When Audi acquired Ducati for about $1 billion in 2012, many automotive industry observers wondered, “WTF?” Was it just a trophy acquisition for Volkswagen Group honcho and motorcycle enthusiast Ferdinand Piech, who had passed up the chance to pick up the iconic Italian motorcycle manufacturer on the cheap back in the 1980s? Or would VW Group try to resuscitate the perennially cash-poor company, like it had with Lamborghini, Bentley or Bugatti?
Looks like, under Audi’s aegis, Ducati is getting ready to kick it up a notch. A sneak preview of that was provided here March 3 when a newly redesigned Ducati Diavel motorcycle was introduced along with Audi’s new automotive models at the swank Geneva Motor Show.
The original Diavel had only just come out when Audi bought the company, so a statement is being made, by investing heavily in a revision of a very successful motorcycle, after little more than three years on the market. By comparison, Yamaha waited 23 years to re-do its V-Max – a motorcycle that is considered a pioneer of the muscle cruiser genre.
How does the new Diavel differ from the old one? Well, here is how Cycle World once memorably described the original Diavel:
“The Diavel is a hot-chili-oil gel-cap suppository up the rectum of all that is sedentary and conventional, and as more than one of us has observed, it’s going to get somebody arrested.”
Okay. That’s a lot to live up to! The original Diavel offered 162 horsepower in a package that weighed little more than 400 pounds. It ranked among the fastest production motorcycles ever built, with a 0-60 time of 2.6 seconds. But the experience of riding it that hard was more terrifying than satisfying. It was a raw, rough-edged ride; power came on like a sledgehammer between the eyes. Top speed is an unlisted number you are never likely to call.
Ducati’s mission was make the new version every bit as quick – and maybe even a tick or two quicker – but “smoother and more enjoyable” to hammer. Think “ride-ability”.
The 90-degree, four-valve, liquid-cooled, 90-degree, 1198cc V-twin engine has been completely re-worked, Ducati says. Peak horsepower from is now reached at 9,250 rpm, instead of 9,500; torque has been maximized from 94 pounds-feet to 96.2. Part of the power-burst comes from new pistons with a 12.5:1 compression ratio – up from 11.5:1 – and a “radical” adjustment in cam timing.
But one of the biggest performance enhancements is in how the bike breathes, through revised intake and exhaust ports, and an improved air box and freer-flowing exhausts.
Three adjustable throttle settings allow full power for sport riding, maximum power with an added degree of that “ride-ability” for rider and passenger for touring, and a moderated 100-horsepower mode for urban use and for riding in wet conditions.
Despite the huge 240 section rear tire, Ducati promises that along with engine improvements to make the Diavel accelerate faster and with greater smoothness, and stop quicker with improved brakes, it will also handle with more agility.
Visually, the new Diavel still looks like a plumber’s garage sale, with exposed pipes, tubing and ductwork twisted, threaded and woven around every inch of it. But there is more integration and sophistication evident; it even appears to be a bit more comfortable and ergonomically friendly to ride. And no sign of that odd license plate holder that used to hover over the rear tire.
And while we await an actual test ride to benchmark Audi/Ducati performance claims for the new Diavel, I’m happy to report that even in mostly black Dark Stealth livery, it still looks red hot.
March 3, 2014