The Ducati Multistrada V4 S is an adventure bike, which today means that it aims to be very good in as many riding conditions as possible: on-road, off-road, cornering in twisties, whipping around a track, pulling long hauls fully loaded on the super-slab, even bopping around town. As such, the Multistrada V4 S aims to do it all — and with varying degrees of composure, it does.
The V4 S is one of a few iterations of this model, which now also includes the base Multistrada V4 (not imported to the USA), the V4 Sport (a V4S with snazzy paint and alloy wheels), and the Pikes Peak Edition, which is considerably tweaked for nimble on-road performance. All of these Multistrada V4s are large and powerful bikes. The V4s are the bigger siblings to the Multistrada V2 range that will roll out in late 2021.
The V4 engine derives from Ducati's lightning-fast Panigale V4 sport bike, here significantly modified, re-tuned, and newly dubbed the Grandturismo. It puts out 170 hp and 92 lb-ft of torque.
This engine foregoes Ducati's signature Desmodromic chain-activated valves in favor of traditional spring-activated valves. As a rev-happy four-cylinder, this engine deviates considerably from Ducati's throaty Desmo V-twins.
Is the Ducati Multistrada V4 S New?
The Multistrada V4 S went on sale in the fall of 2021, along with the base V4 and V4 Sport. The sportier Pikes Peak Edition will be available in 2022.
What Makes the Multistrada V4S Special?
The Multistrada V4 S is Ducati's most sophisticated motorcycle — and arguably the most sophisticated motorcycle currently in production. That sophistication includes the first radar-enabled adaptive cruise control and blind spot detectors in the industry, the aforementioned V4 Grandturismo engine, an amazing up-down quick shifter, Ducati's Sky-Hook semi-automatic suspension, cornering-compensated ABS, traction control, wheelie control, deeply tweakable rider modes, a phone-enabled on-dash nav / entertainment / coms system, a floating luggage system, and creature comforts like heated grips and seat. Very sophisticated stuff.
Though I had just come off a 9,000-mile trek on a BMW GS, I found Ducati's joystick- and button-activated user interface very easy to use. The menus are layered, but surprisingly easy to navigate. More importantly, I actually liked using the bike's electronics. The abundance of features at my fingertips was delightful.
The Multistrada V4 S is also one of the most distinctively styled motorcycles on the market. The signature beak looks unabashedly like a bird of prey. The physical connections between the complex faring and vent pieces are, in the Italian tradition, made almost entirely invisible. The exposed rear trellis frame is a modern touch of Ducati's 1990s badassery, and the LED headlights seem to say "watch out." When one spends nearly $30,000 on a motorcycle, and that motorcycle is Italian, it better look damn special; luckily, there's no question that the V4 S is — whether you dig it or not — a work of automotive art.
Perhaps the most practical distinguishing feature of the Multistrada V4 S is the 36,000-mile valve maintenance interval. Back in the 1980s, a bachelor's roll of toilet paper could outlast a Ducati valve adjustment. But Ducati has long-since met, and now exceeded, the industry's increasingly long maintenance interval standards; I think it may be time that we reviewers stopped mentioning all of this and simply let Ducati's hard-won reputation for reliability stand on its own.
But, still, 36,000 miles? Most folks I know don't put that many miles on a bike before selling it. That spec is both reassuring to owners and threatening to BMW and even Honda, who are both known for seemingly endless reliability. The Multistrada is, in every way, a 21st-century motorcycle.
How Does This Ducati Ride?
When I throw my leg over a Ducati, I want to feel a beautifully enraged machine, a passionate beast that will corner telepathically and pull me into a spiritual vortex where my soul is wrung out by the handmaidens of speed. My Panigale V2 does that. My Supersport S, when spun high, did too. Hypermotard? Check. Diavel, yes. Large-bore Scramblers, pretty much. Monsters? Of course. The Multistrada 950 and 1260 even did it when pushed. But the Multistrada V4S did not wring out my soul — and for this reporter, who rides motorcycles as a form of antidepressant therapy, that was a problem.
Despite being one of the fastest upright motorcycles I've ever thrown a leg over, the V4S was (wince) polite. Even in Sport mode with the (excellent) windshield lowered and the suspension stiffened up, it was polite. At 135 mph — which I achieved in the blink of an eye while flicking seamlessly through the world's best gearbox without using the clutch — I felt like I could have sipped an espresso while checking my watch. All that resounding politeness may represent a technical marvel showing its strengths, but I ask you: Why bother hitting 135 mph if it's not thrilling?
The answer, of course, is that in Italy on the autostrada, or in Germany on the autobahn, or in Montana where I've never seen a cop outside of Dunkin' Donuts, you might actually spend more than a few seconds north of 120 mph. On Nebraska's secondary highways among endless cornfields, on the ultra-straight runs south of the Rockies headed toward New Mexico, or with a clear view while rolling down an Interstate slope in Vermont, I would absolutely adore the politeness of the Multistrada V4 S at triple-digit speeds.
This politeness comes down to two things: the best wind protection I've experienced outside of a car, and the engine's power curve, which is more linear than a diesel truck's.
The half-faring and windshield are genius. With one finger, I was flicking that windshield up and down and getting either smooth air flowing through my helmet vents or sending that air right over my head with zero buffeting. If you're doing long hauls, you're gonna absolutely adore the quiet, polite cockpit.
Despite being fast fast fast, the Granturismo engine is as polite as a British butler. It doesn't even require that you shift gears. It's always ready, at your service, no matter what. The power band starts around 2,500 rpm (seriously) and doesn't flatten out until 10,500 rpm. I could find neither a dead zone or a power bump, which is remarkable — and very much in keeping with the mandates for a Ducati engine as set out by their Desmodromic guru, Fabio Taglioni, during the 1960s. Revving some high-winding motorcycles can feel like handling a delicately nibbed fountain pen on Japanese parchment. Twisting the throttle on the Multistrada V4 S is like dragging a fat, wet, red magic marker across a blank piece of printer paper.
That flat power band is something of a safety feature. Anyone who's found a deer in their headlight or a teenager drifting mom's SUV like the Grim Reaper of Snapchat will know that even a single quickshift can make the split-second difference between a hell of a story and a coma.
Despite all the images of the Multistrada V4 S in knee-dragging repose, the V4 S didn't corner like a track bike. The spoked or cast (but either way, tubeless) front wheel is 19", and the suspension travel (6.7" front / 7.1" rear) is ready for rock hopping and stump jumping. The handlebars are so wide, in my few attempts to hang off the bike, I felt like I was going to pull whatever muscle is in an armpit.
But when I popped into Enduro mode, took the bike up some packed dirt and loose gravel, stood up on the pegs and pretended that I was being timed in a hill climb, the wide bars made perfect sense. When I descended and locked up the rear brake, the wide bars kept me upright.
I enjoy speeding through twisties more than farting around in the dirt, and for that reason the Multistrada V4 S isn't for me, personally. I wanted to want it. That wind protection, that adaptive cruise control (which worked like a charm), the espresso sipping at 120 mph, the powerful Granturismo engine, the best quickshifter and gearbox combo in the industry, the wonderfully adept electronic Sky-Hook suspension, and the avant garde eff-you aesthetics make the Multistrada V4 S the best all-around motorcycle on the market. I just wanted it to take corners sooner, faster, harder so that I could feel the handmaidens of speed at work. Screw the dirt; I want turn-in and speed. This is a Ducati, after all.
A few days after I returned the loaner bike, Ducati announced the Multistrada V4 Pikes Peak Edition. It was as if I had sent this review over to Ducati's head of development and they said, "Okay, Allen, no problem. Here, try this." The Pikes Peak model has a 17" front wheel, light Marchensesi alloy wheels, a narrower and lower handlebar, slightly higher and more rear-set footpegs (1 cm in each direction), snappier gear ratios, a proper Race Mode (like on my Panigale V2), carbon fiber bits, a multi-colored seat, and a super-cool paint job.
I've yet to ride the Pikes Peak, but I can't wait to give it a go. I'm glad — and as an Italian-American, even a little proud — that the Multistrada V 4S has put the German competition on notice, but I'm over the moon that Ducati offered us fussy riders in search of antidepressant thrills the sportier Pikes Peak Edition.
Anything Else Stand Out?
I'm 5'7"...but that's complicated. My inseam is a meager 28.5," while my torso and shoulders are that of a six-foot-tall man. I'm pretty accustomed to managing big, tall bikes despite my minuscule inseam, and I found the Multistrada V4 S with the seat in the lower position to be eminently manageable. It is relatively easy to get up off the kickstand, which is significant, especially given my bum knee (from a dumb moment treating a Triumph Bonneville like a track bike). I can hardly get the discontinued Multistrada 950 off the kickstand, but I popped the V4S up without pain or fuss. With a dry weight of 480 lbs, the V4S is remarkably light for its size.
If a bike asks me to remove a butt cheek from the seat when stopped, I won't ride it. Atop the V4S, I'm on tip-toes in track boots at stoplights, which is fine for me. The seated position was beyond ample, and a 6'2" tall pal looked abundantly comfortable on it. Given the adventure category's inherent tallness, this bike is impressively manageable. But by no means is the Multistrada V4 S for beginners. This bike demands that you know what you're doing.
Another issue: Ducati's phone mirroring system is annoyingly weird and complicated. Multiple apps are required, and it's just a lot of digital fussing for a machine I'd use to escape digital headaches. Apple and Android's standard dash systems are both more elegant and familiar, and I hope Ducati will incorporate those soon.
Once the maps were on the dash, however, it was gorgeous. That cockpit is just sexy. BMW still uses a secondary GPS unit integrated with their bikes' TFT systems and a less elegant, but far easier, system to use for a number of reasons. I suspect both brands will have ported phone mirroring systems from their affiliated German cars quite soon (Ducati, after all, is part of Audi/VW).
What's It Cost?
The Multistrada V4 S begins at $25,795 without luggage. The review model included an Akrapovic exhaust, engine guards, spoked tubeless wheels, each of which costs extra. There is a bevy of options and accessories available for all models.