2020 Ducati Panigale V2 First Ride Review

Poor man’s Panigale inherits a wealth of riches.

As a matter of stride, a few hair-raising moments incurred during an on-track flog aboard a modern superbike is to be expected. Whether it’s the startling rear slide under power, slight wheel tuck on the brakes, or bit of spirited bar wag as the front gets light and touches down exiting a corner, such thrills and chills are part and parcel.

2020 Ducati Panigale V2
Enter the 2020 Ducati Panigale V2—a technologically updated and rebadged version of the outgoing Panigale 959.Ducati

I experienced nary a wide-eyed moment hot lapping Spain’s Circuito de Jerez astride the new 2020 Ducati Panigale V2. Ducati touts “accessible performance” and “total control” as key attributes of the generational update applied to its 959 Panigale V-twin. While this may sound like marketing hype, in my experience the V2 truly lives up to the claim.

Ducati Panigale
The V2 is a lower cost of entry to the Ducati Panigale family, pricing in at $16,495 in the United States.Ducati

Lap after lap the updated and rebadged Panigale V2 exhibited uncanny control at speed, displaying steadfast stability on the fastest straights, superb composure under hard braking, and slung through corners like a ball on a string. Perhaps most impressive was its new level of control on corner exit, laying down a steady stream of power that paints a thin arch of rear tire rubber as steady and precise as a pinstripe brush.

Credit Ducati’s MotoGP-derived EVO 2 Traction Control, a “predictive” TC strategy that debuted on last year’s Panigale V4 R superbike and has now been passed down and implemented throughout the Panigale model range. Ducati states this latest DTC acts on variation of spin intensity instead of instantaneous spin value, producing smoother and faster intervention with reduced spin oscillation resulting in improved grip.

4.5-inch TFT dashboard
The Panigale V2’s updated electronic suite is accessed through a 4.5-inch TFT dashboard, which also displays important information like engine rpm, gear selection, and speed while on track.Ducati

Featuring a six-axis Bosch IMU, the V2 electronics package also brings ABS Cornering EVO, Ducati Wheelie Control (DWC) EVO, and lean-angle-sensitive Engine Brake Control (EBC) EVO. Expanding on this, DTC offers eight sensitivity settings and off, four levels of DWC, three each for EBC and ABS, a choice of two ride-by-wire throttle response settings, and an option to reduce peak engine output to 105 hp.

Helping make sense of the plethora of variables is a trio of selectable ride modes labeled Race, Sport, and Street providing factory set values for each of the parameters. Better still, the modes can be fully customized within the menu system of the new 4.5-inch TFT dash to suit personal preference. A practical example of this is the ability to program each mode with identical preferred settings with the exception of assigning a unique DTC level to each, thus allowing you to toggle modes while riding to choose between the three DTC levels.

Ducati Panigale V2
The Ducati Panigale V2 gets a claimed 5 hp bump in comparison to the outgoing 959, producing 155 hp at 10,750. The most impressive aspect? Spot-on initial throttle response and a linear delivery.Ducati

The Superquadro 90-degree twin powering the V2 now complies with the Euro 5 emission standards, yet is up 5 hp on the 959 with a claimed peak output of 155 hp at 10,750 rpm and is blessed with a generous torque spread that remains within 40 percent of peak output across a 5,500-rpm band. The gains are attributed to the use of larger higher-flow injectors re-angled for improved fuel atomization along with improved intake efficiency. The latter comes via reshaped air inlets located beneath each headlamp, said to speed up airflow as it’s drawn in. The air is routed through revised ducts that now suffer less pressure loss as air feeds into the die-cast aluminum monocoque frame structure that serves as the airbox.

Chassis updates are comprised of the move to a single-sided swingarm, V4-style Y-spoke wheels, and recalibrated suspension damping for improved comfort on the street. Compared to 959 Panigale, the Showa BPF has been pulled up 2mm and a longer Sachs shock absorber (yielding a 5mm increase in rear ride height) that together with the new Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa II tires have reduced trail, resulting in a more agile steering character.

single-sided swingarm
Several chassis revisions—including a swap to a single-sided swingarm—contribute to an impressive blend of steadfast composure and cornering prowess.Ducati

Prior to my first on-track session I dove into the dash menu on pit lane and set Street mode to low power output to give this “wet road” mode a brief feel on the out lap while scrubbing in the fresh Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP V2 race rubber standing in for the stock fitment radials. My take on low power and Street mode’s default level-6 DTC is that while delivery is predictably tame, it felt very natural without an artificial feeling of ride by wire taking over too much right-wrist authority. Another V2 feature is Ducati Quick Shift EVO with auto-blip and lean angle awareness. A lap taken at a leisurely pace showed DQS should serve well on the street, providing very fluid shift action under light loads.

Toggling into Sport mode to finish out the session brought full peak power, albeit with throttle response remaining at its softer setting. With DTC now at level 4 there was far less midcorner traction control intervention as indicated by the yellow TC light located top center on the dash. As with Street mode, Sport uses level-3 ABS as default, a “road” setting providing front/rear cornering antilock and rear-wheel lift mitigation. I was impressed by how hard the front Brembo M4.32 Monoblock calipers could be smoothly applied without a hint of ABS intervention, though stabbing the lever invokes rear lift detection.

Brembo M4.32 Monoblock
The Brembo M4.32 Monoblock provides adequate stopping power, not to mention a predictable and noninvasive ABS intervention.Ducati

Altering Sport mode with DTC, DWC, and ABS each set to level 2 for the next session edged closer to unleashing the V2’s full performance potential. This setup allowed a balls-out pace with the wheels tracking true and in line throughout the lap. Level 2 ABS strategy replaces lift-up detection with rear slide by brake. Reluctant to attempt any back-it-in antics, somebody had no such qualms evidenced by the long black hacks entering a couple of hairpins.

Working through the six-speed gearbox proved buttery smooth, even when I disabled DQS for a handful of laps to check its native shift action. But that isn’t something you would ever need to consider as DQS EVO works superb even when leaned onto the tire’s edge and is programmed to shift even quicker at revs above 9,000 rpm. Simply put, the combination of auto-blip, EBC, slipper clutch, and cornering ABS is a marvel that makes a botched corner entry require serious negligence.

Ducati Panigale V2
The Ducati Panigale V2 is sneaky fast, packing a punch of entertainment without the drama of flogging a 200 hp open-class literbike.Ducati

My final session was in Race mode with “Direct” throttle response selected, minimum DTC intervention, and wheelie control turned off. Throttle control proved absolutely spot-on without a trace of on-throttle abruptness the name might imply. I also discovered that wheelie control really wasn’t needed at this particular track. Even with DWC disabled the front remained fairly planted driving hard off the tightest turns.

A modern-day middleweight in spirit, the Panigale V2 stokes the ego. Sneaky fast without drama, allowing the rider to feel as though you’re tapping it for all it’s worth, though it still has plenty of performance reserves in the bank.

2020 Ducati Panigale V2 Price And Specifications

Price $16,495
Engine 955cc, Superquadro liquid-cooled, 90-degree V-twin; 4 valves/cyl.
Bore x Stroke 100.0 x 60.8mm
Compression Ratio 12.5:1
Fuel Delivery Electronic fuel injection w/ ride by wire
Transmission/Final Drive 6-speed/chain
Claimed Horsepower 155 hp @ 10,750 rpm
Claimed Torque 76.7 lb.-ft. @ 9,000 rpm
Front Suspension 43mm Showa BPF fork, fully adjustable; 4.7-in. travel
Rear Suspension Sachs shock, fully adjustable; 5.1-in. travel
Front Brake Dual Brembo M4.32 4-piston calipers, 320mm discs w/ Cornering ABS EVO
Rear Brake Single 2-piston caliper, 245mm disc w/ Cornering ABS EVO
Tires Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa; 120/70ZR- 17 / 180/60ZR-17
Rake/Trail 24.0°/ 3.7 in.
Wheelbase 56.5 in.
Seat Height 33.1 in.
Fuel Capacity 4.5 gal.
Claimed Curb Weight 441 lb.
Contact ducati.com