The bike you see here is far more than just a standard 848 with a fancy paint job, it’s the 848 Evo Corse SE, and stunning colour scheme aside, it comes with an Öhlins rear shock, a quickshifter, larger front discs and traction control.
The Evo looks beautiful in the flesh, and the Corse paintjob suits the 848’s purposeful lines.
Throw a leg over the bike and everything’s where it should be, though the riding position won’t suit everyone – the seat is canted forward and there’s a long reach to the bars. And shorter riders might find their knees getting caught on the end of the fairing scoops.
Turn the key and the clear and uncluttered dash springs into life. Thumb the starter and you’re greeted by the bassy sound of the 848’s V-twin rumbling into life. Twist the throttle and listen to it cackle on the overrun. It stirs something deep inside you.
Pull away and the throttle is smooth, with little of the traditional V-twin snatchiness. Snick a gear using the quickshifter, increase speed and tuck in behind the doublebubble screen. Chest flat against the tank, snick another gear and the engine effortlessly makes progress. The fuelling is spot on – it delivers loads of torque but also loves to be revved to its 11,000rpm redline. The delivery is smooth and progressive and gloriously elastic.
Drop a gear and tip into a corner and the front gives loads of feedback and masses of confidence. it feels planted, though it’s hesitant and reluctant to turn in on the tighter bends.
But as the road deteriorates the Ducati’s suspension makes itself known. To say it’s on the hard side is an understatement. As the bike bounces over a bump I get a severe punch in the kidney, leaving me in pain and turning the air blue inside my helmet. That harshness is only an issue on the really bumpy stuff, but it can catch you off guard when it happens.
If things do ever threaten to get out of hand, a squeeze on the Brembos quickly gets things under control. They’ve got great feel and power but they need treating with respect – they’re ferocious and it’s very easy to lock up the front.
So what’s it like to live with? Well, in the three weeks we spent together the Corse SE feels planted on open, flowing bends. It’s a machine that turns every ride into an occasion and it gets a lot of attention. It never misbehaved or did something to sap my confidence. And even though the weather was miserable during the majority of my custodianship, the traction control meant things never got hairy. It’s also deceptively quick. Crack the throttle, snick a gear and the bike launches itself forward, front wheel pawing the air, speed building in unison with the feral roar booming from the cans. It feels aggressive and relentless, more like an inline four than a twin.
Those same underseat cans do, however, get very, very hot and I managed to melt my rucksack during an ad hoc roadside stop to change into waterproofs.
So are the trinkets worth £1000 more than standard 848 Evo? That depends on the riding you do. it takes a while to dial into just how the 848 needs to be ridden, and if you’re going to get the most from it you need to be riding it hard, which for many of us has to mean riding it on the track. And if that’s the kind of riding you do, then it’s worth every penny as you’ll never be able to upgrade the standard bike for the same amount of money.
However, if your riding is primarily limited to the occasional Sunday blast, then you might be better off with the standard version, which is still a magnificent sportsbike that’s far less intimidating – and expensive – than the Panigale.