Ducati’s powerhouse supernaked, the Streetfighter V4 S, fits a new level of sportbike performance in a streetwise package
Photos: Lionel Kong
It has more than 200hp from an engine straight out of MotoGP, enormous wings on the front, and enough electronics to fly a jumbo jet.*
On the angry-insect face of it, Ducati’s Streetfighter V4 S is an eye-whitening, sphincter-clencher of a performance motorcycle. One that normal people, or at least those who enjoy a life without constant neck pain, should stay far away from.
But in real life what the Streetfighter V4 (henceforth the SF) does better than almost any competitor, or Ducati bike for that matter, is deliver the performance and intensity of a sports bike in a package that is truly easy to live with day-to-day.
*Not a Boeing 737 MAX with MCAS don’t worry.
First off, a very short primer: A ‘street fighter’ in the classical sense of motorcycling means a sportbike with most of its fairing gone, and its clip-ons replaced with high-rise handlebars, all the better for urban hooliganism.
Modern street fighters have refined the idea to make high-performance road bikes sans fairings, from Honda’s excellently smooth CB 1000 R to BMW’s headstrong S 1000 R. In contrast, a naked road bike like the Ducati Monster 821 or BMW F 900 R are generally acknowledged to be less sporty and more general purpose.
Ducati’s last Streetfighter (above) was in 2007 and four generations ago, derived from the Ducati 1098 superbike, and in the interim we’ve had the 1198, 1199, 1299, and current Panigale V4 sportsbikes, but no real SF until now.
However the final presentation wasn’t the most polished, the peaky, race-bred V-twin engine that lacked low-end, and wasn’t very ‘streetable’ at all.
In that sense it was a true street fighter, simply a focused sportsbike with different clothes and a lot of Italian character for better or worse, mostly to the detriment of road riders who weren’t willing to fang it absolutely everywhere.
To put that into context, even Ducati’s current street-focused sportsbike, the Supersport, isn’t entirely shorn of a V-twin’s dislike of low-speeds.
That’s all gone out the window and the crux is the engine switch: The V4 changes everything you know about Ducatis, since it’s literally a cross between the familiar, easy characteristics of an inline four and the grunty, lumpy character of a V-twin
The 1,103cc V4 is carried over from the Panigale V4 with minor changes. It has 208hp down from 214hp, unique engine mapping and slightly lower gearing.
But we suspect what will hook many is the fact that the SF sounds like a MotoGP bike. V4s are the engine layout of choice for that series, for numerous engineering reasons, and the spine-tingling, hollow drone-howl of a V4 is also the best-sounding of them all.
For a modern bike the SF is ballsy and loud, and its downward-pointing exhaust makes it thunderous in carparks with low ceilings, but at a standstill you might wonder where the special V4 sound is.
That’s because the bike shuts off the rear cylinders when the bike is stopped, which is a godsend for Italian bike owners who have faced the very literal heat on their nether regions for many years. Another plus is that the tucked-away exhaust means nothing to foul your right foot, another Italian bike ‘signature’ we could have long lived without.