Ducati Diavel vs. Star V-Max | MC Comparo

Smoking Guns

By Tim Carrithers, Photography by Kevin Wing

Ducati Diavel
Nobody wanted Ducati to build a cruiser, including Ducati. So they built this instead. Regardless of whether you see the Diavel as an abomination or a breakthrough, it’s definitely a Ducati, and definitely not a cruiser. It is long, low, lean and mean enough to impress the Starbucks style council for $2985 less than the V-Max. More comfortable ergos and three electronic drive modes mean you can slow down and cruise Main Street to give everybody a better look.

The hot version of Ducati’s Multistrada 1198 sounds like a muffled Pro Stock V8 at idle. Lateral-mount radiators keep the bike narrow and running cool. Sportier geometry and less daylight between the axles make the 531-lb. Ducati a scalpel in traffic. The engine tolerates trolling below 3500 rpm. Another 2000 rpm on the LCD tach pulls your arms straight with a teaser of coming attractions.

Ease onto the freeway, click into sixth gear, and vibration fades. Find your sweet spot on the seat. Assuming you’ve softened up the suspension as well, the Ducati is a surprisingly comfy freeway ride. Averaging 36 miles on every gallon of super-unleaded—about 145 on a 4.5-gallon tankfull—this Italian spends less time at the pump and more on the road.

Though it won’t threaten Ducati’s sportier 1198 or even a big Monster, a well-ridden Diavel has the V-Max covered in the corners. That phat, 240/45-17 Pirelli injects some non-linear weirdness into the steering, and it always feels like there’s a lot more Diavel out back than up front. Get over that and handling is far more intuitive than the specs suggest. Quad-piston Brembo Monobloc front calipers generate more feel and initial bite than Mr. Max’s six-pot Sumitomos. Cornering clearance is adequate, and with some help from that stickier rear tire, Ducati’s excellent adjustable traction control minimizes unwelcome excitement exiting corners on the gas.

Grab a large handful at 5500 rpm and the seat of any accurate pair of leather pants registers 145 peak horsepower. Imagine our surprise, then, when our testbike managed a relatively underwhelming 129 bhp at 9300 rpm, especially when Ducati specs claim 162 cavalli at 9500. What gives? We’re not sure, but other press bikes make about the same power. Disappointing? Sure, but the lighter Diavel is still astonishingly quick at the strip.

How quick? With the DTS traction control switched off, Gene Thomason found the lighter, less powerful Diavel easier to launch. Journeymen triggermen agreed. That makes low 10-second runs easy—if you’re Gene Thomason. The Ducati’s best 10.13-second run at 135.9 mph wasn’t, and it wasn’t enough to beat the V-Max at the strip.

Even so, on the street the Diavel is better at most everything else for nearly three grand less. That beats winning by nine-hundredths of a second at the strip 10 times out of 10— unless you’re Gene Thomason.

Off The Record
Brian Catterson, Editor-in-Cheese
Age: 49 | Height: 6'1"
Weight: 215 lbs. | Inseam: 34 in.

Try as I might, I just don’t get power cruisers. The original ’80s V-Max was cool for what it was: a standard-style motorcycle disguised as a muscle car. But this new one is damn near as big as an automobile! I don’t deny that there’s a primal appeal to straddling a powerful V-motor, but if I wanted that, I’d go all-in and buy a Boss Hoss.

The Diavel is little better—basically a stretched and slammed Ducati 1198 Superbike, shorn of its good looks. Is that what it’s supposed to be? I’m as confused as it is…

You want a comfortable streetbike with lots of power? They make those already—they’re called standards. If that’s not sexy enough for you, get a naked bike. They're the same thing, really.

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