Ducati Diavel vs. Star V-Max | MC Comparo

Smoking Guns

By Tim Carrithers, Photography by Kevin Wing

Star V-Max
Mr. Max has been beating logic with brute force since 1985. His outward appearance has changed a bit since then, gaining 84 lbs., 481cc and 50 horsepower in the 2009 transformation that made him what he is today. But climb on board, push the starter and what you get is more of the same. A whole lot more. The muted Gatling gun idle gives nothing away. Sitting taller and more upright than you do on its Italian adversary, you'll find the fly-by-wire throttle is a bit harsh just above idle, and there’s more slack in the shaft final-drive than we like. Otherwise, the V-Max rolls into motion with the authority you only get from a twin-cam V4 that makes 110 lb.-ft. of torque ... or a Los Angeles-class nuclear submarine.

It navigates stagnant commute traffic and supermarket parking lots easier than the USS Toledo, but with all that weight balanced on a 67-inch wheelbase behind a laid-back front end, steering is heavy below 20 mph. Above that, you’d swear the big boy doesn’t weigh an ounce over 500 lbs. You’ll also be swearing at nasty lumps and holes in the pavement, even with minimal compression damping at both ends. Despite that taller seat, higher mid-mount footpegs mean less room for long legs, which are forced to straddle those polished aluminum scoops instead of slipping neatly underneath. The subtle V4 rumble you feel in the grips helps make the Max a surprisingly capable long-hauler, assuming you’re under 5-foot-11 and don’t mind sitting or stopping for gas every 100 miles or so.

Regular use of the virtual V-Boost above 6000 rpm will drop mileage into the low 20s and push the big, orange speedometer needle well to the right of 150 mph for as long as you can hang on. After one trip to 9000 rpm, there are more pressing things to think about. Like easing your eyeballs back into position for another trip, just to make sure that wasn’t some weird vestibular anomaly or a bad Red Bull flashback. Except one more is never enough. You’re itching to pull that 169.6-horse trigger up the next freeway on-ramp, running pointless errands over long stretches of straight pavement just to feel that human cannonball taste on your tongue again.

Twisty roads are an interesting diversion. The V-Max goes around corners as well or better than 700 lbs. of anything else. Then you realize that wrestling this much metal into a dozen tight corners and laying down long strips of 200/50-18 rear rubber on the way out can’t touch what happens in a straight line. At that point, your only hope is a trip to the dragstrip—the only place to pull the trigger without ending up in the back of a squad car.

The dragstrip is where Mr. Max comes alive—and where his rivals go to die. Halfway through a hot, windy Fontana afternoon, we dropped rear tire-pressure to 20 psi, giving hired gun Gene Thomason enough grip for a 10.04-second run at 140.9 mph. Good enough to beat the Diavel—literally by less than the blink of an eye.

Off The Record
Tim Carrithers, Exparte Editor
Age: 53 | Height: 6’3”
Weight: 219 lbs. | Inseam: 35 in.

Addictive as it is, the V-Max functions more effectively as a fossil-fuel disposal unit or an adrenaline delivery medium than it does as a motorcycle. V-Max owners tend to see things differently because denial is stronger than that river in Egypt. I like pulling the 170-horse trigger and reducing rear tires to molten uselessness, but not nearly enough to drop $20,000 for the privilege.

Ducati’s more seductive Diavel isn’t nearly as good at playing Saturday-morning superhero, but it’s much better at being a motorcycle…and roughly as practical for everyday wear as a $700 pair of Prada loafers. I’d be happier in a pair of Tony Lama cowboy boots with a Monster 1100 Evo in the garage and another $5000 in the bank.

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