We knew the Multistrada was coming but still Ducati managed to blow us away with the specification of the new Multistrada MTS1200.
It was no big surprise that Ducati was going to change the look of the bike as the oddball appearance of the old Terblanche-designed machine was responsible for holding back sales of what was otherwise an enormously capable and versatile machine. The new version has a lean, rangy look with more conventional twin headlights that pulls off the clever trick of making a tall bike look sporty - already this is a big step forward from the previous model.
But the style is just the start, the first big surprise is the power unit, not the air-cooled unit of the old model but a full 1200cc liquid-cooled V-twin closely derived from the 1198 superbike engine. Peak output is a blasting 148bhp with plenty of torque to back that up, a power output that takes the Multistrada into a new dimension and quite probably a performance contender against the year‘s other 1200cc all-rounder, the 170bhp Honda VFR1200, which is significantly heavier.
Even the choice of motor though is overshadowed by the Multistrada‘s amazing electronics package. One button on the handlebar on the Multistrada S versions gives the rider the choice of four different modes: Sport, Touring, Urban and Enduro, and for each a whole package of changes are made. In Sport mode the engine produces 148bhp with a relatively aggressive throttle response, the suspension front and rear is tautened automatically by electric motors that adjust spring preload, rebound and compression settings, while both the ABS and traction control (DTC) parameters are adjusted for late intervention. For Touring the power peak is the same but delivery is softened, as is the suspension, while the ABS and DTC are altered to cut in sooner. In Urban the power is reduced to 98bhp while the bike is made more agile with suspension changes, and in Enduro the bike is raised on its suspension, the ABS can be switched off and DTC is set to its lowest intervention level.
While BMW pioneered electronically adjustable suspension with its ESA system and Suzuki was the first to offer alternative engine mapping, Ducati is the first to combine all of these things and to go for such a wide range of adjustability, suiting everything from off road to sports road riding and even track. The system is fully adjustable while on the move, and the rider can also make additional changes to suit his own weight and riding style.
In addition to the above, the system also configures for all combinations of rider, passenger and luggage.
While the Multistrada claims far less off road ability than BMW‘s GS, it‘s clear that the upright riding position combined with the broad portfolio of abilities is likely to appeal to GS riders, and with the BMW a best-selling bike in many countries, including the UK, Italy and Germany, sales of the Multistrada could be considerable. That Ducati understands what these riders want is illustrated by the fuel range. The tank is a good 4.4 gallons (20 litres, 5.3 gallons US) and Ducati claims the bike will achieve 56mpg (20km/l, 5 l/100km, 47mpg US) in everyday riding, resulting in a decent range of 250 miles (400km).
Two versions of the high spec S model are available, a sport edition with carbon fibre frontal air intakes, cambelt covers, rear hugger and lateral air extractors, and the touring version fitted with a centre stand, panniers and heated grips.
The standard version features Marzocchi forks and Sachs rear shock, while the S has the electronic control in conjunction with Öhlins suspension front and rear. ABS is an option on the stock version and standard on the S. The electronic spec of the bike continues with the comprehensive on-board computer: the main LCD displays speed, rpm, gear, total mileage, two trips, tyre pressures (standard on the ‘S‘ version Touring package), engine coolant temperature, fuel level and time. When the bike is being ridden the secondary dot-matrix LCD displays the selected riding mode, remaining fuel/distance, current fuel consumption, average fuel consumption, average speed, air temperature, trip time, and ‘freezing conditions‘ alarm.
The bike uses a hands-free ignition system, where the bike‘s electrics are activated by a fob carried by the rider as soon as it is within two metres of the bike. This also releases the automatic electric steering lock.
The accessories range includes a 1 inch (25mm) lower seat, top box, theft alarm, electric filler cap, various carbon fibre parts and tyre pressure monitoring (stock on the Multistrada S Touring).
The bike will cost from £10,900 and be available from March 2010. This sets it close to the likely price of the BMW R1200GS base model.
Further Ducati model changes for 2010 to follow shortly...
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