Ducati Multistrada V4 S test, first lap
The latest Multistrada, with its superb V4 engine and electronic wizardry, is an adventure bike in a class of its own.
I have deferred writing this review for a few weeks since the Multistrada V4S returned to Ducati. It’s not often that a motorcycle manages to leave such an indelible impression that objectivity is worth the effort! That’s why I waited until he did his thing and let go of those rose-tinted goggles to see the bike more clearly and answer the question. Is the latest Multistrada really that good?
It comes from the heart
The Ducati Multistrada, from the 1200 S to the 1260 S and 950 S, has always been my choice among adventure bikes. Simply because of its stilt sport bike formula, raw power and aggressiveness paired with all road usability.
The new V4 continues in the same vein, while taking the “Multistrada” experience to a whole new level. And the main ingredient behind that is the new 1158cc Granturismo V4 engine. It makes about 10 hp more than the previous 1260 L-twin while being lighter and more compact. Ducati’s decision to abandon tradition and use conventional spring valves instead of Desmodromic valves comes like music to the ears of potential customers.
The V4 engine is remarkably fast.
After all, a valve clearance check at 60,000 km (instead of the previous 30,000 km) and a less complicated system to work with both translate into reduced service intervals and maintenance costs. But these are only the peripheral advantages of the new V4. It’s the way it works that makes it such a gem of an engine.
V4 par excellence
Turn it on and you’re greeted with a unique V4 sound (for an ADV) thanks to its double-pulse firing order. At idle and low rpm it’s not as loud as the Panigale/Streetfighter’s V4 and that suits me considering the adventure touring application. Rishaad, meanwhile, thinks the sound is a little soft, going so far as to qualify it, and his incredibly improved urban mannerisms are “almost too civilized” for a Ducati.
Side fins divert heat away from the rider
While he’s right to some degree, take the rev needle past 5,000 rpm and that signature Ducati growl is both heard and felt. In fact, that Jekyll and Hyde nature of the engine works incredibly well in our conditions. With the drive mode set to “Urban” (more on modes later), I dove into the traffic-infested streets of Mumbai and was amazed by the V4. There’s no low-end jerkiness like there is with Ducati L-twins, it’s nimble enough to hold 20kph in third gear and heat management is incredibly good.
The idea of installing split radiators and fins on the fans is great as hot air is exhausted from the driver. Then there’s the rear cylinder bank that deactivates at idle, improving heat management. To top it off, the hydraulic clutch also lacks that typical Ducati effort and wobble in shock-a-block traffic. The ability of the Multistrada V4 to handle the urban jungle is indeed impressive. But, the real joy of this engine is best experienced on the open road.
Arriving on the freeway, with a stretch of empty tarmac inviting the Multistrada to unleash, I selected “Sport” mode and started off. The series of events that followed left me, figuratively speaking, on the sidelines. Offline, the accelerations are manic as the V4 unleashes its 170hp and 125Nm. The speed at which the tachometer needle hits the 10,000 rpm redline and the speedo numbers jump to illegal numbers is breathtaking. “Holy [email protected]*” is something you’d shout out loud every time you gave him the beans, because the performance is truly amazing for a big ADV. And with the quick up/down selector offering a smooth transition between gears, at any speed, the experience is something else entirely.
All of this performance, however, comes at the expense of fuel economy and this engine will back out below 10kpl if you go excessively happy. Keep the right hand under control, cruise at low triple digit speeds and you should manage to extract a decent 14-16kpl.
There couldn’t have been a way to handle all that performance without a full electronics suite. And the Multistrada V4 is equipped with one of the best on the market. The four riding modes – Urban, Touring, Sport and Enduro – provide the necessary modifications to the power delivery and the traction control system to make the Multistrada V4 surprisingly easy to drive. Each mode can also be individually matched between low or full engine performance, levels of traction control intervention or the leeway offered by wheel control. The amount of permutations and combinations on offer is what makes the Multistrada V4 non-intimidating for the beginner venturing into new waters with great ADV and an absolute treat for the experienced rider who is far down the learning curve.
Our test bike being the ‘V4S’ gets Ducati’s impressive Skyhook semi-active suspension and that alone is worth spending the extra money over the standard model. Whether tackling the pathetic roads of Mumbai, with the suspension in the softest setting, attacking corners with fully beefed up suspension on a race track, there is hardly any road that the Multistrada can only handle. I also liked the suspension’s “self-leveling” feature that sets the right preload, whether you’re riding two-up or with luggage, at the push of a button.
Auto-leveling takes the hassle out of adjusting preload.
The icing on the cake of this electronics-laden cake is radar-based adaptive cruise control and blind-spot detection. The front radar is cleverly placed between the headlights and accurately detects everything from a bicycle to a bus. After selecting the desired gap to the vehicle ahead, the system operates precisely, accelerating or reducing speed to maintain the gap. It will even apply the brakes in case the vehicle ahead slows down quickly. Just lower the gears according to the speed of the bike.
The rear radar, located under the rear light, detects vehicles in the blind spot. There are amber LEDs on the inside top edge of the mirrors that illuminate to indicate a vehicle in the blind spot. These are quite bright and visible even in the afternoon sun. That said, you can’t ignore the fact that the shape of pretty mirrors causes a big blind spot by default! Still, blind spot detection is a welcome feature and although it can be turned off, I’d recommend leaving it on as it’s not a distraction at all – just be prepared for it to stop never to blink in city traffic.
The windshield adjustment mechanism is fragile.
All of these electronic parameters are accessible via a large TFT display with a resolution so crisp it will put a mid-range smartphone to shame. Among its many features, it can also mirror your phone using the Ducati connect app. Turn-by-turn navigation is another useful feature, but the Sygic app that runs the maps needs the phone screen to stay on all the time. To keep your phone from running out of juice, the nifty compartment behind the fuel filler cap has a USB port and is big enough to fit a phone with a 6.5-inch screen.
Get a handle
Ducati has developed a new aluminum monocoque chassis for the V4. The compact size of the motor also allowed them to position it in the frame so that the weight distribution was perfect. In fact, despite a 22-litre fuel tank, the bike doesn’t feel too heavy. This, together with Skyhook suspension and Pirelli Scorpion Trail II tires, gives the Multistrada V4 extremely agile handling.
243 kilos are not a concern for these Brembos
Whether it’s cutting through traffic like it’s on a bare street or leaning into a fast turn, there’s no shortage of confidence in the bike’s handling abilities. This despite the 19-inch front and 17-inch rear wheel setup. The Brembo Stylemas on the S variant are also a big factor in giving you the confidence to push hard, knowing they’ll haul that 243kg bike to a stop in a jiffy.
The 19-inch front wheel, 220mm ground clearance and Enduro mode came in handy for navigating a dirt road leading to the edge of a lake I had spotted at random.
Given the danger of bending the alloy rims on rocks, I didn’t venture into any rough trails. However, if that is a problem, Ducati offers optional tubeless wire-spoke rims.
The takeaway from my limited time with the Multistrada V4 off-road was that it felt more maneuverable than the Ducati Multistrada 1260 Enduro. The stand-up ergonomics were ideal, with enough purchase that my knees could grip the tank while the handlebars were within easy reach for my 5-foot-10 frame. Speaking of which, some shorter riders will find the seated handlebar reach a bit too much. What they won’t complain about is the adjustable seat height of 840-860mm, with a clever (but somewhat cheap) mechanism to make it easier. In addition, the shape of the tank also facilitates the installation of the feet.
The seats are super comfortable for day trips, while the large windscreen and flanking spoilers do a great job of deflecting frontal wind. So much so that your perception of speed is massively diminished and you find yourself cruising at speeds far beyond what you think you are.
The design of the Multistrada V4 presents itself as a nice blend of form and function. It stands out among the sea of adventure bikes, with its aggressive face, fuel tank shape and exposed trellis subframe. It may not look as good as the Multistrada 950, especially from the rear and the conventional aluminum swingarm can’t match the good looks of a single-sided swingarm. But the V4 cuts a fine figure, with a sense of premium attached.
goodbyes are hard
Sitting by the lake and admiring this bike in disbelief, it was hard for me to find fault with it. If I had to nitpick, some of the plastics don’t feel as expensive as they should and the standard windshield, with its slightly flimsy adjustment mechanism, doesn’t feel polished either. Since the bike has keyless ignition, a keyless fuel filler cap should have been standard. But I’m willing to look beyond all of that, just because of what else the bike offers. For Rs 23.10 lakh, ex-showroom India, you get a top-level adventure motorbike with all the electronics you’d want and more than all the power you’ll ever need.
The Multistrada V4’s ability to rack up miles at blistering pace, while entertaining you around the corners and comfortable for long hours in the saddle, is what makes it so endearing. This is perhaps one of the best motorcycles to come out of Bologna.