Radar, blind-spot detection, and a snorting superbike motor make this the greatest edition yet in the Ducati Multistrada story.
My, my, we’ve come a long way, baby… When you look at the original Multistrada 1000 DS of 2003, it’s quite remarkable to gaze at the seventh edition of the Multistrada series, the 2021 Ducati Multistrada V4 S, and see the progression.
From the analog twin-cylinder streetbike of yore to the tech-infested V4 S, the lineage is certainly there. But just like those of your great grandfather, times have most certainly changed.
Available in the four different versions, the $19,995 base model; the Ducati Red Multistrada V4 S with cast wheels ($24,095) or off-road-focused spoked wheels ($24,695); the same V4 S in Aviator Grey for $24,295 ($24,895 for spoked wheels); and the Multistrada V4 S Sport ($26,095, alloy wheels only). All models fitted with the radar (V4 S/V4 S Sport) require $850 for the software activation. The 2021 Ducati Multistrada V4 range is nothing short of a technical tour de force.
As our test bike was a V4 S with both the spoked and cast wheel option available to us, that’s what we’re focusing on in this review. This is the moment where a line is firmly drawn in the motorcycling sand… Radar has arrived. The little black box nestled between the headlights (due for official U.S. homologation by July 2021) is the first production radar system available to the public. And it mitigates the Ducati’s Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and Blind Spot Detection (BSD) software.
Imagine this: you’re riding down the freeway, cruise control set to 75 mph. Your radar distance is set to level two of four and you gradually close in on the car in front. You’ll get to within a certain distance of the car’s bumper, but you won’t get any closer. As the car speed up, so does the Ducati Multistrada with no extra input from your right wrist.
Conversely, as the car slows down, so does the Ducati. Always keeping the same distance to the bumper. As the radar sends a signal to the bike’s ECU to gradually close the throttle bodies and gently apply some brake pressure.
Then you make the decision to pass. You put on your indicator, move to the left and out of the radar’s field of vision to the car in front. And again, with no extra throttle input from you, the Ducati Multistrada begins accelerating past the car and back up to your chosen 75 mph. It’s a bizarre feeling, and you must learn to trust the system.
However, it’s not foolproof. If the car in front suddenly jams the brakes on, the radar will not slow the Ducati Multistrada quickly enough before you plow into the back of it. You still need to be constantly aware of the changing traffic conditions and decide when the radar/ACC is safe to deploy. It is a motorcycle, after all. And you’re a rider, not a passenger.
There’s a second piece to the radar puzzle, one that absolutely every motorcycle should have from now on. Blind Spot Detection. The rear radar that sits below the seat unit, just above the number plate, emits a signal to the ECU. It tells you via a yellow light mounted in the corners of the Ducati’s mirrors that a vehicle (car, bike, truck, etc.) is in your blind spot. If you then put your indicator on as though you were getting ready to change lanes, the light will start flashing furiously, so brightly it’s impossible to ignore.
For the Blind Spot Detection to work, you need to be traveling at least 15 mph. With less than 33 degrees of lean angle. Have ABS on level two or more, and Ducati Traction Control (DTC) activated. To think of the lives that will be saved with this invention alone make me very happy indeed.
However, the radar is only part of what makes up the 2021 Ducati Multistrada.
Under the sleeker, restyled body sits the beating heart of a beast. An 1158 cc version of the Panigale V4 S’s superbike motor, now with traditional valve springs and valve service intervals of a staggering 36,000 miles, with its bore increased two millimeters to 83 mm. That makes the Multi good for a claimed 170 horsepower at 10,500 rpm. And 92 foot-pounds of of arm-wrenching torque at 8750 rpm. And the performance it offers leaves most riders slack-jawed.
Those inside Ducati HQ in Bologna, Italy, who have spoken to SBI say this is the finest Ducati they’ve ever produced and it’s hard to argue with them. The V4 motor has completely redefined what is possible with a Multistrada. The previous generation’s 1262cc L-twin feels sadly archaic compared to the V4. Not just in overall speed but how smoothly all that power is applied to the tire.
As per the Multistrada’s modus operandi of four-bikes-in-one, the V4 S gets Sport, Touring, Urban and Enduro throttle maps. The latter holding the V4 to an output of 100 hp at the crankshaft for when the road gets rocky and dusty. The various maps come with their own settings for the semi-active Ducati Skyhook suspension that controls the Marzocchi forks and shock. Although you can change these parameters if you wish: rider/rider with luggage/rider and passenger/rider and passenger with luggage.
The Skyhook system has come along in leaps and bounds in the V4 S. And offers everything from a cushy freeway ride to a taught chassis setting you’d be happy doing a trackday on. Speaking of trackdays, the Multistrada gets racetrack-level stoppers in the Brembo Stylema calipers, gripping twin 320 mm discs with Cornering ABS. So you know you’ve got the best brakes in the game on your side.
Switching to off-road, the Multistrada performs amicably for such a large machine. This is not a proper adventure motorcycle. But one that can ride soft adventure terrain when fitted with the Pirelli Scorpion Rally rubber. Dirt roads are easily negotiated. But the claimed 474 pounds of dry weight (so, well over 500 pounds with a 5.8-gallon tank of gas) limits the Ducati’s off-road ability. Think of the Multistrada as a BMW X6 on two wheels. It can easily do dirt roads but don’t go rock climbing on it.
And just like an X6, Ducati has put considerable effort into the navigation aspect of the Multistrada. You’re presented with a new 6.5-inch TFT display which can be used for the Ducati Connect app. And from there you get mirroring for your phone for calls and music. And you can access the Sygic navigation app. Ducati has created a much more intuitive system than in previous Multistradas. Making switching between maps and vehicle settings easier than in the L-twin days.
This article barely grazes the surface of what the 2021 Ducati Multistrada V4 S can do. Indeed, to really explore the machine, you’ll need days of uninterrupted seat time. But first impressions count for a lot, and the radar-equipped Ducati Multistrada V4 has left one hell of an impression.
We’ve come a long way since 2003, ladies and gentlemen. A long way indeed.