October 23, 2020 By Maynard Marcelo Photos by DUCATI

2020 Ducati Panigale V2: Bridging the Great Middleweight and Superbike Divide

Middleweight or Superbike?

When Ducati launched the Panigale 959 in 2016, nobody can’t quite figure out what category it belonged to. Is it a liter bike or a middleweight? Ducati settled the controversy by calling it the Supermid, or a Super Middleweight. When Ducati’s superbike offering at that time boasts an almost 1299cc engine capacity, I guess you can call a 959cc L-twin a middleweight, in Ducati’s sportbike hierarchy, at least. 

While the Panigale 959 replaced the 899 that replaced the 848 that replaced the 749 that replaced the 748 prior, the Panigale V2 didn’t follow the natural model progression with an increased engine capacity. Instead Ducati chose to stick with the tried and proven 955cc Superquadro engine and focused on further refining the already capable platform. Perhaps to differentiate it from Ducati’s V4 offerings, they dropped the 959 and adopted a simpler, and more descriptive name; Panigale V2. 

And for this reason, Ducati Philippines sent Mr. BJ Ang, current Ducati Cup Philippines Champion, and yours truly halfway across the world to Jerez, Spain, when everything’s still fine with the world, to try out the new Panigale V2 at the Circuito De Jerez – Angel Nieto MotoGP racetrack.   

Engine and Transmission

The 955cc Superquadro engine is a gem of an engine, dishing out plenty of low and mid range torque with an inline-4-like top end rush to its 10750 rpm redline. Rated at 155 hp, it now earns the distinction of being the most powerful sub-1000cc V-twin in Ducati’s inventory. For the V2, Ducati managed to extract 5 more horsepower (from the 959 Panigale’s 150 hp) and 1.47 lb-ft additional torque while meeting Euro 5 standards. This was achieved by using a redesigned under-engine muffler, higher-flow fuel injectors, and a more efficient airbox with revised ducts feeding cool air from reshaped air inlets beneath the twin headlights. 

 

959 Panigale owners will be especially jealous of the Panigale V2’s new Ducati Quick Shift EVO (up and down shift) with auto-blip and lean-angle awareness, courtesy of the V2’s new six-axis Bosch IMU, for quick up and down shifts through the buttery smooth 6-speed gearbox. Circuito de Jerez has plenty of high speed sweeping corners and during my familiarity laps I went into several of these left and right hand corners a gear too low or sometimes too high, affecting my cornering and exit speeds. With the DQS EVO you can safely get away by up or down shifting a gear even while fully leant over without upsetting the V2’s solid cornering stability. From first gear, up shifts are taken fluidly at low revs but also noticeably quicker near the rev limit. 

Handling and Ride

Like the Superquadro motor, the Panigale V2 also retains the 959’s aluminum monocoque frame. Attached directly to the cylinder heads, the die-cast monocoque aluminum structure also houses the airbox, air filter, throttle bodies, and uses the Superquadro motor as a stressed member for better mass centralization. From a styling standpoint, the most noticeable update to the Panigale V2 is not only the Panigale V4 inspired fairings, but also the use of a single-sided swingarm adopted from the 1199/1299, and more elegant looking 5 Y-spoke wheels.   

It’s difficult to deduce the Panigale V2’s handling without discussing the important role played by its new electronics package now featuring a Bosch six-axis IMU, perhaps its biggest dynamic improvement over the 959. The new electronics package raises the bike’s active safety and dynamic control by instantly detecting the bike’s roll, yaw, and pitch angles, then feeds all these information simultaneously to the ABS Cornering EVO, Ducati Traction Control EVO 2, Ducati Wheelie Control EVO, Ducati Quick Shift EVO, and Engine Brake Control EVO, for a smoother and more controllable ride. Three preset riding modes are available; Street, Sport, and Race. Each mode can be personalised to rider preference.     

Circuito de Jerez is 4.428 kilometers long with two long straights punctuated in between by a mixture of two short straits, eight right handers, and five left hand corners. Setting a fast lap requires getting your braking points and desired cornering lines right otherwise you risk overshooting to the soft gravel traps. Two journalists in our session did, so I was extra careful to pick my braking reference points during our familiarization laps around the circuit. I started off with the Street riding mode. This mode provides the full 155 hp but has the softest throttle response of the three. 

From Street I switched the riding mode to Sport on our second track outing. This time the throttle response is noticeably more quicker than on Street mode, but still provides a healthy dose of rear wheel lift mitigation under hard braking. As I picked up speed I learned to trust the ABS Cornering EVO more and more throughout the day, adjusting my braking points later and later to scrub off excess speed sometimes to the point while I’m already well inside the corner. The bike didn’t run wide nor it stood up. It just followed my desired line like it’s on rails. This thing is truly amazing.

It was on our third of five track outings when I began to become fully comfortable with the Panigale V2. Even on Race mode where there’s least electronic intervention, the electronics suite never fails to provide confidence inspiring stability and composure even at near race pace. Thanks in part to the new DTC EVO 2, a more sophisticated traction control system derived from Ducati’s MotoGP experience. The system not only acts on the basis of instantaneous rear wheelspin but also its variation. Depending on the wheelspin and lean angle information it receives from the 6-axis IMU, the software significantly improves out-of-the-corner power control to ensure faster, and smoother intervention. In layman’s terms, you can pin the throttle in any gear and in any angle and trust the rear tire to maintain traction even in sub-optimal grip conditions. 

Our track testing was done on near perfect riding conditions. A bit chilly for us Asians, but with sunny blue skies most of the day. Nevertheless, Ducati installed grippier Pirelli Supercorsa SP V2 race tires on our test bikes for maximum riding enjoyment. Stock tires are Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa II. The Panigale V2 features a fully adjustable (spring preload, compression, and rebound damping) 43 mm Showa BPF in front and a fully adjustable Sachs monoshock in the rear. Both ends can be fine tuned for comfort when riding on the road or for maximum control when riding on the racetrack. I didn’t bother fiddling with the standard shock settings because honestly they’re spot on for me out of the box. A Sachs steering damper keeps unwanted barshakes at bay. Also worth mentioning are the powerful brake setup of the V2. The ABS Cornering EVO somehow transformed the otherwise lower spec Brembo M4.32 monoblock calipers into something truly adequate, providing predictable and non-intrusive ABS intervention.   

Controls and Comfort

959 Panigale owners will immediately feel at home on the Panigale V2, except for the seat height which is taller at 840 mm. Riders with short legs like me will have a bit of a stretch to reach the ground with both feet, and I’m 5 foot 7. There are slight improvements to the ergonomics aimed at improving comfort, like a longer seat to allow better fore and aft movement and 5 mm thicker foam. A welcome improvement is the 4.3-inch color TFT instrument panel that features a user-friendly graphic interface for browsing menus, adjusting settings and identifying the selected riding mode. Ride modes can be selected or adjusted using the rocker switch on the left hand switch gear. Clutch and brake levers are span adjustable to accommodate different hands.      

Verdict

There was never a time during our track testing when I felt I was riding anything less than a full on Superbike. If not for the existence of the Panigale V4S and V4R, the Panigale V2’s mixture of speed, sublime handling, advanced electronics package, and even handsome good looks could qualify it as a flagship material. But it’s not. As good as the Panigale V2 may be, it still lives behind the shadow of its bigger siblings. But it’s a clear reminder that we really don’t need 200 plus horsepower superbikes to have fun on the racetrack, and most especially on the road, where we spend most of our time riding. Besides, there is satisfaction in being able to pin the throttle wide open longer than a few seconds without scaring yourself in the process. 

At PhP 1,150,000 the Panigale V2 is priced way below the entry-level Panigale V4 (PhP 1,595,000), but put it in the same ballpark of flagship Japanese superbikes like the Suzuki GSX-R1000R (PhP 1,169,000) and the Yamaha YZF-R1 (PhP 1,099,000) with more power and mostly the same electronics package. Having said that, you must really want a Ducati to forego those powerful alternatives. However, the Panigale V2 is not about brute force. It’s all about finesse, accessible performance, and total control. It’s like that elegant chic that knows a thing or two about martial arts, and will not hesitate to use it when provoked. The Panigale V2 has the ability to humble bigger and more powerful bikes above its class. The question now is, is it a Supermid, or a Superbike?     


Specifications: 

Displacement:  955cc

Engine : efi, liquid cooled, L-twin, 4 stroke, 8 valves

Max. Power:  155 hp @ 10750 rpm

Max. Torque: 76.7 lb-ft @ 9000 rpm

Transmission: 6-speed

Seat Height: 840 mm

Fuel Capacity: 17 liters

Curb Weight: 200 kg

Tire Front: 120/70-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa II

Tire Rear: 180/60-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa II

Brakes F/R: 2 Disc/Disc abs 

Price: PhP1,150,000

C! Rating: 10/10

+: Faultless electronics package, sublime handling, and handsome good looks.

-: Difficult to reach side-stand while seated 

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