Six years ago, when Ducati decided to launch a muscle bike to rival the likes of the V-Max and the V-Rod, the Diavel blew the minds of bikers around the planet. It was the wickedest thing on two wheels. Powered by an engine derived from the ferociously fast 1199 Panigale, the Diavel was no slouch. It was a naked muscle bike unlike any other and could cream many a sportbike in an outright drag. Indeed, its advertising tagline – ‘Don’t call me a cruiser’ left one in no doubt as to what the Diavel was not. Looking back however, one can’t help but wonder if that tagline was a sign of things to come, for now we have the XDiavel. And that is most certainly a cruiser.
Or is it? According to the powers that be in Bologna, this is a crossover between a cruiser and a superbike. As a matter of fact, the ‘X’ in the name represents that very aspect of the motorcycle. In line with its cruiser traits, the XDiavel gets a belt drive and feet-forward foot pegs. The forks too are more raked out than the regular Diavel. Come to think of it, the only thing the X shares with the Diavel is the tyres. And that, is it.
Speaking of design, nobody does sexy the way Italians do and all you need to do is look at the bike for vindication of that statement. There was a time when Harley’s V-Rod would have been the benchmark where styling is concerned. The XDiavel is devilishly delicious and dethrones the V-Rod easily. To ensure that the XDiavel was palatable to American bikers (Ducati’s target audience), the Italian firm sent two of its chief designers across the Atlantic for six months to study the market. The result is a beautiful blend of Italian flair with American demands.
The beauty of the XDiavel however lies in the details. The water pump has been cleanly hidden between the cylinder heads of the V-twin engine. The anodised glossy finish allows for a surreal design, never seen on a production bike. Then there are those mechanicals such as the beautifully mounted single-sided swingarm and sportbike suspension. The tear drop petrol tank can hold 18 litres of juice and that wonderfully wide rear tyre is as fat as the rubber you’ll put on the wheels of the Mahindra XUV500! Then there are the brakes – the XDiavel gets the Brembo M50 calipers straight off the 1299 Panigale. To retain that wickedness that was first seen on the regular Diavel, Ducati has given the traditional crimson a miss and you can have the X only in black. Everything has been packaged just right. Small wonder then that the bike has won two prestigious design awards, including the Red Dot 2016. This bike is guaranteed to grab eyeballs and yank them your way.
We rode the bike for over 500km on expressways, dual carriageways, winding roads and in the city and it’s been impressive, through all conditions. The riding position is extremely comfortable (I am 6ft tall) with the foot pegs set slightly (compared to Americans) forward and an upright handlebar. The handlebar deserves a special mention here for not being too sweptback, to allow for maximum comfort and help the rider manoeuvre the bike through a set of corners. The seat comes with nice cushioning to hold your bottom when you are overtaking fast moving vehicles on the highway. Gone is the tank mounted display and the X gets the same 3.5-inch TFT screen from the Multistrada that displays a plethora of information, including riding mode selection. It also gets Bluetooth connectivity and can help the rider scroll through the playlist or accept calls (not recommended at all) while riding. The tell-tale display is mounted separately on the handlebar and displays warnings and other required info. Typical Ducati switchgear is now backlit in red and is easy to operate, being carried over from the Multistrada. The heated grip toggle switch though has been replaced by Ducati Power Launch (DPL) which allows you to slingshot the bike to a maximum of 120kmph and can be customised to three levels (We did try it and came out alive and smiling at the end).
Starting the ride in Touring mode on the streets of Bandra, the X seemed like an easy bike to ride, just like the Suzuki Intruder, but much lighter. It feels restrained in the Urban and Touring modes. Once on the Western expressway, we immediately switched to Sport mode and unleashed the beast within.
The Multistrada derived engine has been stroked and gets a displacement of 1262cc, making 152PS and 126Nm. Open the throttle (at your own risk) and the bike demolishes the 100kmph barrier in 3 seconds. The experience is scary at first because a production cruiser has never been so fast and the riding position makes it difficult to turn the bike at such speeds. But it grows on you. Ducati has given us the power and torque curve in the spec sheet, but it would be a fallacy to call the graph a curve. It is flat. An indication of the linearity of the engine’s power delivery. At 5000 revs, when peak torque kicks in, there is a massive surge of power which can be felt as a tug under the belly button as the bike rockets for the horizon. Fuelling is spot on too. Euro IV legislations have muted down the X’s vocal character at idling but rev her beyond 6000rpm, the American V8-esque burble is eargasmic to a petrolhead.
Show it a set of corners, and it happily starts wagging its sexy rear. The electronics play a huge role here because on paper, the X is a quintessential cruiser with a 1615mm wheelbase and 30-degree rake, tipping the scales at a hefty 247kg. The lean angle is 40 degrees, which is almost naked territory and just shy of 1-degree when compared to the Diavel, even with the forward set footpegs. The bike feels overtyred when you are trying to tip it into a corner, but once there, the 245-section Pirelli Diablo Corsa II at the rear helps it stick to the tarmac like a leech. The weight is centered and you can’t really use your knees and elbows much to go around corners. It gets cornering ABS, an eight-level traction control system and three-level ABS, to help you keep it on two wheels, whether through ghats or highways.
‘Are you ready to change position?’ is the question Ducati is asking potential buyers and we say yes. Diavel is Italian for ‘devil’ and the XDiavel represents the entity in the best way possible. The X leads the way when it comes to breaking rules and brings hordes of people into the showroom. It might not please a Harley buyer because it’s the antithesis of the American cruiser – supreme speed and great cornering abilities. It can do wonders on the road and we’re smitten by its riding capabilities. Sometimes, the angels deserve to die, we say.