PH2 RIDDEN: DUCATI PANIGALE
£24K's worth of very noisy, very fast and very exciting Ducati gets the PH2 treatment
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
¼ mile: 10.87 sec @ 145.13 mph
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)