It would be impossible for this updated Diavel to match the impact of the original, launched only three years ago. Few bikes have been as controversial. Internet forums and magazine letters pages blazed with complaints that the Diavel was ugly, and that Ducati was betraying its sporting heritage by building a cruiser.
Despite that, Ducati’s boldness in creating the dramatically styled and cleverly engineered Diavel was rewarded when almost everybody who rode it came back smiling; marvelling at the unique way that it combined a relaxed riding position and fat back tyre with thrilling acceleration and improbably agile handling. It looked like a cruiser, performed like a superbike and has since sold respectably well, despite being far from cheap.
The updates are aimed at improving comfort and low-speed performance. That brutalist styling is retained. In fact it is exaggerated slightly, by larger air scoops on either side of the fuel tank. Other changes include an LED headlight and indicators, reshaped seat and a new exhaust system with “slash-cut” silencers.
The engine is still a 1,198cc, liquid-cooled, eight-valve V-twin, but is updated with twin spark plugs per cylinder, new camshafts and a higher compression ratio. The maximum output remains 160bhp, roughly 20bhp up on the similar unit in the new Monster 1200, but low-rev torque is improved.
Ducati claims a revised injection system gives a more refined feel. That may well be true, although I’d need a back-to-back test with the old version to confirm it. What is certain is that the revamped Diavel is not just one of the quickest bikes around but also one of the most exciting.
For such an aggressively styled bike it is rider-friendly, especially in the softest of the three riding modes, Urban, which limits power output to 100bhp. But if you press the indicator button to select Touring or Sport mode, then crack open the throttle, you’ll need to hold on tight as the Ducati thunders forward at a rate that even the firm’s super-sports 1199 Panigale would struggle to match. At 205kg dry the Diavel is heavier but its extra length helps keep the front wheel down.
The Diavel’s upright riding position is comfortable, too, at least until wind pressure intrudes, long before the maximum speed is reached. The low seat aids manoeuvrability in town.
On the launch, the only engine-related drawback was the otherwise slick six-speed gearbox’s occasional reluctance to find neutral, possibly due to the bike’s very low mileage.
If the engine is powerful and refined, the chassis impresses even more, because a bike with cruiser-like steering geometry and a huge rear tyre really shouldn’t handle so well. Inevitably the Diavel feels slightly cumbersome in the tightest of hairpins, but in most bends it’s remarkably composed.
The ride quality is very acceptable, despite the relatively short-travel suspension; and the Diavel has none of the cornering clearance limitations of many cruisers. It also has outstanding braking power, due to its stability-enhancing length allied to the ferocious bite of Brembo Monobloc calipers, allied to an excellent ABS system.
Detailing is mostly good, especially on the more expensive Carbon model tested here. This gains a carbon-fibre front mudguard and tank and seat covers, along with forged aluminium wheels and different silencers. Neat components shared by Carbon and standard Diavels include the pillion footrests and grab-rail, which retract out of sight when not required.
Those parts and the generously padded dual-seat help make the Ducati respectably practical. Its fuel capacity is a modest 17 litres but most owners will improve on the sub-100-mile range dictated by the mountainous launch route, which dragged consumption below 30mpg. At least the tank-top instrument panel now has a fuel gauge. Accessories including a screen and panniers can add versatility.
But most prospective owners will be attracted by the Diavel Carbon’s basic charms; especially by its unique blend of style, acceleration and handling ability, which goes a long way to justifying its substantial price of £16,995. These latest updates won’t make the oddball Ducati popular with every motorcyclist, even if the controversy that surrounded the original model has passed. But the Diavel is a little more refined, and every bit as exhilarating as ever.