2023 Ducati Diavel V4 review

Ducati Diavel V4 2023 test ride

The 2023 Ducati Diavel V4 has had a top-to-toe reboot to solidify its place at the top of the performance cruiser class

THE performance cruiser segment has, since about 2011, been ruled by the behemoth that is the Ducati Diavel. For 2023 the bike has been completely revamped, as the 1260 L-twin is ditched in favour of V4 Granturismo power.

With the new engine comes a new frame, bodywork, geometry and riding position. Ducati is promising this to be the best handling and most powerful Diavel to date, a bold claim for a bike that was already electrifying in its performance. What Ducati just about managed to do with the old bike was create a machine that had outstanding straight line performance, which could literally out drag everything else on the road. When it came to cornering though, things started to slip. With a 240-section rear tyre and the low-slung geometry of the bike, you had to remember that despite how ferociously quick it was in a straight line, it was no sports bike in the corners.

Changing from twin-cylinder to V4 power gave Ducati to chance to completely redesign the bike with the frame being the first port of call. Gone is the trellis item of old, and in its place a new, lighter monocoque frame. With the engine used as a stressed member, the new design is lighter than before (the whole bike is 13kg less than the 1260) and out on the road that’s one of the first things you notice. The new frame makes the Diavel feel much more responsive than before. It’s not going to be worrying any supernakeds in the corners, and you still have to haul your body into the corner to get the thing in the groove, but the difference in dynamic performance is definitely noticeable. The suspension on the new bike comprises chunky 50mm full adjustable forks and a cantilever rear shock. The ride quality of the new bike is, overall, pretty good. The previous generation Diavel would have you tensing up when you hit potholes and bumps and the new machine is noticeably more compliant soaking up bumps better than before. And that’s not to say that the new bike feels softer than the 1260, it just feels like a more sophisticated suspension design. As is the Ducati way, we’d expect a more trick version of the bike to be not too far down the line, possibly shod with top-spec Ohlins kit - that would be a bike to behold should it actually happen.

Braking power is provided by Brembo, with its top-spec Stylema four-pot calipers and 330mm discs at the front and a 265mm disc and two-piston caliper at the rear. The geometry of the bike does mean you can get the ABS cutting in on dry roads fairly easily and forced me to dial out some of the intervention to really get a feel for the power on offer. The Brembo radially-mounted master cylinder will only ever require a couple of fingers to get the bike stopped, and the braking performance can only really be described as phenomenal. Obviously, this bike is lighter than the old 1250 Diavel by some margin, although I think the improvement in braking performance is more down to switching from M50 to Stylema hardware. They just seem to have much more power within them, yet still with the same easygoing and slightly progressive lever feel of old.

What hasn’t changed much with the new bike is the output from the engine, with the new bike producing a claimed 168hp compared to the old 1260’s 162hp. Torque from the new V4 is actually slightly down compared to the previous model, but not much and I don’t think you’ll ever really notice it! The gearing of the bike is revised for the 2023 model, and all you really have to do is feed the engine gears as quickly as your left foot can manage. And while we are on the subject of the bike’s gearbox, credit has to be given to the six-speed system on the new 2023 bike. It’s very nice to use, with a satisfying snick through the 'box and a quickshifter thast works both up and down the gears at pretty much any speed. You can even find neutral while stationary - as an owner of a classic Ducati, I know how much of a big deal this is!

The throttle connection of the 2023 Ducati Diavel V4 is a beautiful thing to use, which in its sportiest riding mode feels almost 1:1. What is nice about the throttle is how smooth it is in the very initial opening of the throttle. There are a great number of bikes out there that have a snatchy feel when picking up the throttle at the apex of the corner. The trouble is, in slower corners and lower gears, it makes for a slightly clumsy cornering style. Thankfully Ducati has put in the work in this area and mated to the quickshifter, the off-corner acceleration of the new bike is seamless and seemingly never-ending.

Just like the Multistrada V4 that the engine is borrowed from, the 2023 Ducati Diavel V4 is graced with a very comprehensive suite of electronics. It begins with four riding modes, Sport, Touring, Urban and the new Wet. Sport and Touring both boast the full 168hp while Urban and Wet both feature limited power of 115hp. Urban is a bit of a nothing mode for me, and while I did try it out, I couldn’t really see the point of it even when riding in the city - may as well just use the Wet mode which to me felt basically the same. Each of the rider modes also features bespoke settings for the cornering ABS, traction control and wheelie control. The bike also has a launch control system, allowing you to pin the throttle without bouncing the bike off the redline. Once the traffic lights turn green you can gently dump the clutch and make the kind of getaway that makes the child inside me grin from ear to ear!

The riding position on the new bike has been tweaked, with the bars now sitting 20mm closer to the rider than before. Overall the riding position is great, and I only really found myself reaching for the outside handlebar on the tightest of U-turns. The seat height is just 790mm, making this hyper-cruiser actually a fairly accessible machine for shorter riders like myself. The small fly-screen and sloped back headlight also seem to do a good job of flicking some of the airflow up and over your head, making motorway cruising on the bike a little bit easier than before.

Optional seat and semi rigid cases shown

The old bike was a popular choice for folk wanting a middle or long-distance tourer with a quirky twist, it’ll be interesting to see if the new V4 gets adopted in this way. The bike can still be upgraded with some semi-rigid cases (48l in capacity overall) although I’m not sure the pillion seat looks quite as inviting on the new V4 model. While we are on the subject of the pillion seat, the rear footpegs are a lovely touch, and almost invisible until you know where they are. They sweep down from under the seat when you need to use them and keep the rear of the bike looking tidy with nice clean lines.

Another very cool feature of the bike’s backside is the LED rear lights. They are mounted into the undertray of the pillion seat and feature multiple little lights that double as brake lights and indicators. They look fantastic, and like the footpegs mean the rear end is free from any fussy indicator storks or rear light clusters. Really the only thing that slightly spoils the tail is the registration plate, which with nowhere else to go has been plonked across the back of that huge rear wheel. If only we could legally mount number plates off the rear axle as they do in the USA. It’s a much cleaner and tidy-looking solution to what the EU currently imposes.

2023 Ducati Diavel V4 verdict

I was tentative about Ducati adopting its V4 engine in both the Multistrada and Diavel models, after riding both in their V2 guises extensively over the years. I’m not ashamed to admit that I totally fell in love with the old 1260 engine, with its sound, its delivery, and the way boomed towards the redline as it hurled you at the horizon. Initially, I was worried that switching up to the V4 would lose some of the nuances I held so dear. While some of that booming character has been lost with the new V4, what you get in return is an engine that is dynamically better in every other way, yet easier to live with, in the real world. The new engine is, should you want it to be, more docile around town, with less of that lumpy feel at low speed. You also get more top-end, and while the spec sheets tell one story, riding the new Diavel tells a very different tale. The new engine isn’t just a method of propulsion, it’s opened the door for Ducati to completely modernise the machine which really is where the biggest strides have been made. The handling is now closer to that of one of the Bologna factory’s naked machines while the braking provided by the new Stylema calipers is significant - once you crank back the traction control a little.

At £23,595 for the Diavel in red, it’s not exactly what you’d call cheap, and does put it at the top of the pile when compared to its competitors. Ducati though don’t really do budget or entry level bikes. These are aspirational bits of kit, and the Diavel is probably the most aspirational of them. If you like it, you’ll buy it, and to hell with the consequences, that’s the kind of vibe I get from the latest Diavel. It’s not and never has been a bike for shy retiring types, although I guess it’s pretty popular with the recently retired!