Up-Close and Personal with the Ducati Streetfighter V4 S

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If you haven’t read my thoughts on riding the Ducati Streetfighter V4 S already, I suggest you do so before going further. Don’t worry it is a “short” review – only a couple thousand words or so.

For the TL;DR crowd, the Ducati Streetfighter V4 S is an amazing machine. It has all the low-speed manners that its 1098 predecessor lacked, but does so without sacrificing the astounding speed and horsepower found from its Panigale V4 lineage.

“Refinement” is the word that I keep coming back to when I talk about the Streetfighter V4 S, which is both a nod to the differences found from the Streetfighter 1098, but also an acknowledgement of the bar that Ducati is setting with its motorcycle lineup.

At $24,000 a pop – roughly $5,000 more than its closest competition – the Ducati better bring something extra to the table, and frankly buyers expect a more polished machine when they are paying that kind of pricing premium.

Is the Ducati that much better than the Aprilia or KTM? The journalist in me says the jury is still out, primarily because of the testing restrictions we have to deal with concerning the coronavirus outbreak.

But, I can speak about its refinement, which is what I want to do today.

The Streetfighter V4 is an interesting model in that it is a motorcycle that highlights very well where Ducati has come as a brand. Its predecessor, the Streetfighter 1098 is 11-years-old now, and in that decade’s worth of time, there hasn’t been an update to the Streetfighter lineup.

This gives us a stark contrast between old and new, which makes the evolution of Ducati as a company much more apparent.

I say this because the Streetfighter 1098 was such a raw machine. Raw of course in its power delivery, which could spool up 155hp at the flick of a wrist, and spit you out the other side. Heaven help you if you bought the base model, which was without traction control.

But, the 1098 model was raw in its appearance and ethos as well. The bike was true to its “superbike without fairings” approach, but maybe not always in a good way.

It was like the Italian factory stripped a Ducati 1098 Superbike, and then didn’t think too hard about how it was going to cover up the ugly bits. As such, you can see a bird’s nest of hoses and wires from the exposed motorcycle. It looks good from far away, but doesn’t attract the eye in the same way when you get up-close with it.

Furthermore, there was an issue with the chassis, with the front wheel raked too far out (25.6°). This made for a vague feeling from the Streetfighter 1098 when going into turns, and when coupled with the a rear tire that could break traction if you sneezed, riding the 1098 became a harrowing experience. You had to tame this beast, or it would tame you.

This brings me back to the Streetfighter V4 S, which has none of these problems, but is no less the wicked ride.

In the past decade, Ducati has lead the way with rider controls, and has developed one of the most robust electronics packages in the industry. More importantly, and something I highlighted on my Panigale V4 review, the Italian brand has made understanding these control a top priority.

It is one thing to have a sophisticated electronics package, with IMU-powered traction control and ABS; ride-by-wire throttle maps and semi-active electronic suspension; wheelie control, launch control, engine braking control, and so on. You can fill the spec sheet up with acronyms and buzzwords, but if the typical buyer doesn’t know how to use them, then they are worthless.

Don’t believe me? Take the BMW HP4 Race – a phenomenal superbike, maybe one of the best ever designed, but completely unusable if you don’t have a factory-trained engineer with you at your track day. The Bavarians literally built the closest thing to a production race bike available on the market, but forget to make it usable by people who weren’t in an actual race team.

Ducati has learned this lesson though, and it shows on the Streetfighter V4 S. Like on the Panigale V4 S, settings are handled through a rich and bright TFT dash with intuitive controls on the handlebars.

Let’s stop for a minute and let me acknowledge that I have two weird things when it comes to reviewing motorcycles: the dash and the hand controls.

Long-time Asphalt & Rubber readers will note that I often spend an inordinate amount of time talking (often criticizing) these items in a review, and I have been to more than one press presentation now where an engineer has stopped, and noted to me personally how they have updated the controls from a previous model I had panned. 

My name is Jensen Beeler, I am a flawed and weird human, I am seeking help, and I am working on myself constantly.

That being said, the dash and hand controls are the two main points of contact and interface that a rider has with their motorcycle (human interface design is a real thing). If a brand doesn’t pay attention to these critical items, it doesn’t bode well for the rest of the machine.

So, that being said…changing an input not only is clear on the Streetfighter V4 S, but Ducati speaks it to you as a normal human being. For instance, when in the suspension settings, Ducati asks you: do you want more stability under braking or more traction? Instead of: do you want a preload setting of four or nine?

The refinement extends beyond what is between the handlebars though, with the bike’s overall look and feel being very polished. Great care has been taken to hide mounting screws.

Edges flow into each other (except for the airbox cover, which is curiosity), and there is a purpose in the bike’s lines to show off the 205hp Desmosedici Stradale V4 engine. Example: take the silver-toned panels along the radiator (a call out to the design on the 1098, for those who didn’t know) and how they help arc around the front wheel and the forward cylinders on the motor.

I am not sure if I buy into Ducati’s “joker” comparison for the face of the motorcycle (personally, I get more of a Bumblebee vibe because of the projector headlamps), but the machine is strikingly handsome. Moreover, it is comfortable. 

I would never recommend a naked motorcycle as a long-distance tourer, but as a true-blue sport bike, the Ducati Streetfighter V4 S is comfortable to ride for extended hours. Notice, for example, how the rider’s seat wraps downward  towards the fuel tank, giving you that much more cushion to push against with your legs.

Another item that caught my eye while snapping photos was the triple clamps around the fork tubes. They are made from aluminum billet, not cast like you would see on most bikes. I doubt many motorcyclists would notice that touch, let alone the benefit (if any tangible one exists) that it provides, but there is a Ducati engineer somewhere who is taking great pride in that choice.

All-in-all, the more time I spend with this motorcycle, and the more I look at it, the more worried I get for my wallet.

If Italian motorcycles are supposed to be rolling pieces of art, and art is supposed to invoke an emotion in those who behold it, then this motorcycle makes me have an emotion to spend money – about $24,000 worth.

Photos: © 2020 Jensen Beeler / Asphalt & Rubber – All Rights Reserved