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Style, sophistication and performance – words not typically synonymous with the V-Twin cruiser segment. Until now: Meet the Ducati XDiavel ($19,995). Harnessing a stroked-out iteration of the Italian brand’s Superbike-spec Testastretta Twin, the 1.3-liter (77-cubic inch) XDiavel sports a sleek, athletic physique with true forward-friendly controls. It’s how Ducati envisions cruising.

V-TWIN MUSCLE, ITALIAN-STYLE

A longer stroke variation of Ducati’s tried-and-true Testastretta DVT-enabled Twin gives life to the new X (see sidebar), boasting a 67cc displacement bump compared to the standard 1198cc mill used in Ducati’s Multistrada 1200 sport-tourer. Compression was also raised half a point. Another notable difference is the use of a conventional (by cruiser standards) belt final drive instead of the typical chain assembly. This reduces both maintenance and mess, while maintaining authentic cruiser DNA.

Considerable time was spent on the engine dyno perfecting the X’s pulse. It pulls cleanly from 3000 revs all the way its 10,000 rpm redline (identical to the 2011-2016 standard Diavel). Similar to the new Multi, the DVT (Desmodromic Variable Timing) solution gives the best of both words: a flatter and more linear power character without sacrificing performance, with claimed 95 lb-ft peak torque arriving at 5000 rpm.

This makes for easy passing, in any gear, as hardy acceleration force readies from just under 4000 revs, which happens to be where the engine spins at 65 mph in top gear. Yet, in Ducati spirit, it maintains an appetite for revs. Downshift through the slick-shifting six-speed gearbox, yank the right grip, and hang on. The X leaps forward rapidly dishing plenty of ‘oomph to loft the front wheel in first gear. Ducati says its Twin is good for 156 ponies at 9500 revs at the crank, and with the frantic boost of acceleration as the digital tach-bar nears redline, it certainly feels that fast. However, there’s still enough engine vibration to cloud the mirrors at freeway speeds, but that’s always been the case with most Ducatis.

In typical Ducati fashion, the X benefits from ride-by-wire throttle control allowing for individual engine power maps (Urban, Touring, and Sport). This lets the rider alter the powerband (and associated DTC and ABS settings) via a few pushes of the switchgear. It also employs Ducati’s long-standing eight-way adjustable traction control, and newly introduced cornering ABS function, courtesy the fitment of a 1299 Panigale-type IMU (see sidebar). Launch control is also standard (Ducati calls it ‘Power Launch Control’), as is cruise control. Each setting, as well as the XDiavels running stats can be viewed via an iPhone 4-sized color dash located ahead of the 4.75-gallon metal fuel tank. The display looks pretty, but ideally, it should be repositioned above the handlebar, so it’s easier to peek at. Although we didn’t ride after dark, theTron-like LED headlamp is eye-catching even in daylight.

Visually, the engine block’s appearance was enhanced by removing unsightly cooling system plumbing (typically hidden by bodywork on other Ducatis) which necessitated re-engineering of the water pump. The abundance of plastic employed on other new Ducati engines is jettisoned – replaced with sturdy aluminum bits. Furthermore, a thicker clutch cover (al ’a the Monster 1200R and 959 Panigale) reduces mechanical noise. Thankfully, sculpted slash-cut pipes emit a lively beat, but not so much as to be obnoxious.

The blacked-out Twin appears as if chiseled from a block of raw aluminum and looks especially clean and uncluttered on the starboard end. But the opposite side, it has a couple distractions – mainly the hydraulic clutch hardware and ignition wiring. Riders smitten by arrays of chromed-out cooling fins might not like the industrial lines of the Ducati’s mill. However, if you’re a techno-buff, this is it: clean cut and ready to play.

The premium ’S’ model ($3000 upcharge) elevates things further with its contrast-cut machined timing belt covers (similar in appearance to the Scrambler) and wheels, which really give the X a polished look. It also adds special ’S’ logo radiator covers, forged engine/swingarm side plates, billet-stalk mirrors, special low-friction coating on the fork tubes, and heavier-duty M50 monobloc front brake calipers by Brembo.

SEATING POSITION OF A CRUISER, HANDLING OF A SPORTBIKE

The XDiavel certainly isn’t as adept at knee down jaunts as its Panigale cousins, but it is remarkably capable for a fat-tired bike designed specifically for what Ducati calls, “low speed excitement.” Both the frame and swingarm are new, with the rake kicked out two degrees compared to the standard Diavel. Fork offset was modified slightly to retain the Diavel’s trail measurement. The short steel-trellis frame bolts to the cylinder heads (similar to the Monster family) thereby reducing weight and allowing the engine to be an active part of the chassis. The single-sided swingarm is fabricated from both forged and cast aluminum pieces joining the chassis at rear of the engine case, with wheelbase measuring 63.5 inches.

The X features a deep seat tray swallowing you into the cockpit (15mm lower than the standard Diavel). Reach to the handlebars is relaxed with a distinct rearward sweep. The rider’s footpegs are mounted in a forward position, which is an odd sensation for a Ducati, but a welcome trait for those seeking comfort, or with limited knee motion. Another plus is how lithe the X feels between the legs, with it weighing around 545 pounds ready to ride.

Customization of the riding experience was a design goal for engineers, and there are threaded mounting holes allowing fore and aft rider footpeg adjustment (by nearly an inch in each of the three settings). Conventional Diavel mid-mount footpegs are also available as a Ducati Performance accessory, as is a larger/comfort, low/high, and leather seat options. The passenger also gets added love in the form of a special back-rested seat. A one-inch rearward, and conversely, one-inch forward handlebar option is available for purchase too, but it would have been nice if engineers had fabricated mounting holes inside the top clamp to make the adjustment without having to buy accessory parts.

As expected, the X delivers a firmer ride than a typical cruiser. This reduces straight-line comfort to a certain degree. Another squawk is the seat’s rearward cant places extra pressure on the bottom of the spine. Add some turns into the route, and the X’s taut chassis springs to life, delivering astonishing road-holding for a wide-tired cruiser. It handles responsively at both parking lot and freeway speeds, and has more ground clearance than we desired to test (Ducati claims 40 degrees). But on rough pavement, the suspension did feel bouncy. Thankfully the fork and shock include independent mechanical damping adjustment.

Most cruiser riders rely on a strong back brake, and the Ducati doesn’t disappoint. The front brake hardware is also up to the extra mph the X can deliver. We also appreciate that the ABS setting can be modified, with the brake and clutch levers also adjustable.

A DEFINITIVE CRUISER BUILT FOR CRUISING, HAULING ASS, OR BOTH

Where the original Diavel was somewhat of a half-street, half-cruiser oddity, the X is a definitive answer in the performance cruiser sector. Although lacking a bit in customary comfort, the XDiavel makes up for it in spades with sophisticated style and an advanced electronics package that makes it even more fun to ride and haul ass aboard. And if those are the check boxes you’re looking to fill on your next cruiser ride, the XDiavel is the bike.

(By Adam Waheed, via motorcycle-usa.com)