Attempting to recreate the success of the 2010 model year Multistrada, Ducati once again chose to reveal its latest and greatest on the Spanish Canary Island of Lanzarote. One of seven island retreats off the coast of the African continent and often the escape for Europeans on holiday, Lanzarote is hardly big enough to house the people inhabiting the dormant volcano, let alone testing a touring motorcycle, but we gave it a shot.
Zigzagging the 16 by 37 mile landmass, we cobbled together miles of high-speed straightaways as well as low-speed turnabouts to test the improved slow-speed claims. And it didn’t hurt having the 2011 Superbike World Champion, Carlos Checa, in the group to show us the corners. But is it ready for American-sized touring stints? Or, does it impress us enough not to notice that we’ve ridden past that very same rock pile more than once today?
The Multi Revisited
In 2010, Ken Freund called the Multistrada “a bike for all reasons” in our December cover story. Unfortunately, I haven’t ridden that version of the Multi so I cannot make direct comparisons, but I can say that the DVT machine appears to have taken leaps forward on paper. The all-new machine carries only the brand name and model, after that, it’s a new machine from the ground up—delivering seven percent more horsepower (160 at 9,500 rpm), seven percent more torque (100.3 lb-ft at 7,500 rpm), and a familiar Ducati growl.
Beyond the Spec Sheet
Back then, the top shelf S model listed right at $ 20k, with the base non-ABS version going for $ 14,999. The new base model (now with ABS) is a little pricier ($ 17,695), but this time, major effort was made to smooth out its critically-abused low speed handling. With the introduction of the namesake DVT (Desmodromic Variable Timing) engine and a host of new electronic packages, the new Multi remains nearly the same price on the high end, with only a $ 2,000 gap between models.
Ducati’s Head of Engine Project Management, Marco Sairu, says the DVT now tames the race-bred Testastretta and offers “a continuous sweep from super stable tourer to a hypersport engine.” Both groundbreaking and industry-leading, the DVT system uses a higher flow oil pump to feed a cam-phase adjuster attached to each of the intake and exhaust cam shafts in order to continuously adjust the valve overlap to a total of 53 degrees. It strikes a balance between the 41-degree Superbike 1198 performance and the more touring-minded 11-degree Testastretta engine used in the previous Multistrada. In concert with the new system are a pair of knock sensors, one for each head, which communicate with the ECU and make for smoother engine performance overall, claimed lower fuel consumption in compliance with Euro 4 emission standards, and a 78-percent decrease in what they call “engine shuttering.”
More svelte power delivery to the road is only half of the new bike’s story. Controlling it, in new ways (now in five dimensions), is a Bosch-designed Inertial Measurement Unit or IMU. Head of Vehicle Project Management, Federico Sabbioni, calls this IMU “the most important part of the new bike.” With the mastery of not only pitch, yaw, and roll, but also the rates at which they change, the IMU now ties together the ABS braking with the stability and traction control systems.
All Tech Ahead
My first minutes on the bike are filled with confusion about where to stick the key. Oh, never mind, the key fob is in my pocket, but I don’t need it thanks to a keyless push-button startup. Bursting with information and rider data, the base Multi has a five-inch LCD panel dashboard that is surrounded by only a few common lights for fuel, turn indicators, cruise control, neutral, and the like. The S model’s full-color TFT screen also offers multiple faces, like the 2015 Yamaha R1, and a keen color-changing fuel bar. I would have liked a GPS for the dashboard, however.
For the first part of our ride, we’re on a white S model in touring trim (a color reserved only for the premium model), a wolf in sheep’s clothing perhaps. Rider comforts now include standard cruise control across the board, controlled at the left switch cluster, which is now backlit (at the button’s edges, not the text), and cornering ABS.
The S model includes a Bluetooth module in its Ducati Multimedia System (DMS), offering far more technology than just controlling the music playing inside the helmet. Dashboard indicators display text message or call information. Via the handlebar controls and a paired speaker system and iOS/Android app (not available during testing), one can communicate via the dashboard in a similar way to the Apple Watch. And for the truly connected rider, touring experiences can be recorded and saved for posting on social media sites.
In the Saddle
Look at a Multistrada and what does one see? A marriage of Italian style and ADV functionality, dipped in passion and that iconic red paint. The shapely curves of the bike mimic the roads around the island: less than aggressive and very attractive. Even if riders don’t know what “Angry Birds” are, there’s no denying the cockatiel, beak-ish look of the Multistrada’s front fairing and fender. The whole market seems to have a similar look now.
Electronics Engineer, Francesco Zucchelli, points out that ergonomically the new Multi has more room for rider and passenger combined, with both better pillion grips and better wind protection thanks to a 1.6-inch wider fairing and a larger five-position windscreen with 60mm of travel and one hand adjustability.
While the narrower profile saddle is adjustable by 20mm, it takes tools and time, and leaves a rider standing with extra parts. Not something one would do on tour. The saddle stands 32.5 inches in its lowest position (which is lower than the previous model year) and the accessory option offers an ultimate low of 31.5 inches.
Every effort was made to improve the Multistrada, but on our short and fast ride, we found a few extra neutral gears between third and fourth, as well as between fifth and sixth, reminding us that we’re riding on preproduction units with scant miles on them, if any.
Tempting fate itself, lunch was had inside the steaming hot restaurant perched atop a boiling volcano within Timanfaya’s Biosphere Reserve. Perhaps this was intended to disguise the Multi’s burning hot 90-degree V-twin. Not a big problem, but one does notice the heat, first on the right thigh and by the end of the day, curiously, on the left ankle.
Consuming just about six liters of petrol after only 57 miles, the new Multi yielded approximately 36 mpg in this short and partial tank reading, almost exactly the same average Ken got from his 2010 unit. Carrying the same 5.3-gallon tank, the same riding range can be expected, just shy of 200 miles. At which point, a rider has to dig out that key to open the tank (or saddlebags) as the hands-free cap is only available as an accessory, unlike the 2015 BMW GS’s keyless system.
Traction in Action
As was the case with the second-gen model, each of the four riding modes (Enduro, Sport, Touring, and Urban) garner a defaulted—but customizable—set up. In the Sport and Touring modes, riders have access to the full 160 horsepower, with Sport receiving “direct” delivery and Touring getting it “gently.” In either the Urban or Enduro mode, the available 100 horsepower (at 7,500 rpm) is delivered gently for both. Beyond that, each mode has individual presets for Ducati Traction Control (DTC), ABS, Ducati Wheelie Control (DWC), and Ducati Skyhook Suspension (DSS) EVO. Traction and wheelie control offer eight levels of sensitivity (plus off), ABS has three (plus off), and the suspension has four.
The up-spec S model comes with a next-gen semi-active DSS EVO, EVO referring to the all-new Sachs hardware, software, and electronic sensors used to continuously control the machine’s damping. The chosen rider mode presets the starting damping value. The dash and switchgear inputs offer remote fine tuning of the rear spring preload electronically. Two new accelerometers up front (fork and wheel) and two in the rear (rear subframe and swingarm to record spring travel) communicate with the updated power control units—dynamically controlled with proportion to the speed.
Overall, in its complete form, the DSS EVO reads and interprets any and all rides and terrains, dynamically controlling the bike’s position and performance for the best possible ride. Continuously controlling the braking, suspension, wheel slip, and lift as well as the cornering headlights! Pitch, yaw, and roll are analyzed to reduce dive and squat, increase stability, and also preventing hard hits with electrically actuated top and bottom “bump stops.” Speed sensitive and super fast, they are hardly perceptible. Now conscious of the bike’s lean angle, every ride is better regardless of the rider, his/her abilities, or terrain. Starting at only seven degrees tipped in, and optimized for the average cornering angle of 20 degrees, the Ducati Cornering Light (DCL) system includes a single lean-angle dependent LED showing just a little bit more around a corner, above 20 mph.
State-of-the-art Brembo monobloc front brakes, including a radial master cylinder and a pair of four-piston calipers, stab at a pair of 320mm front discs (265mm rear) on the base model. The S gets larger 330mm discs, superbike-spec Brembo M50 calipers, and a PR 16 brake pump taken from the Panigale. Assistance from the IMU helps to reduce front end dive with active suspension adjustments.
Best of the Best
The new Multistrada has taken a leap into the future with a second generation semi-active suspension, cornering ABS and headlights, a fully-integrated multimedia system, and most impressively, a whole new way to make efficient power and a comfortable ride at any speed. Given more opportunities to shine, the 2015 Multistrada has the potential to be a winner on the track—it’s already a proven winner on the trail (Pikes Peak 2010)—and it’s destined to be a winner between one’s garage, local canyons, and workplace.
The Urban Pack includes a 48-liter topcase, a semi-rigid easily removable tankbag, and a USB port. MSRP $ 899
The Enduro Pack includes auxiliary LED lights, a skid plate, crash guards, off-road footpegs, and a radiator shield. A sidestand extension plate completes the kit. MSRP $ 1,399
The Sport Pack includes a carbon Termignoni exhaust, carbon fiber front fender, and billet aluminum brake and clutch fluid reservoir covers. MSRP $ 1,399
And finally, the Touring Pack includes a 58-liter total capacity set of hard saddlebags (no longer asymmetrically pinched tight by the exhaust pipe), three-position heated grips, and a centerstand. MSRP $ 1,399
Each package is sold separately, but they can also be purchased together without conflict or overlap. A fully-loaded S would run $ 24,791.
+ groundbreaking variable valve timing, full-color TFT on S model, w/ a color-changing fuel bar, highest tech suspension on the market
– hard to read bar tachometer on S model, no wire wheel option for true Enduro riders
Distributor Ducati USA
MSRP $ 17,695 (base), $ 19,695 (S)
Engine Testastretta DVT L-twin, 4-valves per cylinder
Bore and Stroke 106x67.9mm
Fuel Delivery Bosch EFI
Power 160hp @9,500rpm, 100.3lb-ft. of torque @7,500rpm
Transmission 6-speed, wet multiplate clutch
Frame tubular steel trellis frame
Front Suspension 48mm fully adjustable USD forks, 6.7in travel (DSS on S model)
Rear Suspension fully adjustable Sachs monoshock, 6.7in travel (DSS on S model)
Rake/Trail 24°/ 4.3in (109.2mm)
Brakes Front/Rear dual 320mm semi-floating discs, radially mounted monobloc 4-piston Brembo calipers /single 265mm disc w/ 2-piston floating caliper, cornering ABS (S model has 330mm front discs w/ EVO M50 calipers)
Tires Front/Rear Pirelli Scorpion Trail II 120/70/17 / 190/55/17
Wet Weight 511lbs (232kg)
Wheelbase 60.2in (1529mm)
Seat Height 32.5-33.3in (825-846mm)
Fuel Capacity 5.3gal (20l)
Fuel Consumption 36mpg (observed)
Fuel Grade premium
Colors Red, Iceberg White (S model only)