Words Adam Child ‘Chad’
Images by Joe Dick and Ducati
Turn the key, and the 5-inch colour TFT dash comes alive. It is then time to select which rider mode is appropriate for your ride – Street, Sport or Race.
Each one changes a glut of rider aids and power characteristics. I’m a little intimidated so I opt for Street and leave the rider aids alone. Now it’s time to poke the the beast.
Blip the throttle and there is an instantly familiar Ducati Panigale heartbeat to the Streetfighter. It’s slightly odd if you’re not used to the Panigale soundtrack because it doesn’t sound like a V4, more a pulsing V-twin. It’s Euro-4 compliant yet it sounds strong through the standard exhaust and certainly isn’t crying out for an aftermarket system.
My first few miles are met with mild confusion as I leave Silverstone, the home of F1 and Ducati HQ in the UK. There is no ‘mad’. In fact, it’s like meeting Ozzy Osbourne and finding out he’s vegetarian and likes knitting.
Trundling along, whilst admiring the protruding wings on either side of the 16-litre fuel tank, I discover the fuelling is perfect. Clutchless gear changes are smooth, but still no madness. This Italian could be Japanese, so smooth and easy-to-ride. I’d even go so far as to say a relatively inexperienced rider could jump on the V4S and, at low speeds at least, not feel overwhelmed. Once you brush past the snarling teeth, this croc appears not to bite.
Onto the dual-carriageway, and it’s time to poke the beast a little harder. It’s a similar story. The revs start to build, but not frighteningly so; the power is progressive and smooth… Have my balls got bigger overnight, am I braver than I think, or does this Ducati just not feel quick?
A glance in my mirrors reveals two empty lanes in front and nothing behind me, so I grab 4th gear plus a huge handful of throttle. Wow, now it bites! At 7000 rpm the Streetfighter wants to take off. I short-shift at 10,000 rpm, way before peak torque which is at 11,500 rpm, and another enormous lump of power, possibly more than before, hits with the force of a huge barrelling wave. This is immense. The Streetfighter’s brain limits torque in 1st and 2nd gear, then adds some more in 3rd and 4th, then allows full fat drive in 5th and 6th. Fact is, according to Ducati, with its shorter gearing, the Streetfighter accelerates even harder than the Panigale.
The rev counter, I discovered, divides into three distinct zones: between 3000 rpm and 6000 rpm it’s shy and easy to live with; from 6000 rpm to 8000 rpm it wants to party; from 8000 rpm it simply rocks… while biting the heads off bats. Even in Street mode (which gets all the rider aids working overtime) this is an incredibly fast bike, and to test the more aggressive modes I need to get away from civilisation, out into the countryside, because this is going to be wild and quite illegal.
Now the V4’s power goes from puppy to wolf the more you twist the throttle. On the road it’s almost too fast, in fact I don’t think I ever actually revved it all the way to redline at any point. On the road I was always changing gear around 10,000 rpm, way short of peak power at 12,750 rpm, because there is so much power on tap. You really need to be on track to make her scream. My only criticism is that the quick-shifter is on the touchy side. A few times I tapped a gear by mistake or tapped two gears instead of one. But as the miles built up, the more we clicked and experienced fewer missed changes.
The EVO-2 rider aids are incredible. You have traction, slide, and wheelie control, plus engine braking and launch control. Furthermore, there is cornering ABS and that quick-shifter/auto-blipper.
Öhlins Smart EC2.0 controls the semi-active suspension (S model only), which can be tailored by the rider via a set-up menu. Rider aids can be changed on the move, but only deactivated at a standstill. The excellent rider aids don’t inhibit the fun, instead they enhance it by giving you the confidence to push a little harder and start to use those 208 horses. These are some of the best rider aids I’ve ever tested and can be easily tuned to the conditions and how you ride.
I was guessing the V4S to be wheelie prone, but it isn’t. Instead, it simply finds grip and catapults you forward with arm-stretching acceleration. Even with the rider aids deactivated, it’s far less wheelie inclined than I was expecting. This is down to several factors: wings, rider aids, limited torque in the lower gears, a longer wheelbase than the Panigale (by 19mm), and a counter-rotating engine.
It’s not just down to the iconic wings. Typically, large capacity naked bikes with piles of power and torque are always trying to wheelie. On a naked bike, you’re sat higher up, in the windblast. When you ride fast or accelerate hard, the wind pressure hits the rider, who then pulls on the bars which lift the forks and sits the rear down. All of which means naked bikes are more wheelie prone than fully-faired machines, as the rider acts as a sail. But Ducati has managed to lessen wheelies and increase stability and it can’t be all down to the wings, which don’t start working until speed increases above road limits, in the same way a plane can not take off at a standstill.
This doesn’t mean the Streetfighter is less amusing to ride. In fact, the opposite is true because this stability delivers confidence. A naked bike with this much power shouldn’t be this stable, composed and civilised at speed.
The Brembo Stylema M4.30 calipers bite down on the 330 mm discs with immense power. But again, like the engine power, it’s not an overpowering experience, just strong. You can’t ‘feel’ the corning ABS working, not on the road, and the stoppers are backed up by class-leading engine braking control, which allows you to leave braking devilishly late.
Personally, I love the fact you can opt for the front only ABS, which allows you to have some fun getting sideways into corners. Again, the Öhlins semi-active suspension has to take some credit for the superb braking performance, as the front forks don’t dive like a scared ostrich. They hold their composure and allow you to make the most out of the expensive stoppers.
The semi-active Ohlins Smart EC2.0 suspension is equally reassured in the bends. It copes with undulations and bumps with poise and refinement. I deliberately hit notorious bumpy, horrible sections at TT speeds and the Ducati stayed composed and unflustered, it even felt like the steering damper could be thrown in the trash. Even really pushing on the handling is solid and stable, all those clever electronics, the wings, the engine’s character, that longer wheelbase and steering geometry (rake and trail are the same as Panigale) colluding to deliver a superb ride.
The seat is 10 mm higher than the Panigale’s, with increased foam for comfort, and the pegs are lower. The wide bars and protruding wings give the feeling of a large bike, and with that longer wheelbase I was expecting the steering to be a little slower, but it’s more than happy to lay on its side like an obedient dog. Once over, the grip and feel are impressive.
Unfortunately, we stayed away from the track on this test and will have to give the Streetfighter a thorough workout at a circuit in the coming weeks, perhaps with race rubber, to see how it performs on the very limit (test coming in Italy). But in standard form on standard Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa rubber, there are no negatives.
You’re correct, I’m enjoying the new Ducati Streetfighter and to be honest I wasn’t a huge fan of the old bike (2009), because I never warmed to the looks. But now the new Streetfighter is neat and tidy, exhaust and water-cooling routes hidden, the finish neat. I love the extra details and touches like the ‘Joker’ style face, the stunning single-sided swing-arm, and the cut-out sections in the rear seat. It looks like a bike designed from the ground up, not just a Panigale with its clothes removed.
But for 30-grand I was expecting a little more bling. Where, after all, is the carbon fibre, the keyless ignition and other trinkets? Oh sorry, did I not mention the price. Yes, I know it’s an exotic Ducati but $33,900 for the S and $29,500 for the standard model is serious money, especially as the competition from KTM and Aprilia are 10 to 20 per cent cheaper.
While I’m grumbling about price, I have to mention the fuel consumption, which approahces eight litres per 100 km if pushed on the road. The fuel light regularly comes on prematurely often before 150 kilometres, while the 16-litre fuel tank can be drained in 200 kilometres if you are having some fun.
But, as a good friend (who’s not as tight as me) pointed out, it’s a bargain compared to the Panigale V4, and, anyway, who buys an exotic Ducati with over 200 hp and worries about fuel range. And let’s face it, the Streetfighter is a better road bike with friendlier ergonomics and ease-of-use that its fully clothed sibling. Primarily riding on the road, with the very occasional track day, I’d opt for the naked Streetfighter every time.
If you’re mainly riding on the road, it questions why would you want a sports bike, as the Streetifighter is so good. Ducati has made 208 hp functional through a clever combination of chassis, power delivery, electronics, and aerodynamic wings.
You can, ride (or pose) around town and nip over to your mate’s for a beer, or alternatively tear up some bends, or embarrass some sportsbikes on the track. It really is as quick as your arm and neck muscles will allow.
The rider aids don’t reduce the fun or character, and it looks spectacular from every angle.
Yes, the Streetfighter is expensive and drinks like a drunk at happy hour, but on paper is the most powerful naked bike on the market and, on the road, arguably is the best hyper-naked at the moment.
Only a big group test will tell us for sure. Don’t worry, it’s a tough job but we’re on it and that test will be with us in coming weeks. Stay tuned.
Standard or S model?
Both models use the same engine layout, brakes and chassis. Peak power of 208 hp is identical on both models, however, the pricier S model is a fraction lighter, 178kg (dry) compared to 180kg (dry) for the standard model. This is mainly down to the lightweight wheels on the S model, which are Marchesini 3-spoke forged aluminium rather than 5-spoke light aluminium alloy. The Marchesini wheels are 14% lighter with 16% less inertia.
The suspension is also a major difference. The S model as tested arrives with Öhlins NIX30 43 mm forks, the rear TTX36, both semi-active. The top yoke steering damper is also an Öhlins unit. The standard model comes with a conventional, manually fully adjustable suspension, 43 mm BPF Showa upfront, and Sachs on the rear. The S also gets an Ohlins steering damper over a Sachs unit on the base model.
Ducati Streetfighter V4 S Specifications
Engine: 1103 cc Desmosedici Stradale V4
Bore x Stroke – 81 x 53.5 mm
Compression Ratio – 14.0:1
Induction – Twin injectors per cylinder, elliptical throttle bodies
Power: 208 hp (153KW) @ 12,750 rpm
Torque: 123 Nm at 11,500 rpm
Frame: Aluminium alloy ‘Front Frame’
Wheelbase: 1488 mm
Rake / Trail – 24.5-degrees / 100 mm
Brakes: Front 2 x 320 mm discs, radial Brembo Stylema 4-piston
Brakes: Rear 245 mm disc, two-piston caliper
Transmission: 6 gears & chain final drive
Front Suspension: 43 mm Ohlins NIX30 fully-adj. forks, EC2.0 electronic damping. 120 mm travel
Rear suspension: Single Ohlins TTX36 fully adj., electronic damping. 130 mm travel
Tyres: Front 120/70-17, rear 200/60-17.
Seat height: 845 mm
L x W x H – 2127 x 833 x 1138 mm
Fuel capacity: 16 Litres
Weight: 199 kg
Warranty: Two years
Price: $29,500 ride away or $33,900 ride away for the S model as tested here
Yorkshire born Adam Child, or Chad as he’s known in the industry, is a multiple UK record holder, former MCN senior road tester and has been professionally bike testing for 20-years.Chad has attended more than 350 bike launches, covering over a million road test miles, he is also an international road racer, with race wins at Oliver's Mount, podiums in New Zealand and two top ten Isle of Man TT finishes.Chad is just as happy elbow-down on a race track, kicking up mud off road, or restoring classic bikes. Chad launched his own company, Chad76Media in 2019, and you can follow his adventures on Twitter and Instagram.
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