The Final Piece To The Puzzle
The Superquadro engine and monocoque chassis may be the headline of the Panigale’s press kit, but the bike’s electronics suite is what really catapults the 1199 into a class of its own. The electronics are on par with the Aprilia’s, for instance, but more intuitive. And they’re loads less interruptive than the BMW’s.
Each of the three riding modes (Race, Sport and Wet) are selected via a switch on the left clip-on that helps you navigate the colorful, easy-to-read TFT (think iPhone) display buried deep in the front fairing. The modes come pre-set with settings for power output, Ducati Electronic Suspension (DES), Ducati Traction Control (DTC), Ducati Quick Shift (DQS) and Engine Brake Control (EBC). You can customize each mode if you’d like, although I didn’t have enough time to do so at the bike’s launch. Instead, I made a few small changes here and there.
The updated DTC comes set at level two in Race mode, and provides seamless interruption. The cut is so seamless in fact, you’ll think it’s not even activating; the only indicator is the flashing yellow light on top of the TFT display. The system is much more controlling in level five, although the ignition cuts are still extremely smooth and there’s no jerk when power is cut then returned. The big difference then is that you aren’t able to drive off the corner with as much speed.
If the DTC were described as good, then the Engine Brake Control (EBC) would be described as excellent. Three levels of adjustment are available, plus the system can be turned off. I personally experimented with levels one and two (one equals more engine braking, two equals less). You wouldn’t think the small change would be discernable, but I noticed an immediate difference in stability under braking. The back of the bike would dance around in level one, for instance, but in level two the bike remained much more in-line and stable. Match the EBC with Ducati’s new wet, slipper-style clutch and you’ve got perhaps the most composed bike in its class on the brakes.
As previously mentioned, I have absolutely no complaints with the DES. What makes the electronic suspension so great is how easy it is to adjust the settings through the TFT display. Ducati’s quickshifter isn’t as user-friendly and admittedly has some quirks. But while I wouldn’t use the word flawless to describe the Panigale’s quickshifter, the unit works well in most situations to provide open-throttle upshifts. If you’re simply not happy with the DQS, you can easily turn it off.
No word on how the Panigale will work on the street or on anything other than putting-green-smooth racetracks. I did notice a bit of heat off the rear header pipe, although it was less eminent than the heat radiating off the 1198’s exhaust. The footrests are on the slippery side too, which may become a nuisance for Panigale owners.
The 1199 Panigale is, without question, Ducati’s largest undertaking in decades. It’s the first bike to do away with the Italian manufacturer’s iconic trellis frame, and it’s the first bike to feature Ducati’s new Superquadro engine. Although we at first questioned how the MotoGP-inspired machine would work, I’m happy to admit I had few complaints at the press introduction. Put simply, the Panigale is better than its predecessor in every aspect. The next question then, is it the new king? We’re currently gathering the troops in a mad dash to find out. Look for the 2012 literbike comparison in our upcoming issues! SR