2016 Ducati XDiavel First Ride Review

  • Provocative new-age stance
  • Sport-oriented handling with cruiser-oriented controls
  • Refined Ducati sport appeal
  • Engine could be smoother under 3000 revs
  • Chassis sacrifices comfort versus performance
  • Standard seating position puts extra pressure on lower back

Style, sophistication and performance – words not typically synonymous with the V-Twin cruiser segment. Until now: Meet the Ducati XDiavel ($19,995). Harnessing a stroked-out iteration of the Italian brand’s Superbike-spec Testastretta Twin, the 1.3-liter (77-cubic inch) XDiavel sports a sleek, athletic physique with true forward-friendly controls. It’s how Ducati envisions cruising.


A longer stroke variation of Ducati’s tried-and-true Testastretta DVT-enabled Twin gives life to the new X (see sidebar), boasting a 67cc displacement bump compared to the standard 1198cc mill used in Ducati’s Multistrada 1200 sport-tourer. Compression was also raised half a point. Another notable difference is the use of a conventional (by cruiser standards) belt final drive instead of the typical chain assembly. This reduces both maintenance and mess, while maintaining authentic cruiser DNA.

Considerable time was spent on the engine dyno perfecting the X’s pulse. It pulls cleanly from 3000 revs all the way its 10,000 rpm redline (identical to the 2011-2016 standard Diavel). Similar to the new Multi, the DVT (Desmodromic Variable Timing) solution gives the best of both words: a flatter and more linear power character without sacrificing performance, with claimed 95 lb-ft peak torque arriving at 5000 rpm.

The heart of the XDiavel is a long-stroke 1262cc (77-cubic inch) version of its ex-Superbike spec Testastretta L-Twin. It also features its novel variable valvetrain architecture for added performance and fuel efficiency.

(The heart of the XDiavel is a long-stroke 1262cc [77-cubic inch] version of its ex-Superbike spec Testastretta L-Twin. It also features Ducati’s novel variable valvetrain architecture for added performance and fuel efficiency.)

This makes for easy passing, in any gear, as hardy acceleration force readies from just under 4000 revs, which happens to be where the engine spins at 65 mph in top gear. Yet, in Ducati spirit, it maintains an appetite for revs. Downshift through the slick-shifting six-speed gearbox, yank the right grip, and hang on. The X leaps forward rapidly dishing plenty of ‘oomph to loft the front wheel in first gear. Ducati says its Twin is good for 156 ponies at 9500 revs at the crank, and with the frantic boost of acceleration as the digital tach-bar nears redline, it certainly feels that fast. However, there’s still enough engine vibration to cloud the mirrors at freeway speeds, but that’s always been the case with most Ducatis.

In typical Ducati fashion, the X benefits from ride-by-wire throttle control allowing for individual engine power maps (Urban, Touring, and Sport). This lets the rider alter the powerband (and associated DTC and ABS settings) via a few pushes of the switchgear. It also employs Ducati’s long-standing eight-way adjustable traction control, and newly introduced cornering ABS function, courtesy the fitment of a 1299 Panigale-type IMU (see sidebar). Launch control is also standard (Ducati calls it ‘Power Launch Control’), as is cruise control. Each setting, as well as the XDiavels running stats can be viewed via an iPhone 4-sized color dash located ahead of the 4.75-gallon metal fuel tank. The display looks pretty, but ideally, it should be repositioned above the handlebar, so it’s easier to peek at. Although we didn’t ride after dark, the Tron-like LED headlamp is eye-catching even in daylight.

A iPhone 4-sized color dash display graces the XDiavel. It sure looks pretty, but we wish engineers positioned above the handlebar so it would be easier to peek at while riding.

(A iPhone 4-sized color dash display graces the XDiavel. It sure looks pretty, but we wish engineers positioned above the handlebar so it would be easier to peek at while riding.)

Visually, the engine block’s appearance was enhanced by removing unsightly cooling system plumbing (typically hidden by bodywork on other Ducatis) which necessitated re-engineering of the water pump. The abundance of plastic employed on other new Ducati engines is jettisoned – replaced with sturdy aluminum bits. Furthermore, a thicker clutch cover (al ’a the Monster 1200R and 959 Panigale) reduces mechanical noise. Thankfully, sculpted slash-cut pipes emit a lively beat, but not so much as to be obnoxious.

The XDiavel ditches Ducati’s typical chain for a belt final drive. This reduces mess, maintenance, and noise.

The blacked-out Twin appears as if chiseled from a block of raw aluminum and looks especially clean and uncluttered on the starboard end. But the opposite side, it has a couple distractions – mainly the hydraulic clutch hardware and ignition wiring. Riders smitten by arrays of chromed-out cooling fins might not like the industrial lines of the Ducati’s mill. However, if you’re a techno-buff, this is it: clean cut and ready to play.

The premium ’S’ model ($3000 upcharge) elevates things further with its contrast-cut machined timing belt covers (similar in appearance to the Scrambler) and wheels, which really give the X a polished look. It also adds special ’S’ logo radiator covers, forged engine/swingarm side plates, billet-stalk mirrors, special low-friction coating on the fork tubes, and heavier-duty M50 monobloc front brake calipers by Brembo.

The XDiavel’s deep dish seat appears wide and cozy in theory. But in standard configuration, it did cause lower discomfort after a day’s ride.

(The XDiavel’s deep dish seat appears wide and cozy in theory. But in standard configuration, it did cause lower discomfort after a day’s ride.)


The XDiavel certainly isn’t as adept at knee down jaunts as its Panigale cousins, but it is remarkably capable for a fat-tired bike designed specifically for what Ducati calls, “low speed excitement.” Both the frame and swingarm are new, with the rake kicked out two degrees compared to the standard Diavel. Fork offset was modified slightly to retain the Diavel’s trail measurement. The short steel-trellis frame bolts to the cylinder heads (similar to the Monster family) thereby reducing weight and allowing the engine to be an active part of the chassis. The single-sided swingarm is fabricated from both forged and cast aluminum pieces joining the chassis at rear of the engine case, with wheelbase measuring 63.5 inches.

The X features a deep seat tray swallowing you into the cockpit (15mm lower than the standard Diavel). Reach to the handlebars is relaxed with a distinct rearward sweep. The rider’s footpegs are mounted in a forward position, which is an odd sensation for a Ducati, but a welcome trait for those seeking comfort, or with limited knee motion. Another plus is how lithe the X feels between the legs, with it weighing around 545 pounds ready to ride.

XDiavel Settings



  • Preload: 5 (Turns in)
  • Compression: 2.25 (Turns out)
  • Rebound: 2.5


  • Preload: Standard (three thread lines atop shock)
  • Rebound: 1.25


  • Power Mode: Touring
  • DTC: 3
  • ABS: 1

Customization of the riding experience was a design goal for engineers, and there are threaded mounting holes allowing fore and aft rider footpeg adjustment (by nearly an inch in each of the three settings). Conventional Diavel mid-mount footpegs are also available as a Ducati Performance accessory, as is a larger/comfort, low/high, and leather seat options. The passenger also gets added love in the form of a special back-rested seat. A one-inch rearward, and conversely, one-inch forward handlebar option is available for purchase too, but it would have been nice if engineers had fabricated mounting holes inside the top clamp to make the adjustment without having to buy accessory parts.

The more sport-oriented XDiavel certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. But for those seeking added ‘pow’ during their weekend rides, the XDiavel delivers.

(The more sport-oriented XDiavel certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. But for those seeking added ‘pow’ during their weekend rides, the XDiavel delivers.)

As expected, the X delivers a firmer ride than a typical cruiser. This reduces straight-line comfort to a certain degree. Another squawk is the seat’s rearward cant places extra pressure on the bottom of the spine. Add some turns into the route, and the X’s taut chassis springs to life, delivering astonishing road-holding for a wide-tired cruiser. It handles responsively at both parking lot and freeway speeds, and has more ground clearance than we desired to test (Ducati claims 40 degrees). But on rough pavement, the suspension did feel bouncy. Thankfully the fork and shock include independent mechanical damping adjustment.

Most cruiser riders rely on a strong back brake, and the Ducati doesn’t disappoint. The front brake hardware is also up to the extra mph the X can deliver. We also appreciate that the ABS setting can be modified, with the brake and clutch levers also adjustable.


Where the original Diavel was somewhat of a half-street, half-cruiser oddity, the X is a definitive answer in the performance cruiser sector. Although lacking a bit in customary comfort, the XDiavel makes up for it in spades with sophisticated style and an advanced electronics package that makes it even more fun to ride and haul ass aboard. And if those are the check boxes you’re looking to fill on your next cruiser ride, the XDiavel is the bike.

2016 Ducati XDiavel Specs

  • Engine: 1262cc Testastretta liquid-cooled L-Twin; eight-valve, Desmodromic w/ DVT
  • Bore and Stroke: 106 x 71.5mm
  • Compression Ratio: 13:1
  • Fueling: Electronic fuel-injection
  • Clutch: Wet multi-plate with self-servo slipper function; hydraulic actuation
  • Transmission: Six-speed
  • Final Drive: Belt, 28/80 gearing
  • Frame: Tubular steel-trellis
  • Front Suspension: Marzocchi 50mm inverted fork; three-way adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping; 4.72 in. travel
  • Rear Suspension: Sachs gas-charged shock; two-way adjustable for spring preload and rebound damping; 4.33 in. travel
  • Front Brakes: 320mm discs with radial-mount Brembo M3-32 four-piston monobloc calipers
  • Rear Brake: 265mm disc with twin-piston caliper
  • Tires: Pirelli Diablo Rosso II, 120/70-17, 240/45-17
  • Curb Weight: 545 lbs. (claimed)
  • Wheelbase: 63.58 in.
  • Rake: 30 deg. / Trail: 5.12 in.
  • Seat Height: 29.72 in.
  • Fuel Capacity: 4.75 gallon
  • MSRP: $19,995; $22,995 (S model)
  • Warranty: Two years unlimited mileage
Desmodromic Variable Timing

Ducati continues to evolve the heartbeat of its trusty eight-valve 1098/1198-based dual-spark L-Twin by fitting variable valve timing hardware inside the cylinder heads. Dubbed Desmodromic Variable Timing (DVT), the hardware permits greater tune-ability by adjusting camshaft position in real-time, based on load and rpm. It builds upon the Testatretta’s existing 11-degree valve overlap design by facilitating a greater range of overlap thereby boosting the smoothness of the engine while also increasing power and fuel efficiency. Another plus is the improved action of the six-speed transmission with each gear engaging more aptly – a positive side effect of the updated design according to Ducati’s tech team. Despite the added technology (and weight) of the valvetrain, valve clearance check intervals were increased by 3600 miles to 18,000 miles.

IMU Explained

Many of today’s high-end sportbikes now include a tiny circuit board dubbed an IMU (Inertia Measurement Unit). The chip measures acceleration (forward/back, up/down, left/right) as well as pitch, roll and yaw. This technology, first employed on MotoGP prototypes, gives the motorcycle situational awareness on the road. The IMU supplements the existing traction control and ABS systems’ wheel speed sensors providing greater analysis of vehicle dynamic, thus allowing for better electronic intervention and more accurate computer control.

TCX X-Garage Boots

TCX blends fashion and function with its X-Garage boots ($199). Styled after a modern pair of high-top work shoes, the Italian-designed, and Romanian-made footwear is constructed from full-grain leather with a pliable sole that provides great grip on slick surfaces. Yet, the arch is strong enough to support and give some degree of protection against footpegs. Motorcycle-specific protection includes a fortified toe and heel cups. However it would be nice if the toe box was also reinforced to prevent wear from upshifts. A mesh interior keeps feet from overheating and the leather-grain upper seals well during chilly rides. If appearance is as important away from the motorcycle as it is while riding, you should try a pair. Fit is true to size.


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