It doesn’t have the Panigale V4’s engine, but the 2020 Ducati Panigale V2 doesn’t need it to deliver serious speed. Plus, it’s more affordable than the V4 model, which is a good thing for riders interested in setting lap times and carving up roads. As a result, Popular Mechanics called it the best superbike of 2020. But is it necessarily the best sportbike you should buy?
Why the 2020 Ducati Panigale V2 earned a Popular Mechanics recommendation
Popular Mechanics acknowledges that the 2020 Ducati Panigale V2 isn’t the most powerful sportbike or superbike on the market. And, given that the Panigale V4 exists, it’s not the most powerful Ducati. However, that’s exactly what makes it a great sportbike.
The 2020 Ducati Panigale V2’s 955cc 90° V-twin (aka the ‘L-twin’) makes 155 hp and 77 lb-ft, Cycle World reports. Which, in a 441-lb bike, is more than plenty. And you don’t really need any more horsepower, Motorcyclist reports. Unlike with the V4 model, on the V2 you can actually hold the throttle open for more than a split second. It’s essentially the Mazda Miata argument: less power, but you’re using more of it.
But the 2020 Ducati Panigale V2 does inherit a few things from the more expensive V4 model. Namely, its electronic features and parts of its overall design, Revzilla reports. The Panigale V2’s 4.3” TFT display comes from the V4, as does its adjustable traction control, engine-braking control, ABS, and wheelie control, Cycle World reports. You can even reduce the engine’s output to 105 hp.
Plus, like the Panigale V4, the Panigale V2 has a single-sided swingarm, a slipper clutch, a quick-shifter, and air ducts in its fairing, RideApart reports. It also has Brembo brakes and adjustable suspension. However, in the V2 model, said suspension is tuned for more on-road compliance, Motorcyclist reports. And the seat is more comfortable, too.
The 2020 Ducati Panigale V2 has a few flaws. The suspension doesn’t handle bumpy roads as well as the V4 models do, Motorcyclist reports. And its under-seat exhaust can get a bit uncomfortable on warm days. But as a superbike that can handle commuting and track duty, it has a lot to offer.
The less-extreme sportbike alternatives
However, with a $16,495 starting price, the 2020 Ducati Panigale V2 is a bit expensive for those just starting out on sportbikes. Plus, while the 2020 Ducati Panigale V2’s output is adjustable, 105 hp may be a bit too much for some.
Also, while the electronic aids are helpful, especially for nervous and/or newer track riders, not every rider will experiment with them. Most will likely set it and forget it. In which case, the aids’ flexibility and adjustability become somewhat pointless. Fortunately, there are some simpler, less powerful, and more affordable sportbikes available.
For example, the 2021 Kawasaki Ninja 650. The 400 model is a Cycle World 10Best winner and Popular Mechanics‘ best beginner bike. Also, Cycle World calls the 650 “a transitional sportbike for riders who are moving up the ranks from beginner to expert.”
Its 649cc parallel-twin makes 67 hp and 47 lb-ft, Revzilla reports, and it weighs in at 423 pounds. The Ninja 650 doesn’t have all the Ducati Panigale V2’s electronics. However, it does have a TFT dash, ABS, adjustable levers, and a slipper clutch. Plus, at $7799, it’s significantly cheaper. That leaves you with plenty of cash for tire and suspension upgrades.
However, if you want a few more features, there’s the 2021 Aprilia RS 660. It’s priced in-between the Ninja 650 and the Panigale V2 at $11,299. For that, you get a 659cc parallel-twin with 100 hp and 49 lb-ft in a 404-lb sportbike, Cycle World reports. The RS 660 also comes with a quick-shifter, a slipper clutch, Brembo brakes, and fully-adjustable suspension.
The Aprilia RS 660 hews closer to the Ducati in terms of electronics. It has a TFT display and ABS, along with adjustable traction control, wheelie control, engine-braking control, and cruise control, Motorcyclist reports. And, like the Panigale V2, it can adjust its throttle response and power output. But even without the safety nets, the RS 660 is a joy to ride, and all-day comfortable, Cycle World reports.
Which one should you buy?
As with any motorcycle purchase, the best way to decide between these sportbikes is to ride them. Whichever one you’re most comfortable on is the one you should get.
It’s worth pointing out that, if what you really want is a track bike, there are other affordable options available. For example, the 117-hp $12,199 2020 Yamaha YZF-R6, which RideApart describes as “a highly potent race machine that happens to be street legal.” Or the $10,199 2021 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R, with a 636cc inline-4 engine, multiple riding modes, traction control, and a quick-shifter, Motorcyclist reports. However, these sportbikes aren’t as comfortable to ride on the road.
Ultimately, the 2020 Ducati Panigale V2 is a sportbike that edges into superbike territory. But if you’re just starting out in the segment, the Ninja is worth a look. And if you want something more advanced, not but as advanced as the Ducati, the Aprilia RS 660 is the one to get.
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