First Ride: Ducati 1199 Panigale S review

Take a successful formula that's worked for over two decades then throw it in the bin and start again, from scratch. Welcome to the Italian way of thinking.

Posted: 11 February 2012
by Ben Cope
It's small but roomier than you'd think - footpegs are well positioned
Loads of feel and feedback from the front-end
While at the rear-end, the new 200-section rear Pirelli grips hard but DTC keeps it in check

I'M SURE you won't have any sympathy when I tell you I could have done with more time on Ducati's new 1199 Panigale S at the Yas Marina F1 circuit in Abu Dhabi.

That's not to say I didn't have enough time to review the Panigale in the four sessions we had but with each session under my belt the Panigale just felt better and better. In the spirit of past Ducati superbikes, this is a proper rider's bike.

Before we go into how the bike rides, I want to run you through some of the technology involved because, even though electronics aren't widely accepted as being a good thing, they play a vital part in how this bike feels. First there's DTC which is Ducati's Traction Control. Don't get this confused with the DTC of old, this new iteration is so much smoother the the last. Then there's DQS, which is Ducati's Quick Shift, it helps you feel in gears with such speed you wonder whether it's actually cheating. Then there's EBC, which is Ducati's Engine Brake Control, designed to help keep the rear wheel behaving on rapid downshifts. EBC wasn't my cup of tea but it definitely contributes to the bike's feel.

Barely three corners in and what stood out to me - and continued to stand out throughout the day - was the engine. Not how much power it makes - although it does make a lot - but how it delivers its power. It is so smooth off the bottom and feels completely different to the 1198SP. The 1198SP, although a good bike, just isn't as usable in lower gears as you'd like it to be. To be honest, I thought the 1199 Panigale was going to be more extreme but it just isn't. It has precisely the amount of drive you want, not need, but definitely not such an excess that you wince every time you open the throttle out of a hairpin.

It doesn't feel like a twin but it doesn't lose the characteristics that I love about twins; torque, usable drive, the narrow riding position and the noise. The noise!  It is so smooth and revs so quickly that if someone told you the Superquadro powerplant was actually a v-four, I'm not sure you'd disgaree.

I know that comparing the Panigale to the 1198 isn't really fair, but the 1198 typifies a lot of the characteristics of Ducati sportsbikes harking back to the 916; you feel like you're sat on them rather than in them, they feel firm and they demand effort. Lots of it. There is so much about the Panigale that's different, it's no longer just another bigger faster version of a bike that 15 years ago was a 916.

Again, all the hype leading up to the Panigale's launch left me thinking it was going to be more extreme than the 1198 the but riding position is really comfortable. You feel like you're sat in the bike, not on it. The reach to the footpegs is roomy and that's not something I'd have ever said about a Ducati sportsbike (just look at the picture on the right for proof). The bars are wide and are set in a more open position but Ducati's design makes them look light on switchgear, further enhancing the race-bike feel. That extra room makes all the difference and the riding position feels natural, definitely not extreme. I daresay that, although the Panigale looks smaller than the 1198SP, it would suit taller riders better than most superbikes.

A lot of the areas where the Panigale benefits are to do with user feel and confidence. The old Brembo monobloc calipers, as used on the Hypermotard EVO 1100SP, 848 EVO and 1198SP are fantastic brakes, amazingly powerful and with the right master cylinder, give good feel. However, I can't forget the first time I used them: it felt like someone had shoved an iron bar in the front wheel. The old monobloc's bite is incredible and starts off being something you fear rather than embrace. Brembo and Ducati have worked together to revise the monobloc calipers on the Panigale and the result is brakes that no longer have the iron bar feel. Some sportsbikes are guilty of being under-braked and having brakes that fade on track, not this one.

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Discuss this story

David Checa! Oops :)

Does sound like a fine machine, a bit rich for my blood though. Look forward to seeing them out on the road, lucky guys like CARLOS CHECA can no doubt afford one...

Posted: 11/02/2012 at 18:19

I hope you don't mean this...

Posted: 11/02/2012 at 22:44

David Checa is Carlo's cousin i believe, who also rode in WSBK, so that's where the mistake comes from.

This is a far superior bike review compared to others on the net! Great work, and the bike sounds amazing.

Posted: 11/02/2012 at 23:35

Really would like to have a go on this bike. Sounds like the works.

Posted: 12/02/2012 at 16:55

Just read the MCN review. As usual it is like reading the Sun without the tits and jokes.
The above review is verging on the mature and informative.
Seems to do what it says on the packet.
Just need Bayliss to do the first season in WSB and Rossi and Hayden on form on the GP12 and Ducati will be back where it should be.

Posted: 12/02/2012 at 20:01

Great review I ordered one a couple of months ago. This review has made me feel happier as this will be my first Ducati at the moment running BMW S100RR great news.

Posted: 12/02/2012 at 22:59

@ Trevor Willcocks:

No offense, but I hate you. :o(

Posted: 14/02/2012 at 14:49

I have a 916 so look forward to ducati being back on top with their bikes.

Posted: 14/02/2012 at 18:47

Good review.

Posted: 14/02/2012 at 20:22

All well and said however, I tend to disagree with the panigale being suited for taller people. I went to go and see one at Kyalami and noticed it was considerably smaller which is important to look at when you're 6ft4. Turns out the handle bars are 3cm closer than the 1198 however, the swingarm is 4cm further.
The only thing I'm worried about is the frame which is an aluminium version of the carbon fibre monocoque that delt Rossi his shocking results. I think i would need to take it around the track before making my decision on getting one meself.

Posted: 27/03/2012 at 01:50

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