How can it be that this year’s Ducati Multistrada is described as a major overhaul when on first glance it looks relatively similar to the previous model? It’s a case of looks can be very deceptive because the new 2015 Ducati Multistrada is virtually a completely new motorcycle. The frame, geometry, electronics and even the display have been completely revamped but it’s the Testastretta DVT engine which steals the show and thankfully it’s a technology that isn’t a mere gimmick but a huge improvement on the bike.
The previous model Multistrada was quite a departure for the Italian manufacturer and definitely saw them step outside of their comfort zone to what previously amounted to superbikes and roadsters. While the engine was smoother than what it was in its donor bike, the 1198, it was still rough at low rpm and felt less polished than competitor offerings that have continually been released ever since.
That is but a distant memory now, with the Testastretta DVT feeling smooth as silk. This is all thanks to the employment of variable valve timing with independent control of both the intake and exhaust camshafts – a first for a motorcycle engine. Yes, Honda has used its V-TEC on on their VFR and Kawasaki have employed it on the intake camshaft for the 1400GTR, but Ducati’s system is the most comprehensive.
Ducati has mainly publicsed the performance improvements of DVT which it most certainly does provide. At low to medium engine speeds power delivery is smoother and torque is higher while at the upper end of the rev range it allows for greater power – in fact an additional 10hp over the previous iteration. But perhaps just importantly is that fuel economy and emissions are both reduced. Technologies such as this will no doubt become more and more common as emission regulations get tighter. In fact we’ll no doubt see Ducati’s DVT system employed on all their large capacity machines in the near future.
Those wondering if the implementation of DVT has blunted the character of the engine need not worry – in our opinion every change made on it is for the better. It still sounds beautiful, especially on downshifts and the only real negative for some is the loss of roughness which a few might deem a part of the previous engine’s character and charm. Personally, if such character and charm is what you’re after we’d recommend buying a 20 year old bike instead.
Suffice to say it doesn’t feel like an engine you can cruise along on the highway in 6th gear and expect to blast past traffic, it does necessitate downshifts – at least when sitting in that 3,000 to 5,000 rpm range. That’s okay with us and we’ve got no doubt it’s okay with Ducati too – this is a bike that firmly sits on the sporty side of sports adventure bike.
That’s partly explained by the ergonomics of the bike. Looking at the Multistrada you can clearly see its far more compact than its rivals. While it doesn’t look small compared to a sportsbike, sitting next to a V-Strom or a Super Adventure you’d think that perhaps only the vertically challenged may be accommodated. And while it is a more compact cockpit than those two and many other adventure bikes, it’s still comfortable for those over 6 foot in height. Peg position is also more sporty than you may expect from a bike in this class and you’re also pushed a fair way forward too.
What that means is that the ride and handling is a mixture of sportsbike and tourer. For some that will be their ideal machine while for others it will take the Multistrada off their list in place of something more sedate. The bars on the Multistrada feel narrower too, meaning more effort is required when cornering the bike but again, that’s not a negative too us. It almost creates a perfect blend of superbike and adventure machine – a fast bike that still heavily involves the rider but provides for a comfortable journey.
While the star of the show is no doubt the engine, there’s a slew of other notable features on the Multistrada. Like many new top end bikes released this year, the Multistrada is implanted with Bosch’s Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU). It looks after traction control, wheelie control, the four riding modes (Sport, Touring, Urban and Enduro) and cornering ABS.
All that is integrated extremely well with the brand new LCD screen. While Italian cars and bikes might have a reputation for quirkiness and interfaces designed to frustrate rather than facilitate what you want to do, there’s no issues with how Ducati has designed things here. Quite the opposite actually – it’s ridiculously easy to not only understand what the dash is displaying but to change modes or modify the information displayed on the screen. Given how great of a ride the Multistrada is we would almost forgive Ducati if they treated all this as an afterthought but they’ve done a wonderful job – other manufactures please take note.
Suspension overall is great, though perhaps slightly too hard as standard. That’s fairly easy to rectify given the full adjustability of both the forks upfront and the shock at the back. As you’d expect from an adventure bike, rear preload has a remote adjuster. Our test ride took us over some truly awful roads full of potholes, differing compounds and even worse, corners that seemed to contain random cambers as you went through it. The Multistrada handled them all effortlessly and far more comfortably than we would have expected.
No doubt that is helped by the weight of the bike which at 209kg dry or 229kg with all fluids is definitely on the svelte side in comparison to many other bikes in this range. The weight is also distributed well across the bike and a lot of thought has gone into how this machine handles. Flicking the bike from side to side is an effortless breeze, though again those after a casual riding experience may find the handling quicker than wanted. Pirelli’s excellent Scorpion Trail II tires are fitted to the wheels and from our previous testing of these tires, will provide excellent grip with long wear.
Looks wise, little has changed since the previous model which obviously depending on your tastes is either a good or bad thing. While it features typical Ducati styling cues, like any adventure bike there’s not going to be too many out there that call it an attractive machine. But given we’ve yet to really see a truly pretty adventure bike, it’s not something that’s really going to affect anyone’s purchasing decisions.
We haven’t even begun to scratch the huge range of electronics on the bike, such as the various riding modes, wheelie control and cornering ABS. Nor have we touched on the various ‘add-on’ packs you can buy at purchase such as the touring pack (heated grips, panniers, centre stand), sports pack as well as urban and enduro packages, We also haven’t talked about the wonderful hydraulic slipper clutch or the brakes that provide great feedback. That’s because they’re all excellent but work much the same as they do on similar bikes we’ve tested recently that come with much of Bosch’s new goodies.
Suffice to say Ducati has produced another excellent machine here. Priced from $17,695, this is probably the Multistrada’s only weakness – value for money. While it’s much cheaper than the everything but the kitchen sink wielding KTM 1290 Super Adventure ($20,499), it us undercut by the newly released BMW S 1000 XR ($16,350) and way above the Aprilia Caponord Touring which at $15,499 comes with active electronic suspension as found in the Multistrada S. That’s a huge chunk of change left over for holidays and it’s hard to argue that the Aprilia doesn’t have plenty of Italian charm as well.
But, for that extra money you get a Ducati badge and given what we’re hearing from dealerships, they aren’t struggling to sell them. And if price isn’t a determining factor, it’s a bike that will reward you for years to come.