Jun 23, 2023
2023 Ducati Streetfighter V4 S Review
To ride a Ducati Streetfighter V4 S is to take a step into performance naked-bike realms previously uncharted. By Rennie Scaysbrook At what point is too much, too much? It’s hard to say when we’re
To ride a Ducati Streetfighter V4 S is to take a step into performance naked-bike realms previously uncharted.
By Rennie Scaysbrook
At what point is too much, too much? It’s hard to say when we’re talking about the Ducati Streetfighter V4 S because although it has an excess of performance most super-nakeds could only dream of, just having too much of everything is one of those delightfully naughty feelings that makes you love motorcycles in the first place.
Put simply, this is the most hardcore naked bike you can buy. It’s not so much a naked bike as it is a full-on naked superbike, one that takes most of its hardware DNA from the Panigale V4 S and in 2023 has taken its software DNA, too.
The 2023 Ducati Streetfighter V4 S is more a case of refinement than any significant performance change, those upgrades almost all coming in the shape of electronic rider aids.
The motor remains unchanged for 2023 in the Desmosedici Stradale 90° V4 with its 1103 cubic centimeters pumped by a counter-rotating crankshaft in the true MotoGP form.
The Streetfighter’s hardware was never in question as it can lay claim to a frankly ludicrous 208 horsepower and 90 lb-ft of torque in a package weighing a claimed 434 pounds with a tank of fuel, which puts it right at the top of the naked-bike game, far outgunning the Aprilia Tuono V4 Factory and the KTM 1290 Super Duke—BMW’s M 1000 R, that’s another question.
But if that’s not enough for you, Ducati has given you the option of fitting a very similar titanium exhaust to that of Alvaro Bautista’s Panigale (with respect to noise limits, of course), that’ll boost power to a claimed 220 horsepower while dropping weight down a claimed 12 pounds. Read that again—220 horsepower out of a naked bike. Good grief. See what I mean about naked superbike?
However, in practice, the Streetfighter V4 S’s Desmodromic motor pulls a similar trick to that of the Ducati’s much, much smaller Monster. It’s quite the pussycat at low rpm—you can cruise around below 4000 rpm all day and never need to see north of 5000 rpm, because even at its base, before you worry about which riding mode you’re in, this is one of the finest big-bore motors ever created, with a split personality that can do slow just as easily as it can do fast.
For 2023, Ducati has played around with two key areas. The first is the one we’ll all notice more than not, in the new power modes for the ECU. At one end is a new Wet mode which restricts power to 165 horses with a softer throttle response; the second is the new Full power mode, which is even more chunky than the previously top level of High mode. This gives you the full whack of the V4 S’s might in every gear except first, which leads me into the second area of improvement.
Like the Panigale, the Streetfighter V4 S now has torque metering for each individual gear, with first gear’s torque delivery metered the most, while every proceeding gear gradually gives the rider more and more torque. Previously, the torque metering was done in gear groups (first and second, third and fourth, and fifth and sixth).
I will be honest and say I didn’t feel the difference as I’m not good enough to really tell, especially without riding the old bike and this new one back to back. What I can tell you is power delivery in all but the highest power mode is exceptionally smooth, especially when you consider the amount of power on tap, and it gets gradually more violent the higher up the scale you go.
When you hit Full power mode, mind you, things really start to happen. It’s not that you’re getting more overall power, as the 208 horsepower is the same across all riding modes bar the Wet mode, it’s that the throttle response in Full means you really do get all the desmo motor can throw at the rear tire. The Streetfighter V4 S turns from a, dare I say, docile beast, into a raging bull. The electronic suspension gets stiffer, the ride more taut and focused as you throw gears at it via what I feel is the best quickshifter on the market today that’s been improved for 2023. However, there’s so many other safety nets such as multi-stage wheelie, traction, slide and engine brake control, that to highside such a bike is absolutely impossible with them all turned on. Turn them off, however, and your ambition better not outweigh your talent.
Everything is adjusted through the revised dash that, again, comes off the Panigale. When the Superleggera came out back in 2020, we got the “Dovi dash,” named so as it was the preferred layout of the company’s then lead MotoGP rider Andrea Dovizioso. Dovi liked his gear position big in the center and all his parameters on the right side of the dash, so Ducati copied it, put it in the Superleggera, then the Panigale, and now the Streetfighter V4 S.
Inside the dash also sits a GPS lap timer, so you needn’t worry about flicking the high beam switch each time you cross the stripe.
The Streetfighter V4 S is absolutely a digital motorcycle. It’s been designed to work with the electronics, and the more you switch them off, the more talent you really need to go as fast as you were with them switched on.
Regarding the chassis, you’re basically as you were in 2022. The aluminum front frame design first pioneered on the Panigale V4 S has been retained, but the Streetfighter has taken the improvement made by Ducati to the Panigale last year by upping the swingarm pivot position 4mm to increase the ‘anti-squat’ effect to help the chassis maintain its composure when under initial acceleration but also to keep everything on the straight and narrow when all the power is loaded onto the rear tire.
The Ohlins Smart EC2.0 electronic suspension consisting of the NIX30 43mm inverted fork and TTX36 shock remains unchanged, and the same Brembo Stylema four-piston brake calipers that offer the kind of braking power normally reserved for proper race bikes, all reside on the 2023 edition. What’s new is that the show rolls on the new Pirelli Diablo Rosso IV Corsa rubber we tested recently at Mugello.
Subtle changes have been made to the riding position with a reshaped gas tank offering a handy 0.26-gallon capacity increase and allowing the rider to grip the outer edges better when braking. This is a good thing indeed as the ride from the Öhlins is quite stiff, even on standard settings, so any increased ability for the rider to hold himself under brakes better is welcome in my book.
The Streetfighter is a tiring motorcycle to ride fast for long periods. The lack of any form of wind protection, the extreme performance of that motor, and the cornering forces generated by the chassis—especially with the Pirelli Superbike slicks we rode with at the track-only launch at the Andalucía circuit in Spain—make for a truly immense motorcycle.
It’s also extremely comfortable. The seat foam is a generous 2.4 in. thick, more than double that of the Panigale. The cockpit feels like you’re sitting more on an office chair than the fastest naked bike in the world, and the rider triangle of seat-to-peg, peg-to-bar, bar-to-seat distance means riders of six feet tall and higher won’t be contorted into unwelcome shapes like they are on the Panigale. To that end, one of the testers in Spain noted it was too roomy for his 5’9” frame, which made me laugh as there was finally a bike designed around my frame and not his.
I’m sorry that this review has degenerated into a glowing piece for Ducati, but I genuinely find this bike very difficult to fault. Aside from the fact it costs $27,595 MSRP and doesn’t come with heated hand grips or cruise control (either or both would be great, thanks Ducati), everything else about this motorcycle is absolutely first class.
It’s expensive as hell—when you throw the extra pipe at it, you’re not getting much change out of $40,000—but it’s also a serious object of desire that’s hard to pass up.
Is too much of a good thing, you know, too much? Most of the time I’d agree with you, but on this one, I’ve got to admit, sometimes too much just isn’t enough. CN
We grabbed one of the busiest men at the international press launch for the 2023 Ducati Streetfighter V4 S, Ducati’s Vehicle Testing Department Manager Luigi Mauro, to go through the bike’s main points.
Tell us about the development link between the Streetfighter and the Panigale.
The Panigale is one of our most important bikes, therefore all of the effort is focused mainly on that bike. Using the experience with the development of Panigale, we made a completely new software for the Streetfighter, both for range and vehicle software. Traction control, anti-wheelie—all software related to safety that can help the driver. We made both of them initially new in the Panigale stage.
So that was for 2022?
Yes, 2022. The 2022 Panigale is the maximum expression of the Panigale. Then we move all this experience into the Streetfighter. Of course we didn’t move 100 percent. We move the structure of the software, but after that you have to adapt the software and create new calibration, both for engine and data.
The Streetfighter engine is pretty much unchanged, correct?
Yes, internally it has not changed. There is just a different homologation (Euro 5). So, you have two more lambda sensors after the previous and after the catalytic convertor. But, internally, the engine is the same.
What are the main things you are changing in the electronics from the Panigale to the Streetfighter to make it more rideable?
Regarding engine management, the bigger difference is the torque reduction because with this bike, the riding position is higher, so the center of gravity is higher. It’s a very powerful bike. 208 horsepower is a lot! Then it becomes difficult to manage. So, we decided to reduce the torque in first gear to give a more comfortable ride for people. In the Medium power mode, it is full power in fifth and sixth gear, but first, second, third and fourth gears, you have a torque reduction that as you go up the gears is less and less.
But this is different in Sport mode.
Yes. In the Sport riding mode, with the High power mode, you have a torque reduction in first, second and third gears. And with the Full power mode, you have just a very small reduction in first gear.
That’s primarily for the race mode?
Yes. For the track. But for example, for me it’s hard to drive with the Full mode because the power is too much. I’m not a professional pilot. I’m a normal person. So, I prefer to use the High mode, in which I have a small torque reduction, but it really helps me.
Making a high-performance bike is not easy because a lot of power is not manageable by a lot of people. You also have to consider this aspect. We don’t make a bike only for professional riders. Alessandro (Valia, Ducati’s Lead Test and Development rider) is happy without the torque reduction, but he is different to most riders! I am happy with torque reduction.
Depending on your riding ability and depending on the confidence you have on the track and with the bike, you can change this mode during the day. At this Andalucia circuit I can also ride with the Full power mode, but in many tracks, for example when I ride at Vallelunga in Rome, a track I use a lot, for me, riding the Panigale with the Full mode is too much. My lap time is slower because it’s too hard to manage. I can ride only for two or three laps very fast, and then the lap time increases because it requires too much effort in riding.
When I use the power mode with the torque separation, everything becomes easier. I can ride six, seven laps with the same lap time. I’m more constant. I’m more concentrated on the track, and my lap time is a little bit lower. So, everything is easier.
Tell me about the gear shift. One of the best things about this bike is how well it goes back through the gears at really high rpm.
Yes, the quickshifter, and the software that manages it, inside the ECU all comes from the Panigale, that’s why it works so well. But the bigger evolution of the quickshifter is on road, because we found a way to manage the gear shifting at low rpm and low torque that is much smoother.
How long until we get seamless shift gearbox like in MotoGP?
That’s a complicated matter [laughs]. We would like to do it, of course. Everybody wants it, but I don’t know if the market is ready.
It would be very expensive, too.
It would be expensive, plus I’m worried about reliability. In a racing bike, it’s one thing. Road bikes are completely different. Racing bikes are used only in one way, always the same, flat out. Streetbikes, you have to consider all riding conditions. So, it’s really more complicated.
Is the electronic suspension the same as the old model?
This new model is softer but more or less the philosophy is the same. So, it is the Öhlins event-based suspension. Thanks to the IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit) signals from acceleration, raw rate, pitch and lean, the software can recognize the driving phase in a very easy way. It’s not something complicated. Sometimes the better solutions are the easy ones, especially when you’re riding on track because you need the feeling. The feeling you have, the feeling only if there is a smooth evolution of the bike. Otherwise, you lose it immediately. You lose the connection. So, the secret of even today’s suspension is this. We don’t change immediately in 20 milliseconds the thing. There is a stepper motor that continuously changes it, but you don’t feel. You just feel more support on your braking, more support when you are accelerating, and very soft suspension when you are leaning, so you have more contact feeling, especially in the front. Only at high speed, the system acts also as a steering damper. Then you need a strong steering damper. Yes, it has to be softer at high speed, otherwise you have a weave effect. The Streetfighter, we keep the same soft spring as the previous model. This is a matter of comfort on road. Having a comfortable bike of this type on road is not easy.
On that note, it comes with a very comfortable seat!
The seat is 60mm thick. I made a very strong fight for this with the design department. Consider a Multistrada has 70mm, and the Panigale is around 30mm. But with this, you can really ride all the day. You cannot really go full touring, it’s not that kind of bike, but you can ride all day, enjoy the bike, and feel comfortable.
Was there ever any thought of putting cruise control on the Streetfighter?
It was not in our plan. Of course, if we want, it’s not hard to do it. I think a bike of this nature should have cruise control. It is a street bike. The guys that are going for these things are predominantly going to be street riders, that can occasionally go to the track. I just think for a bike of this price quality, putting cruise control on it shouldn’t be a problem.
We always have strong discussions about this. Honestly, my opinion, but this is my opinion, not the company’s opinion. I don’t like cruise control. Of course, in the car. I never use it. I use many other electronic devices, but cruise control is something that I don’t like because I need an active driving. I don’t want to relax.
The good thing about cruise control, at least for me, especially when you go through tunnels and you have lots of speed cameras, and you just find the speed.
That’s correct. But one problem could be the lever. You need some buttons to manage it. We decided to focus on the track experience, so we have different buttons and switches. If you look at Multistrada, it’s dedicated to the cruise control.
Tell us about the gas tank design.
Yes, the tank is different. It’s not exactly the Panigale tank, but it’s more or less the same. The fuel is held not just in the main tank but under the seat. I think biggest improvement with the tank is you have more support when you’re braking, but especially in the wind. The previous tank, we had some problems with it. Now there is nothing. So, you always have a clean, soft edges.Not much else to do when you’ve got shagged Pirelli slicks and 208 horsepower under your junk.By Rennie ScaysbrookThis is the definition of a bike that looks fast while standing still.The Desmosedici Stradale V4 motor is one of the modern engineering marvels in motorcycling.The new tank is a bit bigger and a bit easier to latch onto.The engine may be a star, but the Streetfighter will corner with incredible speed. Plus, the electronic suspension means you can tailor the ride how you like.The “Dovi Dash” has made it to the Streetfighter.A slightly softer rear spring resides on the Streetfighter compared to the Panigale.Pirelli Diablo Rosso IV CorsaA new exhaust muffler comes on the 2023 SF V4 S.Inspired by The Joker in Batman, the face is one of the iconic features of the Streetfighter.Mission control is a cinch to work out.CNSwitch the wheelie control off and it’s party time all the time on the Streetfighter.Luigi is the man that signs off on each Ducati model once it’s gone through all its tests. He’s kind of a big deal.Tell us about the development link between the Streetfighter and the Panigale. So that was for 2022? The Streetfighter engine is pretty much unchanged, correct? What are the main things you are changing in the electronics from the Panigale to the Streetfighter to make it more rideable? But this is different in Sport mode.That’s primarily for the race mode? Mauro also likes to get down on his company’s products and isn’t shy to give it some!Tell me about the gear shift. One of the best things about this bike is how well it goes back through the gears at really high rpm. How long until we get seamless shift gearbox like in MotoGP? It would be very expensive, too. Is the electronic suspension the same as the old model? On that note, it comes with a very comfortable seat! Was there ever any thought of putting cruise control on the Streetfighter? The good thing about cruise control, at least for me, especially when you go through tunnels and you have lots of speed cameras, and you just find the speed. Tell us about the gas tank design. 2023 Ducati Streetfighter V4 S SpecificationsMSRP:Engine:Valvetrain:Fueling:Cooling system:Displacement:Bore x stroke:Power (claimed):Torque (claimed):Electronics:Transmission:Clutch:Chassis:Front suspension:Rear suspension:Front-wheel travel:Rear-wheel travel:Front brake:Rear brake:Front tire:Rear tire:Seat height:Wheelbase:Rake:Fuel capacity:Weight (wet, claimed):Click here to read the 2023 Ducati Streetfighter V4 S Review in the Cycle News Digital Edition Magazine.Click here for the latest Cycle News Sportbike motorcycle reviews and news.Click here for more Ducati motorcycle reviews and news.