Ducati’s Supermid Panigale takes the NEC Stand
The baby ‘pan’ gains power, electronics and a lot of retro exhaust heft
Review by Ben Curwen
Ducati seems to ascribe to the muscle car adage that ‘there is no replacement for displacement’ with each iteration of their bikes growing in capacity. The outgoing 899 Panigale has received its update in the form of the new 959 Panigale, and boasts a larger and more powerful engine than ever before in the ‘mid sized’ sports bike market.
However the story is a little more complicated than just a ‘bigger is better’ development plan. In no small part the cubic increase is in the pursuit of dealing with the increasingly stringent Euro Noise and Emission laws with this being the first Superquadro engine to meet the Euro-4 standard due at the end of 2016.
On the plus side the bike has 9hp more at 157hp, 6.2ftlb more torque not to mention a host of internal revisions with the welcome addition of a slipper clutch. Noise measurement has evolved from the familiar exhaust based test to measuring it at the engine so the changes are a positive mix of performance and sound management, and most importantly the bike still sounds excellent.
Perhaps less welcome is the loss of the under slung exhausts in favour of old school side-mounted dual cans, and their part in the extra 7kgs the bike has gained in its evolution to the 959 (the other part mostly being sound-deadening in the fairings). Certainly a talking point at Motorcycle Live at the NEC in Birmingham, the new versions and their displayed Akro alternatives divided opinion. I overhead an amusing exchange with someone wanting their photo to be specifically taken ‘from the non-exhaust side’.
Ultimately though, those that are willing to stump up the £13,250 for this bike are probably not going to fall short of selecting the full race system upgrade that reverts the bike to its former underslung exhaust glory. Aside from pleasing the aesthetic, shedding this weight will improve the bike’s handling. Therefore in many ways the new exhaust change is somewhat moot, and if anything may prove to have been a lot of work to create something that will rarely appear on UK roads.
955cc seems to place the bike far from ‘baby’ Panigale territory and despite the fact that on paper the bike has almost grown into the litre class, it has pleasingly retained its more superstock nature. The Superquadro engine is not shy about providing enjoyable power and torque, however it’s still a bike about corner speed and agility and far less about the straight-line destruction its superbike brother is capable of. In real power terms though most riders would be hard pressed to notice the two per cent power-to-weight increase the new bike is putting out but having the kind of power that will actually see you hit the throttle stops is immensely satisfying. Feeling you’re getting the most of a machine is arguably more fun than feeling you can never unleash its potential.
The 959 Panigale inherits the same Brembo brakes, fully adjustable Showa suspension and cast aluminium airbox chassis from the 899 it replaces. Unchanged also are the wheels with Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa rubber. A great improvement though is the inclusion of the aforementioned slipper clutch, adding further to its ‘run-it-in-hot’ character.
Ducati have dropped the swingarm by 4mm to improve grip, and as a happy by-product will serve to improve riding ergonomics and comfort on the road which lets face it is where most UK bikes will spend most of their time.
Similarly the racing ABS, traction control and rider modes make the bike more adaptable to road or track, riding conditions and ultimately the mood of the rider. Sometimes it’s actually nice to see the scenery rather than simply trying to make it blur as you twist the throttle.
As package then Ducati have done a remarkable job of balancing the challenges of meeting the evolving requirements for motorcycle production, and creating an improvement in the 959 Panigale. It’s a superb motorcycle offering true differentiation from the 1299, and will no doubt continue to preserve the supermid appeal to the Ducatisti.