2021 Ducati Multistrada V4 S review – radar cruise control on a bike?!
Ducati's stuck a V4 engine in its adventure touring bike. And it's pretty bloody special
You have to hand it to Ducati – it's a company that's not afraid to tear up the rulebook to move things forward. Bearded men on forums with rarely used classic Italian sportsbikes tucked up in their garages hated the fact the brand switched from its iconic two-cylinder engine configuration to a high-revving, less torquey V4 a few years ago.
The same folk tend not to like modern electronic rider aids on bikes either. So this new Multistrada, then is a bike that these people will absolutely detest.
Why? Because the Ducati Multistrada now has a V4, and it also has radar-powered adaptive cruise control that can accelerate and brake for you. Oh yes. Watch the video below to see why this is a good thing, or read on for a full review.
What is it?
The Ducati Multistrada is an adventure/touring bike. Despite being built for covering big distances and the odd bit of off-roading, it's always been a darn sight sportier than its main rival, the best-selling BMW GS. That continues with the new Multistrada's V4 engine, which puts out 170hp at 10,500rpm through a chain drive to the back wheel, making it a good 10hp more powerful than the last of the two-cylinder Multistradas.
Torque is slightly down on the two-cylinder (a result of having four smaller-cylinders and a shorter stroke), but you still get 125Nm at 8,750rpm.
The Multistrada V4 gets a double-sided swingarm (that's the bit that holds the back wheel onto the chassis…)
The beauty of the V4 is that the Multistrada now feels smooth at low revs and can pull fifth gear at 30mph. On the old bike you'd be having your teeth rattled out as the engine demanded second gear at the same speed. The V4 is hugely more pleasant to ride around town as a result.
As with the V4 Panigale and Streetfighter, the Multi's engine has the old two-cylinder-style firing order, so it sounds more like a classic Ducati at lower revs than a sexy MotoGP-esque Aprilia V4. When you get above 6,000rpm, however, the Multistrada's engine note hardens, and you start feeling a lot more like Rossi on his way to the alps with panniers full of cheese.
Is it fast?
Yes, but you might not think so initially. There's no doubting that the V4 engine's strong in the lower reaches of the rev range, but it doesn't shunt forward with quite the same immediate thrust as the old two-cylinder Multi did. At least until you get to 6,000rpm.
The electronics have got your back – you'll hover tiny satisfying wheelies like this all day in the first three gears - or much bigger ones with a bigger fistful of throttle
Once you're above 8,000rpm your eyeballs will be on stalks as the V4 delivers a savage rip to the 11,500rpm redline.
In first, second and third gears you'll be relying on the bike's electronic wheelie control to stop you looping over backwards – it's a huge amount of fun hovering the front wheel on every overtake and off every crest. It's absolutely nuts at the top end – sure, it's nowhere as ridiculous as a Panigale V4's motor (which is about 50hp up on the Multistrada), but it's stonking for an upright bike.
The Akra end can is part of the Performance pack, or standard on the Multi V4 S Sport. It's quiet.
Alongside KTM's bonkers 1290 Super Adventure, the Multistrada V4 is an outrageously fast way to cover ground on two wheels with your heated grips on and a fortnight's worth of spare boxer shorts in the top box.
It's sodding fast, and the engine noise is intoxicating. The trade-off for all this is mediocre fuel consumption. You'll get about 40mpg on a run or closer to 30 if you – like me – get addicted to clutchless downshifts into second for every possible overtake.
So what's all this radar stuff about?
That black rectangle between the headlights is the front radar unit
The Multistrada is one of the first production motorbikes to carry radar units on the front and rear of the bike – it's the small black box you can see above the beak up front. As in your average premium car, this is used to illuminate blind-spot warning lights on each of the bike's mirrors as other vehicles slip past you on the motorway. It's actually incredibly useful, and you can imagine it will save a few 'oh crap' lane changes when you get lazy with your shoulder checks at the end of a long day's touring.
The main reason for those radars, however, is to feed the adaptive cruise control with data. Just like in a car, you set your speed and the preferred distance from the vehicle in front and the Multistrada accelerates and brakes to maintain a safe distance and, when the road's clear, your set speed. In reality it brakes and accelerates gently, so you can happily no-hands it and high-five your mates on the motorway to Grenoble. We can but dream.
If you can trust the system in a car, it seems you'll do alright on a bike. Naturally you'll still want to keep an eye out for myopic Derek and his unpredictable panic braking, but it works brilliantly – you get the sense Audi's involvement in Ducati has helped bring this tech over from car-land, where it's matured over the past decade.
Right. Would I actually want to take it on a long ride?
Hell yes. The Multistrada V4's ride comfort and handling are both standout features in a bike that's, well, packed with standout features.
These wings on the side of the bike help whip cool air up to the rider and past the engine
We were riding the top-spec S model with active Skyhook suspension. It's nigh-on as smooth as the weird Telelever setup on BMW's GS, and it hides bumps and yumps from your posterior with aplomb. Yet this supreme ride comfort doesn't come at the expense of confident handling.
The Multi V4 turns into corners with serious poise and pace. You can chuck it into a bend and really lean on the tyres. Ducati's moved to a 19-inch front wheel for a bit more off-road prowess, but you don't sense that this has altered the handling for the worse.
You can carve around corners at a serious lick before yomping out with the front wheel dangling in the sky and that V4 engine bawling at you through the airbox. It's still very much a sporty adventure bike, and the riding experience is as addictive as a bag of Mini Eggs after a day of fasting.
Brembo Stylema calipers might be the latest and greatest kit, but the initial bite of the pad is soft
Downsides? The exhaust is quiet, even with the official Akrapovic item. The brake feel is a little soft. The front calipers are superbike-spec Brembo Stylemas, but the first centimetre of lever travel doesn't result in quite the fierce stopping power you expect. Squeeze harder and it comes, but we'd have preferred a little more bite. And yes, the back brake works.
What else do I need to know?
The fit and finish is superb – we especially love the chunky metal mirror stalks – and the TFT dash is easy to navigate using the joystick on the left-hand side of the handlebar. The switchgear is illuminated too, so you can read the buttons in the dark. Oh, and the heated seat is furiously hot on its warmest setting, even when it's 0C outside.
The rider's heated seat can get seriously hot if needed – these are the controls for the pillion's bum warmer
In terms of practical appointments, there's a sizeable cubby hole in the tank in front of your crotch which contains a USB socket for charging your phone. My iPhone 12 Pro Max only just fit in the cubby with a leather case on, but it's a huge phone so most people will be fine. The bike has keyless ignition, but you still need to flick the blade of the key out to open the fuel tank.
In terms of the ownership experience, the V4's designed to run 37,000 miles between valve services – helped by the loss of Ducati's legendary desmodromic valve system in favour of a regular spring-closing system.
Should I buy one?
Yes – the Multistrada has really come alive with its new V4 heart. Ducati has nigh-on perfected the blend of comfort, speed, handling and high-tech wizardry. It feels like the only road bike you'd ever need – one that can commute, scratch on backroads and tour until the Tarmac runs out. It's genuinely that good.
Obviously there's a price to pay for all this. The V4 S is £19,500 before adding the radar tech – with the radar and panniers it's more like £20,500. There's a regular non-S model for £15,500… but you'll be missing out on the incredible suspension and you can't add the radar tech – and you get a more basic dash.
If you've got the cash, stump up for the Multistrada V4 S and enjoy one of the best bikes of the past five years.
Did that all sound like gibberish?
If you're more used to four wheels then you might be confused by some of the nerdy bike terms used in this review. Luckily we've got a motorbike glossary to help translate things.