5 reasons why we adore the Ducati Streetfighter V4S – and why we don't
How does 208hp feel this… sensible?
Take the highly acclaimed Ducati Panigale V4, remove all the bodywork, add some aggressive and distinctive wings and, hey-presto, you have the new Ducati Streetfighter V4S. Those double wings aren’t just for show; along with the very latest sophisticated electronics, they help to control the immense power with much-needed downforce. The reason? Two standout figures: 208hp and 178kg. Do they work? Only one way to find out….
It shouldn't be this easy
My first few miles on the new Streetfighter V4S are met with mild uncertainty. There is no ‘mad’. In fact, it’s like meeting Alice Cooper and finding out he’s vegetarian and plays the harp in his spare time. Trundling along, occasionally checking out my reflection in shop windows, whilst admiring the protruding wings on either side of the 16-litre fuel tank, I find the fuelling is perfect. Clutchless gear changes are smooth. Remove the wings, add a different badge, and this Italian could be Japanese – it's 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.
You can easily take the Streetfighter for a sensible ride
Onto the dual carriageway, and it’s time to poke the beast in the eye. It’s a similar story. The revs start to build, but not alarmingly so; the power is progressive and smooth... am I braver than I think, or does this Ducati just not feel quick?
A glance in my mirrors reveals two empty lanes behind and nothing in front, and I tap 4th gear plus a big handful of throttle. Holy Christ, my mistake – it’s fast. The Streetfighter’s computer 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, with its shorter gearing, the Streetfighter accelerates even harder than the Panigale, yet lower in the rpm it's easy to live with.
It looks stunning
Deafening tunnel noise by Ducati. Smoke: model's own
In the past, Ducati has tried to force a water-cooled engine into an attractive chassis, and sometimes failed. In the early days, the first water-cooled Monsters looked like a plumbing and wiring nightmare. Or maybe this was just my opinion because I loved the air-cooled engine so much. 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.
Okay, so just how fast is it?
The tacho, I discovered, divides into three distinct zones: between 3000rpm and 6000rpm it’s timid and easy to live with; from 6000rpm to 8000rpm it wants to party; from 8000rpm it simply rocks. Even in Street mode (which gets all the rider aids working overtime), this is an incredibly fast bike.
The Streetfighter laps up faster bends with proper sportsbike stability
Into Sports mode, away from any inquisitive eyes and it’s time to have some fun. Now the V4’s power goes from docile kitten to angry tiger 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. I was always changing gear around 10,000rpm, way short of peak power at 12,750rpm, because there is so much power on tap. This is a ludicrously fast bike.
I was expecting the V4S to be wheelie prone, but it isn’t. Instead, it simply finds grip and propels 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 won't do this unless you really go hunting
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.
What about the rider aids?
First select which rider mod is appropriate for your ride – Street, Sport or Race. Each one changes a plethora of rider aids and power characteristics. The EVO-2 rider aids are incredible. You have traction, slide, and wheelie control, plus engine braking and launch control.
You get pretty much the same electronic kitchen sink as on the 2020 Panigale V4S
Additionally, there is cornering ABS and a quick-shifter/auto-blipper. Öhlins Smart EC2.0 controls the semi-active suspension (S model only). Rider aids can be changed on the move but deactivated only 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 tailored to the condition and how you ride.
Presumably it goes around corners?
The braking is outstanding, as Brembo Stylema M4.30 calipers bite down on the 330mm discs with immense power. But again, like the engine power, it’s not an overwhelming 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, because the front forks don’t dive like a scared toddle after a car backfires. They hold their composure and allow you to make the most out of the expensive stoppers.
Ducati's slide control means you can do this all day long
The semi-active Ohlins Smart EC2.0 suspension is equally assured in the bends. It copes with undulations and bumps with composure and refinement. I deliberately hit notorious bumpy, horrible sections at Irish road racing speeds and the Ducati stayed composed and unflustered, it even felt like the steering damper could be redundant. Even 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.
But what about the price?
Oh sorry, did I not mention the price? Yes, I know it’s an exotic Ducati but £19,795 for the S and £17,595 for the standard model is serious money, especially seeing as the competition from KTM and Aprilia is 10 to 20 per cent cheaper. But, as a good friend (who’s not as tight as me) pointed out, it’s a bargain compared to the £24,795 Panigale, and, anyway, who buys an exotic Ducati with more than 200bhp and worries about the price and fuel consumption? Ah yes, she likes a drink too…
Ducati has made 208hp useable through a clever combination of chassis, power delivery, electronics, and aerodynamic wings. You can hop on, ride (or pose) around town, or alternatively tear up some bends, or embarrass some sportsbikes on the track. It really is as fast as your arm and neck muscles will allow.
We think Chad liked it.
The rider aids don’t diminish the fun or character, and it looks stunning from every angle. Yes, the Streetfighter is expensive and thirsty, 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.