Ducati Monster S4R (2003 - 2008) review

The old style is still very much in place on the Ducati Monster S4R but, with that alloy single swinger and those hi-level pipes, it’s got a much racier attitude

More power means more fun, it handles well and the styling is suitably modern
That old Ducati bugbear of potential reliability issues is worth bearing in mind

For me at least, the name Monster has always been a bit of a misnomer, but now I can get a bit fired up about riding a Monster, ‘cos there’s a new version branded the S4R, and it’s a bike that lives up to its name at last.

Truth is, it’s quite a charger that can get the juices flowing. The Ducati boys have livened the Monster up a fair few degrees by chucking in a 996 motor to give it more stomp, and maybe even a bit more cred within the sportsbike set. A few more bhp and mph always impresses those guys.

Ducati Monster S4R (2003-2008): Engine

Upping the Duke’s pace wasn’t exactly much of a chore for the Bologna crew, they simply sourced the engine bits from another shelf in the same factory. And swapped the 916 motor, used in the current S4 model, for the 996 version. It’s the same engine used in the ST4S sports-tourer, and of course the gorgeous superbike launched in 1998.

The new fitment has 12bhp more grunt. But more crucially, it gives the S4R the sportiest character yet. Though it has to be said, the bike’s sharp new clothing influences the more aggressive personality just as readily. Alterations to the styling aren’t exactly radical, but they do modernise the Monster overall, making it look much more like a fighting machine.

The alloy-tubed single-sided swinger, funky twin upswept pipes, and five-spoke Marchesini’s are all significant style-enhancing changes. And the use of carbon-fibre covers and guards adds extra kudos. In fact, the new bits help make the S4R’s siblings seem dated by comparison.

Whether the race is down straights or round corners matters not, the S4R Monster would get to the flag first. The extra punch of the S4R is so obvious you’d think there was more than 113bhp in there. The famed bottom end and mid-range grunt are firmly in place (even if the front Michelin isn’t, thanks to all the wheelie-provoking punch) but there’s a top-end bonus to the V-twin’s power delivery, unlike sportier incarnations of the 996 twin. I reckon top speed could be a genuine 155mph. And for a bike in this class, that’s bloody good going.

Its mile-munching ability isn’t bad either. The rider’s footrests are now slighter higher and tucked in further to improve ground clearance, but the riding position is still relaxed enough for longer runs without pitting prematurely to puff and pant with any aches and pains. And the fairing, though a fairly brief affair to look at, does offer surprisingly good protection. Cruising at around 120mph was easy for all of us, regardless of shape or size.

Ducati Monster S4R (2003-2008): Handling and Suspension

Agreement on praise for the Monster’s handling was unanimous. Thanks to new suspension and better ground clearance corners can be attacked with plenty of gusto and confidence. The S4R providing a much more fulfilling ride than any other Monster you’ve tried before. It has a ‘sorted’ balance to it, with a great blend of agility and stability.

The new Showa suspension is superb and whether it’s being asked to control ham-fistedly applied throttle or braking ummph, or just to keep things in check over ruts and bumps, the result is always the same – exemplary behaviour you’d expect from much pricier stuff. It also responds very well to adjustment, and can be screwdriven to your preferred requirements perfectly and in a jiff.

With such a great chassis to enjoy, the Monster really felt at home thrashing through twisty and undulating hills roads on the test route in Italy. Its pseudo-sportsbike performance was a buzz to sample. The Brembo stoppers aren’t the sharpest tools in the box but they soon pull you up to a stop. And that’s when you can enjoy the look of the S4R. It’s been a head-turner since 1993 with over 130,000 having been sold – making it Ducati’s best ever seller. This is the best Monster yet, so I reckon it will keep on selling...

Suspension FrontShowa 43 mm
Suspension RearProgressive linkage. Aluminium single-sided swingarm
Adjustability FrontFully adjustable upside-down fork with TiN surface treatment
Adjustability RearShowa fully adjustable monoshock
Wheels Front3.50x17
Wheels Rear5.50x17
Wheels Made Of5-spoke light alloy
Tyres Front120/70 ZR 17
Tyres Rear180/55 ZR 17
Brakes Front2 x 320 mm discs, 4-piston caliper
Brakes Rear245 mm disc, 2-piston caliper
ChassisTubular steel trellis
Cubic Capacity (cc)996
Max Power (bhp)113
Max Power Peak (rpm)8750
Torque (ft/lb)70
Torque Peak (rpm)7000
Bore (mm)98
Stroke (mm)66
Valve GearDOHC
Compression Ratio11.6
Valves Per Cylinder4
CoolingLiquid cooled
Fuel DeliveryElectronic
Stroke TypeFour Stroke
Top Speed145.9