2020 Ducati Streetfighter V4S Review: No Greater Freedom Than a 208-HP Personal Rocket
There are a lot of reasons to stay inside right now. The Streetfighter V4S isn’t one of them.
On March 17th, my daughter, my son, my expecting wife and I locked down. The world outside shuttered, and with a little one on the way, us along with it. Precautions were taken to extremes. I alone left our little apartment solely to pick up delivered groceries downstairs—masked up and head on a swivel for the slightest cough, sneeze or sniffle. Everyone outside became a hostile. Everything that came into our home was sanitized and sterilized. Life was reduced to that calculus.
And so we continued until we absolutely couldn’t. Luckily, though our newest family member came into a colossal shitstorm of a world, he emerged healthy, happy and plague-free. But even after he joined the fray, it's not like things returned to any semblance of last year's normal. Back inside we went. And it's where I stayed until a 2020 Ducati Streetfighter V4S showed up at by door late last month, this 208-horsepower, open-air escape pod demanding to be ridden, historic heat wave be damned.
Didn't hurt that the Streetfighter V4S is the naked version of a bike whose faultless form I deviously detailed in Playboy a few years ago. And so for the first time in 5 months, 23 weeks, 164 days, 3,912 hours, 234,758 minutes, and 1 baby (not that I was counting or anything), I ventured into the pandemic-ravaged world outside the walls of our 1,100 square-foot quarantine bubble. Now I know how the Apollo astronauts felt using the MQF.
What would’ve been a throwaway day of riding around southern California six months ago turned into part mini-vacation, part reminder of why I'm still more comfortable inside my home—or on a bike—than just about any other place in the world right now. But when you have a fabulous 200+ horsepower companion between your legs, a quick twist of the throttle is all it takes to deliver you from public displays of stupidity into the safety and solemnity of a desolate canyon road. It's there you'll see how brilliant the Streetfighter is. Ducati, I don't know if you're getting this one back.
The 2020 Ducati Streetfighter V4S, By the Numbers
- Base Price: $23,995
- Powertrain: 1,103 cc V4 | six-speed sequential manual | rear-wheel drive
- Horsepower: 208 horsepower @ 12,750 rpm
- Torque: 90 pound-feet of torque @ 11,500 rpm
- Curb Weight: 439 pounds
- The Promise: A more ergonomic Panigale V4S.
- The Delivery: Hehehehehehehe, Ducati’s never getting this bike back.
You can call the Streetfighter V4S a spec-sheet hero, but that’s a disservice to its character and engineering. The 1,103 cc V4 at the heart of the motorcycle is nothing short of an astonishing achievement in engine design. Superlatively powerful yet still musical at 12,750 rpm, the Streetfighter will rip 208 horsepower and 90 pound-feet of torque through its chain to the rear wheel. A six-speed sequential manual transmission, with race-style straight-cut gears, blips off shifts in a fly’s wing-beat. That quickens when you enable Ducati’s no-clutch-needed, no-lift Quick-Shift—a throughline connecting the brand’s MotoGP machine. It simply doesn't let up.
Pirelli’s super-sticky Diablo Rosso Corsa II tires are shoehorned onto forged aluminum Marchesini wheels. A fully adjustable Öhlins suspension is featured front and rear, with a longer single-sided aluminum swingarm compared to the Panigale to try and keep the Streetfighter V4S’ nose touching pavement. It's a losing battle, though, even with Ducati's Wheelie and Traction control settings on high—physics, you just can’t beat it.
Dual-mounted Monobloc Brembo four-piston calipers clamp down on Swiss Cheese-like rotors, while a single two-piston unit works at the back. ABS comes standard on both the Streetfighter V4 and the uprated Streetfighter V4S pictured here. Along with the Traction and Wheelie Control, and ABS, the Streetfighter V4S also comes with Launch, Slide, and Engine Brake Control. There are also four riding modes: Street, Sport, Race, and Custom.
A five-inch TFT display adorns the now-upturned handlebars, giving the rider access to all the different modes and controls, as well as readouts of RPM, speed, temperature, trip mileage, and the bike’s odometer. Finally, a plusher seat and more vertically-oriented footpegs and controls make the Streetfighter V4S’ ergonomics pitch-perfect compared to the Panigale. An impressive array of parts to boast about online and in forums, no doubt, but more importantly this is a motorcycle that lights up your mind when you throttle that V4 engine and have the front wheel kiss the sky.
Addiction is immediate upon ignition. That strung-out V4 rouses from its slumber and quickly settles on a lopey idle, similar to a cammed V8 burbling with heated anticipation. A blip of the throttle launched me into chattery, nervous laughter. There’s just something so special about the way this motorcycle sounds, even at 2,000 rpm. It didn’t stay there for long.
The mountainous terrain of Malibu was my destination, a perfect blend of fast, tight, and gorgeous tarmac, so beautiful that even born-and-bred Italians stop in awe. Before I could drop a knee though, I had to first go through Santa Monica and ride along the Pacific Coast Highway. That’s where my faith in humanity’s community togetherness evaporated.
If you thought a record fire season and a deadly pandemic would cause Californians to reconsider their beachy ways, friend, you have the same misplaced optimism I did. I've never seen Santa Monica's beaches so crowded. Throngs of people, mostly sans mask, milled around on the streets and sidewalks leading to the sand. Thousands lay side by side in the sun and splashed in the crowded water, as far as I could see in either direction. Godspeed if you want to assume that kind of risk right now. I don't.
Scything my way through pre-pandemic levels of PCH traffic and shaking my head far too many times, I reached the mountains. Even after months of not riding, I jumped right into the deep end and took Latigo Canyon Road, a gnarled tree root of a road with tighter-than-imaginable hairpins and hundred-foot dropoffs. I couldn’t have asked for a better companion.
Ducati says the Streetfighter V4S weighs 439 pounds fully loaded, but with all that aluminum underpinning the wheels and swingarm, along with its lightweight plastics and no front fairing, it feels 50 pounds lighter than quoted. And the mass of the Ducati feels low, even though you’re sitting higher than the Panigale.
Flicking the motorcycle into one of Latigo’s first turns, there’s no cliche sense of telepathy, rather, it’s more like intuition engineered into its bones by Ducati’s technicians. Those espresso-swilling Italians know you and I want to drag a knee, clip an apex, and power out with a wheelie, so the suspension, tires, weight, and power delivery are all set up to complement those wants right from the get-go.
And as I got more comfortable trusting Ducati’s mathematicians and wizards, I leaned lower and lower, grabbed more and more throttle, and did my best impression of Andrea Dovizioso I could muster along the perilous route. This is a motorcycle that builds your confidence, even when its capabilities are far superior than yours. I fell more and more in love with the machine’s instincts, aptitude, and most of all, its sound.
Those who haven’t heard a high-strung V4 throttled before are grievously deprived, and you should correct that immediately. Ducati’s V4 is less resonant than Yamaha’s R1, less brutal than Aprilla’s Tuono, and has a nearly incomparable tone. Idle, as I mentioned, is lopey, but at 5,000 rpm under load, it vibrates your helmet and filings in a fantastic way. As you twist more, it begins to yowl. At full chat, Hollywood’s go-to composer, Hans Zimmer, would be jealous of the Streetfighter V4S’ theatrical score. Nothing beats it.
Fully opening up the throttle on one of Latigo’s short, but straight sections, I struggled to keep the front end down, even with the quad canards providing real downforce. There’s no escaping this motorcycle’s power. Not that I wanted to.
I later turned off the more Nurburgring-esque Latigo and I made my way to Decker Canyon Road, a picturesque stretch of slithering pavement that takes you from the top of Malibu’s mountains down to the Pacific. It’s calmer, well-suited for grand touring, and the Streetfighter’s larger-than-average 4.23-gallon gas tank accommodated both my blitzkrieg of Latigo and easy-going ride of Decker on a single tank. On Decker, though, with the Streetfighter V4S under me, I may as well have been grand-touring Italy’s Amalfi Coast.
As the sun sank lower on the horizon, the sunlight warmed, the breeze cooled, and the amber fields of once-green plantlife swayed in the winds, the Ducati’s athletic theatrics relaxed. The exhaust rumble softened, I slacked the snappy throttle, and the suspension soaked up bumps. And for a split second, there was no pandemic. There were no maskless idiots. No politicians blaming each other. No strife. Just the Ducati and me. A perfect moment to cap a wonderful day and an excellent motorcycle.
And make no mistake, the Ducati Streetfighter V4S is emphatically excellent. There are, of course, competitors (KTM 1290 Super Duke R, Aprilia Tuono, BMW S1000R, Kawasaki Z1000) that offer similar power levels, capabilities, and are cheaper—the Streetfighter V4S starts at $23,995—but between the better ergonomics and same hellacious V4 engine as the drool-worthy Panigale, Ducati would have me seriously considering finance options if our world wasn’t FUBAR and quite literally on fire. I want this motorcycle to stay in my life and you will too.
Well, back to wearing sweatpants all day.