2023 Ducati Streetfighter V4 S review


For the press test of the 2023 Ducati Streetfighter V4 S we headed to Spain and the Andalucía circuit

YOU can hear the 2023 Ducati Streetfighter V4 S bellowing its way around the Andalucía circuit in southern Spain, as factory test rider Alessandro Valia wrestles the 208hp machine around the torturous training venue.

Bursting into view over the lefthand kink that flows into turn one, the Streetfighter is bucking and weaving, and the former Italian superbike rider looks like some rodeo superstar clinging on to the angriest bull in all of Spain. From the second that bike ploughs into view, it looks like he’s having a crash. Neither wheel is ever pointing in the same direction and the bars shake violently as it is forced around the righthand turn one. From the second the rider and bike appear in view to the moment they leave sight, it’s basically a scene of controlled chaos, and only ever a millimetres away from a big crash. This first sight of the 2023 Ducati Streetfighter V4 S confirms it is still the biggest badass bike on the planet.

What’s new with the 2023 Ducati Streetfighter V4 S

The new bike is a gentle update of the original machine launched seconds before covid-19 landed in 2020. It’s got a raft of small updates for this year, most of which are inspired by the Ducati Panigale V4 S we rode in 2022. What Ducati have done though is tailor the changes for this hyper-naked machine – it is not simply a cut, copy, paste style update. The changes start with the engine and end with the bodywork and fuel tank and cover things like the exhaust, cooling system, electric controls, and suspension settings. It is though still a fire-breathing 208hp (205bhp) monster. An intimidating bike to look at, let alone ride!

When Ducati updated the Panigale in 2022, they added more rideability, softening the bike slightly to make it a more accessible bike to ride. I was keen to find out if the 2023 Streetfighter had been given the same treatment and interested to see if it still had that addictively naughty streak I enjoyed so much at Silverstone last summer.

The first few sessions on track at Andalucía were a struggle for me, having only previously done a handful of sessions there and on the very different 2022 Yamaha R7. It’s a tight track, with bumps in all the wrong places and apexes so far out of sight you need binoculars to see them! We started the day in the Sport riding mode, primarily targeted for fast road riding. In this mode, the throttle map was softened slightly, and the suspension both front and rear tuned to handle the bumps and lumps in a slightly more compliant manner. Even so, the Streetfighter still felt scalpel sharp at the front end, with only some pumping from the rear as the sessions wore on and the tyres became past their best.

One of the changes for this year comes in the form of that new free-flowing exhaust, with outlets slightly larger than before. The power remains the same as the old Streetfighter V4 as is the 90.4lb-ft of torque, and any changes to the delivery are well hidden. What has changed though is the torque mapping in the first four gears. Before the Streetfighter V4 S utilised grouped mapping, softening the torque in bunches of gears. Now you have bespoke maps for each individual gear for a much more precise corner exit. You can, of course, switch the system off altogether, although, on heavily used tyres at the end of their second stint on track, I was pleased to have the helping hand.

To be honest with you, the early sessions were a bit of a mystery to me. The Andalucía circuit is basically a collection of the world's crappiest corners and was purely and simply designed as a training venue to improve a rider’s ability. Because of that, it takes a while to dial into, and it wasn’t until session four that I began to feel like I knew where I was going. Only then could I really start to get to grips with the bike, and there is a lot to note. First up, new suspension settings, Like the 2022 Panigale, have improved feel under braking, and the revised fuel tank and seat design is much easier to hang onto and move about on. The Brembo Stylema M4.30 four-piston stoppers are still some of the strongest you’ll ever encounter. It hasn’t got the same transformational change that the Panigale had in 2022. That bike went from being a monster to ride, to a much more accessible machine. Braking, corner entry and exit were all improved by the last set of updates. The Streetfighter on the other hand still feels like an absolute brute, shaking its head and squatting at every available opportunity. It’s the kind of bike that beats you up when you start riding fast on the track, and only when you push through that phase and get faster does it start to play along. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still massively entertaining, but it feels a little like a few track sessions on a Streetfighter will require you to bring your A-game, and absolutely nothing less.

Once I’d got my head around which way I was going I flicked the bike into the dedicated Track riding mode, traction control was now low, wheelie control negligible, and slide control at the lowest of the two levels. Immediately the bike felt much quicker, sharper and more precise. Where there was pumping from the rear before there wasn’t now, and the composure of the bike was greatly improved. Weirdly, it actually felt easier to ride, not in terms of physical effort (it was much harder work), but it seemed to take less mental capacity to get the thing through the seemingly never-ending direction changes that assault you at Andalucía. If you were worried about the 2023 update to the bike to tempering the nature of the beast, fear not, it is most definitely still there.

Another welcome change is the reformed fuel tank and seat – with the former gaining you an extra 1-litre of fuel capacity (taking it to 17l + 1l reserve). It is much easier to hang off. The tank is re-profiled and the seat is slightly flatter and with more padding, both improving the feel on the track and comfort on the road. Hammering on the brakes from 150mph you could anchor your body with your hips much easier than on the 2022 model, and transitioning from braking to turning in and then corner exit were all much less of an effort.

2023 Ducati Streetfighter V4 S electronics

More updates for 2023 have been poured into the 2023 Ducati Streetfighter V4 S and its electronics suite, both with revised riding modes and a slightly altered look to the dash. There are four engine modes to pick from; Full, High, Medium, and Low. Full and Low are new, while High and Medium have been tweaked for this year. Full Power gives you exactly what you ask for, with no softening to the torque or throttle maps - except for the first gear. In this mode, the throttle of the bike almost feels like a 1:1 ratio and it feels devastatingly quick. For the High and Medium Power Modes, a new Ride by Wire map has been developed with dedicated calibration for each of the six gears.

One convenient feature of the bike was the dash design in the dedicated Track riding mode. Not only did it give me access to the lap timer (which included GPS tracking on the bikes we rode), but you also get a stack showing your rider aids down the right-hand side of the screen. As the sessions wore on and the lap times got (slightly) faster, I was visually notified of which rider aids were intervening as they flash up on the TFT screen. It’s a simple but handy feature, and it quickly and easily allowed me to spot which aids can be turned down slightly to try and win back some lap time. Not only that, you can click through the settings on the right-hand handlebar while you are on the move, reducing the intervention of the settings as desired.

The 2023 Ducati Streetfighter V4 S also gains an update to the quickshifter and the way in which it hooks the next cog. In short, it changes how the gears are changed depending on how you are riding. It’s massively smoothed out the up and downshifts and will now shift cleanly on a partially open or feathered throttle. When shifting up and down the box on a partial throttle, the system uses an ignition cut-out and a reduction of advance to help smooth out the shift. If you rarely ride on the track, this new more friendly gearbox will likely be something you’ll appreciate on the road and around town.

2023 Ducati Streetfighter V4 S verdict

As mentioned above, this launch took place on a track that would struggle to scrape into my top ten, but Ducati assured us that they’d done that to help show off the bike’s revisions for 2023. While it is in some respects easier to ride, especially under braking and mid-corner, the 2023 update isn’t as transformational as I found when I rode the 2022 Panigale at Jerez. That bike became so much more intuitive and easier to ride, regardless of the mode you were in… The Streetfighter V4 S isn’t quite like that.

While I don’t doubt the stopwatch would record this new bike as being faster than its predecessor, it doesn’t feel much easier to ride. It still seems to want to beat you up at every available opportunity, and to me to really unlock the potential of most of the updates, your riding ability will likely need to be at the top end of the fast group. Anything less and you’ll barely scratch the surface. It is though still the most deliciously entertaining naked bike to ride. From the second you get on the 2023 Ducati Streetfighter V4 S to the last glance back at it as you walk back into the pit garage, it’ll have you smiling all the way to the tyre truck – and that’s worth much more than lap times in my mind.

More information on the new 2023 Ducati Streetfighter V4 S can be found on the official website.

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