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Ducati Panigale V4 S | Bike Tests | Latest Tests

Introducing the Ducati Panigale V4 S as the winner of the AMCN 2018 Motorcycle of the Year!

The past 12 months has seen electronic safety systems and super-smart riding aids take another leap forward. Items considered cutting edge in 2017 became accepted, and even expected in 2018. Features which were only found of high-end sportsbikes until recently, can be found on bikes carrying a mid-teens price tag.

This almost unstoppable march towards crash-proof and autonomous motorcycles may be impressive, but it has meant a new type of rider has emerged, one who is seeking to enjoy motorcycling in its purest non-digitised form. The result is a broader range of motorcycles than ever before are now available, and our roll call of 2018 Motorcycle of the Year finalists is a snapshot of the 2018 market and a glimpse ahead to 2019.

This year’s MoTY line-up covers the LAMS, mid-capacity naked, big-bore naked, sports touring, superbike, power cruiser, and adventure segments. No matter what kind of bike you’re into, someone has improved it or made a new one for 2018. Riders have never had it so good.

Ducati Panigale V4 S

Each time it looked like another contender may cause an upset, Ducati’s Panigale V4 S superbike would pull away again, seemingly toying with the opposition just as Casey Stoner had done during his time with the Italian marque. On just about every voting criteria, the Ducati scored strongly and was the only bike to draw a perfect 10 from the judges, not once, but on several occasions.

In the areas of performance and technology, the Ducati was given top marks by at least one judge, putting it a step ahead of the opposition from the get-go. The advantage was driven home with a swag of perfect 10s for rider confidence. Five of the eight judges then gave it their vote as Motorcycle of The Year.

Attempting to explain what makes the Panigale V4 so good to anyone who has not ridden it is a tough task. Just the sound of it firing into life puts the fear of God into anyone standing with a 10-metre radius. And it’s fast, ridiculously fast. But it’s also unbelievably refined and easy to ride, both on the track and on the road. Its 1103cc twin-spark engine not only has a counter-rotating crankshaft like a MotoGP machine, but it is also based on the Italian manufacturer’s GP-winning powerplant, with the brakes to match. The stopping power of the radial-mounted Brembo Monobloc Stylema (M4.30) brakes is at a level most would never have experienced, yet predictable enough for most of us to use effectively.

Each of our eight-strong test team said the Panigale filled them with confidence each time they rode it, as the front-frame chassis, engine, electronics, brakes and sticky tyres worked in unison to deliver a breathtaking ride. You may still need to bend down to manipulate the side-stand with your hand, but this time around we’re prepared to forgive the Bologna engineers for that one.

The only criteria where the voting was not unanimous was value for money. One judge gave it top marks while another put it at the bottom of their list. It seems the Italian marque will continue to polarise opinions for a little longer.

The fight for the final two steps on the podium was tight and few predicted the final result.

Finishing second to the Ducati Panigale V4 S is nothing to be ashamed of, and for Benelli’s little bike that could, the Leoncino 500, it could almost be considered a win. Everyone who rode the 500cc parallel-twin thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Build quality, riding confidence and value for money were areas where the Leoncino scored strongly, with two judges voting it their MoTY choice.

Yamaha’s new Tracer 900 GT was third, winning a swag of new fans with its all-round capabilities. According to the team, the Yamaha nailed its brief, offers plenty of tech for the boffins and its build quality is Japanese great.

Kawasaki’s supercharged Ninja SX SE, Triumph’s Tiger 1200 XCa and KTM’s 790 Duke all missed out on a spot on the podium by just a couple of points, that’s how close this year’s MoTY fight was.

How they voted

The team fesses up to reveal whose vote went where

Josh Evans
Benelli Leoncino

As an atheist, I have no moral compass or method of measuring life’s purpose, so I made up my own: don’t be an arsehole and have fun. Fun is what got the Benelli over the line. After chasing all the front runners up Jamberoo Pass, riding all over their tail lights, I realised this is a bike that is lacking in nothing. I just couldn’t have had more fun. And this thing is supposed to be a LAMS bike. The brakes could bite better but it’s so good in every other way, and considering the bargain sub-$8K price, its brilliant!

Paul Andrews
Benelli Leoncino

As the least experienced rider in the test group, there are two things I look for when choosing a bike; ease of riding it, and how much fun I have on it. For me, it was close between the Kawasaki and the Benelli – and it was the Leoncini which came out on top. The Benelli oozes fun for new riders. It doesn’t feel like it’s LAMS approved, and it has a super comfortable riding position and seat. It may not be the biggest bike, but it left with me with the biggest smile!

David Watt
Triumph Tiger 1200 XCa

The Triumph 1200 XCa can do it all. The WP suspension is like a cloud in Comfort mode and offers plenty of feel in Sport mode. My bum and hands were toasty warm while chasing down the sportsbikes. The engine is as smooth as silk, sounds great and has power on tap anywhere in the rev range. Most impressive if the ability to jump on and rip through the modes and settings on the fly with a flick of the left thumb. It has all the electronic bells and whistles I want in a motorcycle. The XC ticks a lot of boxes for me in the real world.

Alex Penklis
Ducati Panigale V4 S

The Ducati Panigale V4 S is nothing short of astounding. The engine is brilliant, the chassis sublime and the electronics a work of wizardry. It is the most expensive motorcycle here, but in my opinion, it still offers good value for money. And with all the Japanese Superbikes starting to nudge the $30K barrier, tit only accentuates the excellent value-for-money argument. It is the closest motorcycle to perfection that I have ever ridden – it  really is that good.

Mark Penklis
Ducati Panigale V4 S

Many would say the Ducati Panigale V4 S is the obvious choice, but it’s the most expensive bike in the MoTY line up, so I had to consider value for money and not get carried away with this bike’s specification. The V4 was a big challenge for a company famous for its mighty V-twin engines, and Ducati has delivered a masterpiece in engineering. The engine feels and sounds like a big V-twin, has stonking power and is mated to a fantastic gearbox and a superb-handling chassis. The price gap between the Ducati and the other manufacturers’ superbikes has closed in recent years, so the Panigale V4 S had to be my pick.

Paul Treverrow
Ducati Panigale V4 S

The new Ducati has come after much expectation and hype, but it exceeds this and more. Simply put, this is as close to riding a MotoGP bike as most of us will experience. It has brain-bending acceleration, braking, handling and front-end feedback, creating a motorcycling experience like no other, but is so well mannered even your mum could double you on it. It’s a bike that has shifted the goalposts into another field most people will not be familiar with, and it does all this with civility and Ducati’s trademark flair.

Matt O’Connell
Ducati Panigale V4 S

Ducati nailed it. The V4 must have been a big risk for because the brand’s entire identity revolves around twin-cylinder engines. With the 90° V4 configuration, twin-pulse timing and counter-rotating crank it still feels like a Ducati, but picks up all the advantages of four cylinders. The styling makes it the best-looking bike around, but the standout is its handling and stability. In all conditions, the V4 felt glued to the road while still maintaining a decent level of comfort. The V4 is not only a step up from the previous Panigale, but for the sportsbike category as a whole. Bring on AUStest 2019!

Chris Dobie
Ducati Panigale V4 S

Prior to MoTY, I’d been fortunate enough to ride the new V4 Ducati at Valencia in Spain and Kyalami in South Africa. When the big red beast was delivered to Gassit HQ prior to MoTY, I took it for a spin to see if my memories of the bike had been tainted by the exotic test locations. They had not. Not only is the Panigale V4 S the best bike of 2018, it’s one of the best bike I have tested during my time with AMCN.

The finalists!

One of these machines has been crowned the 2018 Motorcycle of the Year!

Benelli Leoncino         $7990 (+ORC)

Ducati Panigale V4 S  $37,490 (+ORC)

Harley-Davidson Fat Bob       $27,496 (ride away)

Honda CB1000R        $16,499 (+ORC)

Kawasaki Ninja SX SE            $30,940 (+ORC)

KTM 790 Duke            $15,495 (+ORC)

Triumph Tiger 1200 XCA        $29,300 (+ORC)

Yamaha Tracer GT     $16,990 (+ORC)

As appeared in AMCN Magazine Vol 68 No 12