They say: “Make a bold statement.”
We say: “To hell with a statement, just enjoy the ride!”
When the Diavel first poked its head out of the underworld and on to our streets in 2011, there were a lot of questions. What type of motorcycle was it; power-cruiser? Long-and-low superbike? Why would someone want it? And maybe the biggest question of all, will people accept a Ducati that looks like this? In two years the most important question was answered, to the tune of 20,000 units sold through 2013. People did want it, and they didn't care how it was classified.
For the 2015 version, Ducati has executed a slew of small changes designed to keep the Diavel up to date while preserving the qualities that have led to such success in the showroom. Most noticeable is the headlight, an all-new LED unit, along with a new, brushed-aluminum cover. Larger air intakes and side panels combine with updated radiator covers and slightly smaller LED front turn signals to maintain the Diavel's broad, prizefighter shoulders.
Redesigned twin brushed stainless steel silencers carry a slight flare and are now asymmetrical. Sharp eyes will spot a revised seat, aimed at more comfort and mobility with a slightly altered shape and different padding. The engine has been tweaked, too, with the same declared peak horsepower of 162, but Ducati claims the curve has been moved down the rev band slightly, offering a shade more thrust at the same rpm as the previous mill.
These are all premium pieces applied to the Diavel, and it's no accident. "Premium" describes how Ducati sees the bike, as well as the lifestyle of the customer. To further drive the point home Ducati chose the most extravagant of venues, Monte Carlo, to host the press ride for the new Diavel, even stating that the targeted customer wants the bike in part for the social impact of being seen on a motorcycle.
Our first ride was at night, a short urban loop through the center of town. The new LED headlight looks sharp, and the high beam is strong, but the glow from southern Europe's tax haven mostly lit the way. The short evening cruise also gave a taste of what was to come the next day, a reminder of why Ducati made relatively small changes to the Diavel platform.
Snaking into the mountains outside Monaco revealed in full why we were smitten with this bike when it debuted three years ago. The same 240-width rear tire puts power to the road, and to many seasoned motorcyclists it probably looks ridiculous. But in truth the Diavel feels amazingly nimble, climbing away from the beach in Monte Carlo and handling the narrow, twisty streets confidently.
The low seat and hunkered-down chassis suggests a rough ride, something Ducati engineers must have focused on because, despite the cruiser aesthetic, sharp potholes won't crunch your spine. To further ease the ride, selecting the Urban ride mode cuts maximum power by about 40 percent and delivers power more gently. This is a welcome adjustment, as Ducati's 1,198cc dual-spark engine is dynamic, but not always the smoothest operator, sometimes shuddering at low rpm. Urban mode not only supplies less power, it makes the bike feel more relaxed and smoother in general.
A short stint on the freeway exposed the obvious drawback of no discernible wind protection. The seat is low, but your shoulders and chest will take on a lot of weather, especially if you're tall. Open road offered the chance to try the second of three ride modes, Touring, which offers the full 162-horsepower potential of the Testastretta engine with a slightly softer response and mainly during initial throttle application.
Finally free on the winding mountain roads of the French Riviera, the Diavel delivered as only a Ducati can. Never mind the city-cruiser looks, low saddle, and fat rear tire, this bike has a sporty soul—you won't believe how riled up you'll get diving from corner to corner. The seat foam is thick and comfortable but you still feel mobile, while the gruff, mechanical roar of the motor (now in no-holes-barred Sport mode) suddenly seems to make sense. The wide rear tire feels strange if you lean over far enough, but the pegs never touched during our ride even though the pace was quite, umm, "youthful."
You won't tire out though, as the Diavel carries much less weight (Ducati claims 516 pounds, wet) than comparable bikes—about 170 pounds less than Star's V-Max. The Diavel doesn't have the poise of a Multistrada or the incisive feel of a Panigale, but it will do wonders to illustrate what other cruiser-ish bikes do not achieve. We at Motorcyclist like a bike to be sporty and agile, regardless of class. However, if you want your low-slung ride to have a heavy flywheel and an ambling step, this bike probably isn't for you. The Diavel is laid back and can behave when asked, but there's fire in its eyes. It's the anti-cruiser.
In creating a name for itself it has also thumbed its nose at the current trend in motorcycling of bending to the global economy. Many manufacturers have been presenting aggressively priced new models, but the Diavel is not one of those bikes. The Carbon version we rode will be on dealer floors for $20,995. It will also be a claimed 11 pounds lighter, thanks in part to carbon bodywork, brushed stainless steel mufflers, and forged (then machined) aluminum wheels. The base Diavel's price is set at $17,995, but receives all of the other updates. Ducati's reinvestment shows that it believes in the concept as much as the customers, and after a weekend of riding, we're disciples, too.
2015 Ducati Diavel Carbon
Engine and ergonomic updates, plus a fuel gauge, make for a more refined Diavel with the same punch.
Honda Valkyrie, Star V-Max, Victory Judge
Pricey, but a standalone in the class
||l-c 90-deg. V-twin
|Bore x stroke
||106 x 67.9mm
||EFI, ride by wire
||Wet, multi-plate slipper
||162.0 hp @ 9250 rpm
||96.2 lb.-ft. @ 8000 rpm
||Marzocchi 50mm fork, adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping
||Sachs shock, adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping
||Dual Brembo four-piston calipers, 320mm discs with ABS
||Brembo two-piston caliper, 265mm disc
||120/70ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso II
||240/45ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso II
|Claimed curb weight
||Carbon Red, Carbon White, Dark ($17,995)
||24 mo., unlimited mi.