Ducati XDiavel S - The Gentleman Outlaw

20 December 2016
Story Mick Matheson Photos Greg Smith, Ducati

There is only the XDiavel. Nothing else counts. Not if you want a cruiser that’ll rip the hearts out of all those pretenders that prance down boulevards telling the girls that 60, 80 or even 100 horsepower is tough. Ha, bunch of tossers. Nothing but anchors, with or without a “w”. The XDiavel would tear into their chests and yank their hearts loose with 156hp, and there’d be nothing they could do but crumble. It would, except it’d be already gone, too busy going hard and fast to care about lumbering fat bastards.

There’s really no other way to look at it. If you think I’m being cruel and judgmental, ride an XDiavel for yourself and see what you reckon. I make no bones of the fact I love lazy, inefficient, overweight cruisers, but in the cold, hard light of comparison against the XDiavel they’re shown up as the anachronistic tributes to middle-aged fantasy that they are. If right-thinking engineers had applied themselves to cruisers as enthusiastically as they did to every other kind of motorcycle, all cruisers would be like the Ducati.

In that context, the XDiavel is the pinnacle of the cruiser. It is extremely fast, supremely powerful, superbly controlled and able to change from mild-mannered commuter into superbike in a second. It has a smiling, casual attitude infused with superbike DNA and imbued with all the genius of Ducati’s race-bred electronic technologies. It is a high-performance bike that’s sheer delight to ride slowly. Only the standard Diavel is anything like it, except that Ducati has learned some lessons from the Diavel and created an even classier cruiser in the traditional sense of the word by giving it better low-rev performance, a feet-forward riding position, the clean living of belt drive and the sexiest rear end in all of motorcycling.

There are two XDiavels, both of which are virtually identical on technical merit. The S is the one to buy if your budget extends the extra few grand. Those stylish engine highlights and the sexy-as rear wheel are temptation enough, I reckon. I’m not big on bling, especially glitzy wheels, but this time I’m in lust. Can’t help it. I did note, though, that the base-model’s wheels are pretty easy on the eye themselves and would look high-end on any superbike. To some people, the XDiavel looks like a Transformer cobbled together from random bits, and from some angles the bike’s busy bittiness doesn’t gel at all, but from most angles it’s so glamorous you’d expect Xena the Warrior Princess to ride it up the red carpet at the Oscars.

The original, non-X Diavel didn’t quite push all the right cruiser buttons.

That’s something I’d love to see. I can picture her setting the Ducati Power Launch, the race-inspired electronic way of leaping away from a standing start while doing nothing but holding the throttle open and maintaining an iron grip on the bars. Then boom! and she’s away. I know, there’s not really enough traction on carpet to do it, but for all you overly literal people out there, that’s what the programmable traction control is for. On proper surfaces, the massive contact patch of the super-grippy Pirelli rear tyre means you rarely need traction control, but the mere fact that you’ve got launch control and the world’s best motorcycle traction control on a cruiser gives you an idea of how very seriously Ducati takes this bike. And did I mention the Bosch-enabled cornering ABS? Yes indeed, very seriously.

There are three rider modes programmed into the XDiavel — Sport, Touring and Urban — each with its own unique levels of power, traction control and ABS intervention. What’s more, you can make changes to them all. It’s just a matter of pressing buttons on the left switchblock and reading the details on the colour TFT dashboard … which you can set up in various configurations as well. And to think Harley gives you a paltry number of minor details to scroll through in a piddly LCD display!

Ducati stopped short of giving you its Skyhook electronic semi-active suspension system, though. It would be good to have, but the manual adjustments at both ends are fine. The really cool part of the set-up is that this suspension shames all other cruisers. For a start, there’s a full 110mm of wheel travel at the rear — almost unheard of in the category. It’s very well controlled and reasonably comfortable, set perhaps more on the sporty side as you’d expect but not so much that it’s unpleasant on the highway. The XDiavel suspension exhibits none of the shortcomings of typical cruisers.

The generous and fun 40° lean angle goes well past the footpegs.

Nor does it steer heavily in spite of the awkward-looking dimensions. You don’t expect great manners from a 240-section rear tyre matched to a front tyre half as wide and at the far end of a 30° rake and long 130mm trail. Still, the wheelbase isn’t outrageous at 1615mm and the balance is sweet, so the up-and-over feel of changing direction on the 240 tyre is minimal and, crucially, steering accuracy is terrific. Add the 40° lean angle and suddenly you realise you’re on a weapon that’s easily capable of embarrassing your average sports bike rider.

The XDiavel flies along a mountain road, braking into corners like a demon in the knowledge of hi-tech ABS backup. It’s exhilarating to crank deeply into a bend at high speed with your feet out the front and your shoulders hunched to keep your head low as you race around like some hellish predator. You don’t have to be brave to nail the throttle and unleash all 156hp into that back tyre either, because it’ll handle the lot, and if it doesn’t there’s that awesome traction control. The Ducati doesn’t surge out of a corner like a cruiser usually does; it rockets out at a million miles an hour, pushing adrenaline through your body as rapidly as it sucks the next corner towards you.

Going very fast never felt so natural on a cruiser. Apparently, a reluctant refugee from sports bikes can have his cake and eat it too. All the while, the engine is spot on, the clutch and gearbox quick and light to keep it spinning with as much power as you want. Its sound is a roar of pure aggression and purpose.

Tiny colour dash is tucked away to keep a low profile

You can hold it wide open and sprint past 200km/h in seconds. But if discretion is better, or the mood just doesn’t take you, the XDiavel’s cruising alter-ego takes over. The tingle of adrenaline gives way to the satisfaction of tootling along on a warm day with the caress of the breeze and passing views of the Aussie countryside to accompany you. There’s no need to hurry, and the big 1262cc (achieved by adding stroke to the 1200cc Testastretta DVT engine) V-twin throttles back to lope along on its prodigious torque. Its 129Nm peak comes at only 5000rpm, but it already makes 100Nm by 2100rpm, well below the highway’s speed limit in top gear. Bung it into sixth gear and leave it there as long as you like — you’ll always have the grunt needed to overtake or trickle through a small town. Drop down a gear or three and it’s all action again.

But look, one thing the XDiavel doesn’t do is rumble at low revs like a traditional big V-twin. Its 129Nm is impressive, and 5000rpm isn’t all that much, but it’s not a 110ci Screamin’ Eagle Harley doing 156Nm at an effortless 3500rpm. There’s something very cool about counting the beat while riding that much torque.

The base-model XDiavel is more subtle in its styling and has a matt black finish

The feet-out riding position is perfect for those slower rides and unexpectedly effective at silly speeds, too. You sit low enough into the bike to avoid the worst of the high-speed wind so it’s not too fatiguing over time. You can easily tour on the XDiavel, though perhaps an Airhawk cushion would be a nice way to improve the fairly firm seat’s performance. It’s not the lowest cruiser seat at 755mm high, but it’s not bad either.

There’s not much point being specific about the riding position here because there are 60 different seating configurations for the XDiavel. Sixty! Four footrest positions, five seats and three handlebar bends can be swapped and combined to make the best fit for you. The tiny pillion seat hanging over the rear tyre looks more cool than comfy, but a neat little back rest is provided with the XDiavel to make all the difference to your pillion’s feeling of security.

The riding position can be tailored to any of 60 configurations.

Ducati gives you a convenient hands-free ignition with the XDiavel. You’ll also appreciate the 15,000km service intervals, and 30,000km between valve adjustments and timing belt replacements. There are many other details I could write about, too, but we’re running out of space; a comprehensive review of all the XDiavel’s features and attractions would fill the magazine. But I will say that the XDiavel is so much more motorcycle for the money than any other cruiser. The two models straddle the 30-grand price point, and when you look at all the other cruisers in that range you won’t find another that comes within cooee.

Ducati has pulled off a coup with the XDiavel. Realistically, there should be cruisers of this calibre all over our roads but only Ducati has had the insight and the understanding to make it happen. Sure, it took them two goes — the Diavel was the first one — but the refinements wrought on the XDiavel make it a wonderful success. It’s pretty much everything most people have always wanted in a cruiser plus a hell of a lot more that they didn’t know was possible. Now that it’s been given to them, they won’t want to give it back. Ride an XDiavel and tell me if I’m wrong.

Model: Ducati XDiavel/XDiavel S
Colours: Dark Stealth (matt black)/Thrilling Black (gloss)
Warranty: 24 months, unlimited km, roadside assistance
Servicing intervals: 15,000km
Engine: Liquid-cooled, DOHC, desmodromic, 8-valve, 90° V-twin. Variable engine modes, TC
Bore x stroke: 106 x 71.5mm
Displacement: 1262cc
Compression: 13:1
Power: 115kW (156hp) @ 9500rpm
Torque: 129Nm @ 5000rpm
Transmission: Wet multiplate clutch, 6-speed gearbox, belt drive
Frame: Tubular-steel trellis
Dimensions: Seat height 755mm, weight 247kg (wet), fuel capacity 18L, wheelbase 1615mm, rake 30º, trail 130mm
Suspension: Front, 50mm USD fork, fully adjustable, 120mm travel. Rear, monoshock, adjustable rebound and preload, 110mm travel
Brakes: Front, 2 x 320mm discs, 4-piston calipers. Rear, 265mm disc, 2-piston caliper. Cornering ABS
Tyres: Front, 120/70ZR17. Rear, 240/45ZR17
Fuel consumption: 5.6L/100km
Theoretical range: 320km
Verdict: Every inch a cruiser but with proper superbike DNA. Awesome