Bologna, Italy - The Panigale V4, previewed this week ahead of the Eicma biennial, marks Ducati’s biggest break with tradition since the legendary Ing Fabio Taglioni dropped bevel-drive camshafts in favour of rubber belts in 1977; it’s that important.
Billed as the replacement for the 1299 Panigale V-twin at the top of the Ducati pecking order, it’s the first mass-production bike from the Bologna works with a V4 engine, derived directly from the DesmoSedici MotoGP machine and with the same 81mm bore, albeit with a longer, 53.5mm stroke to bring peak revs down and improve mid-range torque, giving it an actual capacity of 1103cc.
There will be, we are told, a screaming short-stroke version displacing less than 1000cc to make it eligible for World Superbike racing, but it’s not clear whether a streetable version of that engine will be offered.
Be that as it may, the current version runs a stratospheric 14:1 compression ration in DOHC desmodromic (of course) four-valve heads. It breathes in through four 52mm ride-by-wire oval throttle bodies, each with dual injectors and variable-length intake bell-mouths, housed in a cavernous 12.8 litre airbox; the factory quotes outputs of 157.5kW at 13 000 revs and 123.6Nm at 10 000rpm.
The crankshaft runs backwards, MotoGP fashion, and the crankpins are spaced at 70 degrees apart to give it a ‘twin pulse’ firing order, with the right-side cylinders firing 90 degrees apart and then a long gap of 200 degrees before the left-side cylinders fire, also 90 degrees apart. That’s what gives the Desmosedici the hardest acceleration out of corners of any MotoGP bike, so who are we to argue?
Drive is taken to the rear wheel via a conventional six-speed constant-mesh gearbox with a hydraulic wet clutch (it wouldn’t have a snowball’s hope of passing EU noise testing with the traditional Ducati dry clutch) and a standard-fit electronic quickshifter that measures the movement of the selector forks rather than just cutting the ignition for a given number of milliseconds and then slamming the power back on.
The Panigale V4 is also the first Ducati in many years that does not have a trellis frame; instead it uses the engine itself as the frame, with a box-section ‘Front Frame’, bolted to the front upper crankcase and rear cylinder head to support the steering head. Both the single-sided swing-arm and the rear suspension damper are pivoted on the back of the gearbox.