This latest Ducati is the pragmatic street bike of your MotoGP fantasies. The Italian manufacturer passed down its GP layout to the riveting Panigale V4 sportbike, and now that platform gets stripped down to this Ducati Streetfighter V4 S form, creating a captivating MotoGP experience for the street.
The key to the Ducati Streetfighter V4 S’ streetability is its handlebar placed more than six inches higher than the Panigale V4, and its footpegs are lower by nearly an inch, dramatically changing the ergonomics from scrunched to something approaching roomy.
The story of the Streetfighter V4 begins between your knees, with one of the most phenomenal engines ever bolted into a motorbike.
Just hearing the Desmosedici Stradale motor bark to life evokes images of pit lane at Mugello or Monza, sounding like a cross between a typical V-4 and a V-Twin because of Ducati’s unique Twin-Pulse firing arrangement. Its V-4 isn’t limited to specific race regulations, so it’s super-sized to 1103cc. An unusual counter-rotating crankshaft orientation helps deliver quicker steering responses like its GP cousin.
Clever engine tuning keeps the motor in a large sweet spot, supplying plenty of power throughout its rev range before surging to its max torque of 90 lb-ft at 11,500 rpm and its horsepower peak at 12,750rpm with a claimed 208 ponies.
And there’s still a river of overrev power until the V-4 reaches its stratospheric 14,500rpm redline. At that point, you’d better hope you’re at a racetrack or far away from the police.
For context, consider Ducati’s previous big-cube Streetfighter, the 1098 introduced in 2009, had “only” 155 hp. This V-4 powerplant sounds vicious and accelerates even more so.
That is brain-meltingly absurd for a street bike and aided by 10% shorter gearing than its Panigale sportbike brother. Aimed at a desolate road, there is almost no vehicle that can pile on speed quicker than the Ducati Streetfighter V4 S.
But this new Duc is more than just a speed machine. It’s sexy, even if not traditionally graceful. Its captivating appearance earned it the award for “most beautiful bike” at the 2019 EICMA show in Milan.
The Streetfighter’s sculptural tail section is an interesting visual treat that practically begs you to bend down and look through it from behind. And its MotoGP-inspired wings certainly contribute to the Streetfighter’s exoticness, even if they’re pretty much useless for downforce at street speeds.
Typical for contemporary Ducatis, the Streetfighter has the full complement of electronic rider aids that can be individually customized to a rider’s preferences. A 6-axis Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) informs cornering-ABS as well as traction, wheelie and slide controls.
Personally, I prefer a bit of traction control but want to control my own wheelies, so I select TC6 and WC0, and it’s a welcome feature to be able to control them independently. Adjustments are accomplished with intuitive navigation from the left-side switchgear and a vibrant color TFT instrument screen. An up/down quick shifter makes swapping cogs mostly seamless, with the one-two shift being least smooth.
Other street amenities include self-canceling turn signals that intelligently switch off forgotten blinkers nearly as quickly as you would do it manually. Excessive engine heat is mitigated by a system that switches off the rear two cylinders at idle when coolant temperature exceeds 167 degrees, appropriating a trick introduced by Harley-Davidson (colloquially known as parade mode) and recently followed by Indian.
The cylinder deactivation is sensed at idle via a subtle variation in audio and feel, sounding briefly a little like a slight repetitive misfire before smoothing out. It seems to help alleviate excess heat, but there’s no hiding from the BTUs generated by a 200 horsepower engine sitting between your legs.
As long as we’re dreaming of Italian sportbike practicality, we’ll encourage you to dig deeper and upgrade from the base Streetfighter ($19,995) to the S version, which includes Marchesini forged wheels and Öhlins electrically controlled suspension for an extra $4k.
The lighter wheels ramp up the bike’s agility, and DES solves the problem of finding the delicate balance of plushness and control – just leave it set to its Dynamic mode and it’ll back off harsh damping if you’re not riding aggressively. Or set the ride mode to Street, and it’ll deliver surprisingly plush ride quality along with smooth throttle reactions.
Handling is what you’d expect from a race-bred Ducati. It loves being ridden hard, and it is a cooperative accomplice at unwinding twisty roads both fast and slow, aided in speedy steering by its backward-rotating engine and lightweight wheels. It’s much more composed than the previous V-Twin 1098 Streetfighter, offering a stable platform in every environment. Brakes are top-shelf Brembo Stylemas up front that delivers all the bite and feedback you’d ever want.
Although wind protection is minimal, the moderately leaned-forward riding position makes an 80mph cruise reasonably agreeable. Adjustable brake and clutch levers fit hands of all sizes. The seat is far more accommodating than any 208-horsepower sportbike has a right to be, and the passenger seat is comfortably flat if not comfortable.
While it would be a stretch to describe the raucous Streetfighter as a pragmatic motorcycle, you might rationalize its purchase as reasonable once you take it for a spin and feel its MotoGP lineage shaking your soul while cruising to a bike night or unwinding your favorite twisty road. And the hook is set deepest in Italophile riders who venerate racing.
If the $23,995 MSRP doesn’t terrify your wallet, the Ducati Streetfighter V4 S is unparalleled for living out your MotoGP or Superbike dreams while riding on public roads.
Images: Stephen Gregory