Ducati Diavel Carbon – Desirable Identity Dilemma

Ducati Diavel Carbon – Desirable Identity Dilemma

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The Ducati Diavel is named after the Devil and it isn't hard to understand why, once you've seen the motorcycle. On the technical and riding front though, it offers the benefits of a cruiser along with the performance of a sportbike. With no actual category classification for the Diavel, it was of great interest for us to find out its identity and if Ducati has managed to give a dark side to the Diavel's character in terms of performance.

DESIGN & BUILD

Design is a subjective matter but one can more or less make out whether a design will find acceptance among potential consumers. The Diavel, already a menacing-looking motorcycle, looks meaner in the Carbon variant, which we tested. The differentiator between the standard and Carbon variant is the inclusion of carbon-fibre body parts and more importantly the forged wheels, which lend a weight-saving of about five kg from the unsprung-mass.

Viewed upfront, the Diavel Carbon comes across as a muscular motorcycle, partly due to the design of the LED headlamp and more so due to the laterally-mounted radiators. The scooped seat, nestled between the massive fuel tank and the cowl cover at the rear, lend the Diavel Carbon with a feeling that it needs to be piloted than ridden. The split instrument cluster looks fabulous and the top handlebar-mounted unit offers readouts such as rpm, speed, temperature, odometer/ trip meter and warning signs. The lower part displays the gear, fuel level and most importantly the riding mode selection among a few other details.

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The vertically-stacked twin exhaust pipes are finished in stainless steel and the exhaust manifolds are coated in Zircotec ceramic coating, which Ducati claims to help increase efficiency. In the real world, this coating acts as a thermal barrier between the exhaust manifold and the nearby engine components, helping maintain a lower temperature overall, which in turn leads to increased efficiency of the system and the engine.

A key highlight of the Diavel Carbon is its weight, which contrary to visual perception is light. At a kerb weight of 234 kg, it somehow manages to dwell just outside the borderlines of superbike territory. Ducati's 959 Panigale, for example, has a kerb weight of 200 kg and is marketed as the perfect balance between track performance and road safety.

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While the entire design language of the Diavel Carbon speaks of sheer dominance and looks futuristic, Ducati being Italian has brilliantly combined art with the rest of the laboratory-derived bits.  The art herein are the gorgeous Marchesini forged wheels, sporting a massive 240-section rear tyre. This huge tyre flanked by vertical blinkers is the perfect conclusion to the demonic appearance of the motorcycle, starting from the headlamp. What stood out for us in the Diavel Carbon was the seamless manner in which Ducati engineers were able to take science and garnish it with art and dress it in the part of mythology that defines the Diavel's character.

ENGINE & PERFORMANCE

Tucked in neatly is the heart of this devil, a Testastretta 11o  L-Twin, liquid-cooled, dual-spark engine with 4 Desmodromically actuated valves per cylinder displacing 1,198.4 cc. A desmodromic valve is a reciprocating engine valve that is positively closed by a cam and leverage system, rather than by a more conventional spring.

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Aided by a high compression ratio of 12.5:1, this engine develops a mammoth 162 hp and 130.5 Nm of torque @ 8,000 rpm. A highlight of this engine, as Ducati puts it is the 11o, which refers to the degree of crankshaft rotation at the time of valve overlap (the time window when both the intake and exhaust valves are open). Opposed to the 41o on the engine used in the 1198, which this engine is based on, the lower angle results in reduced effect of exiting gases on the fresh inlet charge, leading to better combustion and improved smoothness. In the interest of efficient power, the engine uses a secondary air system, which burns off any remaining fuel molecules exiting the combustion chamber.

Another highlight of this engine is ride-by-wire technology, which opens access to riding modes and different levels of traction control, all of which play a huge role in giving the experience that the Diavel manages. There's a six-speed transmission that transfers the engine's power to the rear wheel through a chain. The transmission pairing with the engine is impressive but there is some lack of smoothness and finding the neutral can be tricky at times. The clutch is light to use and offers slipper function.

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There are three riding modes available – Urban, Touring and Sport. Urban as its name suggests is for city usage and in this mode throttle response is gentler and power is limited to 100 hp. The power, nonetheless, is more than you'd mostly need in the city and Ducati Traction Control (DTC) is at its highest setting in this mode. The Touring mode gives access to all 162 horses but throttle response is smooth and power-delivery is progressive. DTC's intervention is reduced herein, striking a midway balance between safety and fun. The Sport mode is where the Diavel is in its element as suggested by its name. With full power available, throttle response is sharp and programmed for maximum acceleration. DTC too goes down to its lowest setting, which means the computer would kick in only when you're feathering the boundaries of traction, which is hard to overcome courtesy the sticky Pirelli rubber. The combination of mechanical and electrical engineering here works remarkably well and offers the rider only with functionalities aimed at improving the riding experience and not having a longer brochure.

There is one thing though which we thought could've been better and that's the exhaust sound. While the decibel level is high enough to mark your entry/ exit from a distance, this is the only element which falls short of having a demonic character.

RIDING EXPERIENCE

With the power-to-weight ratio falling in a shade below modern superbikes, the Diavel Carbon by no means is a cruiser. Blistering performance through the gears and riding modes, which totally change the performance on tap put it closer to a sportbike with the comfort of being able to tour on it. Even in traffic, the motorcycle is easy to manoeuvre but the engine heat gets bothersome after a few minutes. We managed to get a 3.2 s time for the 0-100 km/h sprint on a handheld GPS device. ABS can be turned off on the Diavel but surprisingly the user interface is complex and needs some time to get used to.

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One of the key aspects of the Diavel that sets it apart from other powerful cruisers is the riding position. Unlike the laid-back posture on cruisers the rider's mass is biased more towards the front, translating into better feedback from a motorcycle that impresses around corners. The Diavel has 50 mm front forks fully-adjustable for spring pre-load, compression and rebound damping. A 28o steering rake and 130 mm of trail along with 41o of lean angle means the Diavel doesn't compromise on agility, which comes in handy not only through curves but also while encountering traffic. At the rear, a horizontal Sachs unit offers compression and rebound damping. On broken surfaces, the suspension performs well and can be softened or hardened through a simple knob on the left side.

The huge rear tyre makes the motorcycle a little reluctant to tilt down into corners but once you've got the hang of muscling it into corners, the Diavel Carbon holds its line impeccably well and this is the point where the Diavel distances itself from the likes of the Triumph Rocket III, which have somewhat similar power ratings but less eager around corners.

Brembo brake set-up on the Diavel consists of radially-mounted 4-piston monobloc callipers pressing against twin 320 mm discs. At the rear, a 265 mm disc is anchored in by a twin-piston calliper. The bite from this set-up is sharp and brings this motorcycle to stop in an impressive manner. The feedback from the brakes is good and we particularly liked the subtle intervention of the ABS, which doesn't transmit a vibration overload to the fingers through the brake lever.

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The Diavel is comfortable to ride and the scooped out seat offers good space and comes in really handy under hard acceleration as it helps the rider stay in his/ her place firmly. Over long distances too, the seat is comfortable but larger riders might find it a bit uncomfortable as it could make them feel stuck. While it's a great motorcycle to go touring and have a ball on the curves during the travel, the limitation of the Diavel for this purpose is its fuel tank capacity, which is just 17 l on a motorcycle of this size. Based on our achieved fuel-efficiency of 12.6 km/l in city cycle, one can expect a range of around 240 km on the highway. Standalone, the number is quite respectable for a motorcycle with such power and it's largely due to its lightweight but it's hard to not give into the desire to use the right wrist, hurting the economy even more.

CONCLUSION

Ducati India says the Diavel is one of their best-selling motorcycles and it's not hard to understand why. While it isn't exactly affordable at Rs 18.15 lakh, ex-showroom, Delhi, for Rs 14.81 lakh, one could get a standard Diavel, which misses out on the carbon-fibre bits and the forged wheels. At both price-points, there is no other machine in the country that can offer such a combination of intimidating performance along with the safety net of modern electronics, all without compromising on comfort or attention-seeking abilities.

What we haven't been able to decode is the identity dilemma of the Diavel range, falling in none of the established classes of motorcycles. Based on our test, we conclude that the Diavel Carbon's identity dilemma is its true strength. Creating a niche within the motorcycle space, the Diavel Carbon is the kind of identity dilemma many riders would love explaining to their jealous counterparts.

Text: Arpit Mahendra

Photo: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay