Inevitably the modern, emissions-controlled GT couldn't sound as good as its forebear with its free-breathing carbs and pipes, but the 992cc V-twin manages a pleasantly off-beat, if muted, note through its catalyzer-equipped silencers. And the flexible engine did a good job of making life easy as I followed Ducati's guide through the Bologna outskirts. This SOHC desmo engine is identical to those of the other SportClassic models (plus the Monster S2R, 1000SS and Multistrada), apart from having black-finish plastic cam-belt covers and a wet (instead of dry) clutch.
In traffic the clutch's smooth, quiet operation was welcome, as was the flawless injection response. At low revs the motor felt slightly lumpy, sending a judder through the whole bike until it smoothed at about 3500 rpm. That wasn't a problem and added to the bike's character, especially as the six-speed box shifted so precisely that it was a pleasure to flick down a gear or two and keep the motor in its sweet zone at around five grand, ready for a burst of instant acceleration. This bike had no trouble finding neutral, either, unlike the Paul Smart model I rode last year.
Ducati's two-valve, twin-spark V-twin powerplant produces a modest maximum of 92 horsepower at 8000 rpm, with abundant midrange and a finely honed Marelli injection system. This flexibility was highlighted as we headed southwest of Bologna through the old village of Calderino and up into the hills near Montepastore. The roads were narrow and twisty, and the GT's willingness to leap forward given a tweak of throttle made it fast, effortless and highly enjoyable.
One great thing about the GT was its dual-range character: It had the relaxed riding position to feel good at moderate speeds, but enough performance to be quick when required. There was certainly plenty of straight-line speed on tap. At an indicated 80 mph the Duc was loping along effortlessly, feeling deliciously smooth, relaxed and ready to respond anytime I fancied loosening my shoulder sockets with a burst of acceleration. That midrange muscle meant I covered ground rapidly without ever hitting the rev limiter at 8500 rpm, let alone reaching the top speed of around 140 mph.
For anything other than prolonged high-speed riding this bike was considerably more comfortable than the notably firm and wrist-punishing Sport 1000 and Paul Smart models, helped by its broad and reasonably thick seat. But the combination of upright riding position and fairly soft suspension also had its limitations. Unfortunately, I discovered this the painful way early in the day when I failed to notice a large hole in the road and received a nasty whack through my back as the rear shocks momentarily bottomed.
In general use the suspension at both ends did a reasonable job, and the Ducati's handling was more than adequate for the riding that most owners will doubtless do most of the time. Stability was well up to Bologna's traditionally high standard. At 407 pounds the GT is lighter than the old Ducati V-twins, and its combination of wide handlebar and reasonably steep geometry (rake is 24 degrees, matching that of the Sport 1000 and Paul Smart) meant the bike could be hustled through those hillside switchbacks at a very respectable pace without needing a huge amount of rider input. It also had plenty of cornering clearance with which to exploit the grip of its 17-inch Michelins.