Ducati 959 Panigale Review
What is it?
It is a middleweight superbike from the bolognese manufacturer. It is the smallest offering from Ducati’s Panigale superbike range. The 959 stands for the cubic capacity of its L-twin engine.
The 959 Panigale replaces the 899 Panigale. The added capacity makes it a new bike by default. The 959 gets a wider bodywork and twin stacked pipes instead of an under body exhaust in order for it to meet Euro 4 requirements.
The larger motor and wider bodywork adds 7kgs over the weight of the 899 but liberates 6 percent more power and 8 percent more torque. Tweaks to the existing chassis make it more stable at higher speeds. It gets a slipper clutch now.
The earlier motor has been stroked from 57.2mm to 60.8mm to increase cubic capacity. The bore remains the same at 100mm.The motor gets new ribbed aluminium cylinder heads for better durability and refinement, new pistons with redesigned crown, larger air-filter, a secondary shower injector above the throttle butterflies which give an extra shove at 9000rpm. The engine is more refined thanks to a quieter cam chain and revised lubrication system. Power output is up by 9bhp at 157bhp and torque is rated at 107Nm.
The biggest change in suspension is the lowering of the swingarm pivot by 4mm which improves traction. The rear damper is longer by 2mm and wheelbase has increased by 5mm. The rake remains the same at 24 degrees so the the trail at 96mm. So dynamics is quite similar to the 899 but it’s more stable with more grip on the limit.
The Brembo brakes are carried over from the 899 panigale. They have excellent stopping power but miss out on sharp bite on hard braking instead focussing on a progressive feedback.
How is it on the track?
Like all Ducati Panigales the 959 too feels made for the track. The riding position is similar to the Triumph Daytona 675 but has more room and a longer seat to move your body around to make directional changes.
The motor gets ride-by-wire and three riding modes- wet, sport and race.
The wet mode reduces power to 100bhp with traction control and ABS at the softest settings. The sport mode gets 157bhp with sport traction control and anti rear lift. The race mode delivers 157bhp with an agressive mapping with only front wheel getting race ABS allowing you to slide the rear into corners. It also does away with anti rear lift. Somehow we were more comfortable in this mode on the track as we felt more connected on the bike. That says a lot about the bike. Doesn’t it?
The biggest addition are the pair of Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa tyres. These racing street radial tyres get street compound rubber at the centre and softer racing rubber compound at the edges for more grip as you are leaning into corners. These are one of the best tyres we have sampled with extraordinary levels of grip.
The Buriram track plays host to the Thailand round of world superbike championship and is an extremely fast track with the bike reaching 220+ speeds in longer stretches and 100+ kph in corners. A bike with a weaker motor and unsorted dynamics will fall apart here but the 959 Panigale felt at home. It’s sublime handling allowed you to push the bike harder into corners, brake deeper and open the throttle mid corner. The stability and poise of the chassis, the riding position and the motor with its excellent mid range makes it the perfect track bike for someone looking to step up to big bikes on the track.
To sum it up
The 959 panigale is a tremendous jump from the earlier 899. It is faster, a more sublime handler, has a more refined motor and is a hoot to ride on track. As for it’s road manners, we will have to reserve our judgement until the time we ride the 959 on the streets though Ducatistas be rest assured, the 959 Panigale will fulfill your expectations and then some. Thanks to it being offered as a CKD in India, the ex-showroom price of Rs 13.97 lakhs is the icing on the cake.