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Ducati XDiavel Australian Launch

Dalliance with the XDevil

Watch our video review of the new Ducati XDiavel

Ducati’s all new XDiavel has only just been released on the Australian market but arguments have been raging over its model designation since AMCN attended the world launch in March (Vol 65 No 17). The XDiavel is being pitched as a cruiser, and its forward controls, 755mm seat height, belt drive and relaxed seating position certainly tick some boxes on the cruiser checklist. However, launch control, 114.7kW and 128Nm does not a cruiser normally make – that is, unless it has been designed and built by Italians at Ducati’s Bologna factory.

The XDiavel has a 130mm trail, a moderate rake of 30º and a wheelbase of 1615mm – that’s 35mm longer than the already long Diavel (1580mm). I’m going to side with Ducati on this one: the XDiavel is a cruiser, just not as we know it.

My fortnight’s dalliance with the Devil (or XDevil as it would be) began with its official Australian unveiling during a black tie affair at Matt Moran’s Aria Restaurant on Sydney Harbour. Matt is Ducati’s Diavel ambassador, and before you roll your eyes about another famous face being tied to a brand purely for publicity, the celebrity chef is a genuine Ducatista and among his collection of two-wheeled toys lurks a Desmosedici and a Superleggera.

There’s also a Yamaha YZ465, which I’m assured is still ridden with gusto. If you want to get Matt Moran chatting, just bring up the subject of motorcycles, not meatballs.

The idea behind getting Australia’s leading motorcycle journalists to do their best James Bond impersonation was to highlight the ‘Gentleman’ nature of the XDiavel before unleashing the ‘Bastard’ the following day on the open roads of the NSW south coast. That’s the way Ducati itself has been marketing the bike, by the way, though the Italian ‘Il signore e il bastardo’ does have a more Continental ring to it.

Two versions of the XDiavel are available: a standard model in matte black, and an upmarket S in gloss black. The standard model costs $27,490 (+ ORC) while the S models will set you back $32,490 (+ ORC). The additional $5000 gets you a host of additional goodies, including DLC treatment on the fork legs, full LED lighting with daytime running light, Bluetooth module with infotainment system, Brembo M50 Monobloc brakes to replace the M4-32 units on the standard model, and gorgeous machined aluminium wheels, mirrors and machined highlights on the engine. An indication of the success of the S model’s marketing campaign is that more than 60 per cent of Australian pre-orders have been for the more expensive S model. I suppose if you’re going to spend $30K on a new motorcycle you don’t want to be left wondering. Naturally both models are shod with the Diavel’s signature super-fat 240/45 ZR17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso II rear tyre mounted on a 17 x 8-inch wheel, and a 120/70 ZR17 unit up front. At first glace the XDiavel may look like the existing Diavel model with a few cosmetic tweaks, but the two are completely different motorcycles with only a handful of parts shared between them including tyres, brake calipers and a couple of engine covers. While the Diavel runs the superbike-based Testastretta 11º V-twin engine (119kW@9250rpm /130.5Nm@8000RPM) the XDiavel is fitted with the smooth running Testastretta DVT (Desmodromic Variable Timing) V-twin from the Mutistrada which has been given a 3.6mm increase in stroke, lifting capacity from 1198.4cc to 1262cc. The long stroke has also altered the characteristics of the engine with peak torque of 128.9Nm delivered at a cruiser-like low of just 5000rpm. Maximum power output of 114.7KW may be slightly down compared to the Diavel, and it peaks 250rpm higher at 9500rpm, but because the XDiavel delivers such a huge kick in the pants from the first twist of the throttle it feels more brutish. And that’s where many of the arguments begin – when was the last time you saw output figures like those from a traditional cruiser? I’m guessing tradition wasn’t something the creators of the XDiavel were interested in when they designed what’s being described as a techno-cruiser. The three ride-by-wire modes (Sport, Touring and Urban) not only offer varying levels of power delivery and throttle response, each can be programmed by the rider to deliver higher or lower traction control or more or less sensitive ABS intervention. An inertial measurement unit (IMU) dynamically measures the pitch and yaw of the bike to adjust the cornering ABS and traction control and also provides information to the ride-by-wire system. This means when you twist the throttle on a wet, uphill bend, power delivery will differ slightly to what you will get when you do the same on a dry, flat straight. The electronic nannies are always hard at work to make sure the bike remains rubber-side down. At the very top of the non-cruiser-like electronic gadgets is the three-level Ducati Power Launch (DPL) launch control system. You can view our video of this system in action here:

Once you throw a leg over the XDiavel you discover the cruiser-like seating position and comfort is delivered via a choice of four foot-control positions, five seat options (standard, comfort, low, high, leather), and three handlebar choices. Ducati has calculated that 60 different settings are obtainable by adjusting mounting points and using parts from the accessories catalogue. The distance to the sweptback handlebar and the pegs is in proportion so you don’t need long legs and short arms for this bike to be a good fit. Even my mammoth frame looked at home on it. From the rider’s seat everything is easily accessible and easy to spot thanks to backlit handlebar switches. Thankfully Ducati did not carry over the tank-mounted digital display used on the Diavel; instead, a single TFT dash has all the information you need, and can be customised to display almost anything else you want.

The route for the official launch ride commenced in the heart of the Sydney CBD, which meant we were stuck in a traffic jam just getting out of the carpark. This was not poor planning, but a deliberate move by Ducati to show the Gentleman (or il signore) side of the XDiavel. Despite having the appearance of a brute and the engine note of a dungeon dragon, the XDiavel proved to be a pussycat in the crowded city streets. With the three tier riding modes set to the sedate Urban level, the XDiavel effortlessly crawled along with the traffic, requiring just the slightest amount of throttle and a gentle slip of the clutch to modulate the speed as we lane filtered our way between cars. The cruiser-like steering geometry combined with the long wheelbase does slow the responsiveness of the bike at low speed, but the confidence inspiring stability makes up for it.

Out on the open road and through the twists and turns of a quiet coastal road is where the XDiavel is most at home – a place where il bastardo can come out. This is not a place for a cruiser-like open-face helmet.

Once you begin asking the big questions of the XDiavel it all but throws its cruiser tag to the curb. Despite looking long and sleek the XDiavel can reach lean angles of 40º before the pegs touch down, which is a good thing because the handling is more than able to take you there. Want to get the front wheel up? No problem – it power wheelies in first or second gear and the IMU will allow the fun to go just far enough before stepping in and activating the traction control.

Once up to speed the same black magic used to make the Diavel handle like a sportsbike comes into play. The specifications of the XDiavel on paper do not match up with what happens out on the road. The bike does lean on its front tyre a bit, but the Pirelli Diablo Rosso II is more than up to the task, and the level of feedback lets you know the thing is not about to tuck on you.

If you do find yourself rushing into a bend a little too quickly the cornering sensitive ABS on the brilliant Brembo brakes offer eye-bulging stopping force. At end of each ride you are forced to get off, take five steps back and just stare at what you have ridden. So what is there not to like? One of the trade-offs for good handling of a bike this size is firm suspension. A number of dips in the road surface were nasty enough to compress my spine before I was bounced out of the seat.

I also look at cruisers as bikes for people who just want to ride, with stuff like a good skill set on two wheels not featuring high on their list. The XDiavel is not for that buyer demographic – this is a bike that packs a lot of punch and commands respect.

Would I own one? In a heartbeat. In fact, with my half-century approaching I have been hinting to the wife that an XDiavel may be the perfect birthday gift – along with the handful of other bikes and cars I have requested. But hey, it’s on the list.

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With a 128.9Nm or torque available low in the rev range, getting the big cruiser up onto its back wheel is child’s play, and with a length of 2310mm, they are pretty big wheelies.


The Gentleman side of the XDiavel


Even in a dining room the XDiavel looks the business


Celebrity chef Mat Moran loves to talk motorcycles


The XDiavel S is recognisable by its gloss black paint, machined wheels and engine highlights


The standard XDiavel


Both the standard and S model XDiavel are fitted with Diavel’s signature fat rear tyre


Belt drive


The two different rear wheels


More lean angle than your conventional cruiser


Despite what appears to be a small and uncomfortable pillion seat we took the chance of fitting the optional mini sissy bar and headed out for a two-up cruise. My pillion declared the XDiavel one of the most comfortable and exciting bikes she has been on the back of.


The accessory sissy bar makes two-up touring a breeze


XDiavel pipes sound as good as they look


Out on the road


A twisting  road is home for the XDiavel