The road holding capabilities of Pirelli’s Diablo Supercorsa SP rubber is absolutely amazing. This is what full-on DOT race tires felt like just a few years ago.
Fresh for 2011, Italy’s legendary motorcycling brand, Ducati
, has released a new middleweight sportbike dubbed the 848 EVO Superbike. This new motorcycle replaces the standard 848
and offers increased braking, acceleration and handling performance for less dough than before with its price now starting at $12,995, a full grand less than its predecessor.
The 848 EVO can be classified as Ducati’s entry-level Superbike. It utilizes the same frame, suspension and nearly identical braking components as the premium World Superbike pedigree 1198. The primary difference is the powertrain with its use of a smaller 849cc liquid-cooled L-Twin engine and conventional wet (bathed in oil) clutch. This places it in a unique category in the sportbike world offering a machine with a bit more power than what the middleweight 600cc Supersport class can offer.
Engineers began with the base 848 as we’ve tested extensively in the 2008 Ducati 848 Comparison
and 2009 Ducati 848 Comparison
. They then focused on the engine and upgraded it with new hard parts. They began by reworking each cylinder head and modifying the intake ports for better flow. New camshafts provide 13% higher lift on all four of the intake valves and 8% more lift on the four exhaust valves. New pistons were also fitted that boost compression ratio from 12:1 to 13.2:1. The throttle bodies grew 4mm in diameter to 60mm. Other hot rodding tricks include a 500 rpm increase in maximum engine revs with the limiter now coming in at 11,300 rpm. More power means more heat so the plastic timing belt covers now have ventilation slits in them. Together, Ducati claims these changes allow the 848 to pump out six more peak horses than before.
The potential for higher trap speeds necessitates stronger braking performance so engineers ditched the two-piece cast Brembo calipers for the one-piece monobloc design as used on the 1198
. We were never fans of the two-piece calipers so for us this upgrade is huge. The calipers still bite down on twin 320mm diameter rotors with a radial-mount master cylinder and steel brake lines augmenting the set-up fore and aft. The rear brake is unchanged and there is no ABS option. Ducati claims that the 848 now delivers 20% more stopping force based on the same amount of lever pressure.
Other chassis changes include the fitment of a non-adjustable steering damper that is horizontally- mounted between the fuel tank and the top triple clamp as well as an upgrade to Pirelli’s fabulous Diablo Supercorsa SP road tire. These tires are one of our favorites on both the street and track and you can learn more about them in the Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP Tire Comparison Review
All said and done Ducati claims that the new EVO weighs roughly the same as the standard 848 which we previously measured at 420 pounds with a full 4.1 gallons of fuel. Lastly, the EVO will come in three colors including Dark Stealth for $12,995 and Ducati Red and Arctic White Silk for $1000 extra. We are especially fond of the latter colorway in tandem with its bright red wheels.
For the test, resident fast-guy Steve Atlas visited Italy’s beyond fabulous Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari racing circuit in Imola, just a short drive from Ducati’s manufacturing and worldwide headquarters in Bologna. The track itself is situated right smack dab in the middle of the city and is fully integrated into the lives of its citizens in a way that would be impossible to replicate in America. If you’re a full-on motor head you simply have to visit Imola. It is unreal. Take it away Atlas:
Hey guys and girls, for our test Ducati took us all the way to Imola. And I’ve been to plenty of bad-ass tracks all around the world but none like this one. As soon as you pass the stacked F40 statue (a tribute to Ferrari founder, Enzo Ferrari) you can literally feel something special. It just has some kind of aura about it. So much crazy stuff has happened here for good and bad including when F1 drivers Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna both met their unfortunate demise the same weekend in ’94, (Rest in Peace). Yet it’s an absolutely beautiful place. There’s even a soccer park and a number of old world homes and buildings right inside. It’s the stuff legends are made of.
Let’s talk about the bike for a moment. The biggest thing is the addition of the monobloc brakes. The 848 was always held back a bit by the two-piece cast brake calipers and it’s quite an upgrade. There is a substantial increase in outright stopping power and feel. This makes it that much easier to slow down and you don’t have to yank on the brake lever nearly as hard as before. This is probably the biggest improvement. Though it doesn’t have a slipper-clutch the engine has so little engine braking that you don’t really miss it. You can still back it in nice and smooth and it's actually a lot of fun.
Inside the engine, Ducati made a host of internal changes and the top-end is more powerful than before. It’s not drastically different but you can definitely feel something extra. Although it doesn’t sound like a 500 rpm higher rev ceiling is that big of a difference, it allows you to hold a gear longer and you don’t have to shift as much which is a big plus. Bottom-end felt the same and there was just a hint more mid-range, but again top-end is the most improved.
Equally as impressive as the top end power boost is the Pirelli SP tires. The difference here is huge because it’s the closest thing to a race tire for the street. There was one spot on the track—Acqua Minerale—it’s a consecutive series of downhill right corners. The first one is taken at around 120 mph and the second at 70 mph. At first, the way the track looks it seems like you need to slow down for the first bend. But I saw Carlos Checa would bomb through the first corner without braking and I thought to myself "if he can do I may as well try."
And it’s here where the trust and confidence of the Ducati’s chassis comes into play. Feel while leaned over on the side of the tire is crazy. You put so much pressure on the front end, you’d think it is going to fold but it doesn’t. I specifically remember Checa having the bike leaned over so far that it looked like his shoulder was on the ground.
It’s mind boggling how much grip and front end feel you have. You could literally push the bike right to the limit and scrub off speed by pushing the front tire. Then you’d stand it up, grab a downshift and get hard on the brakes then whip it into the next corner. From there the track goes straight up a steep hill. You flick back to the left while you’re riding a wheelie up the hill, what a blast!
Before that right hander where you plow the front, there is a downhill left where you can spin the tire all the way downhill. Again, I remember mad-man Checa burning off his tire with smoke literally pouring off it when he was in front of me. It was unreal!
Overall, it’s like the old 848 but 10% better—everywhere. The real benefit is in terms of price as the Dark Stealth EVO is actually a grand cheaper than the ’10 version 848. But then again for an extra $1000 you can have it in white with the red wheels and frame which looks gorgeous in person. It is one of the best looking Ducatis around and to get that for the same price [$13,995] as before is unbelievable. Well done Ducati!
The smooth torque-rich power pulses of the Ducati’s liquid-cooled 849cc L-Twin help the rider achieve fantastic drives off corners as Atlas demonstrates.
Ducati could have easily carried over the standard 848 for another year. Instead they pumped up engine power, increased braking performance, and elevated its handling capabilities with higher grip tires and a steering damper. But the really amazing thing is that they did it while still dropping the price by a 1000 bucks. If you’ve always wanted to experience the charismatic thrill of Ducati Superbike ownership there’s no better time than now.
The addition of an improved 848 and a couple other new middleweights can only mean one thing: We will have another episode of our annual Supersport Shootout coming up in a few months and it looks like Ducati may have closed the gap with the 848 EVO, so stay tuned...