2011 Ducati Diavel World Exclusive

What the hell?

By Aaron Frank, Photography by Kevin Wing, Thomas Maccabelli

Testing staff, led by Andrea Gesi, benchmarked Star's V-Max and Harley-Davidson's V-Rod Muscle, scrutinizing power delivery, handling and ergonomics. They wanted the powerful visual presence of the Muscle without wonky handling and oversized ergonomics, and the power and acceleration of the V-Max without excess weight. A highly adjustable test mule allowed experimentation with every possible ergonomic configuration: forward foot controls, rearsets, high bars, low bars and everything in between. Mid-mount foot controls and a low-rise, swept-back handlebar emerged as the only acceptable solutions, defining a moderate riding position that's comfortably upright but still allows athletic riding.

A bigger challenge, Gesi says, was developing a suitable rear tire. The testing department benchmarked 200-240mm widths in both the 16- and 18-inch diameters presently available for chopper and custom-sportbike applications. Not a single one delivered handling up to Ducati's very high standards, so the company contracted Pirelli to develop an all-new, 17-inch, ZR-rated, 240mm tire, engineered exclusively for the Diavel. The profile is remarkably similar to a MotoGP slick, Domenicali says, and delivers exceptional agility and stability, especially at maximum lean.

With ergonomics and chassis dynamics finalized, the Diavel quickly became the test rider's favorite. "In the beginning-hmm, strange bike," Gesi says, "but after the first ride, everybody loved it." Valia-a multi-time Italian National Supersport and Superbike Champion-calls the Diavel his favorite Ducati to ride on the open road. "So comfortable," he says, "and incredible how fast you can ride it!"

Performance was just one part of the equation; the Diavel is also intended to set a new standard for style, design and finish. "This is a flagship bike, so it's built with premium materials and showcases the latest technology," Domenicali says. There are almost no plastic parts. The gas tank is steel, the radiator shrouds are brushed-aluminum and the top-of-the-line Carbon model is sheathed in high-grade carbon-fiber. The mirrors are aluminum, as are the milled reservoir covers. Gorgeous forged and machined wheels on the Carbon are unlike anything ever seen on a production bike before, and the LED lighting and tank-mounted TFT (thin-film transistor) instrument display could have been borrowed from an AMG Mercedes. It's an amazing example of industrial design, and likely the finest-finished production motorcycle at any price.

The Diavel is obviously an important model for Ducati, and expectations are high for it to perform in the marketplace. The company expects it to appeal both to existing Ducati naked-bike owners and to those who have "aged-out" of sportbikes, as well as owners of other brands attracted by the proposition of a uniquely powerful and stylish musclebike that weighs less than 500 pounds. Like the Cayenne SUV and Panamera sedan have done for Porsche, it's hoped the Diavel will make Ducati a more diverse, robust and, ultimately, more profitable brand. "Our strategy now is to shift the pendulum from sportbikes to more parts of the market," Domenicali says, "to make a more balanced total proposal."

Enthusiasm for the Diavel is emboldened by the runaway success of last year's Multistrada 1200, which was created with similar goals in mind. Rather than a BMW GS knockoff, Ducati created a uniquely performance-oriented interpretation of the adventure-touring concept that met with amazing success. More than 7500 Multistradas-around 20 percent of the company's total production-were sold in the first seven months of 2010, taking Ducati from zero to a record 18.4 percent market share in that segment. With great risk comes great reward.

"We just knew with the Multistrada that we were creating something great," Ducati Marketing Director Diego Sgorbati says. "The Diavel is exactly the same way. Everyone here at Ducati, from the designers to the test riders, feels the same way about this bike. We think there's another segment out there waiting for something distinctive and original, waiting for this bike. The Diavel is pushing even our envelope, but we think the time is right for this bike."

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