Best Sportbike of 2018: Ducati Panigale V4 S
To say Ducati has a lot riding on the Panigale V4 series is quite an understatement. For Ducati to finally admit its beloved V-Twin had reached the limit of development and abandon it for its flagship model is a huge deal. It meant whatever replaced it would have a lot to live up to. Ladies and gentlemen, the 1103cc V4 more than lives up to the hype. It’s fast, it’s ferocious, and yet, it’s surprisingly easy to ride at the limits of your talent – assuming your skills are enough to warrant you riding a bike of this caliber, anyway. Maybe best of all for Ducati fanboys (and girls) out there – it still sounds like a Ducati but better. The Twin Pulse firing order ignites the front cylinders together before doing the same at the rear, essentially making the Panigale V4 a glorified V-Twin, at least as far as exhaust note is concerned.
Once you actually twist the grip on the V4 and experience all it has to offer, you’ll be blown away a motorcycle engine can actually provide this kind of forward thrust – it’s simply unrelenting all the way to redline. Then you shift gears and start the madness all over again. Purists might lament the amount of electronic aids seen on motorcycles these days, but if you’re one of those, you probably also think two-stroke GP machines are faster than four strokes (hint: they’re not). The truth is the march of technology has made riding fast motorcycles, well, fast, easier than ever before – and that’s a gratifying feeling. With the Panigale V4 S, its rider aids are both easy to navigate and intervene so seamlessly, riders stuck living in an analog world would be impressed.
Make no mistake, the Panigale V4 S is not perfect. When pushing at the limit, the feel and feedback delivered by the chassis leaves something to be desired. On the street, the 1103cc V4 also tends to run hot, and when you’re at a stop, all that heat has nowhere to go but up towards you, the rider. Flip the key off after a summer ride, and the radiator fans channel their inner Buell and continue to whine and whirl while pulling heat away from the engine. It’s annoying, to say the least.
Put those negatives aside, and the Panigale V4 S is an incredible sportbike – and by virtue of it winning our V4 track shootout by the slimmest of margins, while earning a tie during the street test, it wins our 2018 Sportbike of the Year award.
Best Sportbike of 2018 Runner-Up: Aprilia RSV4 RF
We came this close to calling the Aprilia RSV4 RF the winner here, especially considering how much love and adoration we MOrons have given to the other bike from Italy. Basically a decade on from when the RSV4 platform was first introduced, the constant refinement Aprilia have done to it continues to make it a darling in our eyes. First and foremost is that V4 engine. There may be another V4 on the block these days, from just across the street, no less, but the character of the Aprilia’s V4 is second to none. It makes the right noises, vibes in just the right way, and still hauls ass like few bikes can.
More than that, though, is its sublime chassis. Say what you will about Max Biaggi, but his time and input that went into the RSV4 chassis makes it one of – if not the – best in the business. Once the RSV4 is leaned over, the feel, precision, and communication the chassis delivers to the rider is amazing. Want to put it three inches closer to the apex? Sure, go ahead – there’s no second guessing where the front tire is or where it could be pointed.
From a styling standpoint, we still dig the fact Aprilia haven’t changed the Miguel Galluzzi design much. There’s a simple reason, too. To paraphrase Galluzzi when asked why the RSV4 hasn’t been changed over the years – when a bike looks this good, there’s no need to update it.