What's new with the Panigale? Literally, everything-- save the signature L-twin engine configuration and Desmodromic valvetrain. Benchmarked against the Aprilia RSV4 Factory APRC SE, BMW S1000RR, and of course their own 1198, the 2012 Ducati 1199 Panigale incorporates a new die cast aluminum monocoque frame with an integrated airbox, all of which weighs only 9.3 pounds. Together with a rear subframe (4.6 pounds), magnesium alloy front subframe (1.3 pounds), and single-sided swingarm (11.2 pounds), these components conspire with an aluminum tank, lighter wheels, and numerous other featherweight bits to yield a wet weight of only 414.5 pounds, which is 22 pounds lighter than the 1198. Also aiding handling is the fact that more of the weight is positioned low in the bike for better maneuverability.
Integrated within the frame as a stressed member is the Panigale's all-new 195 horsepower L-twin displacing-- counterintuitively-- 1,198cc. Whereas the Ducati 1198 excelled at producing robust mid-range torque, the new mill is focused on high-end power with its oversquare (or, as the Italians call it, "Superquadro") configuration-- in fact, its bore to stroke ratio approaches that of a Formula 1 race car, helping boost peak horsepower to 10,750 rpm. Using a massive bore of 112 mm, or 4.41 inches that's unheard of in the sportbike realm, the diameter of the Panigale's cylinders are only matched by the thumping 1,783cc engine found in the Suzuki C109R cruiser. The new engine churns 98.1 lb-ft of torque and 195 horsepower-- a 25 horsepower improvement over its predecessor. Like the Multistrada 1200's powerplant, the Panigale's service interval is a generous 15,000 miles, thanks in part to its new chain-driven valvetrain.
The Panigale comes in three versions: base ($17,995), S ($22,995), and Tricolore (priced at $27,995.) ABS is a $1,000 option on the base and S models, and standard on the Tricolore; standard across the board is an 8-level traction control system, 3-mode adjustable engine braking setup, an electronically adjustable "Ducati Quick Shift" system which allows clutchless cog swaps and adjustable throttle response, all managed by three riding modes (Sport, Race, and Wet) that can be adjusted to default settings or personalized via a TFT dashboard, an expanded version of the unit foud in the Ducati Diavel; when the 'S' model is equipped with electronic suspension, the modes control damping, as well. Ducati Data Acquisition (DDA) is optional on the base and S models, and standard on the Tricolore. And while the base model gets Marzocchi front and Sachs rear suspension, the S and Tricolore receive fully electronically adjustable Öhlins NIX30 front and TTX36 rear components.
Dimensionally, the 1199's overall length shrinks an inch, while its wheelbase and trail measurements grow incrementally for greater stability. Ergonomics are now more comfortable, with the seat moved over an inch closer to the handlebars, which have been raised and widened. The package is rounded out by the thickest tires ever on a Ducati sportbike-- 200mm rear and 120mm front.
How does all this cutting edge hardware translate on the track? Let's ride and find out.