The Ducati Multistrada V4 S marks a defining moment in modern motorcycling—we are now entering the age of radar.
It’s been 26 years since Mitsubishi outfitted their 1995 Diamante sedan with the first production Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) system (then dubbed the Preview Distance Control system). The system wasn’t capable of applying the brakes but was able to slow the vehicle down by reducing throttle and downshifting the transmission. The technology has come a long way since then.
Fast forward to 2021 and Ducati can put the feather of being the first motorcycle company to bring such technology to the public firmly in its cap, beating its rivals to the punch.
Thanks to the radar and the Blind Spot Detection software added to the machine’s electronic arsenal, the Ducati Multistrada V4 S can also lay claim to be the safest motorcycle on the road today. We’ve never had a motorcycle packed with this level of safety technology, nor have we had a V4 sports tourer capable of over 250 km/h. Putting those two points in one sentence is rather odd, I grant you, but hang with me on this one.
There are three versions of Multistrada – the base model, V4 S with cast or spoked wheels, and the V4 S Sport. Starting MSRP starts at $22,395 for the V4, $26,795 for the V4 S and $28,995 for the V4 S Sport. Our test consisted of the V4 S on both the cast and spoked wheels, so we’ll focus on that for the purpose of this review.
For those skeptical of allowing a computer to dictate your proximity to the vehicle in front, I don’t blame you. It takes a leap of faith to trust the radar system, however, once you do so, you’ll not look at freeway riding the same again. It works like this: You’re riding down the freeway and set cruise control to 110 km/h. Your Adaptive Cruise Control distance is set to, say, level three of four, giving you plenty of space to the car way up in the distance. As you gradually close on said car that’s traveling 100 km/h, you’ll get to within a certain predetermined distance of the rear bumper, but no more. The radar will hold you there.
As the car speeds up, so too will the Ducati, with no extra input from your right wrist. Conversely, as the car slows, the radar sends a signal to the ECU to slowly close the throttle bodies and apply a touch of front and rear brake pressure to keep you at a safe distance.
When it’s time to pass, simply put your indicator on, move to the left and out of the radar’s field of view, and within a couple of seconds, the Ducati will start accelerating back up to 110 km/h—again, with no extra throttle input. You pull back into your lane and you’re on your way. Pretty neat.
Another exceptional feature is the Blind Spot Detection (BSD) software. A rear radar unit sits below the seat, just above the number plate. It emits a signal to the ECU that tells you via a yellow light mounted in the corners of the Ducati’s mirrors that a vehicle (car, bike, truck, etc.) is in your blind spot. If you then put your indicator on as though you were getting ready to change lanes, the light will start flashing furiously, so brightly it’s impossible to ignore. Of course, it goes without saying that this doesn’t replace the need for a mirror and shoulder check, but it provides an added level of safety that could certainly come in handy. Hopefully more than a few lives will be saved with this feature.
The fact the V4 S happens to have one of the most spectacular engines ever wedged into a bike in the sport touring market is secondary to the impact the radar system will have on motorcycling as a whole, but we’ll ruminate on it anyway. Put simply, the V4 S’s motor makes the old L-twin feel somewhat anemic. It’s a sophisticated monster, like a Light Heavyweight UFC champion in a tuxedo. Refined, yet capable of awe inspiriting feats of sheer performance seemingly without breaking a sweat.
Ducati is claiming 170 hp at 10,500 rpm and 92 lb-ft of torque at 8,750 rpm. The company told us its third gear roll-ons at 100 km/h showed the motor produced 25 per cent more torque than the outgoing 1,262cc L-twin.
Plus, there’s the superb suite of rider electronics. As it has always said on the Multistrada packet, there’s four riding modes of Sport, Touring, Urban and Enduro, the latter of which limit’s the V4’s output to 100 hp. Sport mode is without a doubt where the party’s at, as you get the full hit of the motor with stiffer suspension settings to boot. The Multistrada goes from a cushy freeway cruiser to a taller, wider, more comfortable Panigale. Its sporting prowess is immense. When matched with the Ducati Skyhook Suspension that’s in charge of the 50 mm Marzocchi fork and monoshock’s action, not to mention the superbike-spec Brembo Stylema front brakes, there are few bikes that will stay with it in the twisties. And likely none that will do it as comfortably.
The motor is mounted within a new aluminum monocoque frame, connected to a steel trellis subframe and redesigned double-sided swingarm. The spread of torque is massive, with acceleration on hand from 3,000 rpm right up to past the peak power level of 10,500 rpm. This is achieved by boring out the V4 S’s motor—kindly donated by the Panigale V4 S—two millimeters to 83 mm for a capacity of 1,158cc. However, unlike the Panigale and for that matter, every modern Ducati, the Multistrada V4 S doesn’t use Ducati’s trademark desmodromic valve train system. Instead, the company has employed conventional valve springs to increase the valve service intervals to a massive 60,000 km! That’s currently more than any production motorcycle on the market, although we still recommend changing your oil long before that point.
The Multistrada V4 is also notable for the new 19-inch front wheel, which puts it in better stead for off road riding and on par with something like the BMW R 1250 GS. If you go for the more off-road-specific spoked wheels at purchase, you’ll likely fit up the Pirelli Scorpion Rally rubber. And that’s where the Multistrada shows its limitations. At a claimed (243 kg) 536 lb curb weight with a tank full of gas before being loaded up with gear, the Multistrada is a big bike when bashing away off the beaten path. It’ll do light adventure work with ease, but this is more like a two-wheeled BMW X6 rather than a Jeep Wrangler. It’s capable of getting off-road, but don’t go rock hopping on it any time soon.
As for the dash, the engineers have spent a huge amount of time trying to make the user experience a better one when it relates to phone mirroring, navigation, communication and vehicle dynamics adjustment. The main feature is the new partnership with navigation company Sygic, which works in conjunction with the Ducati Connect app. The USB connector for your smartphone is located in a neat little compartment behind the fuel cap.
The Sygic navigation app is pretty easy to use but takes a bit of playing around if you’re used to Google Maps, for example. The system will let you program your music, but it sadly won’t let you play songs off Spotify like you can with Apple CarPlay. Variable riding modes are much easier to access thanks to a joystick on the left handlebar, in much the same fashion as Triumph has had for many years.
The Ducati Multistrada, in becoming a V4, has changed its persona drastically. There are very few machines on the road today that can match its sheer breadth of performance, especially on the road. The V4 has also highlighted Ducati’s dire need to build a real adventure bike that could go against something like the KTM 890 Adventure R, perhaps using the 937cc twin that powers the Supersport models.
It’s a splendid street bike, but it gets overtaken off-road. Ducati has the BMW R1250GS in their sights with the Multistrada V4 lineup, but they may be more likely to be cross shopped with the S1000XR or R 1250 RS. Still, there’s plenty of commercial credibility in being the first to bring radar to the market, and Ducati has created an absolute masterstroke in the Multistrada V4 S.