2017 Ducati xDiavel review, test ride

It was an unforgettable scene, right out of a Ghost Rider comic. After a long day of shooting at a location about four hours from home, I returned to discover that the torrential rain had brought life in the suburbs to a standstill. Traffic snarls are never fun, less so on a 152hp fire-breathing beast. But in that painful clutch-in, clutch-out drudgery, the new XDiavel dramatically validated its name. The unceasing rain, locked in an unwinnable battle with mighty 1262cc, L-twin engine, would vaporize on contact. The thick billows of steam rising off the motorcycle and the piercing white LED headlight lent the bike an eerie, menacing presence. And so, for the next two hours, this snarling, steaming beast inched its way towards the city, whipping heads around every minute of the way. The beast has certainly not been tamed!

Looks to kill

It may share most of its name with the old Diavel, but nearly every component on the new XDiavel is different. It doesn’t replace the Diavel, but will be sold alongside as a more stylised, cruiser kind of bike. The differences begin with the appearance. The XDiavel features a slimmer, lighter look with glossy and machined-finish parts that introduce a sense of beauty previously lacking in the Diavel. The side-mounted radiators of the Diavel have been moved to the front here, putting the grey finished trellis frame on display. The 18-litre tank is long, just as on the Diavel, but now tapers to an ultra-slim waist at the rider seat, before the lines widen once again towards the tail. The twin-slash brake light theme continues, but the headlamp unit is far sleeker with a menacing daytime running light covering the top half.

The bike’s pretty side is the right, with the enormous, machined wheel proudly on display. This being the higher-spec XDiavel S model, the engine casings get a similar machined look with a gloss black finish. Dual slash-cut exhaust pipes are also visible, along with the large collector box – an ugly necessity to conform to strict new emission norms. The XDiavel ships with an optional long rear seat and a backrest. This bike is running the long seat option, but even that is a rather precarious perch best saved for short rides and brave passengers. The number plate holder is a solid hunk of metal that extends from the swingarm and frees the tail from any extensions for the splatter guard, giving it a lovely, cantilevered look.

There’s a new, 3.5-inch TFT colour screen between the tank and handlebar, while the telltale lights get their own tiny display above the handlebar. While it’s fairly easy to read, we noticed that the greens look grey from the rider’s point of view. The red backlighting for the switchgear forms an ‘X’ on the left bar at night; a cool touch.

The XDiavel finds allure in a naked, industrial form through the high levels of finish and minimal design. It’s almost perfectly executed, but there are a few minor niggles like the haphazard snaking of hoses near the headstock and the uneven, lumpy welds on the swingarm. Overall, the exposed frame, intricate single-side swingarm and huge rear wheel work with the slim tail and highly finished parts to make a beautiful motorcycle.

Thrill or chill?

This is the second motorcycle from Ducati’s stable to use its clever DVT variable valve timing system after the Multistrada 1200. However, on the XDiavel Ducati has stroked out the motor from 1,198cc to 1,262 cc. Power matches the old Diavel’s 152hp, but torque has increased by 3Nm to 126Nm. Interestingly, the torque peaks at a significantly lower 5,000rpm instead of the earlier 8,000rpm.

Low-end torque is what cruisers are about, but like most big V-twins, the XDiavel doesn’t like the revs to drop too low. DVT has smoothed the engine by a tangible margin from 2,000-4,000rpm but dropping the revs below that results in the typical unhappy clunking and chugging from the motor. The six-speed gearbox runs the same tall ratios from the Diavel, further highlighting the motor’s dislike for low revs. The inclusion of belt drive has vastly improved low-speed refinement, resulting in a smooth, quiet operation where the Diavel’s chain used to constantly clatter against the swingarm. The usual Kevlar-infused belt drives as seen on the average cruiser aren’t strong enough to handle the XDiavel’s ferocity, so Ducati developed a special carbon-fibre reinforced unit. And boy, does it have a lot to handle.

With this level of power, a fat 240 section rear tyre and a long, stable chassis, the Diavel was one of the hardest accelerating motorcycles on the planet. The new XDiavel operates at the same level, but now offers DPL, or Ducati Power Launch – a three-stage launch control system that makes launching the bike a little less scary. The system allows the rider to keep the throttle wide open, smoothly release the clutch and lets the electronics handle the rest.

Needless to say, performance is thrilling, bordering on frightening. Tested in damp conditions, we set a 3.4s 0-100kph time. All through the entire run, the front wheel was trying to meet the sky, only to be reined in by the eight-level adjustable traction control. 200kph arrives so ferociously, you only realise it when your brain registers the wind force trying to peel you off the fairing-free motorcycle.

Thankfully, the XDiavel isn’t all aggression. Of the three riding modes on offer, Urban mode restricts power to 100hp and offers milder responses through the ride-by-wire throttle. Here, the XDiavel is mild mannered and quite friendly to potter around town. Touring mode continues to offer a mild throttle response, but gives the rider access to the full 152hp, while Sport mode sharpens engine response and offers reduced intervention from the electronic safety net. Each mode configures traction control and ABS function, with the TFT screen displaying a different theme depending on the mode.

In the city, we found that the XDiavel runs hot, but not quite as much as the older Diavel. Outright performance is at the same insane level, but the XDiavel does low-speed riding a good deal better than its sibling.

Hot to handle

On paper, this bike shouldn’t handle like it does. The enormous 240 section rear Pirelli Diablo Rosso II sits at the far end of an enormous 1,615mm wheelbase – a big jump from the Diavel’s already expansive 1,580mm wheelbase. Rake is also up from 28 degrees to 30 degrees; the same angle as the Harley-Davidson 1200 Custom. Then there’s the riding position. The original Diavel had a stretch to the bars but the rider’s foot pegs were directly below. The new one is far more cruiser-like, with a lower 755mm seat and forward-set foot controls. However, the foot pegs are adjustable to three levels and, along with optional seats and handlebars, Ducati claims up to 60 riding position combinations. Despite looking smaller than the Diavel, kerb weight has risen by 13kg to 247kg. However, in city traffic, the XDiavel feels lighter than the weight suggests. At lower speeds, the fat rear tyre tends to follow imperfections in the road, but you soon grow to predict it. Another quirk is that the tyre tends to aquaplane a bit, especially when mildly leaned over through standing water, but the traction control system keeps things safe.

The XDiavel runs massive 50mm upside-down Marzocchi forks and a Sachs rear shock. The front is fully adjustable, while the rear offers preload and rebound adjust, but misses out on the remote pre-load adjuster. Suspension at low speeds is firm but with a decent level of bump absorption. However, at highway speeds, there’s little give over large bumps or poorly designed expansion gaps. The forward-set foot pegs make it hard to get off the seat, transmitting the entire shock to your lower back. Ride quality is firm but reasonably usable, while the low ground clearance requires caution on larger speed breakers. However, neither is a deal-breaker.

The sportbike-firm suspension reaps benefits in the handling department. Like the Diavel, the long wheelbase and raked-out front end result in the handlebar tending to flop around while cornering. It takes a fair bit of countersteer pressure on the bar to turn the bike in and keep it leaned over. But from then on, the XDiavel will shock you with its capabilities.

With 40 degrees of cornering clearance, the XDiavel can reach considerable lean angles, resulting in some serious corner speeds. Then there are the brakes. The standard xDiavel runs Brembo’s excellent M4.32 radial calipers, while the XDiavel S gets the range-topping M50s, the very same brakes on the 1299 S Panigale! The M50s offer a stunning performance with a bite so sharp it borders on excessive for the city. Both xDiavels get the added security of Bosch’s cornering ABS. With this level of capability, a well-ridden XDiavel will keep up with most sports bikes on all but the tightest of roads.

The more compelling buy

The XDiavel does an excellent job of making the Diavel more identifiable as a cruiser while losing none of the ‘Ducatiness’ within. It offers a more comfortable and refined experience as a cruiser, yet delivers the same mind-altering punch of performance when you desire it. The sleek, sensational look also earns it tonnes of street cred.

Prices start at Rs 16.8 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) for the less flashy standard XDiavel that gets a simpler rear wheel design and skips the machined/polished treatment on the rear wheel, engine cases and belt cover. It also drops the pretty machined mirrors, LED DRL and top-shelf Brembo M50s.

For Rs 19.26 lakh, you get all that kit on the XDiavel S as well as Bluetooth connectivity for the rider. These prices position the motorcycle about Rs 1 lakh over the corresponding Diavel model. Like its sibling, the XDiavel is not a motorcycle for beginners or the faint-hearted but it can be a proper thriller in capable hands. It’s also a prettier bike and marginally easier to live with, and that makes it well worth the extra money.