducati Panigale V4S receives slightly wider bodywork and a slightly taller windscreen compared to the 2019 model. The bodywork provides better wind protection and the vents along the side channel the hot air from the radiator away from the rider’s legs. The V4 engine is wider than the old L-twin but it’s not as wide as a traditional inline-4. So although your legs sit a bit further spread out than on older Panigales, this new V4 feels much more comfortable. The riding position is also not as far forward as older Panigale models which makes this new V4 a much better daily commuting superbike. You don’t feel as though you’ve just been at the gym after a quick 30 minute ride as you did with older Ducati models.
Heat management is better than older Ducati models but it’s still going to try to cook your legs. The exhaust pipes are better insulated so that you don’t feel as much radiant heat from underneath the seat. However, the cylinder head is still exposed & right next to your inner thighs. It may not get as hot as the exhaust pipes but it’s still hot enough to burn your legs if you’re not wearing proper gear.
Ride Comfort – As mentioned before, the springs are a tiny bit softer than the 2019 model which provide a bit more comfort over bumps. As well, the S model of the V4 comes equipped with Ohlins electronically adjustable suspension. The stiffness of the shocks change depending on which ride mode you’re in or you can individually adjust them to your preference.
For the most part in the Street ride mode, the suspension is soft enough to absorb small to medium bumps and road imperfections. You’ll want to avoid deeper potholes though. As you move up the ride modes, the suspension gets progressively stiffer where you’ll want to try and avoid all bumps on city streets. It is a jarring ride in Race mode if you plan to use it on the streets.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – This particular Ducati V4S is equipped with the standard exhaust. At low rpms, the new V4 engine retains a lot of the same noises that the old L-twin used to make. But as the rpms build, the engine sounds more and more like the MotoGP superbikes. It’s a high revving deep tone that is loud but not deafening.
The L-twin engine was known for being very rough and producing a lot of vibrations, especially at low rpms. This new V4 is a bit smoother with fewer vibrations felt through the handlebars but it’s not quite as smooth as an inline-4 engine.
Odds and Ends
Gadgets – The 2020 Ducati Panigale V4S is packed with technology. It has: Dynamic traction control, cornering ABS, Ducati slide control, Ducati wheelie control, Ducati power launch, Engine brake control, and the aforementioned Ducati quick shift EVO2 & Ohlins electronically adjustable suspension. All of these features can be adjusted via the 5-inch TFT display which is controlled by buttons on the left clip-on. The screen can be adjusted with a bright white background or black background for night riding and navigating through the menus is a little bit simpler to get used to than on the 2020 BMW S1000RR. However, the 6.5-inch display of the S1000RR is not only bigger but it also looks a tiny bit crisper with better resolution.
Design – Ducati motorcycles have always been beautiful looking motorcycles. They’re like the Ferrari of the motorcycle world. This new V4S is no exception. It has a very aggressive but beautiful looking front end with LED daytime running lights and headlights that are recessed into the front cowl. The winglets are now standard on the V4S and can produce 30 kg of downforce at 270 km/h. Coupled with the wheelie control and the engine that rotates counterclockwise, the nose of the Ducati V4S feels planted when exiting a corner or accelerating down a straight.
The single sided swing arm remains which exposes the beautifully crafted forged wheels that are part of the V4S package. And around back the rear seat design retains the large open holes that were first seen on the Ducati 1199.
The 2020 Ducati Panigale V4 starts at $25,195 CAD ($21,995 USD) while this S variant will set you back $32,295 CAD ($28,395 USD). That is a lot of money and it’s not even the top spec version of the V4 Panigale. A fully optioned 2020 BMW S1000RR costs less than the V4S but does the extra money make the Ducati V4S worth it? It’s really hard to say because this 2020 model is much easier to ride than any previous model of Ducati superbikes. Ducati achieved their goals of making the Panigale less intimidating and more user friendly for a broader range of riders. Whether you’re a pro or an amateur, the bike still provides the “Ducati magic” that they’re known for; that feeling of excitement whether you’re on a race track or in front of a Starbucks. But in making the motorcycle more appealing for more riders, it is not attainable for a broader range of riders. However, if you have the money, it is most definitely worth it.
Thank you to the owner for providing the motorcycle.