Choosing a motorcycle to ride on Jebel Hafeet is tough. Ducati made the choice for us. Here is a detailed account about our date with the devil on a hallowed road.
Story: Joshua Varghese
Photography: Alex Photo
The Diavel is one of those bold motorcycles that created a space for itself both in the hearts of enthusiasts and in the market of many countries worldwide. One of the Diavel’s unique points is that it enjoys the best elements of multiple motorcycle categories including superbikes, sport nakeds and cruisers. The ‘Megamonster’ nickname that it enjoyed during the early stages of development seems appropriate even today. Sometime in early 2020, fresh after a ride on the Diavel 1260 S, if I was asked to choose between that and the Panigale V4 S, I would have chosen the latter simply for the ballistic Desmosedici Stradale V4 engine. Placing such a manic power unit in the Diavel did not seem realistic back then but when Ducati introduced the smooth and torquey V4 Granturismo motor in the Multistrada range, yours truly was one among many who looked forward to seeing it in the Diavel. Our prayers were answered in October 2022 when Ducati announced the imminent arrival of the Diavel V4 and a few months later, we received an exclusive invite to the international press test where Bike India was the only Indian media house.
Ducati are a manufacturer who understand form and the emotion it invokes. To that effect, they have a portfolio of motorcycles that do full justice to the description of ‘fast and fabulous’. In its latest iteration, I believe the Diavel has shed some of its butch-cruiser character in favour of a shape that justifies the Granturismo engine’s pace while also highlighting the details that make the Diavel unique. The silhouette remains largely similar to the previous generations of the motorcycle with the same imposing length and low stance but when the spotlights are on, the changes are evident and even appreciated. True to its Megamonster nickname, the front end of the motorcycle is reminiscent of the Monster range. However, the massive air intakes on either side quickly convey that beneath the new curvy exterior still resides the muscle that we have come to love about this sport-cruiser. Two pieces of angular bodywork complete the front end of the Diavel’s new profile before one is inevitably drawn to the star of the show, the V4 Granturismo engine. Even with the forward bank of cylinders hidden by the minimal bodywork, it is a spectacle to behold and there is very little of the frame to be seen before moving on to the 20-litre fuel tank.
This is because Ducati have done away with the trellis frame of the past and adopted an aluminium monocoque which along with the new sub-frame shaves off a cool 7.1 kilograms when compared to the 1260 S. This diet has also extended to the new wheels and the front brake discs resulting in a loss of 1.5 kg. Speaking of wheels, the one at the rear is the highlight of this motorcycle’s posterior profile. The single-sided swingarm exposes a stunning wheel that is as sexy standing still as it is while in motion. It shares the limelight with what I think is the most intricate exhaust system yet on a Diavel. The four tail-pipes stacked together perfectly complement the V4 engine. The right-hand-side of the motorcycle grabs eyeballs in the day but at night, the rear end is the showstopper. A massive yet artful tail-lamp dominates the underside of the pillion seat and Ducati claim that 122 LEDs were used in achieving this feat. Worth each one if you ask me.
Comfort has always been one of the Diavel’s strong points and it has been improved significantly with this one. The rider’s seat is 20 mm longer but the seat height has been left untouched at 790 mm, making this instantly as accessible as the model it replaces but also more comfortable. The foot-pegs are placed directly below the rear bank of the V4; a position that serves as the best compromise between sporty character and comfort. To make matters easier, the reach to the handlebars has been reduced by 20 mm. For my tall frame, the riding position was not only comfortable to be in all day but was also exciting enough to support spirited riding. Able heat management ensured there was no discomfort on that front either.
In comparison to the previous changes, nothing much has been done to the instrument cluster. A five-inch TFT colour display with Bluetooth connectivity and multimedia suite does duty in the Diavel V4 but personally, I have nothing to complain about. I prefer a simple layout with the essentials and this set-up delivers exactly that without any unnecessary clutter.
Ever since Ducati introduced the V4 Granturismo engine by saying that it needs a valve check only at 60,000 km and an oil change once in 15,000 km, it has been living rent-free in my mind but for the uninitiated, here are the details. This 1,158-cc, 16-valve, liquid-cooled V4 engine has been derived from the Desmosedici Stradale that runs the Panigale and Streetfighter. It may be 20 mm wider but it is also five kilograms lighter and more compact than the Testastretta DVT engine it replaces. In the Diavel, the V4 Granturismo develops a whopping 168 hp at 10,750 rpm and a peak torque of 126 Nm at 7,500 rpm; which pass through a six-speed transmission before arriving at the rear wheel via a chain final drive. The hydraulically-actuated clutch makes the clutch lever action light but with an up-and-down quick-shifter available, the clutch lever was hardly used. There are four riding modes on offer; Sport, Touring, Urban and Wet. While all of the 168 hp is available in the first two modes, only 115 hp is offered in Urban and Wet. To further personalise the experience, the rider can choose between a Smooth or Dynamic throttle map. Other riding aids include cornering ABS, cornering traction control, wheelie control, cruise control and power launch. By the way, in an effort to reduce heat at the rider’s legs, Ducati are also offering selective cylinder deactivation technology; currently limited to the Diavel V4 and the Multistrada V4 Rally. Except in first gear, the rear bank of the V4 shuts down below 4,000 rpm, ready to fire back into service when beckoned with a handful of throttle.
For a special motorcycle like this, a special location was needed and Ducati hit the nail on the head by securing permission to shut down the Jebel Hafeet mountain road in Al Ain for the international press test. It was easy to see why it was hallowed ground for riding/driving enthusiasts across the globe. A 10-km-plus stretch of faultless tarmac snaked up the mountain offering a heady mix of fast, flowing corners and slow, tight ones with the occasional straights to keep the throttle pinned. With Dario Marchetti (Technical Director, DRE Riding Academy, Road and Racetrack) in the lead, my first ride on the mountain took place during a cool night. The headlamp threw a beam powerful enough to light the way forward while the tail-lamp stole the show with its intricacy and detail as the group cruised up and down the mountain road.
My choice of Touring mode in combination with the Smooth throttle map turned out to be the best choice to get acquainted with this beast. The torque arrived in a steady yet potent wave in response to my twists of the throttle and within no time I was accustomed to the Diavel’s excellent and sedate manners. This undemanding nature allowed me to enjoy the best of the Diavel’s cruising capabilities without any tension whatsoever. Due credit must be given to the development team because they have shaved off an impressive 13 kg over the outgoing model and the weight bias is now 51 per cent towards the front and 49 per cent towards the rear. This makes the Diavel shrink around the rider as they settle into the seat. Armed with the confidence inspired by these attributes, the rest of the ride that night was a memorable affair. At one with the machine and the mountain road, it was an experience that did full justice to the location and the Diavel’s improved touring credentials.
A fully-adjustable USD fork at the front and a rear monoshock with similar adjustability manage suspension on this motorcycle while radial monobloc Brembo Stylema calipers clamp down on twin 330-mm discs at the front. The planted ride quality through corners and over bumps spoke well about the suspension set-up while the brakes’ accuracy encouraged later and deeper braking. Although they served me well during the night ride, I used them to their full potential the following morning. With a clear sky and warm tarmac setting the stage, Marchetti dialled up the pace. To keep up, I switched to Sport mode with the Dynamic throttle response and what followed was enough to leave me speechless for a while. The powerful and sedate machine I had gotten accustomed to the previous night transformed into an angry beast that was capable of launching out of corners like a missile on wheels while drawing on the grip offered by Pirelli Diablo Rosso III tyres. During the day, I braked harder, flicked the motorcycle onto its side faster and powered out of corners earlier in an effort to match Marchetti’s blistering pace on this 236-kg sport-cruiser.
With each run, the pace increased and soon I began actively contributing to the disintegration of the foot-pegs in some fast corners: the only sound that interrupted the mad roar of the V4 soundtrack. With the benefit of having someone as experienced as Marchetti in front and the luxury of a closed road, I experienced the Diavel V4 at speeds in excess of 180 km/h, occasionally even breaking the 200-km/h-mark. Even at that pace, the Diavel never once felt out of its depth. The front did become light under violent acceleration out of corners but never once did it wear away at my confidence. During turn-in, mid-corner and at corner exit, it remained composed and predictable. Furthermore, Ducati have among the best electronic aids out there and whenever my greed with the throttle or brake overtook the limits of my skill, they were right there to bail me out and place me on the fast-track once again.
The violent acceleration, equally brutal deceleration, sublime handling and jaw-dropping demeanour are all things I enjoyed about the Diavel V4. Over and above that, what makes this a winner is just how effortlessly it blends comfort, performance and intelligence into a package that demands admiration and envy. No, there will be no S model with electronic suspension and radar. This is it. One fully-loaded variant with an estimated price of Rs 25.91 lakh (ex-showroom) is what we can expect in the third quarter of 2023. Official Ducati test rider and an absolute fiend on a motorcycle, Alessandro Valia, was convinced that this was the right package after riding the first prototype. During a chat, he also confessed that this was his favourite Ducati for the road and I share that sentiment. Of course, the faultless tarmac of Jebel Hafeet does not simulate our country’s questionable roads. So a road test in India remains to verify its relevance in the country. However, there is no doubt that the Diavel V4 will find a special place in the heart of every rider who enjoys going fast effortlessly and oozing style while doing it.