Across some 40 years, Ducati’s V-twins have had an illustrious history, notably in the World Superbike championship back in the 90s with with a certain Mr C Fogarty. But things change as things must and the 2018 Ducati Panigale V4 was released in Malaysia without much fanfare, priced at at RM133,900 for the base model while the V4 S goes for RM173,900.

There is also the limited edition V4 Speciale which comes in a production run of 1,500 units and costing RM359,900. It should be noted that prices are with zero-rated GST, but Ducati Malaysia has said that efforts will be made to “keep the prices to avoid unnecessary changes in the market” post SST.

With that in mind, the Panigale V4 is not a cheap superbike, by any stretch of the imagination, more so the Panigale V4 S with its electronic Ohlins suspension and lightweight forged aluminium wheels. This pales in comparison with the race-ready V4 Speciale with the titanium exhaust system and optional forged magnesium racing wheels.

But with an illustrious racing pedigree behind it from the boys from Bologna, is that V-four, and the package it comes wrapped in, any different from what has come before?

We had the chance for a taste test, shall we say, with a slot at the Ducati Riding Experience (DRE) media ride held at Sepang International Circuit (SIC). On the day, select members of the media were given three track sessions with the Panigale V4 S, led by a DRE instructor.

Focus was on, naturally, the all-new 90-degree V-four Stradale engine, which Ducati says pumps out 214 hp at 13,000 rpm and 124 Nm of torque at 10,000 rpm. The new mill now comes with a slew of electronic riding aids, of which more anon.

After the short spiel on the technicalities of the Panigale V4 S, we renewed our acquaintance with DRE instructor Simon Kwan. We previously met Simon at the inaugural Asian DRE in Buriram, Thailand for the Panigale 959 and were well met.

During the riders’ briefing, Simon looked at two of us moto-journalists slightly askance and asked, very cautiously, “you guys know this track, right? Do you need me to tell you which lines to take?” Amir Hashim laughed at this and Simon peered at me, saying, “Top and Sakde told me about you in Buriram.”

Clearing the formalities, where Simon determined that the moto-journalists had about half a brain between us, and we could actually stand a motorcycle upright without help, we were introduced to the Akrapovic exhaust equipped Panigale V4 S we were about to ride.

On the first approach, the Panigale looks long and sleek, drawing design DNA from previous generations of the Panigale. One design cue that stands out is the large intake nostrils which contain the LED projector headlights.

The flat front cowl and tiny clear windshield bubble harkens all the way back to the first of the modern era Ducati superbikes, the Tamburini-designed 916. Eschewing the use of multiple folded planes and panels much favoured by the “Transformers” school of design, the Panigale V4 comes across as function over form, with the necessity of engineering creating an elegant design to fit.

Did we like the way the Panigale V4 looks? The answer is a definite yes – it is purposeful and sexy all at the same time, in the way only the Italians can achieve.

Heading out for the first track session of the day, the V4 S was set to sport mode to give riders a baseline for judging the bike’s performance. Following Simon out on the track, one thing was readily apparent – in Sport mode, the Panigale V4 S will not let you make a mistake.

Heading into corners at something below our usual pace, we dropped into our usual tuck and knee out position, which was entirely wrong for the speed we were doing. The Panigale V4 S took it in stride and tracked true through the corners.

Through the entire cornering process – we had five laps in which to do this – the Panigale just followed the rider’s line-of-sight. There was nothing that upset the bike’s composure, despite the author’s best ham-fisted efforts.

Going into corners, grabbing or closing the throttle gave just barely a hint of slip at the rear tyre, before the engine’s electronics brought everything under control. As for the front tyre, if you can make it slide, you’re a braver rider than the author.

Bombing down the front straight, we saw the digital speedometer brush 265 km/h briefly, before putting the Brembo M50 Monoblocs to hard use slowing down for turn 1. In sport mode, we only managed to get the ABS light to flicker once, and could feel the rear wheel slowing slightly to prevent the rider going head over heels.

Coming back into the pits for a debrief, each rider was given a short overview of things to work on in terms of riding technique, the basis of DRE. Heading out for the second session, the Panigales were now set to race mode, with minimal interference from the electronics, save for something rather special: drift control.

Now rather more familiar with the Panigale V4 S, we gave it more of its head, trusting the bike to do the necessary. Our acquaintance with drift mode happened in turn 4, when over throttling the bike caused to rear tyre to step out to the left.

Under normal circumstances, this would have been a very sudden shimmy of the rear end, the rider rising out of the seat in anticipation of a high-side and fighting the survival reflex of shutting the throttle because doing so would definitely launch the rider into the sky. For the Panigale V4 S, the slide happened so gradually it felt like a controlled drift.

Which is what it was. The Panigale’s electronic wizard, Ducati Slide Control or DSC, detected the slide happening and brought it to heel. This has the effect of making the rider look like a racing hero, even if the slide was unintended.

Coming in for another debrief, the third session was basically free, with Simon following each rider to determine what further improvements, if any, needed to be made. During this final session, we spent time experimenting with the Panigale V4 S, trying out different riding positions and racing tucks.

Throughout the entire day, the V-four performed without fault, the engine perfectly tractable despite the best efforts of the author to upset its composure. Power delivery was almost seamless, with no discernible flat spots, but this should be taken with a caveat as almost the entire time on track, the engine was either at full whack or shut off for hard braking.

Our brief ride with the Panigale V4 S was enough to show us that this is a racetrack weapon, with little concession made for anything else resembling sane riding. Not that the power is uncontrollable, it is, but about the only place you could use it would be at the track, unless you want to get up close and personal with the roadside Armco.

So, who needs a 2018 Ducati Panigale V4, in standard, S or Speciale flavours? The thing is, for maybe 90% of motorcycle riders, the Panigale V4 is an insanely expensive bike, simply because they could, would or will not ever use any or all of its capability, having more money than brains not withstanding.

However, there is that select segment of road riders, the riders who favour precision corner carving and appreciate the engineering and design that goes into a Panigale V4, that this bike is built for. For the author, we shall put it this way, enquiries have been made, which will potentially make this his most expensive acquisition in recent years.