First Ride: Ducati 848 Evo review

Ducati's entry-level sportsbike packs more punch but is power it's real strength?

In 1994, when Ducati launched the 748 with the exact silhouette of the 916 it truly was a baby superbike.

In 2003 the 749 carried on fighting the Supersport fight but then in 2008 Ducati launched the 848 and not the 750 or 751 you might have reasonably expected. An additional 100cc might not sound like a big deal, but the 848 was ruled out of competing in the Supersport class and since then it's always been the odd one stood in the corner of the 600 supersport party.

Strange how, at 849cc - just 67cc off the original 916 - it's still managed to keep its baby superbike image and yet it's putting out more power than the original 916 did. I dynoed the 848 EVO at PDQ and it made 124bhp at the rear wheel, in comparison to a good 916 that made around 115bhp. 10 years ago you probably wouldn't have thought about stepping off a Hornet 600 and onto a 916 but the 848 seems like a logical step, what with its 'baby superbike image' firmly intact.

Now, for 2011, Ducati have eked out more horsepower from the 848 and called it the 848 EVO.

The list of modifications is extensive, are you ready? A re-worked head, new pistons to increase compression ratio from 12:1 to 13.2:1, modified intake ports, a new camshaft giving higher lift, 4mm larger throttle bodies now at 60mm and the rev-ceiling increased by 500rpm to 11,300. The resulting power gain? 6bhp.

Even though we all crave power, the best change Ducati have made is ditching the 848's front brakes. Gone are the two-piece cast Brembos in favour of the one-piece monobloc Brembos as used on the 1198. Although the new brakes still chomp on the same 320mm discs, the difference is huge.

On the road, it's hard to claim you can feel that extra 6hp, but the way you ride the EVO has changed from the standard 848. Even though the 848 never lacked torque, it never felt that happy being ridden into the redline. The EVO now sits a lot happier in the upper rev range.