Ducati Streetfighter V4 S: Certainly not lean, but surely a mean machine
Power-boosted, after a point you’ll find yourself leaning over the handlebars to not only combat wind speed, but the feeling of being left behind by the bike
At 208hp, it’s the most powerful production naked bike in the world (tied with the MV Agusta Brutale 1000RR), and it offers a power-to-weight ratio of over 1,000hp/tonne. That, without wind protection and the extra steering lever of a wide handlebar… Good God!
It’s also not like the Ducati Streetfighter V4 S looks like a sweet, approachable thing. We’re riding the higher-performance Model S, which comes in this medium shade of matte black called Dark Stealth. With those big biplane wings sticking out the side, the Streetfighter looks badass, and not in the neo-cool way the word is now getting around on social media. He’s the motorcyclist’s version of a heavyweight MMA fighter that will beat your living pulp if you look at him in a fun way. The bike arrived the day before our first day of filming and I remember the few hours of sleep that followed weren’t exactly the most peaceful out of sheer excitement.
Previous experience with this motor in the Panigale encouraged me to get the bike out of my company well early the next morning before firing it up. It was possible that the now Euro 5/BS6 compliant engine would be a bit quieter, but no. Push the start button and the 1,103cc V4 explodes into life before settling into one of the loudest idles I’ve heard on an emissions-compliant motorcycle.
As the engine warmed up, a minute or two was spent scrolling through the easily navigable menus on the TFT screen, looking for the smoothest of the three drive modes. With the bike in Street mode, we set off timidly.
Ten minutes down the familiar city road, I found myself thinking, ‘Wait a minute, that’s really docile!’ With maximum power limited to 155hp in the lowest of three power modes, the Streetfighter is even smoother than the smaller Panigale V2, which produces the same amount of power. That’s probably because the SF’s 155hp in this mode comes in much higher revs than the V2, but nonetheless, 10 minutes later I was ready for the full 208hp.
Switching to Sport mode brings a radical change. You now have full power with not only much more responsive throttle responses, but the Öhlins Smart EC 2.0 electronically controlled suspension firming up a fair amount as well. But surprise, surprise, the bike is still quite usable, although you now have to be a lot more careful with your inputs. Eventually some open roads present themselves and it’s time to find out what 208 hp looks like on a naked bike.
By the time you cross 8000rpm things start to get really fast and you have to lean over the handlebars not only to fight the wind but also because you feel like the bike is trying to get you leaving behind. Then you realize you still have nearly half the rev range left… Screaming past 10,000 rpm and finally 14,500 rpm is a scary experience, but reaffirming the life, which will put anything short of a hypercar to shame.
It’s just unreal how fast this bike can be, but what’s amazing is how Ducati has made this literal bomb of a motor… usable. You’d expect it to be a demonic rolling machine, but somehow it hooks up and kicks from second gear. Ducati has achieved this by limiting torque in the first four gears, equipping this latest-generation bike with eight-stage wheel control and also extending the wheelbase by 19mm compared to the Panigale. Surely those fenders have to do some work too – Ducati claims 27kg of weight on the front wheel at 270km/h. And finally, this engine has a counter-rotating crankshaft which also helps in this regard.
The engine is also incredibly smooth for a Ducati. It’s still not turbine-smooth at low revs, like an inline-four, but it’s way better than any Ducati V-twin and you can actually get down to 50kph in sixth gear.
Add to that the driving position, which remains very sporty but has nothing to do with the brutal Panigale, and you have something easier to live with on our roads. Of course, this is still a very capable, extremely capable machine, so there are tradeoffs you’ll have to live with.
First of all, the 845mm saddle height is even taller than the Panigale because this bike has a more padded and comfortable seat for what the bike is. Then there’s the heavy clutch which is also quite snappy at city speeds. The awful superbike-style turning radius is also a pain, but more importantly, there’s still a lot of heat to deal with.
The Streetfighter runs very hot at all times, even if there is no traffic around. The engine features clever cylinder deactivation technology that shuts off the rear bank of cylinders at idle, but things can still get very hot if you’re stuck in a heavy traffic jam. That being said, like most Ducatis, its cooling system does a great job of managing heat, and the challenge is basically whether the rider can handle it.
It also craves high-octane fuel, and if you drive it hard enough, efficiency can drop into the single digits. At this point you realize the bike has no fuel gauge and all you get is a low fuel warning light. We found it to run perfectly on 100 octane fuel, which costs around ₹160 per litre. Fun.
Again, it’s a similar if not worse story with the Panigale, and as with that bike, you put up with that hassle for the amazing way it rides. This bike uses the same front frame chassis as the Panigale V4 and since we have the S model here it gets the same electronically controlled suspension.
The suspension does an amazing job of being sporty, but never overly stiff or harsh in any drive mode. When it comes to bad roads, you have to be careful of course, both with the rims and with the low ground clearance of 121 mm. But with a cautious approach, the Streetfighter took us through the usual speed breakers and rough roads that are so generously spread all around.
On the occasion that you find smooth, twisty tarmac, the handling feels very serious and top-notch. Directional changes aren’t very crisp, but the level of front-end feel and control is exactly what you’d expect from a top-level superbike and the Streetfighter rails through the corners with incredible confidence. Like the Panigale, the Streetfighter’s handling talents feel way above what you can exploit on the road and there’s no overwhelming feeling that you’re not even scratching the surface of what this bike can do. .
That being said, it’s a pleasant ride on the street, thanks to the added comfort. Even though this bike gets Pirelli Rosso Corsa 2 tires against Panigale’s Supercorsas, those tires are incredibly grippy and full of feel. Luckily the Brembo Stylema brakes are exactly what you get on the faired bike and are pretty much the best brakes I’ve experienced.
It’s a similar story with the massive electronics package that comes straight from the Panigale, including the TFT display. Ride modes, power modes, launch control, engine brake control, slip control, traction control, this bike has it all, and honestly, it’s these incredible electronics that allow even such mental bikes to thrive. exist in the first place.
Naturally, with its insane performance, cutting-edge technology and pure Italian exoticism, this bike comes at a pretty hefty price tag. The standard Streetfighter V4 costs ₹20 lakh (ex-showroom), while you have to shell out ₹3 lakh more for the V4 S you see here. The extra cash gets you Öhlins electronic steering suspension and damper, lighter forged aluminum wheels and the exclusive Stealth Black paint. Sure, it’s a lot of money, but it’s a lot of motorcycling.
What impressed me the most was the fact that this bike didn’t try to kill me. What I thought was scary actually turned out to be fun and satisfying, even when you’re not chasing the stratospheric red line. This bike lets you get the full Panigale experience on the road, without most of the pain. And that’s an amazing feat.