The Diavel is Ducati’s biggest challenge ever—much bigger than last year’s groundbreaking adventure bike, the Multistrada 1200 S. With the Diavel, Ducati is treading on virgin turf, having created a new type of motorcycle and a new way to enjoy riding. The ingredients are all there: the look, riding posture, performance potential and sound.
The Diavel shares the Multistrada’s basic frame structure and four-valve, 90-degree 1200cc V-Twin in Testastretta 11-degree configuration—so called for the degrees of camshaft overlap. More importantly, it shares the same creativeness and pursuit of quality and efficiency that were not part of Ducati’s product policy until five years ago.
From any perspective, the Diavel is an impressive motorcycle. Its profile is unique, as it is its mission. Styling is enormously muscular—forward concentration of masses, lean rear section and fat rear tire. It looks like a linebacker ready to spring into action, the pads protecting his shoulders and back so thickly that the helmet disappears into his body. The headlight is almost flush with the massive 50mm Marzocchi fork and the protruding air intakes. The masses concentrated behind the front wheel form a complex, almost gothic image of clean, rounded surfaces, either in polished metal or dull black on which the vivid red of the steel trellis frame draws its elegant triangulations. No question, the Ducati styling department was given lots of freedom on this project, and the result is fascinating.
Ducati conceived the Diavel as a superbike with a power-cruiser soul but granted it all the best to perform like a superbike, including radial-mount Brembo Monobloc front brake calipers that ensure some of the strongest decelerations in the industry.
Just as the Diavel projects an aggressive, powerful image, and indeed, it indeed is very powerful. Ducati extracted a lot more than they gave the Multistrada: 162 horsepower at 9500 rpm and 94 foot-pounds of torque at 8000 rpm versus 150 hp at 9250 rpm and 87.5 ft.-lb. at 7500 rpm. The gains come from the curvaceous and rather intricate exhaust system (engineers resorted to hydroforming to correctly shape the 2-into-1 manifold) and superior efficiency of the Diavel’s dynamic air intakes.
As a result, the Diavel is a very accurately conceived and executed project. LEDs are used front and rear, and the turnsignals double as parking and stoplights. The 4.5-gallon gas tank is roto-molded in plastic and wrapped in a well-sculpted cowl—sheetmetal for the standard model and carbon fiber (about 7 pounds lighter) for the “Carbon” edition. The seat is 30.3 inches above the ground, the lowest in the Ducati corral despite very generous padding. A slightly less-plush version offers an even lower seating position of 29.5 inches.
This was made possible by another fundamental point of the Diavel project: a wheelbase of 62.6 inches. The rider sits aft of the pivot of the massive single-sided swingarm, but the passenger sits inboard of the rear axle since the swingarm spans 25.5 inches. This, as confirmed by Claudio Domenicali, has generated a weight distribution, at least under static conditions, of 50.8/49.2 front to rear. With the rider aboard, the numbers change significantly: 45.7/54.3. But, as I discovered, the bike is very pleasant to ride, even very fast on a twisty backroad.
Rolling gear is massively dimensioned, from the 50mm inverted Marzocchi fork to the cast aluminum swingarm to the dual-compound 240/45-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso II rear radial. Specifically developed by Pirelli for this application, the ultra-wide tire has a sport profile and a low aspect ratio for very solid and stable shoulders and real sport-riding qualities. In particular, the profile was optimized so that the rear tire would not tend to keep the bike upright, thus partly killing the Diavel’s agility. The fork is set at a 28-degree caster angle to enhance stability at speed but not distract form the crisp handling.
In particular, the richer Carbon version is beautifully executed. Both the cast aluminum wheels and the aluminum flanges of the brake rotors are first painted glossy black, then the edges of the spokes are machined and polished for a vividly contrasting metal-on-black effect. Ducati did not cut any corners here, even on details that once were not even taken into consideration because they did not improve a bike’s performance.
And performance potential is something the Diavel is not short of. For this first test in the south of Spain, I was entrusted with a red/black Diavel Carbon. Despite its intimidating look, the bike welcomed me aboard with its light weight, well-configured handlebar and low seat. The footpegs are set appropriately low in due relation to the seat, providing a very comfortable “tall-in-the-saddle” riding posture. The pegs limit lean angle to 41 degrees, but that proved to be more than adequate even for serious riding.
At cold start, the engine stabilizes quickly to a 1000-rpm idle, emitting the typical Ducati staccato, but on a slightly louder and raspy tone. The engine does not emit typical mechanical noise thanks to the insertion of a sound-deadening barrier inside the crankcase cover on the primary transmission side. This is big progress and should be applied to the whole model line.
The Diavel’s profile is unique, as it is its mission. Styling is enormously muscular—forward concentration of masses, lean rear section and fat rear tire.
The engine is incredibly strong, acceleration is terrific and the 100-mph mark is ridiculously easy to reach. I did it on the highway, and it was an exhilarating experience, using all 10,000 rpm the engine generously puts at disposal of the strong of heart. I must say that the wind pressure at that speed (the cold breeze penetrated well-padded riding gear!) is more than acceptable, making 80-mph cruising a very easy job. The ride-by-wire throttle offers a selection of three actuation modes: Urban, Touring and Sport. Traction control, selectable over eight levels of action, is also standard and was called into play on cold, slippery roads, making the three throttle modes somewhat redundant.
Negotiating some steep, tight hairpins on a twisty mountain road, the Diavel’s relative lack of flywheel mass, forced me to feather the clutch because the response was shuddery. On a beautiful turnpike reaching as high as 3000 feet through a breathtaking sequence of very fast bends, however, the Diavel showed that the concept for the project has been very well-executed. The bike is terribly fast and aggressive, and the well-sorted riding position induces the rider to probe limits normally identified with pure sportbikes.
As the bike was delivered to me, the rear suspension was too prone to squat under hard acceleration, inducing a clear tendency to run wide exiting corners full blast. Jacking up the rear end with four clicks of adjustment to the handy knob of the Sachs shock resulted in a perfectly neutral response under any circumstances. The bike then turned with razor-sharpness and followed the proper line, never again developing a way of its own.
As delivered from the factory, the Marzocchi front end is mighty solid and well tuned. The rear Pirelli deserves a special mention because it performed superbly even on the very cold tarmac of the mountain road. Ducati conceived the Diavel as a superbike with a power-cruiser soul but granted it all the best to perform like a superbike, including radial-mount Brembo Monobloc front brake calipers that ensure some of the strongest decelerations in the industry.
Ducatis are no longer crude missiles. Though no corners were cut anywhere in terms of equipment or attention to comfort, this massive Diavel tips the scale at just 463.5 pounds dry.
By the way, “Diavel” does not mean “devil” in the “Bolognese.” In fact, the word doesn’t even exist in the local dialect. Diavel is just the voluntary misspelling of the real word, Dieval, which would have been hard to read and pronounce, especially in English.