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Friday 6th April 2012


PH2 RIDDEN: DUCATI PANIGALE

£24K's worth of very noisy, very fast and very exciting Ducati gets the PH2 treatment


You are given the keys to a brand new Ducati Panigale Tricolore at 9am and told to return them, and the bike, by 5pm that day. What do you do? To PH2 the answer is simple - trash the hell out of it on the road, stick it on a dyno then take it to Bruntingthorpe proving ground to see what it does flat out...

Tricolore is the top of the Panigale range
Tricolore is the top of the Panigale range
What's the deal then?
There are four variations of Panigale for sale. The base 1199 Panigale (not stock, that makes it sound cheap) costs 14,995 or 15,750 with ABS. This has all the electric gizmos but to get the flash electrically adjustable Ohlins suspension you need to pay an extra 4,000 and get the Panigale 1199S for 19,750, which comes with ABS as standard.

Then you have the Tricolore, which will set you back a burly 23,495. As well as the trick paint job you get Ducati's datalogging kit with a new GPS feature and also a set of titanium Termignoni performance silencers. PH2 lucks out: we get the key to the Tricolore.

Trick Ohlins dampers all part of the deal
Trick Ohlins dampers all part of the deal
On the road
Picking the bike up from Ducati UK at Silverstone the first thing that strikes you is its size. The Panigale is tiny, a beautiful Italian toy of a bike that looks stunning, especially in its patriotic paint scheme.

After the usual five minutes while a technician explains how the vast array of electronics work I get the key and off I go.

When I first saw the specs of the Panigale I though it would be a complete animal. The bike it supersedes, the 1198S, is bordering on the unrideable on the road - it's simply too ferocious. The Panigale has, Ducati claims, about 20hp more than the 1198S, which was a little concerning. Lighter, more powerful and with sharper geometry - sounds like a recipe for disaster. It isn't.

Titanium Termignoni exhausts are L-O-U-D
Titanium Termignoni exhausts are L-O-U-D
Pulling out of the car park the Panigale feels light and incredibly agile. It's markedly lighter than the 1198 and feels a good few kilograms less than the Japanese 1000s. But best of all it isn't an animal at low speed. Roundabouts aren't too much of a hassle and the clutch lever doesn't require the hands of a gorilla to pull it in - dare I say it, Ducati's new superbike feels, well, quite civilised.

Getting from Ducati to the dyno house involves a fairly dull straight road that has a fair few unmarked police cars so other than noticing the mirrors are useless and vibrate like something from Ann Summers and the riding position is cramped but not too bad, the next 50 or so miles are fairly uneventful. Don't get me wrong, keeping the revs below 8,000rpm still makes the bike shift at a hell of a rate, but it doesn't feel anything like the animal I was expecting.

Dyno unleashes flames and scary figures
Dyno unleashes flames and scary figures
Even the gearbox is incredibly slick, helped by one of the best quickshifters I have ever used. There is a hint at something hiding up the rev range when I exit one roundabout hitting 8,000rpm in second and feel the front end going a bit light but the roads are damp and I'm behaving myself.

On the dyno
Hearing a bike on a dyno is a glorious experience - in-line fours wail at 15,000rpm and with 600cc machines you end up backing away for fear of catching an escaping piston in the gob. The Panigale sounds lazy.

The Termignoni pipes drone a stunning, booming exhaust note but I'm convinced the dyno man isn't revving it out. A redline of 11,000rpm is pretty high for a twin but the Panigale never sounds like it's straining - although it does unleash a few flames from the cans on over-run. Then we see the chart...

186hp and 95ft lb of torque at the rear wheel - holy shit! Japanese manufacturers claim their power figures at the sparkplug, Ducati is usually fairly honest but this is still amazing.

Overlaying curves with 1198 is revealing
Overlaying curves with 1198 is revealing
But it is an odd chart. Usually Ducatis are stacked full of mid-range but the Panigale seems to be missing a chunk between 5,000rpm and 8,000rpm. We overlay a 1198 and you can see the brutal thrust of torque that the makes it so difficult to ride on the road. Ducati has lopped this off on the Panigale, which is why it feels so civilised and pleasant to ride in comparison. Well, below 8,000rpm...

Back on the roads (and away fromthe police)
Jesus wept... I've just hit 8,000rpm in first and the clear and easy to read digital dash is a lot closer and easier to read as it is trying to smack me in my nose. I stick it in second, using the gears as an anti-wheelie device, then as the Panigale hits 8,000rpm in second the front is up again. Third gear calms it down, but only until a slight crest in the road is enough to launch is skyward. The civilised bike has disappeared. Open the Panigale up and it is all superbike.

Maybe a full tank will keep the nose down?
Maybe a full tank will keep the nose down?
The throttle seems to have a lot less twist than other bikes, closed to open is no effort and the brakes are superb. Not overly aggressive like the 1198, just strong without being overkill. I'm starting to love this bike and barrelling along the back roads at a pace that isn't quite legal is a fantastic experience. People often ask me what the best bike I've ever ridden is. Usually I say the 1098R is the most memorable, I think I may say Panigale from now on.

Through the corners the Ohlins suspension is superb. The road I'm on is a bit bumpy so I would probably back it off a bit if I could be bothered, but I can't. It would only take a few clicks of the mode button to adjust it but I quite like the sensation of a bike kicking every now and then, it makes you feel like you are trying.

The new benchmark says PH2
The new benchmark says PH2
Fast direction changes are laughed off by the chassis while the sound of the Termignonis on full chat is mesmerising. You could get into a lot of trouble on a Panigale on the road, and on the Tricolore there is no hiding you approach. Thankfully Bruntingthorpe approachs just as I am starting to get a bit carried away...

On the strip
I don't confess to be any great speed tester. To launch a bike and get the best possible quarter mile you have to balance the throttle, rear brake and clutch and while on a bike such as the Hayabusa PH2 tested recently this isn't an issue. On the Panigale it is. The damn thing just wheelies everywhere - it's ridiculous! You can't accelerate flat out in first because as soon as it hits 8,000rpm the front is up, and the same happens in second. I find the best (and least scary tactic) is to launch in first, short shift to second when the front goes up, keep it in second as long as I dare and then stick it in third and hold it open. The results are impressive but not amazing - 0-60mph in 3.82 seconds, 0-100 mph in 6.39 seconds and a top speed of 171.33mph. A head wind doesn't help, but I thought the Panigale would be faster - maybe I'm losing my touch...

0-60mph in 3.82 sec and 57.47meters
0-100mph in 6.39 sec and 149.77meters
171mph in 28.94 sec and 1661meters
mile: 10.87 sec @ 145.13 mph

Still somewhat lairy but not quite as scary
Still somewhat lairy but not quite as scary
What did we learn?
The nine hours we spent together fly past. A lot has been said about the Panigale and how good it is on track. I haven't ridden it on a circuit, but you can tell it will be amazing. The chassis is superb, engine wonderful and brakes top drawer - however it is also surprisingly good on the road. The lack of grunt (when compared to the 1198) makes the Panigale a much nicer road bike that once stirred up can certainly unleash an insane side, however it can also be ridden fairly calmly. It has some irritations, twins can be tricky very low in the revs and things such as the mirrors and annoyingly placed headlight switch is a pain. However as a Ducati fan I have to say you can believe the hype - the Panigale is one hell of a bit of kit, even on the road. Any one fancy lending me 24K?


DUCATI 1199S PANIGALE TRICOLORE
Engine: 1198cc V-twin
Power: 186hp@11,000rpm (tested)
Torque: 95ft lb@8,500rpm (tested)
Top speed: 171mph
Weight: 190.5kg (wet) 166.5kg (dry)
MPG: 30 (approx)
Price: 23,495

Dyno video:

Top speed run video:

Author: Jon Urry