2010 Ducati 1198 S Review
Go to the 2010 Ducati 1198 S Overview Page
While it’s true that Ducati’s 1198 S is very likely the final configuration in this particular model’s lifespan, that doesn’t mean it is anything less than a spectacular street bike. We know that Ducati will withdraw from World Superbike racing next season in order to work on something that will prove more competitive against the European and Japanese four-cylinder literbikes.
We hear it will still feature an L-twin—Ducati is unlikely to walk away from its signature powertrain—but with a super short-stroke design and with a chassis that may be composed, in part, of carbonfiber.
Even with revolutionary new techniques around the corner, it seems like this current model is not really that uncompetitive. Factory Ducati-Xerox rider Nori Haga won one of the World Superbike heats at the recent Nurburgring round (and might have taken both were it not for crashing), and Carlos Checa took his Team Althea Ducati to a double victory at Imola.
But Ducati did not win the 2010 World Championship. That went to Aprilia. And what the Borgo Panigale factory comes up with in order for them to recapture the title is likely to be pretty extraordinary. It will probably render the current 1198 series obsolete.
The upside of this scenario is that the current 1198 S, 1198 S Corse, and 1198 R Corse are highly evolved models, having benefitted from everything the factory has learned over the last few years. Whatever their competitive status on the track may be, they offer towering performance on the street, along with some remarkable technologies.
This 1198 S, for example, has a sophisticated eight-level traction-control system that can be tailored to a rider’s needs. There are slipper pistons with a double-rib undercrown for extra strength. The cam-followers are super-finished and the transmission has shot-peened gearwheels for greater durability. The so-called Vacural process was used to cast engine casings six pounds lighter than in the 1098, and MotoGP–derived elliptical throttle bodies with single injectors help meter fuel precisely.
The result is certainly the best street Ducati sportbike we’ve ridden. The amazingly flexible engine provides emphatic throttle response seemingly at any engine speed, so broad is the torque band, and the power is more than most people could possibly need in a street machine.
Ducati says its 1198 S makes 170-horsepower, and various sources have confirmed a rear wheel output around 145-horsepower. The engine is deceptively smooth from about 4,000-rpm. While there’s still some of that familiar pulsation at low revs if you open the throttle wide, this bike will actually cruise smoothly at sub-4K engine speeds on a light throttle.
The exhaust note is throaty and charismatic on full throttle, even with the relatively quiet stock Remus canisters, amply describing the resulting rapid increase in revs. Yet it settles to a quiet thrum at cruising speeds, providing the perfect balance for riders who’ve outgrown the need to attract attention. When you crack the throttle on this machine, you need to keep a toe near the rear brake to manage front-wheel levitation in at least the first two gears. Oh yeah, it’s pretty strong.
It is everything you’d expect from a bike that makes its starter work so hard first thing in the morning before bursting into life with a roar of energy. Sometimes you think the battery may be a little weak, or that the starter motor is on its last legs as it cranks slowly and uncertainly, but it always started.
The Ducati is firmly sprung on its Őhlins forks and shock, and its riding position is committed to the usual sporty crouch, but it wasn’t as bad as I’d expected. The bars are a fair stretch for shorter riders, but may be better suited to my long torso because I only felt serious weight on my wrists in slow traffic. And even the footpegs didn’t feel radically hiked up.
Our bike also wore the optional racing seat, which features a suede-like texture that began to wear off almost immediately. The seat doesn’t have much padding, and you’ll feel the results of that after a long day on the road, but it is broad and quite roomy, allowing a fair bit of moving around. Obviously, the bike is unequivocally sporty, from its stylish fairing to the prominent steering damper to the MotoGP-derived instrument panel, and that’s what many of its fans like about it.
Speaking for myself, I like that it has a degree of civility in this form. Perhaps the base, non-S model 1198 is even more mild mannered. I won’t know until I ride one. But I value the ability of a bike to rail a racetrack one moment, then provide at least reasonably comfortable transportation services the next. And while the 1198 S is never going to be the choice of cruiser, tourer and naked-bike riders, it gets the job done in the long run.
Because it wears the tall sixth gear ratio from the race bike, the 1198 S strides across the highways at relatively low engine speeds. As I mentioned, this is only a problem when you add throttle, setting up that familiar Ducati jackhammer pulse. Fortunately, the shifter is light and quick, so dabbing for a lower gear is pretty easy. The clutch has a light pull, too, and is way better than what we remember from the Troy Bayliss 1098 R.
Compact and convenient the instrument panel may be, but its monochromatic display makes it difficult to read in bright sunlight. The relatively large digital speed display isn’t too bad, though, and the engine is tremendously easy to ride by sound and feel. You almost never have to look at the liquid-crystal tachometer strip anyway.
Everything on the bike is the best that money can buy. The brakes are Brembo Monobloc four-piston calipers on big 330 mm discs, and you can call up all the braking you can stand with just one finger. You just have to remember that while the bike has traction control, ABS is not available, so if you squeeze too hard you’re on your own.
But the Ducati benefits from the wonderful mechanical communication that Italian engineers seem to prize above everything else. So you can sense braking threshold quite well at the lever and through the chassis. A similar level of feedback helps you monitor the bike’s responses to rider inputs. The 1198 S goes where you want it at the slightest pressure on the bars, but its mid-corner stability is reassuring. It always seems to have more on tap than this rider could exploit.
We had Steve Rapp run the machine around the Streets of Willow for lap times as part of a feature story for Motor Trend magazine I was writing, and even his extraordinary pace looked calm and unspectacular from the sidelines, despite the very quick lap time. Smooth is fast, and Rapp is nothing if not smooth.
Like so many models that came before, the 1198 S is one of a final series of models before big changes happen at Ducati. But that’s just part of the natural evolution that takes place, and there are plenty of iconic Ducati models out in the world that were the pinnacle of the company’s potential at the time. As in the case of Ferrari and other classic marques, Ducati 1198 S models will be collectible—and enjoyable—long after they are no longer being made.
But don’t jump the gun just yet. We have word that deals on 2011s are going to be very attractive.
The Ducati 1198 S is listed at $21,795.
Ducati is currently offering 3.99% finance on 1198 S (and other) models, along with a $1,250 store credit.