All Tests – Ducati 1199 Panigale S Review: the Bologna red diamond – But what is left for the others?

Ducati 1199 Panigale S test: the red diamond of Bologna

All Tests - Ducati 1199 Panigale S Review: the Bologna red diamond - But what is left for the others?

First, its lines combining purity and aggressiveness are bewitching … Then its performance as a racing motorcycle takes your breath away … Carved with genius by Italian jewelers, the Ducati 1199 Panigale is the new jewel in the crown of Bologna. Test !

But what is left for the others ?

Omnipresent, electronics are indeed the last point on which the 1199 Panigale strikes very hard. And without his help, taming the violence of this explosive Superbike would probably be beyond the reach of most of us. !

For this first contact, Ducati had provided us with an "S" model: like the top of the range "Tricolore", the "S" version differs from the "Standard" model by its forged rims and its optics making full use of to leds (only the position lights at the front and the rear lights on the Standard version).

More importantly, the S and the Tricolor adopt electronically controlled suspensions. Inaugurated on the Multistrada 1200, these suspensions Ducati Electronic Suspension (DES) retain a manual preload adjustment, but allow the compression and rebound of the 43mm fork and TTX36 shock to be electronically varied (50mm Marzocchi fork and Sachs shock fully adjustable on Standard).

These changes are made through small electronically controlled valves placed at the top of the triple trees and shock absorber. This is undoubtedly the only point where the excellent finish of the Panigale can be faulted: the rubberized ends of these famous suspensions generate a certain visual "pollution", just like the few electric wires informing the ECU (Electronic Central Unit) that the engineers failed to completely conceal.

Placed almost horizontally on the left side to leave room for the bulky exhaust of the rear cylinder, the Sachs shock absorber of the standard or Ohlins of the S and Tricolore also has an adjustable anchor point, which allows to adapt its behavior to road or track use.

These electronic suspensions are automatically slaved to the laws predefined by Ducati engineers in the three driving modes offered as standard by the three versions of the Panigale: "Race", "Sport" and "Wet". These maps, which can be selected from the handlebars via the button located on the turn signal reminder, also determine the degree of intervention of the combined ABS and traction control. Ducati Traction Control (DTC) and the new engine brake management Engine Brake Control (EBC).

But if all this seems very obscure to you, go to the last part of our "Technical point" on the next page to know everything about these "scholarly chips" and how they work. !

Very discreet and totally transparent, the ABS of the Panigale is damn good: even by pressing the right lever violently at more than 290 km / h, its entry into action has never been felt by the return of force in the lever or any lengthening of distances. On the contrary, one would be tempted to write, given the remarkable calibration of this Bosch 9M central.

A real tour de force, considering the truly astonishing power of the Brembo M50 radial calipers! Actuated only a few millimeters, the right lever literally pushes the front axle into the ground. Greater pressure, and the slowing down more or less equals that of a Rafale landing on an aircraft carrier !

Designed specifically for the Panigale, these four-piston monobloc grippers are advertised as "7% lighter"than a standard model and offer an absolutely unique feeling and endurance. The 1198 was already an excellent braking machine, the 1199 outclasses it because the proportion of the force on the lever is better. In short, the Panigale has retained all the braking power of its predecessor, but it effectively frees itself from its violent limit attack.

A very good point therefore, to which can be added the appreciable progressiveness of the rear brake and its reassuring efficiency. And to take full advantage of these slowing capacities, the 1199 Panigale introduces a new tool intended for the quest for ultimate performance: in addition to a very effective anti-dribble clutch, the Ducati offers to vary the intensity of its engine brake..

Configurable on three levels, this Engine Brake Control provides astonishing sensations when entering a curve: set by default to level 1 (where the engine braking is the most important), the 1199 Panigale quickly loses speed when you cut off the throttle.

This logical mechanical phenomenon, called engine braking, helps slow down around a curve. But it can also cause jams or rear wheel sweeps, when the rider downshifts to excessively high revs – as is often the case on the track – or when the road surface is slippery..

To alleviate this problem, a simple pressure on the left stalk of the 1199 Panigale makes it possible to decrease the engine brake in a noticeable way: on level 3 (the highest), the "beast" of Bologna hardly offers more brake engine than a sporty inline four-cylinder. Bluffing !

Finally, the Ducati is of course equipped with the almost unavoidable traction control: configurable on eight levels, this little gem of technology allows you to open the throttle wide while the bike is still on the angle. Set to the maximum (level 8) on "Wet" mode – a mapping limited to 120 hp designed for use in the wet – it must be lowered to 5 on the circuit to leave enough latitude to the pilot.

Dropped to its third notch during this test, the Ducati Traction Control then allows pretty drifts from the rear before entering into action with reassuring smoothness and speed. Most of the time, his interventions are done so discreetly that the pilot is only aware of them when the warning light indicating his entry into action lights up on the instrument panel. !

Verdict: who will dare to outbid ?

More than an "exceptional" motorcycle, the Ducati 1199 Panigale is already to be considered as an "exceptional" motorcycle: its exceptional performance makes it quite simply the production motorcycle closest to a designed prototype. only for competition…

The competitors of the 1199 Panigale

  • Aprilia RSV4 Factory APRC : 180 hp, 179 kg dry, 21,590 €, traction control, anti-wheeling, selectable maps, shifter and starting assistance as standard, ABS not available

  • BMW S1000RR : 193 hp, 204 kg all full, 16,500 €, selectable maps as standard, traction control, anti-wheeling, ABS and optional shifter

  • Honda CBR1000RR : 178 hp, 200 kg all full, 14 490 €, optional ABS, traction control, anti-wheeling and selectable injection maps not available

  • Kawasaki ZX-10R : 200 hp, 198 kg all full, € 15,999, selectable maps, traction control and anti-wheeling as standard, ABS as an option

  • KTM RC8 R : 175 hp, 185 kg dry, 16,590 €, selectable maps, traction control, anti-wheeling and ABS not available

  • MV Agusta F4 RR : 201 hp, 192 kg dry, € 22,390, selectable maps, traction control and anti-wheeling as standard, ABS not available

  • Suzuki GSX-R 1000 : 185 hp, 203 kg all full, € 13,999, selectable maps as standard, traction control, anti-wheeling and ABS not available

  • Yamaha YZF-R1 : 182.1 hp, 206 kg all full, € 15,999, selectable maps, traction control and anti-wheeling as standard, ABS not available
  • At the end of this test, only the Aprilia RSV4 Factory APRC, the BMW S1000RR and the Kawasaki ZX-10R (see box opposite) seem truly able to give it the answer, whether in terms of performance but also sophistication. And again: on the circuit, the battle promises to be tough…

    On the road, however, the Italian diva may suffer from its ultra-sporty orientation: its rigidity worthy of a MotoGP and especially its nervousness may frighten more than one, while the torque available later moves away from road driving needs.

    Without even talking about the French "case", where this high-level athlete will have to leave the trifle of 89 hp in the locker room. And without wanting to play the ominous birds, given its high power it will probably be the best

    Finally comes the question of price: displayed at € 18,990 as standard (+ € 1,000 compared to an 1198), € 23,990 for the "S" version and € 28,990 for the Tricolore, the 1199 Panigale does not only push back performance limits! Especially since it is still necessary to add 1000 € to benefit from the combined ABS on the standard and "S" models…

    However, scrapped from an ultra-repressive society, Superbikes are no longer really on the rise today. So much so that for some, signing a very large check for a motorcycle capable of sending you to prison without passing the second is even heresy. !

    But Ducati believes in it and even thinks that the 1199 Panigale will send a beneficial electric shock to this threatened category: the Reds are counting on the desire and envy that it will undoubtedly arouse to revive interest among bikers and provoke the replica of other manufacturers.

    Concretely, the manufacturer of Bologna relies on the passion dimension which surrounds, even today, the segment of Hypersports. And according to Francesco Rapisarda, Ducati communications director interviewed by Site, this bold and refreshing approach in these times of crisis should appeal "6000 enthusiasts around the world in 2012, including 600 in France alone". Tell boss, when do you raise me ?

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