2011 Ducati 848 EVO Street Comparison

Bart Madson | May 23, 2011

The Ducati 848 has campaigned the Supersport class ever since replacing the 749 in the 2008 model year. This year the Italian middleweight arrives in the higher-spec EVO form. Read our 2011 Ducati 848 EVO First Ride for a comprehensive analysis of the modifications, but the short and sweet is this: more power and better brakes. Oh, yeah, Ducati also managed to hack a full grand off MSRP, so while still the most expensive, the Italian ride’s a more manageable $12,995 as tested.

Thumb the 848 starter and that growling L-Twin informs this Duc is a different animal entirely. Sound delivers the immediate impressions but crack the throttle and the Ducati separates even more from the pack. At 62.68 lb-ft, peak torque production is on an entire different wavelength than the Fours and even eight lb-ft more than Suzuki’s GSX-R750. In peak horsepower production the higher-revving 750 retakes the advantage, but at 119.42 ponies the EVO is double-digits up on the 600s – nearly 20 up on the Honda. The Ducati wins the dyno battles hands down. Yet even though it churns more far more torque across its 11,100 rpm range than any of its eligible comparison rivals, the 848 can’t escape the shared SS shortcoming of sacrificing some bottom-end for stronger performance up top. Remember, this is a bike designed for the track.

“The Ducati’s bottom-end power didn’t impress me,” decries Waheed. “For a V-Twin it should pump out more low-end torque than it does. In fact, it feels actually a bit weaker than the previous model. But get the engine spinning up top and it pulls with greater voracity than ever before.”

The Ducati 848 EVO is without a doubt the best looking bike in this test.
The Ducati 848 EVO is a looker, without question, but how does the Italian racer fate as an every day street mount?

The bottom end is still more than robust enough to chug along at a relaxed street pace. Spooled up a bit, however, which it does in a hurry, and the pulsing Twin delivers the most visceral riding experience without question.

“You got to adjust to the Twin. Back to back with the four-cylinder bikes you’ll hit the rev limiter a lot and you got to carry a little more corner speed, but riding it a little more aggressive its really fun,” woos Steeves.

“I think the sound of the motor is amazing. I like gassing it just to hear the engine,” agrees Simon. And the Ducati does sport a throaty, rough-edged sound, a big reason why it edged out the playful Triumph for top ranking in the Engine Character evaluation.

Funny thing is, the Ducati’s intoxicating tones were rated high based off pure character, not volume. The 848 measured slightly less than the stout-sounding GSX-R600 in our sound tests, 82 dB at idle and 96 dB at half redline. Well, 96 dB at 5500 rpm, as the Ducati doesn’t display a distinct redline on its digital tach. Instead shift lights flash when approaching the red, before the rev limiter finally kicks in.

2011 Ducati 848 EVO Dyno Chart
The Ducati EVO mustered class-leading power stats, the big Twin cranking out 62.68 lb-ft torque and 119.42 horsepower.

The EVO’s Digitek MotoGP-style instrumentation split our testers, some liking its racing intuitive display and functionality. Others found the digital tach in particular difficult to read. And when those shift lights did fire up, the Ducati’s transmission didn’t deliver the smoothness of its rivals. Notable for its rattling dry clutches, Ducati opted for a conventional oil-bathed unit in the 848, yet the clutch and six-speed gearbox weren’t as sorted as its rivals.

“For sure the 848 is one of the more difficult bikes to launch due to its unrefined clutch and tranny,” deems Adam. “Clutch lever pull requires the strongest hand and it can feel quite grabby sometimes. But with all that power at your right wrist it’s pretty easy to overcome a slightly botched start as evident by the quarter-mile result.”

The brawny Duc fared well in performance testing, with a leading 10.56 quarter and second-fastest 3.25-second 0-60. All told the 848 EVO swept every engine category in our test. Braking was another story.

The 848 EVO’s Brembo monobloc front calipers replace the predecessor’s two-piece cast calipers (also Brembo). Billed as a key upgrade, the Ducati’s front stoppers felt too touchy for street work compared to the better feel on the other rides. We reckon those Brembo stoppers might excel at the track, where their claimed 20% increase in stopping force at the lever will be better harnessed. For public roads, however, it’s overkill. The rear brake is in direct contrast to the front set-up. While there is an adequate level of outright stopping power there isn’t a whole lot of feel at the brake pedal, which makes it tricky to use effectively.

The Ducati is the slowest steering motorcycle in this test but get it cranked over in a corner and it is a hard mount to beat.
The Ducati 848 EVO is one of the more top heavy-feeling bikes in this test which makes it a little more cumbersome at slow speeds.
With its wide spread of engine torque the Ducati is surprisingly easy to ride on the street.
The Ducati’s ample torque means plenty of power for the street, with the raucous Twin delivering the most visceral riding experience of the lot.

“The downside for me is I’m a big rear brake guy,” says stoplight to stoplight wheelie/stoppie adict Steeves. “I like to have fun on the street and slide around a little bit. But the Ducati’s rear brake lacks any real power, plus it is very difficult to modulate because there isn’t a whole lot of feel—it’s either on or it’s off.”

Handling-wise the Ducati also fared below average, the chassis, like the brakes, deemed more track-oriented than street-friendly. The steel-trellis frame and Showa suspension (three-way adjustable 43mm fork and rear shock) transmit everything through the chassis.

“If I was making my decision of going in a straight line this bike would be No. 1, but this thing felt very rigid and I couldn’t turn this bike for the life of me,” says Simon. “It was very hard to lay over in a turn. I felt like I would always stand back up straight which made the front end push into the corners.”

Other testers noted the Ducati’s tendency to feel top heavy tipping into the corners, and the 848 does hold the distinction of being the heaviest curb weight at 430 pounds. But these handling complaints are all relative to the extremely capable competition. Once reconciled with the Ducati’s stiff feel, the 848 still delivers an exhilarating ride and sporty handling – the faster the pace the better. The standard Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP tires do more than hold up their end of the bargain.

The 848 riding position split test rider opinion, though the Ducati rated dead last in overall comfort and second-to-last in rider interface. On the plus side the tall-feeling Ducati makes a decent fit for some of our larger riders. That said, the forward cant of the riding position is murder on the wrists for any extended period of time. Placement of the lever controls, particularly the rear brake, isn’t comfortable. Nor is the comically hard seat, which also squashes a rider’s nether regions directly into the 4.1-gallon fuel tank, with alarming results. That the EVO is a racing design first and foremost is further evidenced by the mirrors, which provide no useful view of the road behind and seem to exist only out of grudging acknowledgement that they are required by law – along with turn signals, which are integrated into the front.

“I wasn’t so fond of the Ducati,” said Agustin. “It was so incredibly stiff, and this bike may have beaten the Triumph for most uncomfortable seat. When we were choosing bikes for the long ride back to the office, I steered clear of the Ducati for sure.” Even one of the champions of the Ducati riding position, Simon, found an issue with comfort. “Comfortable to ride, but heat from the Ducati motor just seemed to torch my ass and legs. That was not fun in the hot weather!”

With the Ducati on the street, it all comes down to how much a rider will sacrifice comfort for raw performance and styling. Sure, styling is subjective, but there is zero debate in our test riding crew as to which bike wins in the appearance category. The Ducati is stunning. Our test unit even suffered the indignity of getting bashed up during track testing, when a wind gust demolished the Ducati pit, tipping over the 848. Even scratched up it wasn’t close. Like Monica Bellucci with a scuffed knee, this Italian beauty is still bellissima!

Highs & Lows
Highs
  • Class-leading power production from the Ducati’s L-Twin
  • Top quarter-mile time and strong 0-60
  • Unmatched styling, far and away the most fetching Supersport in our testers’ opinions
Lows
  • Brakes super powerful, almost too powerful with a grabby feel at the lever
  • Riding position uncomfortable, with harsh seat and sore wrists
  • Even with price reduction, the most expensive  

That Ducati hacked MSRP down a full thousand bucks is a big bonus. Yes, the Ducati still costs more, and getting the 848 EVO in white or red colorway will still cost the $13,995, but the price drop is a noteworthy move even if it doesn’t generate any advantage in our points rating system.

Which brings us to the points… While we gripe about its too-racy-for-the-street brakes, handling and ergonomics, the Ducati had us mesmerized by the character of its lovable Twin. The engine performance and personality won over our testers, and its unrivaled looks only sweetened the deal. The Ducati road those class-leading category scores to third-place overall in our 2011 Supersport Street evaluation.

Bart Madson

MotoUSA Editor | Bashing away at the MotoUSA keyboard for 10 years now, Madson lends his scribbling and editorial input on everything from bike reviews to motorcycle racing reports and industry news features.

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