When we attended the launch of the new 2012 Ducati Streetfighter 848, we got something we did not entirely expect. This bike is much more than a smaller displacement version of the big 1100. That original Streetfighter is simply too much motorcycle for most enthusiasts. A very aggressive steering geometry and that huge, powerful superbike motor, together with wide handlebars make for quite a handful. Ducati has done more than stick a smaller engine in that chassis with the new 848.
If you wanted more performance than you could find from a Monster or a Hypermotard, perhaps a jump to the Streetfighter 1100 was too big. The Streetfighter 848 might be your answer, as it starts with the smaller, but still powerful 848 EVO engine, which has been tuned for broader, smoother power delivery and reduced fuel consumption and emissions. Don’t worry, Ducati says the bike still puts out 132 hp at 10,000 RPM, more than enough for most naked bike enthusiasts.
In addition to the smaller engine, Ducati has gone to a less radical steering geometry. The 1100 was almost nervous feeling, but the new chassis, based on the frame used on the 848 EVO sportbike, calms things down, and even provides better feedback and confidence.
Changes continue with revised suspension. The Marzocchi fork, new to the 848, has a more compliant, street-friendly feel, and the Sachs rear shock is also a bit softer and friendlier on the road. The ergonomics compliment this, as the 848 has handlebars that are a bit higher, contributing to more comfort.
We began by sampling the Streetfighter 848 on the road. A beautiful route that passes by the Ferrari factory in Maranello and the Fiorano test track.
As soon as you begin to ride the Streetfighter 848, you sense the smoother, friendlier power delivery in comparison with the 848 superbike. From as low as 2000 RPM, the engine responds predictably and with a linear increase in power. Power is nevertheless plentiful, but flexible enough that you rarely have to worry about where the tachometer needle is pointing. The engine response is almost as surprising, and pleasing, as the feel from the new front-end geometry and fork.
The Marzocchi fork works wonderfully on the street, compliant but firm enough to provide excellent feedback from the asphalt. The new handlebar position is taller, but is still a bit aggressive compared with some other nakeds that are more upright. Nevertheless, it is not a radical position by any means, and reasonably comfortable for street travel.
After 60 miles or so on the road, it was time to test the Streetfighter 848 on the race track. The venue was Modena with pristine, new asphalt. It serves more as a test track than a racing circuit, and still lacks some rubber to make it as grippy as one might like. To counter this, Pirelli was there with a new version of the Diablo Supercorsa SC, including a new rear profile that came directly from the World Supersport championship series (a 180 section).
After just two short, 15 minute sessions, it was clear that the Streetfighter 848 is a viable track weapon. Due to its light weight, it is easy to change directions on, but still very stable through fast sweeping corners. Part of that stability comes from a swingarm that is 35 mm longer than the one found on the Streetfighter 1100. This gave me the confidence to exit corners more aggressively without worrying about a loss of traction.
Like several recent Ducati models, the Streetfighter 848 features traction control. Eight different settings are available and the thorough instrumentation tells you what setting you have chosen, along with providing lap times and plenty of other information.
The radial-mounted front Brembo calipers are very effective. Plenty of feel and feedback when hard on the brakes, and they work well both on the track and on the road.
For a naked bike, high-speed travel on the road is relatively comfortable as the design, including a very narrow fuel tank, allows you to keep parts of your body out of the wind. The mirrors are rigidly mounted, allowing you to adjust the glass section only, but they work surprisingly well … breaking the trend towards good looking, but poor functioning mirrors found on some other models. The twin exhausts look good and sound good, without being so loud that you end a long ride with a headache.
The new Streetfighter 848 has learned some lessons from its older bigger brother. It is still a fast, aggressive naked, but something more reasonable and comfortable to use in the real world. The Streetfighter 848 is available in three color schemes, including yellow with black frame, all-black, and red with red frame. U.S. MSRP is $12,995.00. For further details and specifications, visit Ducati’s web site.