Over the last decade or so, Ducati, purveyor of fine performance motorcycles that are high strung like a thoroughbred racehorse, has not been afraid to come out with designs that break the mould, so to speak. When the Diavel first debuted in 2011, pundits were perplexed.

While the Diavel did come with what is accepted as the traditional cruiser engine configuration, a V-twin, it certainly didn’t behave as such. Most put the Diavel in the “muscle bike category” and many dismissed it as a motorcycle for the poseur and the hipster coffee run.

But the 2019 Diavel is, in Ducati’s words, “about 90% new” in this is not just a makeover of the current model. While the Diavel silhouette is retained, major rework of the suspension, braking and ergonomics of the 2019 Diavel does indeed underscore the fact that this is a very different machine from the previous-generation Ducati Diavel.

So, what is a Diavel 1260, in this case the ‘S’ model we rode? For one thing, the inevitable comparison with offerings from that American firm will come to fore, as well as its sibling, the Ducati XDiavel. In the case of the XDiavel, its forward set controls and belt drive aim it towards the American cruiser market, while the Diavel 1260 is rather more ‘sporty’ in intent.

What this means is the XDiavel will be sold alongside the Diavel 1260, with each targeted at a specific rider demographic. But, is this a case of a base design being slotted into model variants?

As we were to find out, being invited for the international media test of the Diavel 1260S in Spain, things are not always what they seem, and the the new Diavel is definitely not a cruiser of any sort, though it does contain some of that laid back riding style DNA. Here’s what we discovered riding the new Diavel in the mountains around Marbella.

As Stefano Tarabusi and Eugionio Gherardi, product and project managers for the Diavel 1260, respectively, took pains to point out, the Diavel 1260 is not simply improved, but practically a new bike. The trellis frame is new, as is most of the bodywork.

The twin side-mounted radiators of the previous model Diavel have been merged into a single centrally-mounted unit. This was possible with the Testastretta twin moved back 60 mm in the frame and placed as a stressed member.

This allows for better weight distribution according to Ducati, and despite being 218 kg in dry weight (up from the Diavel 1200’s 210 kg), the new Ducati power cruiser is lighter to handle, both at parking lot and highway speeds. The sensation of ponderous momentum from the previous Diavel is gone, with the front end now being lighter to move around.

There is a good and bad in this, of which more information anon but in the meantime, let us return to the Diavel 1260S itself. Main difference between the previous model is the increase in power – 159 hp at 9,500 rpm for the 1260 – which Ducati says is 9 hp more than the outgoing Diavel, while torque is 129 Nm at 7,500 rpm. There’s also a slightly lengthened swingarm.

Suspension on the 1260S is by Ohlins – a 48 mm diameter gold-anodised fully-adjustable fork and fully-adjustable monoshock. The base Diavel makes do with a 48 mm diameter fork with preload and compression adjustment in the left leg and rebound on the right and a preload- and rebound-only adjustable monoshock in the back.

Those are the differences, but what is the 2019 Diavel 1260S actually like? At the first approach, the Sandstone Grey version – the Total Black colour option gets you the trellis frame in Ducati Red – looks sleek and futuristic. This compares to the burly, hulking look of the previous Diavel, which put you in mind of a motorcycle the hero of a dystopian movie would ride.

Getting into the 780 mm-tall saddle should be easy for all riders, and we do note the Diavel is especially popular locally with the lady riders, who call themselves “Desmodonnas.” Settling in, the seat has been cut narrower in front to accommodate riders with shorter legs, and wider at the back.

The prominent seat hump of the previous Diavel is retained, but rather more shapely and slimmer in the rear now while still being broad enough to support a pillion comfortably. Don’t get us wrong, the Diavel seat is still a massive thing, comparatively, and dominates the rear end of the bike, but it does give the impression of being smaller than it actually is, so hat tip to Ducati’s designers.

Reaching out to the handlebars, reach was just there for us at 168 cm, and taller riders will definitely be more comfortable. You don’t need gorilla arms to ride the Diavel 1260, but we assume changing out bars will be easy with the standard clamps provided.

Setting off, gear engagement of the six-speed box into first is precise and lever throw is on the medium side of things. We rode with proper boots on and will assume the hipster sneaker brigade will have no issues.

We did note that the gearbox, which comes equipped with a Ducati up-and-down quickshifter, did not like being rushed. While we only found some issues getting into neutral at a dead stop, other riders in the group found false neutrals between four and five.

What we did find riding the Diavel 1260 around the hills in Marbella was the sweetness of the torque curve. From the technical presentation, Ducati has made the torque curve of the Diavel 1260 almost flat, and the rider was able to access stump pulling power from any gear.

As we were escorted on the ride, opportunities to find out how fast the Diavel 1260 would go were naturally limited, but suffice it to say, there is enough. Certainly more than enough to make this old rider grin in the wind, so to speak.

And herein lies the challenge of what the Diavel 1260 is. As Tarabusi pointed out, the 2019 Diavel is a blend of three styling schools: the pure sports bike, the naked street and the hooligan bike, in this case represented by the Panigale, the Monster and the Hypermotard and giving ride to the power cruiser.

There is enough handling prowess in the Diavel 1260S – caveat, we did not get a chance to ride the base Diavel – to handle the twisties with composure and aplomb. There was a certain suave characteristic to the Diavel which we liked, especially the way it could charge into corners like a sports bike and come out the other end like riding on a magic carpet.

And while we did like the handling characteristics of the Diavel 1260, especially the way the ponderous feeling of mass up front was very much evident in the old Diavel, the front end was a little too light. This was felt most during the left-right-left transition where we got a feeling of the tyre not being planted.

A certain amount of feedback that we have grown accustomed to from Ducatis we have owned and ridden over the years was not there. Make no mistake, the front tyre stuck to the ground and there was no hint of washing out, but our feeling is that when the wash out does come, it will be sudden and without warning.

A dichotomy then, for Ducati and its legendary skill at making exceptional handling motorcycles. The Diavel 1260 has been improved in the handling stakes with lighter effort at the handlebars, but has it gone too far? This is something we can only find out with a little more time with the bike and an in-depth review.

Braking is done with Brembos, as is usual with Ducati’s offerings and we found nothing to fault. Feedback at the brake lever was precise, controllable and assuring, even with one or two emergency braking manoeuvres required in the close quarters of group riding.

Seat comfort is improved, according to the boys from Bologna, and in this respect, we certainly did not have anything to complain about. With two riding stints, one in the cold morning and the other after an awesome lunch at a Spanish farmhouse, there was no hint of saddle sorness and there was enough to room to move around.

Inside the cockpit, the twin instrument panel layout is still there, with the main panel now being a full-colour TFT-LCD unit that is user configurable. While the speed readout was clearly legible to the author, without the use of bi-focals, everything else was a blur, not that much else matters.

So, in some 220 km of riding along country roads and the highway, what is the 2019 Ducati Diavel 1260S like? For one thing, it isn’t a cruiser, though any rider will be fine taking it on long jaunts cross country and to the local coffee place.

It will do the weekend sports ride thing pretty well, and in the hands of a capable rider, put sportier machines to shame. The Diavel is, indeed, Ducati’s attempt to make a motorcycle for the everyday rider who wants an everyday bike and accessible as well, cruiser demographic be damned.

With the current Ducati XDiavel S priced at RM169,900, we would expect the Diavel 1260 S to come in at about a similar level, with the base Diavel 1260 priced slightly below that.