2014 Ducati 899 Panigale | FIRST LOOK

Ducati Introduces A “Supermid” Superbike

By Aaron Frank, Photography by Ducati

We didn’t even bother reporting the rumors, because this is one bike we all knew would come our way. Ducati always offers a midsized version of its line-leading superbike, and the 1199 Panigale, released in 2012, would be no different. Released on the eve of the IAA International Motor Show in Frankfurt, Germany, the highly anticipated Ducati 899 Panigale is what Ducati is now calling a “Supermid”—a portmanteau of “midsize” and “superbike”—that delivers the thrills of the flagship model but in a slightly more accessible, all-around package.

Indeed, the 899 appears very closely related to its big brother, sharing the same “frameless” monocoque construction that uses the engine as a stressed member to connect a massive airbox/headstock to the subframe. The swingarm—a conventional, two-sided arrangement here, and not a single-sided piece like on the pricier 1199—pivots directly off the transmission, and operates on a link-activated, sidemounted Sachs rear shock.

The 898cc L-twin engine retains the Superquadro designation that denotes radically oversquare engine architecture—a bore and stroke of 100 x 57.2mm, in this instance, or just slightly less radical than the 112 x 60.8mm measurements of the larger, 1198cc engine—to maintain the same quick-revving personality that the original Panigale is revered for. Providing a claimed 148 horsepower at 10,750rpm and 73 pound-feet of torque at 9,000 rpm, the 899 should still be fast enough to warrant the Super prefix, but slightly more driveable in real-world conditions. Speaking of the real world, engine service intervals are a very reasonable 15,000 miles. There goes the old “frequent service” excuse…

This is a Ducati Superbike, so of course there are electronics—lots of them. ride-by-wire throttle activation enables three ride modes—Race, Sport, and Wet—that alter power output and throttle response, engine braking characteristics, traction control, and ABS intervention to suit different riding conditions. (Each of these separate electronic controls is individually tunable within each mode to suit the rider’s desires. Traction control offers eight levels of fine adjustment; ABS, three.) Ducati Electronic Suspension adjustment (DES) is not available on the 899 Panigale; the electronic quick shifter is.

By all measures, the 899 Panigale should be a blast to ride. At a claimed 372 pounds wet, it’s 2.5 pounds lighter and eight ponies more powerful than the 848 it replaces. The 899 Panigale is indistinguishable from the 1199 version at a glance, save for the swingarm and different color options, which here are traditional Ducati red with black wheels or Arctic White with red wheels. Availability is promised for the end of October, priced at $14,995 in red or $15,295 in white.

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