2011 Ducati Diavel Streetfighter Comparison

MotorcycleUSA Staff | October 31, 2011

The Ducati Diavel is a puzzling ride. Part cruiser, part giant Monster, part… well, we’re not sure. Genre-bending bikes like the Diavel belong in a class of their own, but that hasn’t stopped Motorcycle USA from tossing the brutish Italian into a couple of 2011 comparison reviews. First in the 2011 Power Cruiser Shootout, the ranks from which Ducati expects to poach most of its sales. The wild card Diavel dominated in that test, so now the high-performance Duc squares off against these four naked standards – including its own sibling, the Ducati Streetfighter.

The Diavel certainly doesn’t lack performance from its burly engine. At 1198.4cc the Testastretta 11 L-Twin is the largest displacement bike in the test by 100cc. Its 106mm bore and 67.9mm stroke are also the largest and longest of the comparison. On the dyno the Diavel churns out the most torque of our comparison at 81.8 lb-ft. It also tops rear wheel horsepower at 136.9 ponies.

On the street gobs of torque down low don’t diminish as the revs climb. The Diavel can hang with anything in this test thanks to its ripping motor. It proves as much on the drag strip, where the long, low-slung Duc smokes its rivals with the best quarter mile (10.673 @ 128 mph) and 0-60 (2.93 seconds).

The ground clearance of the 2012 Ducati Diavel was the limiting factor at Streets of Willow Raceway.
Can’t take the Ducati Diavel to the race track? Balderdash!!!

“One speed, one mission, let’s go! That is the feeling this motor and throttle conjure up in my mind,” expounds Steeves, the fella that snagged those performance test numbers. Ken agrees, “The do-it-all Ducati strikes again. It feels the fastest off the line, thanks to its long wheelbase and mondo-motor. It accelerates with authority and has the roll-on power to humble a few of the other bikes in this test. It sounds sick and runs even meaner. This is one of my new favorite motorcycles thanks in part to this engine: It rumbles, shakes and hauls butt. It sounds sick and turns heads everywhere it goes.” 

Ducati deserves extra credit for its latest Testastretta Twin, which also powers the Multistrada. While engine performance feels unbridled, sophisticated electronics and switchable engine maps allow riders to reign in the power delivery as they see fit. The full-bore Sport setting can be muted by the Urban and Touring modes, the former cutting horsepower down to 100, while the latter retains full pony output but with a mellower throttle. Safety aids like ABS and the Ducati Traction Control can be fine-tuned in each setting as well, and the ABS switched off entirely.

The Diavel’s engine performance and character make for an intoxicating ride, but not without some flaws. At low rpm our testers find the shuddering vibrations emanating from the Twin jump from a pleasing character trait to tedious distraction.

2012 Ducati Diavel at Barona Drag Strip.
At the heart of the 2012 Ducati Diavel is the most powerful engine in our Street Fighter Shootout. It also posted top quarter miles times at Barona Drag Strip.
The Ducati Diavel dash is a spllit version that has idiot lights and GPI located on the tank while the speedo  tach and DTC features are displayed on the more-traditional placement of the all digital dash.
The Ducati Diavel showcases the Testastretta 11 L-Twin, which doesn’t lack for performance in this high-performance test. The Ducati Twin is both powerful and user-friendly, with its electronics offering three adjustable engine maps.

“I actually prefer the Testastretta 11 to the 1098, but the Diavel runs very ragged under about 4000 rpm,” deems JC. “The Multistrada uses the same engine and it doesn’t have this problem. However, the 8000-rpm surge is still there and it absolutely kicks ass.”

The six-speed transmission felt clunky and less refined than the slick-shifting Japanese bikes. However, the wet clutch in the Diavel was preferred to the dry clutch of its Streetfighter sibling. The Diavel’s slipper clutch also smoothed-out chatter on downshifts.

Radial-mount Brembo monobloc brakes are top shelf, with plenty stopping power and feel. But all the braking packages in this test are high-performance – which might help explain its “fourth-best” ranking. The ABS system is a real asset when hammering down for a quick stop on the street, though its cut-in hampers feel in spirited riding situations. But even our most ABS-phobic testers admit its benefits, and appreciate that it can be disarmed.

“The Diavel was the only bike equipped with ABS,” notes Brian. “In an emergency, you can grab a fist full with no worry in sight, but the overall performance on the track or aggressive street riding required that most of the braking to be done prior to leaning into the corner.”

At 523 pounds, the Diavel curb weight is 40 pounds heavier than the rest of the bikes in this comparison. It also sports the laziest steering geometry (28 degree rake / 5.12 inch trail) and longest wheelbase (62.6 inch). Not a recipe for quick-turning prowess, and yet, the Diavel handles well. Much better, certainly, than a bike sporting a massive 240mm rear tire has any right to handle!

“The Ducati hauls ass in a straight line, but it can carve pretty well too,” says JC. “While the Diavel seems like more of a real-world bike than a track weapon, it’s capable of handling any twisties. It feels super stable, though the fork can transmit jarring on square-edge holes.”

The three-way adjustable Marzocchi fork and Sachs shock hold up their end of the handling equation. As our dirt editor notes, nasty road blights can shakes things up, but it still proves to be the most stable mount in the comparison. Credit the long wheelbase at well over four inches longer than the nearest competitor (Streetfigher) and six inches longer than the other bikes. The Pirelli Diablo Rosso II tires also distinguish themselves. The rear may be 240mm, but the profile ensures no dramatic flopping sensation found on most wide rears. And thanks to the DTC system, riders can crack open the throttle and unleash those 137 ponies with confidence. The rear tire only breaks loose when a rider (aka Mr. Steeves) wants to and has turned the DTC setting down to its lowest level.

2012 Ducati Diavel
Yes, Virginia, there is a Ducati Diavel. And it wheelies!

That said… where the Diavel absolutely obliterated its Performance Cruiser rivals in handling performance, compared to the sportier Streetfighter class, a lack of ground clearance and that fat rear hold it back. This is most pronounced when we, wisely or not, took the Diavel to the Streets of Willow circuit.

“First thing to tap-out on this devil is the shift lever,” admits Steeves. “We bent ours on Session 1, Lap 1, Corner 2. As for suspension compliance, the stroke is short both on the forks and shock, so you quickly bottom everything out when you see the red mist in haul’n ass mode.”

“It fares real well on the street where you simply cannot ride mach-speeds all the time,” summarizes Ken. “Whoever was on the Diavel was never out of sight no matter what the canyon looked like. But it’s got a 240 rear tire, it’s big, long, low and heavy. So, while it will out-handle any cruiser, keep pace with any touring bike and give a sportbike a run for its money at the strip… the Diavel lacks the ability to run with these other four bikes on the track”

At low speeds the Diavel proves easy to maneuver, belying its long wheelbase. A wide steering lock makes U-turns trouble free, even on tight roads. The low 30.3-inch seat offers the most relaxed reach to the ground in this test.

The upright riding position incorporates a modest stretch to the bars. While a rider’s feet don’t rest forward, the position feels cruiser-ish in this comparison. Part of the reason is the seat, a saddle that settles the rider in the base of a sloping U-shape.

2012 Ducati Diavel is a great street motorcycle.
Better suited to backroads than race tracks, the Diavel may lag in handling compared to its swift streetfighter rivals, but the big Duc waddles along far better than its 240 rear should.

“I like the upright stance,” says JC, “but it’s also a bit cruiser-like in the way it makes the rider into a wind sail. I’d rather have the pegs further forward.”

“It’s apples at an orange contest,” agrees Steeves on the Diavel’s unique position. “The seat is comfy and wide. The controls are a bit stretched out, but for your own good, and to enable bad-ass-mode in your brain.”

Instrumentation and electronics garnered top ranking. The split-level instrument console features an LCD display by the bars, with digital speedo and tach. Right below is a full-color TFT display with resolution as crisp as a smart phone. While it may require glancing down from the road to read, the prominent gear position indicator and engine mode display look fantastic.

One quibble we have with the Ducati’s high-tech gadgetry is navigating the menu to enable/disable ABS and setup the DTC proves cumbersome. And for god’s sake, can OEMs please convene a meeting to outlaw keyless ignition systems. The Diavel’s system, like every other one we’ve encountered, seems unnecessary and a needless chore.

The Diavel’s distinctive styling didn’t quite mesh in this Streetfighter mix. “Its aggressive stance and low-slung look stands out as the most different in this test,” agrees Ken. “There’s no doubt it brings a unique style starting with the massive rear tire and sweeping to the slanted, elongated front end. The low stance makes this bike look like a Roland Sands one-off special Streetfighter to me.”

Ducati Diavel Highs & Lows
  • Booming power from Testastretta 11 L-Twin
  • Exceptional electronics package makes engine and brakes user-friendly
  • Deft handler considering its wide tire
  • Drag race stud with torquey Twin
  • Luxury price tag dampens fun factor
  • Rear tire ultimately hinders handling prowess

The styling indeed stands out, and so does the steep $19,999 MSRP for our Carbon spec test unit. Even the base model Diavel at $17,495 packs a premium punch over its own Ducati sibling ($14,999) and the 11K average asking price of the Japanese bikes.

While the Diavel might not dominate in the Streetfighter class, it’s a devilish ride to be sure. The beefy Twin makes for thrilling performance, and the chassis proves a surprisingly adept handler despite of its inherent limitations. While the Diavel’s MSRP is too rich for our blood, the Ducati does nothing wrong in this comparison, it just doesn’t prove an ideal fit in the streetfighter class – a case where our wild card entry busts. The only real problem we have with the Diavel is trying to figure out a new test to run it against – as we want for more excuses to keep it in the MotoUSA garage.

MotorcycleUSA Staff