Roland's been a syndicated motorcycle journalist for over 30 years and is the author of a dozen books on bikes. Oh, and he's a former British Superbike and World Endurance racer.

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For 2020, Ducati has revamped the Panigale 959 and renamed it the Panigale V2 to emphasise that it’s now the Italian firm’s top V-twin sports bike.

And while the so-called “super-middleweight” V2 can’t approach the brutal excitement of the Panigale V4, it’s arguably the smart choice – as a thrash around the swooping Jerez circuit in southern Spain confirmed. Here’s why…

1: It's every bit a Panigale

Fresh styling means the V2 looks almost identical to the fearsome V4, apart from the aerodynamic winglets that the bigger bike gets this year. The V-twin is a stunning looking machine, from the bigger air intakes holding LED headlights in its shark-like nose, all the way to the 20mm longer seat that gives the rider more room to move around.

New for 2020: a V4-style fairing, stubby exhaust and single-sided swingarm, longer seat, revised suspension… it goes on

New for 2020: a V4-style fairing, stubby exhaust and single-sided swingarm, longer seat, revised suspension… it goes on

The best styling update is arguably the stubby silencer that replaces the 959’s unloved twin-pipe exhaust. The V2 also gets a new single-sided instead of twin-sided swing-arm. This echoes the legendary 916 that ruled the mid-nineties, as does the sole colour option of Italian Racing Red.

2: It's fast – but not too fast

The Panigale V2 can’t match the crazy thrill of trying to tame a 200bhp-plus V4 brute’s acceleration but it’s a seriously rapid sports bike that is also outstandingly easy to ride. Its 955cc, eight-valve desmo engine is mechanically unchanged but revised intakes and freer-flowing injectors boost peak power by five horses to 153bhp.

153bhp isn't to be sniffed at, but it won't scare you

153bhp isn't to be sniffed at, but it won't scare you

On track it charges towards a top speed of about 160mph, punching hard out of turns and revving smoothly to 11,000rpm. And although we haven’t yet ridden it on the road, the V2 has sufficient midrange grunt and V-twin charm to make a sublime streetbike.

3: It's a cornering demon

Ducati’s tweaks to the 959’s aluminium monocoque-framed chassis are subtle yet effective. Softer Showa front fork settings and a longer Sachs rear shock steepen geometry slightly and put more weight over the front wheel, giving even sweeter steering without compromising the V-twin’s stability.

The new suspension setup puts more of your weight over the front wheel for even more cornering confidence

The new suspension setup puts more of your weight over the front wheel for even more cornering confidence

The spec isn’t quite as stellar as the V4’s, with no semi-active suspension option, and Brembo’s M4.32 Monobloc front brake calipers rather than exotic Stylemas. But with sticky Pirellis fitted (Diablo Rosso Corsa II as standard; Supercorsas on the launch until the rain started) the V2 combines agile handling, fierce stopping power and vast ground clearance to be as quick through turns as just about anything on two wheels.

4: It has cutting edge electronics

The V2 brings open-class superbike electronics to the middleweight category. It has the same set-up as the V4, governed by a six-axis Inertial Measurement Unit. Three ABS settings include cornering ABS options. Anti-wheelie, engine braking and traction control are the latest versions, the latter with a predictive function straight out of Ducati’s MotoGP programme.

What's the difference between this and the V4's dash? The redline

What's the difference between this and the V4's dash? The redline

They all work so seamlessly that they’re barely noticeable in use, but they combine to make the Panigale as safe as it is quick. And you’re sure to appreciate the new 4.3-inch colour TFT instrument panel, and the updated quick-shifter that works flawlessly in both directions through the 'box.

5: It's great value for money

If you can live without the V4’s mind-altering acceleration, the Panigale V2 makes much more sense – not least because it’s so much less expensive. At £14,995 it costs five grand less than the base-model V4 and a whopping £9,800 less than the V4 S, while also having a less ruinous rear-tyre habit.

The V2’s price means that it’s competing almost head-on with base-model Japanese open-class superbikes like Kawasaki’s ZX-10RR and Suzuki’s GSX-R1000R. It can’t match their straight-line clout but it’s a delightful alternative – gorgeous to look at, flattering to ride, and a fitting descendant of the 916 as the sporting pinnacle of Ducati’s V-twin family.

Build your own Desmo

It's not going to hit the same sort of speeds as the Pani V2, but this Meccano model of the 2017 Ducati MotoGP bike will look nice on your shelf. Treat yourself!

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