Ducati 848

  • MSRP: $13,999
  • Horsepower: 112.3 hp @ 10,200 rpm
  • Torque: 57.6 lbs.-ft @ 8100 rpm
  • Weight: 419.6 lbs w/fuel – 396.5 lbs w/o fuel
  • Superpole Time: 1:21.54 (Atlas)
  • ¼ Mile: 11.09 @ 134.37 mph
  • Top Speed: 165.41 mph
  • Overall Ranking: 3rd-place

Are you a man or woman of style? Do you have passion for elegant design with performance to match? If so, Ducati’s 848 may have your name all over it. Heck, it looks fast with the kickstand down…

Completely unchanged for 2009, the Duck is every bit the Italian supermodel dressed in white, and the Ducati squad backs up that beautiful styling with plenty of performance in this mini-version of the 1198 (or mini-1098 as compared to its big brother last year).

Due to a bit of a tough time getting the Ducati set up on Michelin’s radical tires, we weren’t able to get it as dialed in as we would have liked. Ducati’s Jeff Nash (former AMA Pro Thunder Champion) got us the ballpark after busting his knuckles all day and that’s when the solid trellis chassis showed us just how much potential it has.

Hitting you smack in the face every time you got on the 2009 Ducati 848 is the sheer difference between this and all the other bikes, especially the Japanese machines. Its tall, narrow and feels like a unicycle compared to the saddle girth of the R6 and ZX by comparison. It’s designed as a racebike for the street and Ducati makes no bones about it. It is what it is: A racing motorcycle with lights.

The middleweight Twin requires higher corner speed and less shifting to get the most out of it, and when jumping from the Inline-Fours to the Ducati it takes a few laps to get used to things. It’s also far more rigid compared to the competition and every last bump and crack in the pavement is felt by the rider, almost as if one is running their hand directly against the pavement – no doubt in completely stock form this motorcycle has the most promise of the group to be an awesome track weapon.

“Given the means, if you’re not going to change a thing, for a trackday bike the Ducati would be my choice,” Sorensen says about the race-worthy 848. “This bike has always made me feel I can get away with things I couldn’t on other bikes. I think you can explore limits in your riding further with this machine.”

One of its major advantages is the engine, which by far makes the most horsepower of the bunch (112.3 hp @ 10,300 rpm), as well as the biggest torque numbers (57.6 lb.-ft. @ 8100 rpm) by a healthy margin. Once we uncorked the Ducati at HPCC all those ponies showed through. It recorded the highest top speed of the test, passing the gun at 165.41 mph with effortless ease, not to mention sounding like a FA-22 fighter jet in full attack mode. Damn it sounds good! And despite a tough-to-use and grabby clutch, it powered to the fastest quarter-mile time of the bunch, laying down a 11.09 @ 134.37mph. No question if the Ducati was as easy to launch as the Suzuki it would have been the only bike into the 10-second bracket.

“The 848 is still one of my favorites,” says Hutch of the Ducati, “but for some reason it didn’t shine as brightly as it did in the past. It didn’t seem to have as huge of an advantage over all the multi-cylinder bikes this time around.”

Garcia disagreed, saying: “The 848 is a really strong Twin. It is nothing like the other five bikes but is still a fun and a good bike to ride or race. It has the most torque out of all the bikes, it just took some getting used to when it came to shifting. It was hard to tell when it was going to hit the limiter.”

As Garcia and some others pointed out, the weak point of the Ducati at the track is its notchy shifting and the fact that it is one of the three bikes in the test without a back-torque-limiting clutch. The wet clutch works well but the long throw of the shifter and vague feeling through the lever works against it – but not everyone needs it as two of our top three bikes were sans-slippers.

“The transmission is one area it would be nice to get the fit and finish of the Japanese bikes,” adds “Funny Man” Sorensen. “The large throw between gears and less positive shifts make it harder to be consistent on the Duck. It takes a bit of time to get used to the function of this machine. The clutch, on the other hand, I had no complaints.”

Mid-corner stability is where the Ducati really shines, once again showing just how racy the V-Twin is in completely stock from. When cranked on its side the Duck begs and begs to be leaned further and futher, taunting you to approch elbow-dragging lean angles like a girl at the bar giving you ‘the eyes.’ This stability helped boost the Ducati to fourth overall in the Suerpole session with a best lap of 1:21.54. Nearly every one of our testers ranked it top in this department. And rightfully so.

“Stability on the Duck is a different feeling compared to the other bikes,” says Sorensen. “I get a feeling of being connected to what is going on with traction in both front and rear in corner entry and mid corner. I have always felt this chassis asks to be ridden harder as you go faster.”

“The 848 is like a slot car,” Hutchy confirms. “Once you get it on track it sticks and carves a turn like no one’s business. It’s fairly unflappable and it’s no wonder it is so rewarding when ridden on a faster, more-flowing racetrack.”

In the Ducati’s case an extremely stable chassis comes with the byproduct of sluggish steering. Pulling it from side-to-side takes effort, as one had to wrestle it from left to right in transitions. And compared to the competition, this put the Italian Twin at the back of the pack, scoring low on the track subjective catagories in this area from nearly every rider in the group.

“As always, the 848 takes more effort to muscle into a turn initially than the Inline bikes do,” notes Ken. “It makes it a more-manly machine.”

“The Ducati’s turn-in is probably one of the most stable but the trade off is slower transitions left to right and more effort flicking the bike in,” observes Sorensen. “For me personally, I think this trade off is more than worth it. I have said it before and I will say it again, this chassis is the truest race-bred machine of all the bikes in this shootout.”

While proving to be liked by all for its rigid and racy feel at the track, with this comes a high level of discomfort on the street, much due to its aggressive stance. Only our resident hooligan Waheed praised the Ducati on the roads, because in his words “it wheelies the best with all that torque.” But Waheed isn’t quite right in the head, if you know what I mean.

“The Ducati ergonomics are much more geared towards the racetrack,” Sorensen adds. “There is a lot of weight on the rider’s wrists and a fairly long stretch from pegs to seat. This seating position is more comfy than the previous 999/749 combo, though a full-day street ride still leaves you quite sore, but then again I’m a wimp.”

Across the board it was chosen as the best looking machine, fully living up to the Ducati standard of being the Ferrari or Porsche of the motorcycle world. When it comes to styling those Italians don’t mess around (except for maybe the 999/749, but that’s a whole different story).

“The Ducati looks awesome, much better than the rest,” Waheed interjects. “Those Italians know how to make beautiful motorcycles, cars, clothes – you name it they have the best style. Do you have any idea how much they build the 848 with passion and it shows.”

Impressive performance numbers – highest top speed, quickest quarter-mile, and biggest horsepower – allowed the Ducati to work its way up the chart. This was aided by its racetrack ability, though a lack of set-up time did hold it back ever so slightly. But what kept it from the top was its far too aggressive street nature and price premium. Even so, considering how closely matched this group is, coming home third to the rippin’ Kawasaki and do-it-all Honda is by no means something to be ashamed of. The Italians sure made a real good one in the 848.