Important to note is that the 1199 Panigale comes in three versions: a standard model ($17,995), S model ($22,995) and S Tricolore model ($27,995). Differentiating the S model from the standard model is an electronically adjustable 43mm Öhlins front fork, similarly electronic TTX36 shock and forged Marchesini wheels. The S model is also shipped with an “aero kit,” which consists of two front-fairing attachments that increase aerodynamics. The S Tricolore Panigale features all the aforementioned updates, plus comes standard with ABS, Ducati Data Analyzer + (DDA+) and a one-off Italian livery. Depending on the country, it will also be shipped with a titanium racing muffler kit (something tells us U.S. customers won’t be so lucky as to get this, although we haven’t received official word). ABS can be added to either the standard model or S model, but costs an extra $1000.
My first chance to throw a leg over the Panigale came at Ducati’s international press launch, held at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi, UAE. The provided bikes were Bosch ABS-equipped S models. Convenient, especially considering a 25-mph windstorm was simultaneously battering the track as we lapped. Even when covered with a thin layer of sand, the Formula 1 circuit impressed; its 21-turn layout features everything from tight hairpin corners to a .7-mile main straight that put the Panigale deep in sixth gear.
In years past, Ducati superbike models have gained a reputation for being uncomfortable and downright abusive on a rider’s back. Forget everything you thought you knew about Ducati ergonomics however, because the 1199 Panigale feels like none of its predecessors from the helm. The seat has been pushed forward 30mm, resulting in a shorter reach to the clip-ons. And those clip-ons are now 10mm higher, plus very flat and 16mm wider at each end. The seat feels more recessed, meaning you sit in the bike rather than on top of it — this despite an increase in seat height from 32.2 inches to 32.5 inches. The riding position is similar — but more comfortable — to the Aprilia RSV4’s. That’s to say things are a touch on the tight side for riders over the six-foot mark, but comfortable for the average-sized rider.
It’s nearly impossible to overstate how important the 1199 Panigale is to Ducati. Not only does the bike represent the Italian manufacturer’s first attempt at a completely reworked superbike, but it also marks the first time Ducati engineers have done away with the time-honored technology that long made its line of superbikes so distinct. As if the pressure wasn’t already on, the release of the 1199 Panigale directly succeeded the very public failure of Ducati’s similarly constructed GP11 MotoGP bike. Put simply, Ducati engineers need the Panigale to work; if not to put the manufacturer at the top of the literbike class, then to at least reassure it that the time and money invested in developing a monocoque chassis was worthwhile.
It’s not just the bike’s monocoque chassis that separates the Panigale from its 1198 predecessor; rather a slew of technological updates and engine revisions — the 1199 is the epitome of a clean-sheet design. The only engineering concepts that have been carried over, for instance, are Ducati’s 90-degree L-twin engine configuration and proven desmodromic valvetrain. We’ve covered the mass of technical updates in previous issues (Late Braking, January ’12 and March ’12), plus you’ve likely already gone cross-eyed from reading the spec sheet elsewhere, so straight to the important part: what it’s like to ride the Panigale. In case you missed both of our tech-based stories of course, the tech sidebar on page 34 will bring you up to speed.