FIRST RIDE: 2020 Ducati Panigale V2 – fast and easy

FIRST RIDE: 2020 Ducati Panigale V2 – fast and easy

During the Ducati World Premiere in Rimini, Italy, recently, the Borgo Panigale outfit revealed the 2020 Ducati Panigale V2. As the replacement for the 959 Panigale, the Panigale V2 follows the naming convention of its larger stablemate, the Panigale V4.

As its entry-level sports bike, if something with 155 hp and weighing 200 kg can be called entry-level, the Panigale V2 is the only superbike you can buy from Ducati with a V-twin. Anything else comes either without a fairing, is meant to cross deserts or is designed to appeal to the man bun wearing, soy milk latte sipping, hipster crowd.

There are some who think this is a “baby” Panigale but we can tell you, there is nothing baby about this machine at all. Look at it from this point of view – in 1997, Carl Fogarty won a World Superbike Championship on a 955 cc V-twin with 140 hp.

FIRST RIDE: 2020 Ducati Panigale V2 – fast and easy

Today, 200+ hp superbikes on the street are the norm and I’ve seen all too many Malaysian riders on Karak riding them wearing a hoodie and jeans with no gloves. Make of that what you will.

Coming back to the matter at hand, after the reveal, was invited to the Panigale V2 press test at Jerez, Spain to put this two-cylinder sports bike through the paces. Here’s what we found.

FIRST RIDE: 2020 Ducati Panigale V2 – fast and easy

Ducati V-twins have a mystique all their own and when Ducati launched the Panigale V4, many asked if the V-twin would be no more. We were assured this will not be the case, and there will always be a sports V-twin in Ducati’s line up.

For the Panigale V2, we would call this the second generation of the 959 Panigale, updated, revised and drawing on the styling of the Panigale V4. In any case, at the first approach, we found the Panigale V2 to be a very pretty bike.

The large intake nostrils from the V4 are evident and the fairing itself is redesigned into what Ducati calls a “dual layer fairing.” Made from two fairing panels, this allows for hot engine air to exit away from the rider, allowing for more comfort during rides.

FIRST RIDE: 2020 Ducati Panigale V2 – fast and easy

It should be noted that during the World Premiere, Ducati chief executive officer Claudio Domeniciali said the Panigale V2 has been made “easier to ride and more comfortable.” To this end, the saddle, as the primary point of contact between the rider and the bike has been made 20 mm longer and has 5 mm thicker seat foam.

Making a welcome return is the single-sided swingarm which, while not being unique to Ducati, has become something of a design trademark since 916 days. This was in response to many market comments about the double-sided swingarm used on the 959 Panigale and, in the words of Paolo Quattrino, Ducati’s product manager, “the Panigale is a premium product and Ducati is a premium brand. The single-sided swingarm is a trademark for us and we have brought it back for the Panigale V2.”

So, those of you who were very vocal in the comments section about previously not buying a 959 Panigale because of the lack of single-sided swingarm, it’s now put up or shut up time. Aside from the obvious, the Panigale V2 weighs 200 kg at the kerb, helped by a lighter monocouque chassis that weighs 4.2 kg with fuel carried in a 17-litre tank.

The Superquadro engine from the 959 Panigale is carried over and subtly reworked for Euro 5 compliance, something more of a necessity in Europe rather than Malaysia where the first thing any Panigale owner does is rip out the exhaust and replace it with the titanium race-only Akrapovic system that weighs 7 kg. Power is 155 hp at 10,750 rpm while torque is 104 Nm at 9,000 rpm with 60% of that available over 5,500 rpm.

All the power comes from a reworked air duct that reduces low pressure areas inside the intake tract and and increased flow rate for the two-per-cylinder fuel injectors. Adding the aforementioned Akrapovic exhaust bumps that figure up to 160 hp and 107 Nm with no other modifications, giving you an indication of how Ducati expects the Panigale V2 to be ridden.

And we did ride the Panigale V2 on the very tight Jerez-Ange Nieto circuit. In the pre-ride briefing by Alessandro Valia, Ducati’s official test rider – you’ve ridden his work, even if you don’t know his name – said Jerez is the perfect track to showcase the Panigale V2’s handling prowess.

FIRST RIDE: 2020 Ducati Panigale V2 – fast and easy

In this case, handling comes from 43 mm diameter Showa fully-adjustable BPF forks, fully-adjustable Sachs monoshock and manually adjustable Sachs steering damper. There is also a very comprehensive set of riding aids from the Ducati electronics lab developed from the 2020 Panigale V4.

These include a six-axis inertial measurement unit with cornering ABS, wheelie control and engine braking. The second generation of Ducati Traction Control EVO2 is standard, as is an up-and-down quickshifter, all of these giving three ride set-ups – Race with only cornering ABS for the front wheel and meant for track use only, Sport for rather more sporty riding and allowing for rear wheel slides and Street for road/rain use with the highest level of electronic intervention.

In any case, the rider has the full 155 hp on hand in all three modes, the only difference being the level of electronic control and the way the power is delivered. For pure race use, there is the option of switching all the electronics off entirely but for some strange reason Ducati preferred not to allow the assembled moto-journalists to try this.

Setting off on the Panigale V2, we noticed the seat height at 840 mm, slightly above the normal 820 or 830 mm seat height for sports bikes. This did not matter any as we were riding on track and we assume there is ride height adjustment built into the suspension setup.

Clutch effort at the lever was light and as we accelerated out of pit lane we noticed the gearbox was smooth. Smooth as silk, smooth as butter and very, very precise.

Snapping through the gears, there were no missed shifts, not half-fumbled attempts at getting the foot under the lever. The last is something particularly important to the author as a previous accident has left his left ankle with a lack of mobility.

For the Panigale V2, there was no issues with gear changing, the quickshifter perfectly calibrated to the engine speed and gear selection. All that was needed was a light brush of the lever and the gearbox slipped smoothly into gear without a single drop of engine revs.

Banging down on the lever for the tight corners of Jerez, gearbox box operation was similarly smooth with no wibbly-wobbly action from the rear tyre as the Panigale V2 slowed down. Drop into the chosen gear, a touch of brake to settle the suspension, dive into the corner as fast as you dare and the Panigale V2 remained perfectly composed though we did notice we took a much smoother line when the bike was in race mode with minimal engine braking than road mode where the throttle chop was accompanied by the associated slowing of the engine.

Now, when the press handout said the Panigale V2 is easier to ride, we took it with a large dose of marketing salt. However, it is indeed true and steering effort on the Panigale V2 is as light as a feather with changes of direction and the flip-flop transition for chicanes done with just a thought and a look in the direction you want the bike to go.

FIRST RIDE: 2020 Ducati Panigale V2 – fast and easy

Suspension action was firm, precise and confidence inspiring with the limiting factor to the Panigale V2’s performance being the rider. We will reserve judgement on ride comfort though, until we get the Panigale V2 on the road. Riding on smooth track surface is one thing, the pot-holed, debris strewn roads of the Klang Valley is another.

During the four sessions of track riding plus one 10-minute orientation at the start, the Panigale felt, for want of a better word, natural. The racer tuck is not confining for the 168 cm tall author and there was more than enough space fore-and-aft to get into a comfortable position.

Dropping into the corner attack position was similarly natural, the opposite arm crossing the tank naturally. Wind protection from the bubble was adequate and for those wanting a bigger windshield, we’re pretty sure the Ducati Performance catalogue and aftermarket will provide in due course.

FIRST RIDE: 2020 Ducati Panigale V2 – fast and easy

Carried over from the 959 Panigale, Brembo does the braking with twin M4-32 Monoblocs in front and single Brembo two-piston calliper in the back, clamping 330 mm discs on the front wheel. As is what we have come to expect from Brembo, braking was a worry-free affair with no signs of fade on the radial master cylinder despite the best efforts of Jensen Beeler of Asphalt & Rubber, with whom we shared our test Panigale V2.

SWitching through the ride modes was easily done with the buttons on the left handlebar pod and perusing the TFT-LCD screen. No complaints about legibility and we loved the sweep of the digitally reproduced tachometer, which blinked in an urgent shade of orange for gearshifts.

Led lighting is used throughout, as befits Ducati’s “super-mid” sports bike with the LED projector lights hidden inside the air intakes on the front cowl and the LED DRLs mimicking the look of the Panigale V4. At the back, the LED tail lights incorporate the turn signals, making for a very tidy rear view.

FIRST RIDE: 2020 Ducati Panigale V2 – fast and easy

In terms of negatives, while there are not a lot to be found if you treat the Panigale V2 as a track-only weapon there was one little thing. Trying to get the side stand down while wearing race boots was almost impossible for the short-legged author.

While the correct technique or work around would be found eventually if we had to live with the Panigale V2 for any length of time, it would be a nuisance when bringing the the bike to a stop without fumbling around and decreasing the rider’s cool factor. Aside from that, we found the Panigale V2 to be exactly what it is promised to be, easy to ride, intuitive and does not do its best to beat the rider to a pulp while sniggering, something the 959 Panigale was known to do.

But there was one important question we asked, which is, “will there be a Streetfighter V2?” We know the answer but we can’t tell you. In the meantime, if you’re a sports rider and want to take the fight to the Yamaha YZF-R6 and Kawasaki ZX-636, the 2020 Ducati Panigale V2 will do the job with zero fuss or bother.

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Mohan K Ramanujam

Coming with diverse and extensive experience in heavy engineering, Mohan enjoys making anything with wheels go fast, especially motorcycles. His weapon of choice is the Desmoquattro engine, and he has a penchant for anything with a dash of Italian design. Strangely enough, he insists he's a slow rider.



  • Average Joyah on Nov 20, 2019 at 9:42 am

    That helmet looks lit af, also nice affordable Ducati bike :)

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  • svherman on Nov 20, 2019 at 2:17 pm

    Looking forward to the Streetfighter V2 then!

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  • Autobahn on Nov 23, 2019 at 7:48 am

    This will share the same fate as the cayman 2.7 liter n/a. Where it became the punching bag for the hot hatches….as for this v2, it will be the punching bags for the middle weight supersport even naked bike.

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  • They started wif about 800cc and now its already close to a liter cc.. Still the 848 evo in my opinion is the hottest looking of all, #twinunderseatexhaust..

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