Big, heavy, and unapologetically quirky, the Diavel has divided opinions since it bounded into our lives 13 years ago. But there’s a box-fresh offering for 2023 and maybe, just maybe, Ducati has mastered a sportier formula that’ll appeal to the masses. Bruce Wilson dances with the devil…
There are those born desperate to fit in, and there are others who would sooner chew their own arm off than join the ranks of the convention. The same goes for bikes, with the king of the renegades being Ducati’s Diavel.
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It’s been unashamedly different since the very get-go, audaciously bursting onto the scene in 2010 – and the model’s now on to its third iteration and has cranked up 45,000 unit sales to its name… which is another way of saying it’s been a bloody big hit for the Bologna brand.
Now that it has ditched its V-twin motor for a smaller but pokier V4 option, what happens next for this extrovert power cruiser? In fact, it’s dropped a number of things, including a whopping 13kg in mass, of which 5kg came from the engine alone. Based mainly around the Multistrada V4’s motor, there’ve been some tweaks to the cams (to help lower emissions); the airbox (now integrated into the bike’s ‘front frame’); and the exhaust system (which is nothing short of a whopper). This culmination sees an output of 165bhp, with 126Nm to ensure no Nova ever beats you away from the traffic lights again…
As familiar as the Gran Turismo-spec motor may be, the one thing that makes it truly unique is the integration of rear cylinder deactivation. In anything over first gear, if you’re under 4000rpm and tootling along, the rear cylinders will knock off completely, only coming back to the party once you cross the aforementioned threshold or if you give the throttle a meaningful twist.
Why would you want that tech, you might wonder? Ducati’s reasoning, given during the model’s presentation in Dubai, was twofold, with the first gain being to rider comfort, as the bike runs so much cooler without the rear cylinders firing. The second is that it made a huge difference to the V4’s emissions and efficiency, the buzzwords of these times. It might be meaner, but it’s also cleaner than the Diavels before it.
Other tweaks include a sharper rake and trail to get the bike turning. Don’t forget – this is a machine with a whopping 240-profile rear tyre that weighs in wet at 223kg (without fuel), so any gains in the cornering department are heaven-sent. For a bike that heavy, braking is pretty important, too, which is why the Ducati’s now been kitted with top-spec Brembo Stylema callipers and advanced Bosch ABS assistance that can be altered with ease on the TFT dash for optimum road or track characteristics.
As with all modern Ducatis, there’s very little the Diavel’s lacking in the tech department, with keyless ignition being your point of access to its impressive suite. Simply hit a button between the tank and the five-inch TFT colour dash and the latter will light up like Blackpool illuminations. The switchgears are backlit, too, a nice touch, and they’re also familiar in shape for those who have ridden any modern-era Ducati. That’s a good thing because they’re super-easy to operate, and the features on the dash are clearly visible and intuitive to alter. It’s got everything – from traction control to four different rider modes, plus options to dial down the power on tap or tweak away at the shifter or blipper.
I’ve tested bikes the world over, on race tracks, in dockyards, through rivers and even around car parks… but never up a closed, floodlit mountain pass, 1000 metres above the Dubai desert. This launch was as unconventional as the bike we were testing, and I considered that a good thing. I thumbed the V4 into life, and it emitted a reasonable rumble from the underslung exhausts. Maybe a bit more noise would have been appreciated, but it perked up with revs, me having slotted the bike into gear and trundled off towards the start of our test route. At the slow speeds we were riding while getting acquainted with the road, it was impossible to ignore how agile and easy the bike felt to manoeuvre – but how would it cut it when the hammer was down, and the footpegs were sparking?
The bike is kitted with four riding modes (wet, urban, touring and sport) that alter its characteristics and feistiness. We’d been asked to keep it in touring during the night rides, but now was our chance to access full power in sport mode, opting for the sharpest of the power delivery options, too. As an added touch, more out of curiosity than anything, I also put my bike in track ABS. I hadn’t got the ABS kicking in during the night rides, but I liked the idea of disengaging the rear ABS, which is what the track/performance settings allowed for.
We left our base and got to the top of our run, following our leader once again down to the bottom at a relaxed pace while getting plenty of heat into the Pirelli Diablo Rosso III tyres it’s kitted with. When the time came to blast back up the hill, the pace was incredible and the smile on my face was broader than a Cheshire cat. The power of the Diavel felt significant and so easy to access, pulling strong in second and third gear, which seemed to be the common denominators throughout our antics. For those wondering whether this bike has lost its character along with its V-twin motor, don’t sweat it – it had loads on tap and relentless amounts of torque… 126Nm is significant in any configuration.
As impressive as the engine was, the thing that hit me most was how well the bike handled. It defied its own looks, physics, and all the preconceptions I’d had. Okay, the pegs decking out became way too common, but the general flickability of this thing was beyond impressive for such a big beast – and it felt super-planted.
As I learned throughout the rest of the day’s anarchy, the Diavel can be whatever you want it to be. At slow speeds, it was a choirboy with a tidy turning circle, a relaxing riding position and a motor with real table manners. But when it came to turning up the wick, it morphed into the consummate headbanger in a heartbeat. It was wild, but in a good way, and that made it endearing on so many levels.
Ducati Diavel V4
Engine: 1158cc, V4
Claimed power: 165bhp @ 10,750rpm
Claimed torque: 126Nm @ 7500rpm
Frame: Aluminium monocoque type
Suspension: (F) 50mm fully adjustable USD forks (R) Fully adjustable monoshock
Brakes: (F) Brembo Stylema callipers, 330mm discs (R) Twin-piston Brembo calliper, 265mm disc
Seat height: 790mm
Wet weight: 236kg
Fuel capacity: 20 litres
Price: £23,595 (Ducati Red) / £23,895 (Thrilling Black)
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