2020 Ducati Panigale V2 Street Ride Review

By Basem Wasef, Motorcyclist

She sits with shark-like readiness, poised and remarkably red. Sure, there’s obligatory branding—Ducati on the tank and Panigale on the fairing, both in stark white. But take a closer look and—yep, it’s a V2.

In any other universe, a 955cc, 155 hp superbike would be, well, super. But within the confines of the curiously contradictory niche of so-called super-mids, the 2020 Panigale V2 actually plays second fiddle to a cadre of seven truly Looney Tunes stablemates: the V4, V4 S, V4 S Corse, V4 Speciale, V4 R, V4 25th Anniversario 916, and the positively bonkers, six-figure, carbon fiber-winged Superleggera V4. Suddenly, this $16,495 baby Ducati is looking downright sensible. But how much mellower is it to its ballsier, V-4-powered siblings? And more crucially, do you want one?

The V2 is an evolution of the Panigale 959, a more approachable alternative to Ducati’s four-cylinder superbikes that’s not quite as dialed down as the SuperSport ($13,65) or the SuperSport S ($15,395). On paper at least, the V2 doesn’t seem all that different from its predecessor. Horsepower gains a negligible 5 hp, and torque increases a mere 1.48 pound-feet. You could produce more twist turning a doorknob. But the V2’s secret sauce isn’t absolute power, but rather how the electronics and ergonomic packages come together. For starters, the V2 gains the same advanced EVO 2 traction control, cornering ABS, and six-axis Bosch IMU managing goodies like wheelie control and lean-angle-based engine-braking as found in Ducati’s big boy superbikes. Paired up with the trick engine and braking control units is a smaller, slimmer body, a more comfortably padded saddle, and greater compliance from the 43mm Showa Big Piston Fork and the Sachs monoshock. It also looks the part, with luscious V4-inspired bodywork and a new single-sided swingarm.

Swing a leg over, and you’re presented with a new 4.3-inch TFT front and center, and a somewhat convoluted menu functionality managing three riding modes via the left switch gear. But unlike the bigger bikes, the V2’s compact ergos feel more comfortable and accommodating—and therefore, more confidence inspiring to less experienced riders. The 33.1-inch height of the softer saddle also sparks more welcoming vibes, as does the more relaxed reach from the commodious perch. However, the underseat exhaust also produces a bit of heat—welcome on a cold day, but taxing on warm ones.

At least the L-twin’s exhaust note and valve noise is reassuringly mechanical, though some might miss Ducati’s signature dry clutch rattle. Accelerating hard off the line and during midcorner apexes reveals what feels like, at least to this seat-of-the-pants, a punchier throttle than the 959. But remember those incremental horsepower and torque increases? This time around, the upgraded electronics seem to enhance the sensation ever so slightly because the bike is more effectively laying down power to the road; no subtle traction control power subtraction, more forward motion. Ride a V2 and a V4 back to back, and the four-cylinder will tug you ahead with dramatically more force. That’s what an extra 59 hp, or nearly an entire Triumph Street Twin’s worth of oomph, can do for you. And yet in a vacuum, without the high-powered context, the V2 still feels plenty quick, just not neck-snappingly, arm-stretchingly, brain-warpingly so. Similarly, wheelie control may theoretically be triggered at some point in the proceedings, but certainly not as aggressively as in the V4. It takes a bit of effort to get that front wheel lifted.

Around town, the cushier suspension is a gift. Despite its unrelentingly mean looks, the V2 can poke around cities with easy breeziness, feeling connected but not punishing. The riding posture doesn’t feel brutal either, offering a welcome relief from the typical literbike torture rack experience. The Ducati Quick Shift system works flawlessly, enabling clutch-free gear changes that are totally smooth and near instantaneous during both upshifts and downshifts.

But the real test of a superbike is under more strenuous circumstances, and an afternoon and a half in the tangled canyons overlooking Los Angeles revealed more crucial parts of the bike’s personality. Sure, the power is sufficient to get you going quickly, but it doesn’t devour the rare wide-open straights quite as voraciously. Despite the two fewer cylinders, the V2 actually weighs more, tipping the scales at 441 pounds versus 436 pounds for the base V4. Why the discrepancy? The V2’s wheels, fork, and engine case use aluminum instead of magnesium, and do not incorporate lightweight aluminum engine cover bolts. The V2’s frame is also an aluminum monocoque, versus an alloy “front frame” design on the more powerful model.

Casual riders may not mind the kinder, softer cornering on the V2, but the suspension differences between it and the V4 and V4 S become glaringly noticeable at higher speeds and over uneven terrain. Particularly through the bumpy bits the V2 tends to feel a bit unsettled, becoming more sensitive to road irregularities than the higher-end models. It can take you out of the moment, when an all-out corner attack quickly changes its tone and you find yourself lifting out of the seat to help absorb the shock and maintain chassis composure. At least the cornering ABS quickly scrubs off speed, tapping the twin radially mounted Brembo Monoblocks.

Taking into consideration its personality in urban and canyon settings, does the V2 deliver on its promise? Depends on how seriously you take your lean angles and rev limiters. For most riders seeking to use their superbikes every day, the V2 is a revelation that the Italians can build something fast, sexy, and comfortable enough to use everyday. Just don’t expect ultimate canyon carving prowess from this entry-level superbike. Need something sharper? Look no further than the pricier upmarket options that are equally red but considerably more fearsome.

2020 Ducati Panigale V2 Specifications, Features, And Price

See more at: Motorcyclist


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Autos Magazine: 2020 Ducati Panigale V2 Street Ride Review
2020 Ducati Panigale V2 Street Ride Review
Ducati’s littlest Panigale V2 superbike is anything but diminutive.
Autos Magazine
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