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Ducati Panigale V4: First Thoughts

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My brain is still functioning at 180mph, a jumbled mess infected by an astonishing V4 Desmo that does naughty things. I’ve just completed two sessions aboard the Panigale V4 at Valencia’s Ricardo Tormo circuit and I’m struggling not to be embroiled by launch fever, or use the phrase ‘game-changer.’ My first (honest) impression? It went something like, ‘holy fuuuuuuuuuuuck.’

But it isn’t the engine that’s giving me a stiffy. It’s the Panigale’s insane handling attributes. It feels like a 600 to throw around, steers like an uncompromised race bike and boasts supernatural levels of mechanical grip that goad you into taking superhero liberties with an uncrashable swagger. I had to remind myself that we were riding a stock V4S, wearing stock Supercorsa SP rubber, although the Panigale kept laughing at my puerile attempts to abuse its boundaries.

That’s not to say the V4 engine isn’t impressive. This thing blurs the scenery like nothing before (no shock given its cheaty cubes), ably hened by a sexy soundtrack. There are no peaks, no troughs, no naughty moments anywhere in the rev range – just a seamless linear delivery.

What I can’t get my head around is the fact it still sounds like a twin at low RPM. Dawdling down the pitlane, I could well be straddling a 1299, which is due to the V4’s twin-pulse ignition and firing intervals. It’s only when the cable gets a stretching above 10,000rpm that a howling V4 symphony develops.

Despite its track prowess, the new Panigale is super-easy to ride, smooth and stable. Traits previously not associated with a Ducati superbike, and traits that will unquestionably make the V4 a superior road bike to anything that’s left Bologna in recent times. Don’t get me wrong; muscling anything around this place is exhausting, but I now understand why Ducati launched the V4 in Valencia.

I’ve never ridden a production Ducati superbike that hasn’t suffered with some degree of understeer. That’s all changed now. Granted, some of that is down to the new front frame, which certainly does give a more conventional chassis sensation, but it’s the counter-rotating crank that’s responsible for just as much positive handling as it does engine effect.

It seems as though Öhlins have been (nearly) as busy as Ducati. This is the first electronically suspended bike that I’d happily race/not to choose to swap with a conventionally sprung steed as – along with Ducati’s grafting – these golden nuggets of joy have made the Panigale drastically more fluid from braking to apex, and all without sacrifice.

Talking of electronics, you’re going to be some sort of ham-fisted throttle jockey in order to crash this bike. When everything’s up to temperature, the electronics suite ticks all the boxes for both performance and safety. Now with Slide Control, anyone can replicate their GP heroes and there’s an ABS system that’s equally as cunning.

With a bit if luck, the full video review will be live on Wednesday and we’ll upload some pics on tomorrow. It’s going to be sexier than Rachel Riley smothered in oil. Ooooosh.

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