Don’t be fooled by the Ducati XDiavel’s laid-back looks, says Roland Brown
The XDiavel is an extraordinary bike for Ducati to produce. So much so that the Italian firm, famed for racy V-twin sportsters and raw naked Monsters, had to prepare the ground first.
Five years ago Ducati was casting envious eyes at the huge US cruiser market. But the firm had decided that the world was not ready for a model so unlike a traditional Ducati. Instead, it launched the powerful, but laid-back, Diavel, with the advertising line “Don’t Call Me A Cruiser”.
The Diavel has been a success, and now Ducati considers the time right for the next step. But it is still hedging its bets, because the X in the XDiavel’s name signifies that this 1,262cc V-twin is a crossover between cruiser and Ducati.
The new bike certainly looks like a cruiser: long, low, and with front forks at an almost chopper-like 30 degrees. It’s painted black (matt for the standard model; gloss for the upmarket S, which adds a machined finish on engine covers and wheels), and has the obligatory fat rear tyre to enhance its muscular appearance.
Style concerns prompted an engine redesign. The liquid-cooled, desmodromic V-twin is an enlarged version of the Diavel unit, reworked with its water pump between the cylinders rather than on the outside, and with hoses carefully concealed. Final drive is via Ducati’s first toothed belt.
The engine is tuned for low-rev performance, helped by Ducati’s DVT variable-valve technology, which allows efficient combustion over a broad rev range. The maximum output of 156bhp is 6bhp down on the Diavel’s, but torque is substantially increased between 3,500rpm and 5,000rpm.
The XDiavel is also like no other Ducati to ride. By cruiser standards its seat is not that low. But you still reach over a long petrol tank to a wide, one-piece handlebar, then accelerate away with your legs stretched out to forward-set footrests.
When ridden gently the XDiavel’s engine is impressively refined, with a precise throttle response below 4,000rpm. And on the open road the bike lopes along smoothly, its rider’s life made easier by the standard cruise control, if not by the exposed riding position.
Any notion that the XDiavel is a typical cruiser disappears, though, when you wind back its throttle, especially when the bike is in the more aggressive Sport mode. It leaps forward, lifting its front wheel until the traction control cuts in, snarling through its exhaust as it accelerates at a rate that few superbikes could match.
But it’s the XDiavel’s chassis that really stands out. In a straight line the bike gives a reasonably comfortable ride. But on a twisty road it is a revelation, cornering with remarkable control for such a laid-back machine.
It’s no sports bike, and at almost 250kg with fuel no lightweight, but it steers accurately and allows respectable lean angles before a boot heel touches down. Twin front discs with Brembo monobloc calipers give ferocious braking, especially on the S model, which shares its M50 calipers with the racy 1299 Panigale.
By cruiser standards the XDiavel is also reasonably practical. Its fuel tank is adequately large, and its instrument panel informative. Ducati helps justify a high price with some neat touches, including keyless ignition and a separate dual-seat that incorporates a pillion backrest.
So, the XDiavel combines laid-back style and V-twin character with the exhilarating acceleration and some of the handling ability of a traditional Ducati. Whether the cruiser world is ready for such a bike even now remains to be seen, but in many ways this curious bike provides the best of both worlds.
Tested: 1,262cc four-stroke V-twin engine, six-speed gearbox
Price/on sale: £15,795 (XDiavel S £18,395)/now
Power/torque: 156bhp @ 9,500rpm/95lb ft @ 5,000rpm
Top speed: 150mph (estimated)
Range: 160 miles @ 45mpg (estimated)
Verdict: Stylish and original Italian V-twin cruiser that combines laid-back looks anda relaxed riding position with plenty of Ducati’s traditional performance and brio
Telegraph rating: Four stars out of five
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