Ducati returns to this year’s Supersport Shootout with a bigger, blacker gun in the form of its 848 EVO Superbike. Based off the original V-Twin-powered 848, this new machine is equipped with a hopped-up engine, bigger brakes and a steering damper which equates to even more racetrack performance as tested in the 2011 Ducati 848 EVO Superbike First Ride
report from Italy.
Compared to the competition the Duc delivers a completely different feel from its engine, chassis and cockpit. Although it’s a bit slimmer than the Inlines it feels longer and the riding position is more stretched out—even compared to the Daytona 675R. While average height and taller riders liked it, our most petite rider thought it was a little overwhelming.
“The overall size, riding position, and handling capabilities of this bike just simply didn’t agree with me,” says 5’4” pilot Ross. “I wrestled this bike in every corner and found the controls difficult to manipulate and out of reach. Sure, the 848 had a very tactile and characteristic charm, but not such that I would forfeit the comfort and performance that the other 600s had to offer.”
“It just takes some time to get used to,” explains Neuer, the voice of us lanky riders. “And after spending some time on it I really liked the controls and the ergonomics in general. It feels roomier and not as cramped which is a real plus for a taller person.”
Grab a handful of the right grip and the Ducati 848
has a bit more pep at lower revs than the Inline-Fours and feels comparable to that of the Triumph. We do, however, recall better bottom-end performance from last year’s 848 so it seems they have traded a bit of bottom- for top-end performance with the EVO. Get the motor spinning above 6000 revs and it starts coming to life, surpassing the competition in terms of torque production with a maximum output of 62.68 lb-ft arriving at 9500 rpm. That’s over 18 lb-ft more than the 600s, 13 more than the 675R and nearly eight more than the mighty Gixxer 750.
“One advantage of having a lot of engine torque is the ability to control rear-end slides,” notes Atlas. “This is something that a few of the more peaky 600cc Inline-Fours struggled with, as power from the Italian Twin is made over a broader range.”
As speed increases the engine builds rpm very quickly—especially for a Twin. It’s still not quite as fast revving as the Inlines but it is certainly a lot closer than ever before. Just before the shift light starts flashing the engine pumps out a strong burst of top-end power to the tune of nearly 120 horsepower at 10,500 rpm which makes the Ducati the second most powerful bike aside from the Suzuki 750. Riders had better be quick with the left foot though, because the engine only has another 600 rpm before it stalls abruptly at its 11,100 rpm redline.
“It’s got a lot stronger mid-range for sure,” says Rapp in comparison to the 600 engines. “Top-end kind of surprised me too as it came on really strong the higher you revved it. Only problem is the power fades really quickly, so you need to be quick on the up-shift. It also seems like you have to work the gears more often to get the most out of the engine.”
As Rapp mentioned the Ducati requires its rider to shift more frequently than the other bikes. Fortunately, the six-speed transmission is up to the task as it meshes between gears without major issues. It is worth noting, however, that the Ducati doesn’t feel anywhere near as precise as the Japanese bikes, or Triumph for that matter, exhibiting considerably more slop at the shift lever which r
esulted in a low score in the drivetrain category.
Off of Turn 10 the Ducati registered the highest acceleration g-force aside from the GSX-R750 (0.67g) with the third-highest top speed of 125.8 mph. Another high acceleration g-force load was measured out of Turn 13 (0.61g), though curiously the top speed at the end of that straight-away was only better than the Kawi and Suzuki.
Like the Honda and Triumph the Ducati still doesn’t offer a slipper clutch. But we didn’t even miss it that much, as long as we didn’t downshift into too low of a gear during corner entry. On the scales the EVO weighed in at 430 pounds with a full load of fuel making it the heaviest bike in this test.
It’s hard not to feel the added heft especially during corner entry, with it taking more muscle to get pointed in the right direction than the other bikes. To our surprise however the Ducati posted mid-pack flick rates through Turn 1 (50.7 degrees/second) and Turns 8/9/10 (55.9 degrees/second) which could be explained by the rider compensating by muscling the bike through these areas with greater effort. Once cranked over on the side of the tire the Ducati felt like it was most in its element, and indeed it rated fairly well in the mid-corner and corner exit handling categories.
“You can't help but love the absolutely planted feeling from the front-end,” says Atlas. “While it takes a couple laps to get used to, once up to speed I found myself turning my fastest lap times with ease. In fact they felt slow from in the saddle, but a look down at the dash showed the stopwatch doesn't lie and this was easily my quickest bike of the test.”
Though not everyone was sold on the Ducati’s handling: “It felt kind of unstable to me and it was hard for me to know how fast I could go in the corner,” Rapp explained. “I found myself braking a little earlier because sometimes the bike felt like it wanted to run wide as soon as I dialed in the gas on corner exit.”
Through Turns 4 and 5 the Ducati carried a very respectable corner speed of 66.2 mph which was identical to the Triumph and only 1 mph off the class-leading Honda. Conversely however in the right-hand sweeper (Turn 13) it registered the lowest speed (71 mph). It was also toward the back of the pack through Turn 16 with a speed of 53.1 mph.
- Excellent mid- to top-end power
- Fantastic front end feel
- Strong Brembo brakes
- Heaviest bike of the entire Supersport lot
- Sluggish steering
- Demanding ergos
In terms of braking the Ducati’s Brembo monobloc set-up rated third best both on our test riders note pads and in terms of g-forces (-1.05g in Turn 1 and -1.0g in Turn 8). Power and initial bite are outstanding but feel didn’t seem to be quite as high as the Triumph or Suzukis. Either way they are plenty adept at shedding speed quickly.
All said and done, the Ducati tied Yamaha’s R6 for third place. While it received top marks in a number of performance categories it failed to really blow us away in the subjective scoring area. Its Superpole lap times were also toward the back of the pack. Still if you’re looking for a refreshingly different way to fly around the racetrack the 848 EVO just may be it.