Ducati reinvents the superbike with its 1199 Panigale

Ducati is on a tear. While most of the motorcycle industry remains flat, the Italian manufacturer has refused to let go of the throttle. Sales are up 47% so far this year compared with 2010 -- a trend that is likely to continue when it introduces its 1199 Panigale next April.

The Panigale, which makes its North American debut Friday at the International Motorcycle Shows expo in Long Beach, boasts the highest power-to-weight and torque-to weight ratios of any production motorcycle on the planet. It cranks an astounding 195 horsepower from its svelte 361.5-pound frame. But that isn’t its greatest achievement. An extreme reinvention of decades of Ducati superbikes, the Panigale is packed with performance and safety improvements that seem almost impossible to deliver for a starting price of $17,995.

To underscore its significance, Ducati’s newest superbike takes a name along with a number for the first time in company history. So called for the Bologna, Italy, neighborhood where the bike is built, the Panigale is notable for a seemingly bottomless grab bag of cutting-edge innovations, including a new monocoque skeleton. A complete departure from the trellis frame of superbikes past, the monocoque directly attaches to the cylinder heads and, as a result, forms its own air box, negating the need for a separate component. The monocoque design also allows the engine to bear some of the burdens of the frame as a stressed member, which helps keep the bike lightweight and well-centered for better handling. The Panigale is 22 pounds lighter than the 1198 and has gained 25 horses.

The Panigale marks the debut of a new Superquadro engine, which not only tweaks Ducati’s 90-degree L-twin to produce more top-end power and low-end grunt, but also extends the major service interval to 15,000 miles. In the Panigale, the Superquadro is rotated slightly backward, allowing its rear to attach to a die-cast, single-sided aluminum swingarm.


In addition to increasingly standard anti-lock brakes and traction control, the Panigale’s S and Tricolore permutations are outfitted with an electronic Ohlins suspension and a new engine brake control system.

Like the Multistrada and then the Diavel, the Panigale is outfitted with ride-by-wire technology that enables three different riding modes at the touch of a button. “Race” gives track riders unrestricted access to the bike’s full horsepower while reducing the traction control, modifying its engine braking and tweaking the anti-lock brakes so they apply only to the front wheel. “Sport” is designed for track or street use and smooths the power delivery, adding slightly more traction control. “Wet” restricts the bike to 120 horsepower and increases traction control. Taking a cue from the luxury auto market, the settings and other relevant information are visible on a new full-color display.

2012 Ducati Panigale

Base price: $17,995*


Available: April 2012

Powertrain: Fuel-injected, liquid-cooled, 90-degree L-twin cylinder, four valves per cylinder, six speed

Displacement: 1198 cc

Maximum horsepower: 195 at 10,750 rpm


Maximum torque: 98.1 pound-feet at 9,000 rpm

Dry weight: 361.5 pounds

Fuel economy: Not yet available

*1199S $22,995; 1199S with ABS $23,995; 1199 Tricolore $27,995