Cruisers are strange creatures in the motorcycle world. Visually appealing to non-riders, cruisers are firm favourites with many riders, especially fans of that American brand. But what happens when you try to make a cruiser that performs?

While sounding a bit of an oxymoron, cruisers are not just for, well, cruising. The image of the big V-twin, decked out in chrome, is a trope in the popular imagination for many, and the typical Hollywood cliche of what motorcycles are supposed to be doesn’t help things either.

So, what happens when you take all the equipment found on a modern sportsbike, such as ride modes and traction control, racing brakes and premium suspension, and mould it into something that looks like a dragster-styled cruiser, but isn’t? Well, you end up with the Ducati XDiavel.

The first iteration of the dragster cruiser would perhaps have been the Yamaha V-Max, back in 1985. This design trend was followed in later decades by machines such as the Honda Magna and recently, the Harley-Davidson V-Rod series, which sees its final production run this year.

But Ducati, in its infinite wisdom, decided what the world needed was a sports-cruiser, and created the Diavel, back in 2011. And then, in the sixth year, Ducati gave rise to the XDiavel, and Ducati Malaysia let us dance with the devil.

It could be said that most cruisers are style over substance, with big lazy engines and a laid back riding style. This suits many riders, who are not interested in going fast and dropping a knee in the corner.

But there is a certain segment of rider who, despite appearances to the contrary, really are slow riders that, sometimes, occasionally, feel the need for speed. Thus, for the biker who wants to generally cruise around, but desires a turn of speed and some serious handling, the Ducati XDiavel might fit the bill.

However, the very existence of the XDiavel in Ducati’s lineup is something of an oddity. Being the premier Italian performance motorcycle, Ducati has built its reputation on a series of V-twin engines that propelled Carl Fogarty, among others to several world championships.

In MotoGP, the Desmosedici V-four is taking the fight to the Japanese on a regular basis. So what is a cruiser doing in the Borgo Panigale stable?

For one thing, Ducati has not forgotten its machines are primarily about performance, hence the “sports-cruiser” moniker. What this means is that its Testastretta DVT two-cylinder – DVT standing for Desmodromic Variable Timing – displacing 1,262 cc is installed in the famous trellis frame.

Rated at 156 hp at 9,500 rpm and 128.9 Nm of torque at 5,000 rpm, we dare say that the XDiavel is, simply put, the most powerful mass production cruiser in its class. No doubt there are drag-modified cruisers that pump out more ponies, but straight out of the box?

All the engine output is mated to a six-speed gearbox that drives a belt. Cue record needle screeching over the vinyl sound. Yes, you heard right, the XDiavel uses a belt final drive, eschewing the chain drive of its predecessor.

What does this mean in real terms? For one thing, there is no chain to lubricate, or adjust as it stretches. Noise is also cut down, belts running quieter and cooler than chains.

Considering the demographic which the XDiavel is aimed that – the above 50 crowd as well as the distaff side of things – this is considered a plus point, as this set of riders is not wanting to be bothered about constant maintenance, preferring instead to get-on-and-ride.

Weight for the XDiavel has increased, weighing in at 247 kg wet compared to the Diavel’s 239 kg. Getting on and riding the XDiavel showed the new bike didn’t feel any heavier than the previous model, and if anything, steered a lot quicker.

Getting in the saddle of the XDiavel – our review unit was an XDiavel S, we will be outlining the difference later – showed a low seat height, some 755 mm worth. This means the overwhelming majority of bikers will be able to straddle the XDiavel with confidence, explaining its popularity with lady riders locally (a friend of ours rides a Diavel).

The saddle itself on our XDiavel S review unit, was covered in a suede and leather mix, which looked, and felt, luxurious, compared to the standard faux-leather unit on the base model XDiavel. Reaching out to the handlebars, we felt a mild stretch, and swinging a leg up to the forward-mounted controls revealed a slight “clamshell” riding position.

Not as extreme as the position on the first-generation Harley-Davidson V-Rod (a riding buddy has a Night Rod, so we know what we’re talking about), the ride position certainly is a big departure for Ducati. After getting comfortable, we thumbed the backlit starter button – the XDiavel uses a keyless start – which gave that characteristic Ducati V-twin will it-won’t it start before settling into a very loud rumble.

It should be noted at this point that our review XDiavel S came fitted with a Ducati Performance Termignoni exhaust. The exhaust cleaned up the looks of the XDiavel S a treat, and very closely resembled the exhaust of a helicopter turbine engine.

The bad news? Number one, it is freaking loud, loud enough that we had to use ear plugs full-time, were setting off car alarms and worried about waking up the neighbours, loud enough that our videographer almost blew the speakers on his laptop. Number two, the Ducati Performance exhaust is a RM14,000 option to you, sir.

Setting off on the XDiavel, we pulled in the clutch, and realised that while ladies might like the Diavel, the XDiavel’s clutch effort was immense. Like, almost Bullworker levels of effort. Don’t know what a Bullworker is? Go ask your grandfather.

Stretching our left foot out for the forward-mounted controls, the XDiavel’s gearshift is smooth, and engaged positively. Not so nice was the slight “clunk” sound that emanated from the gearbox. While we understand that the XDiavel is chasing a specific rider demographic, there really as not a need to make the gearbox as agricultural as that American brand.

Shifting up through the gears as we accelerated, the first thing we noticed is that the XDiavel goes like sh*t off a shovel. The engine built up speed very rapidly, to the point we wondered if we could have a Ducati Performance quickshifter installed.

The other thing we noticed is that the gearbox does not like to be rushed. Accustomed as we are to the short throw lever on proper Ducati sportsbikes, the XDiavel’s gear shift calls for a committed foot action.

No lazy shifting here. The rider must be prepared to get the toe under the lever and pull the foot up with a firm action. And do it quickly, because the engine isn’t going to wait for you before it bounces off the rev limiter.

So, we took the XDiavel S through our usual runs up the mountain and elsewhere. On the highway, Ducati’s sports cruiser did, as we mentioned earlier, emphasise the sports side of things.

This is because the XDiavel now allows for some 40-degrees plus of lean angle on either side of the bike, a number not far off many naked sports bikes. Taking the very fast sweepers on Karak at speeds we shall not mention showed nothing touched down on the bike, and our heels started scraping before we came near the hero blobs.

We did have some issues with getting our feet out of the way, simply because our 168-cm tall rider’s inseam was not long enough to stretch the legs further forward and higher. If you are standing anything above 1.7-metres tall, you should not have a problem.

As we settled in to highway cruise at extra-legal speeds, we found the saddle to be a touch firm, but fairly comfortable. The sharp step up to the very minuscule pillion pad – we hesitate to call it a seat – provided a nice bolster for the rider’s butt when whacking the throttle open and lunging forward.

Power builds up quickly from the Testastretta engine, and winding open the ride-by-wire throttle brings you to speeds that you would not expect a laid-back riding position cruiser to reach. Suffice it to say, riding an XDiavel and not watching the speed limit will rapidly attract attention from the police, as we found out.

No, we didn’t get a summons, but the patrol car guys were really curious about the XDiavel, and asked a lot of questions about the bike. I let one of the officers have a quick spin on it, and he came back with a huge grin on his face. This was something I noticed whenever I rode the XDiavel, it never failed to leave a grin on my face when I stopped and got off.

That is not to say the XDiavel is not without its faults, though. At standstill, the amount of heat rising off the engine was enough to make us of think of looking for suitable riding pants made out of Nomex, while the engine vibration was intrusive.

While all V-twins vibrate, there is an art to making the vibration feel like part of the bike’s character, while keeping the rider comfortable at the same time. In this case, Ducati has some work to do towards convincing the customer that paying extra for the butt massage is a good thing, like what Harley-Davidson does.

Taking the XDiavel into the twisties showed the machine’s true colours. “That thing is more sportsbike than cruiser,” quoting our riding buddy.

Being chased up the mountain by a quartet of bikes, one of them in the hands of a fairly capable rider, the XDiavel showed a clean pair of heels to all comers, helped by the adjustable 50 mm diameter upside-fork, and the preload and rebound adjustable rear shock absorber.

When we first got on the XDiavel, we noted the back-end static sag was lot, enough to make us worry about if there was enough suspension travel left at the back to soak up the bumps. An industry colleague and good friend based in Australia remarked that the XDiavel he tested was harsh enough in the rear to compress his spine.

Well, he didn’t say that exactly, but we assume that some of our readers are still under-age and we were warned our review had to be suitable for family consumption. However, we didn’t feel that the back-end was too harsh, but taking corners with the XDiavel required a committed hand.

Leaning the bike over was done easily enough, but the turning in was a little ponderous, due to the XDiavel’s 1,615 mm wheelbase. While not being at supertanker levels of response, doing the flip-flop and fast drop-ins for turns required a little thinking ahead, most notably where the XDiavel was going to end up on the exit.

A couple of close calls with the walls on the Genting Highlands road required us to readjust our turn in points for corners. In this respect, the XDiavel’s power and torque made changing lines easy, with a twist of the throttle all that was required to rocket the bike out of the corner.

The short travel suspension of the XDiavel – 120 mm in front and 110 mm at the back – was suitably stiff in fast corners, helped in no small measure by the standard fitment Pirelli Diablo Rosso II tyres. When a manufacturer fits sports (not race) rubber to a cruiser, you know they mean business.

There was some wallow exhibited by the XDiavel, but we put our trust in the Ducati Safety Pack, which provides both cornering ABS and traction control. Along with the ride modes, the XDiavel has enough in reserve to put some sportsbikes to shame.

A word about the ride modes. When we picked up the XDiavel from Ducati Malaysia, it was set to “Touring” mode, the other two being “Sports” and “Urban”. We left it in “Sports” mode throughout the review, simply because the XDiavel felt absolutely controllable at any engine speed.

Coupled with the hydraulic slipper clutch, the rider could throw the XDiavel with impunity into corners. In this respect, the Ducati engineers got the handling right, for the bike’s intended purpose.

We were unable to switch off the XDiavel’s launch control, though, meaning we only had a choice of three launch modes. No rolling burnouts, wheelies and going sideways with this one, though with 152 hp on tap, we were pretty sure the XDiavel would shred a rear tyre without hesitation.

Heading to the edge of the tyres was occasionally nerve-wracking, as there was little hint from the rear Diablo Rosso II about where the actual edge is. If you intend to ride the XDiavel as hard as we did, then consider softer rubber. If you’re not, then don’t, the standard rubber is great under “normal” riding conditions.

Taking the XDiavel cruising was an easy exercise, with the noise of the Termignoni exhaust and styling of the bike drawing attention. More than a few photos were taken by passers-by of the XDiavel at rest, so if you’re the shy, retiring, wall-flower type, this might not be the bike for you, there is nothing subtle about the XDiavel at all.

With the 18-litre fuel tank sitting up on top, down to the massive single-sided aluminium swingarm and the 240-section rear tyre, there are a myriad of details to catch the observer’s eye. Even the hydraulic resorvoir covers, machined out of aluminium with the Ducati logo, are details that show the designers wanted to produce a bike that is both show and go.

Coming to the rest of the XDiavel’s fit-out, one item that drew comments was the diminutive pad that is called a pillion seat by Ducati. Our regular 12-year-old pillion rider did one trip up the mountain on it, and said, later, that he almost fell off.

So, that rear seat is best reserved for very short trips around the city, and try to keep the speed to way below the speed limit. Also, no overweight passengers. While our pillion weighs somewhat less than the author’s dog, his weight was enough to do strange things to the XDiavel’s handling.

Braking on the XDiavel, using a pair of Brembo monobloc four-piston M4-32 callipers and radial master cylinder in front grabbing 320 mm diameter discs, and a single M4-32 at the back, was top notch, with zero hint of fading or cook at the strain of stopping the 240-plus kilos of bike. Eagle-eyed readers will notice the brake specification is not out of line for a Panigale, and the adjustable span lever is a nice touch, in keeping with the money Ducati is asking for the XDiavel.

In the cockpit, a full-colour 3.5-inch TFT LCD screen does the duties, including a numerical speedometer and bar tachograph at the top of the display. Fuel is also a bar display, and we found it slightly optimistic in the amount of fuel in the tank.

Having it filled up, the bar would drop to about two thirds, and stay there a long time, when it would suddenly drop to two bars and turn an ominous yellow. So, trust the gauge as you would Cersei Lannister and use the odometer as a back-up.

There is also a fuel consumption readout – both constant and average – and a gear display indicator. Using buttons on both side pods, with backlit switches, allows the rider to scroll through selections for ride mode, traction control and launch control.

No customisation of the modes is available, which might be a good thing. One of the things we were itching to do was to set everything to zero and see if the XDiavel would launch the rider into orbit, but we suspect the bike would be near unrideable if that were to happen.

Also in the XDiavel S’ cluster is connectivity for the rider’s smartphone, allowing for music selection, navigation and the like, in conjunction with a helmet headset. we did put it to the test using a Sena 20c Bluetooth headset, but found it was easier to use the two-button control on the headset itself instead of the bar controls.

However, we have a feeling the functionality of the XDiavel’s bar controls would come into play depending on the ease-of-use of the rider’s headset. In any case, we tested the XDiavel S’ Bluetooth controls, and it works.

The other major differences between the XDiavel and XDiavel S is the gloss black engine on the S, with its machined cam belt covers, along with the premium leather seat and machined aluminium mirrors. Our XDiavel S review unit comes in gloss black, wile the base XDiavel comes in a matte-black finish with 17-inch wheels in a different spoke pattern.

Now we come to the question on everyone’s lips, how much is it? The base model 2017 Ducati XDiavel goes for RM140,899, while the XDiavel S we reviewed retails for RM160,899. Prices include GST, but exclude road tax, registration and insurance, with the Ducati Performance exhaust being a RM14,000 optional extra applicable to either bike.

So, who needs the XDiavel, or the XDiavel S? Well, for one thing, the buy-in price for either Ducati power-cruiser is a little heart stopping for the average joe, and a boat-load of money to ask for something that isn’t as versatile as a Multistrada or as focused on speed like a Panigale.

Pricing wise it compares favourably with the Harley muscle bike offerings. But, you do get a lot of performance, and handling, for the money, wrapped up in a laid-back cruiser-styled machine, which, in the eyes of the public, is a “damned good looking bike.”

While this is not the “one bike to do it all”, for a certain sub-set of the Malaysian biking community, the XDiavel holds a certain appeal, especially if the rider’s criteria is that a motorcycle should go, stop and handle corners in an acceptable fashion. If you’ve reached the age where that EPF withdrawal is burning a hole in your pocket, or your life insurance has matured, go for it.