Ducati: The Diavel made me do it

By Jacqui Madelin

Ducati peels the wrappers off two cruisers that part the traffic - and your hair, writes Jacqui Madelin.

Talk about parting traffic. Wind the throttle open to release Armageddon, a rocking, rolling, mad, bad soundtrack that's part sex, pure muscle and sends cars diving for the verge in fright. Yet Diavel divided Ducati fans when it was first announced. A fat-tyred cruiser from a brand best known for sweet-handling sports bikes? Not since Porsche revealed an SUV have performance-focused petrolheads expressed such outrage.

But this reality is something else again. For starters, at 239kg Diavel is considerably lighter than the average cruiser. And though the seating position is comfy it's also purposeful. Swing a leg aboard, fire the throttle and your first thought isn't of idling past palm-fringed beaches while admiring the burbling warble from your shiny chrome pipes, but thrusting through traffic and rocketing to far horizons to a heavy metal soundtrack.

The rocketing comes courtesy of a Testastretta L-twin engine that's the same basic unit as the Multistrada 1200s but with a different exhaust and airbox for more power, with 119kW and 127.5Nm put to the mighty rear wheel via a six-speed transmission.

That's harnessed via your right wrist and several riding modes adjusted through a handlebar-mounted button to make it more manageable round town, comfy when touring and potent when bends beckon.

Regrettably, Ducati's suspension tuners assumed an 85kg rider and, despite an unseemly passion for chocolate, I'm nowhere near that, so ride was rather firm. But front up with the $29,490 to $36,990 needed to buy a Diavel - the amount determined by how many cosmetic and performance extras you want - and the default setting can be dialled to suit you. ABS is fitted as standard, as it is on all bar two down-under Ducatis, along with traction control.

We didn't get to see how well that worked and couldn't make the most of the bike's neck-wrenching acceleration thanks to the sedate pace set by our Ducati Australia minders, but did note its surprisingly tractable handling, that fat rear tyre happy to roll in and out of bends without exerting its own agenda, and Diavel feeling more like a sporty naked muscle bike than a tourer.

Under acceleration, anyway. With our speed dictated by the Sydney region's swarming traffic police, Diavel felt more deckchair than devil, which was frustrating given it's clear this bike has injected sporting ability in a bracket from which it's usually absent.

The Multistrada equally re-invigorated the adventure breed when it launched. Its dual-purpose persona was better suited to our relaxed ride, but between your knees again beats that 1200cc Ducati engine and a fruity soundtrack that rarely lets you forget this high-riding any roads tourer has an Italian engine at its heart.

All four versions get the 1198 V-twin motor with 110kW and 119Nm, plus the riding modes that let you vary power and traction control at the flick of a button, with price ranging from $29,490 to $39,990.

The Multistrada looks big and, with its hawk nose, suitably aggressive - but at 850mm the seat isn't unfeasibly high. Swooping down tree-lined roads and over undulating hills, you appreciate the suspension's compliance.

But, as the road twists, you flick to a sportier ride mode and tip it deep into bends, then punch out of corners with the hairy-chested brio and look-at-me soundtrack associated with this Italian brand.

Ducati's headliners may be superbikes, the lean, mean Panigale or the 848 Evo's slice of speed; its Italian persona lavished on the overt muscle of the Monster and hyperactive Hypermotard, but not everyone has pure aggression in their veins. Even muscle-men put their feet up sometimes. That Diavel can deliver hair-raising acceleration with decent touring manners and Multistrada aggressive corner-carving with any-roads tractability shows this formerly niche brand is here to stay.

- NZ Herald

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