Whether it is slicing past traffic or leaning over into a fast flowing corner, there is no dearth of confidence in the handling abilities of this bike
There are motorcycles and then there are motorcycles that leave a lasting impression. Though it has been quite a few days since I rode the new Ducati Multistrada V4S, I just cannot stop thinking about it so much that I have postponed writing of this review, for the sake of objectivity. Which begs the question, what is special about this big, powerful, ADV?
The Ducati Multistrada V4 continues in the same vein as the Multistrada 1260, while elevating the ‘Multistrada’ experience to a completely new level. The main ingredient behind this is the new 1,158cc Granturismo V4 engine. It makes about 10hp more than the previous 1260’s L-twin while also being lighter and compact. Ducati’s decision to ditch tradition and use conventional spring valves, instead of the Desmodromic ones, comes as music to a potential customer’s ears.
After all, a valve clearance check at 60,000km (instead of the earlier 30,000km) and a less complicated system to work on, both translate to reduced service intervals and maintenance costs. Those are just the peripheral benefits of the new V4. It is the way it performs that makes it such a gem of an engine.
Fire it up and you are greeted with a unique (for an ADV) V4 sound owing to its twin-pulse firing order. At idle and low revs, it is not as loud as the V4 in the Panigale or Streetfighter, and I am fine with that given the adventure touring application. Take the rev needle past 5,000rpm and that characteristic Ducati grunt is both heard and felt. In fact, this Jekyll and Hyde nature of the engine works incredibly well in our conditions. With the ride mode set to ‘Urban’ (more on the modes later), I dived into Mumbai’s traffic-infested streets and was in for a surprise from the V4. There is no low-RPM judder, as is the case with the Ducati L-twins, it is tractable enough to hold 20kph in third and the heat management is unbelievably good.
The idea of installing split radiators and fins over the fans is genius, as hot air is drafted away from the rider. Then there is the rear cylinder bank deactivating at idle, improving heat management. To top it off, the hydraulic clutch does not have that typical Ducati effort and judder in choc-a-bloc traffic either. The Multistrada V4’s ability to handle the urban jungle is impressive indeed. The real joy of this motor, however, is best experienced out on the open road.
Upon reaching the highway, with an empty stretch of tarmac giving out an invitation to let the Multistrada loose, I selected ‘Sport’ mode and went for it. The series of events that followed left me, figuratively, in splits. Off the line, the acceleration is manic, as the V4 unleashes its 170hp and 125Nm. The rate at which the tacho needle races to the 10,000rpm redline and the numbers on the speedo jump to unlawful figures is mind-blowing.And with the up-down quickshifter offering seamless transition between gears, at any speed, the experience is something else.
There could not have been any way to handle all that performance without a comprehensive electronics suite. And the Multistrada V4 is equipped with one of the best out there. The four riding modes — Urban, Touring, Sport and Enduro — make the necessary alterations to the power delivery and the traction control system to ensure the Multistrada V4 is surprisingly easy to ride. Each mode can also be individually tailored as per skill level.
Our test bike being the ‘V4S’ gets Ducati’s awesome Skyhook semi-active suspension, and this alone makes it worth spending the extra money over the standard model. From tackling Mumbai’s pathetic roads, with the suspension in the softest setting, to attacking corners with a fully stiffened suspension on a racetrack, there is practically no road that the Multistrada can’t manage. I also liked the suspension’s ‘auto-levelling’ feature that sets the correct preload, whether you are riding two up or with luggage, at the touch of a button.
The cherry on top of this electronics-laden cake is the radar-based adaptive cruise control and blind spot detection. The front radar is placed cleverly between the headlights and accurately detects everything from a bicycle to a bus. After selecting the desired gap you want from the vehicle ahead, the system works accurately, accelerating or reducing speed to maintain the gap. It will even apply the brakes in case the vehicle ahead slows down rapidly. All you need to do is drop gears in accordance with the bike’s speed.
The rear radar, located below the tail-light, detects vehicles that are in the blind spot. There are amber LEDs on the inner top edge of the mirrors that light up to indicate a vehicle in the blind spot. These are quite bright and visible even in the afternoon sun.
All of these electronics settings are accessed via a large TFT display with resolution so crisp that will leave a mid-range smartphone to shame. Among its many functionalities, it can also mirror your phone using the Ducati connect app. Turn-by-turn navigation is another useful feature. To prevent your phone from running out of juice, the nifty cubby behind the fuel-filler cap has a USB port and is large enough to fit a phone with a 6.5-inch display.
Ducati has developed a new aluminium monocoque chassis for the V4. The compact size of the engine has also allowed them to position it in the chassis in such a way that the weight distribution is spot on. In fact, despite a 22-litre fuel tank, the bike does not feel top-heavy. This, with the Skyhook suspension and the Pirelli Scorpion Trail II tyres, lend the Multistrada V4 super-nimble handling.
Whether it is slicing past traffic or leaned over into a fast flowing corner, there is no dearth of confidence in the handling abilities of the bike. This is despite the 19-inch front and 17-inch rear wheel set-up. The Brembo Stylemas on the S variant are also a big factor in giving you the confidence to push hard, safe in the knowledge that they will haul this 243kg bike down to a stop in a jiffy.
The 19-inch front wheel, 220mm ground clearance and Enduro mode were handy in riding down a dirt trail that led to the edge of a lake that I had randomly spotted.
Given the danger of bending the alloy rims over rocks, I did not venture into hardcore trails. However, if that is a concern, Ducati offers optional tubeless wire spoke rims.
The takeaway from my limited time with the Multistrada V4 off-road was that it felt more manageable than the Ducati Multistrada 1260 Enduro. The standing-up ergonomics were ideal, with ample purchase for my knees to grab onto the tank, while the handlebar was within reach for my 5ft 10in frame.
The seats are comfortable for day-long trips, while the tall windscreen and spoilers that flank it do a wonderful job of deflecting head-on wind. So much so that your perception of speed is diminished massively, and you will find yourself cruising at speeds way above what you think you are at.
The Multistrada V4’s design comes across as a nice blend of form and function. It looks distinct among the sea of adventure bikes, by way of its aggressive face, the shape of the fuel tank and the exposed trellis subframe. It may not look as good as the Multistrada 950, especially from the rear, and the conventional aluminium swingarm can not match the beauty of a single-sided swingarm, but the V4 cuts a handsome figure, with a sense of premiumness attached.
Sitting by the lakeside and admiring this incredible motorcycle, it was hard for me to think of faults. If I had to nitpick, some of the plastics do not feel as expensive as they should and the standard windscreen, with its slightly flimsy adjustment mechanism, does not feel polished either. Since the bike has keyless ignition, a keyless fuel-filler cap should have been standard. But I am willing to look past all of this, simply because of what else the bike offers. For ₹ 23.10 lakh (ex-showroom, India), you get a top-tier adventure motorcycle with all the electronics you would want and more than all the power you will ever need.
The Multistrada V4’s ability to chew miles at a breathtaking pace, while keeping you entertained in the corners and comfortable over long hours in the saddle, is what makes it so endearing. This is possibly one of the best motorcycles to roll out of Bologna.
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