2023 Ducati Streetfighter V2 Review: Is This The Perfect All-Round Commuter Bike?

  • Naked version of the Panigale V2 sportbike
  • Peppy 955cc V-twin
  • Comfortable in traffic or pushing hard
  • One of the more affordable Ducatis
  • Understated Storm Green paint job new for 2023
  • Seat can get a bit toasty while commuting
  • No fuel gauge (and inconsistent warning light)
  • Still costs over $18,000 in Storm Green

At this year's Monterey Car Week, I spent six full days blasting around on a 2023 Ducati Streetfighter V2. Riding a bike at Monterey helps reduce the inconvenience of overwhelmed infrastructure that simply cannot handle the amount of car—and motorcycle!—enthusiasts who descend on the peninsula each year. In fact, the main reason I got my M1 endorsement in the first place was because of the logistics that Monterey Car Week presents for anyone trying to cover as much as humanly possible (in the hopes of skipping as much traffic as possible).

Skirting around the Ferraris, Lamborghinis, McLarens, and pre-war steam tankers this year, my bike's Storm Green finish and bold styling certainly attracted a lot of attention. But even in Los Angeles, Streetfighters seemingly lurk around every corner. And for good reason, since this Ducati in the increasingly popular naked form is a relatively accessible entree into the legendary Italian motorbike maker and runs for only just over $17,000. A step more aggressive than a Monster, but not as lowslung as the full-fairing Panigale V2, a Streetfighter nails the overlap of a comfy commuter that's almost as sporty as possible when called upon.

The naked Panigale V2

Essentially, the Streetfighter V2 sees Ducati strip a Panigale V2 of its fairings to expose the engine mechanicals, then mount higher handlebars, repositioned pegs, and a wider seat. The Panigale's 955cc Superquadro V-twin carries over, putting down 153 horsepower and 74.8 lb-ft of torque with a choppy exhaust note that sounds great lower in the rev range and then truly opens up at higher RPMs. A revised final drive ratio actually shortens up the six-speed transmission's gear ratios at the wheel, though, to prioritize the Streetfighter's low-end power delivery. But give that grip a hard yank and the torque transitions quickly into ripping horsepower, seemingly all the way up to the highly enticing 11,000-RPM redline.

Squeezing through Monterey traffic, I found the Streetfighter's happy place in second gear: enough power to feather the throttle and clutch, but still far up in the rev range that supercar owners might hear me rumbling up from behind and swerve to keep their wide cars out of the way. The V-twin seems to hold inertia best around 5-8,000 RPM, which helps to reduce any twitchy throttle inputs between light gas and early engine braking. But, when the road opened up or I needed to rip over the Laureles Grade, easy quickshifting between second and third kept me well in the powerband as I started to lean over and find the Streetfighter's eminent cornering capabilities out of stop-and-go and into the fun.

Easy to ride easily or on the edge

That Superquadro V2 serves as a load-bearing element of both the Panigale and Streetfighter, but getting into the nitty-gritty reveals that Ducati also extended the Streetfighter's single-sided swingarm by 0.6 inches to help offset the more upright riding posture with a longer wheelbase. Still, a dry weight of only 392 pounds means the Streetfighter feels equally nimble while lane-splitting through traffic and leaned over through a turn. The 33.3-inch seat height allows for easy balance at stoplights, and combined with repositioned footpegs versus the Panigale's, helps to keep even longer rides comfortable without any sore knees or back pain.

I still found the handlebars just a bit high for my taste when I got about 35 minutes of real ripping in, on the way up through the tight back roads into the secret Santa Lucia Preserve. Though the padded seat and the gas tank's knee ergonomics worked equally well in a solid tuck, while trying to cut out of blattering wind when getting up anywhere near highway speeds, a windscreen might be nice for anyone considering longer rides.

Entry level but not entirely lacking

Pushing hard, the V-twin delivers plenty of grunt to whip up into top speed on any straightaway, almost regardless of gearing, so hitting max acceleration forced me to lean forward onto the contoured gas tank and shift my weight back onto the footpegs. On public roads, downshifting and engine braking typically drew enough speed down to start countersteering and leaning out over my inside leg with minimal braking, as I sussed out my courage on an upright naked with the inner soul of a sportbike.

The naked Streetfighter cuts a few bucks off a Panigale and allows for a well-rounded, relatively affordable entry point to Ducati. In terms of overall sales, it sits below the best-selling Multistrada, though the Streetfighter V4 led the pack with 5,730 units back in 2020 (out of 48,042) when the Multistrada first entered the market. The V2 now slots in at a price point well below that V4—and especially below the V4 SP I rode last year—but still delivers the full suite of electronic features that Ducati equips on the Panigale V2.

I can copy-paste the full list: ABS Cornering EVO, Traction Control EVO 2, Wheelie Control EVO, Quick Shift EVO 2, Engine Brake Control EVO. But more importantly, selection between three ride modes—Sport, Road, and Wet—allows for quick adjustments of how quickly and how often those nannies intrude on rider inputs.

Adding up to about half of a Streetfighter V4 SP

For me, toggling through the different ride modes as weather transitioned from foggy and misty out on picturesque 17-Mile Drive to hot and sunny in Carmel Valley or on the way up to Laguna Seca meant I never needed to worry about slipping and sliding while distracted by yet another Bugatti or Koenigsegg snorting in stop-and-go traffic nearby. If I kept the bike longer, I figure playing with a custom combination of settings might fit into the mix to find my perfect balance between (most likely) medium throttle response and maxed-out driver aids.

I also never fiddled with the Streetfighter V2's manually adjustable suspension, but the factory settings probably err on the side of firmness to enhance the sporty appeal that potential buyers (especially newcomers) expect from a Ducati. For commuting, I might soften up the rear Sachs shock just a smidge, especially when I recall the V4 SP's smooth ride that left me wondering whether I had a flat tire on my first ride up into the hills of Malibu.

But do I actually need everything on the V4 SP that totals up to a starting price tag of $35,500? Well, the carbon wheels create that smoother ride and also shave poundage, bold wings add to the aerodynamic downforce, and a factory dry clutch enhances the exotic Italian appeal (read: a noticeable chattering at idle to attract attention). I can never say no to more horsepower—at 208 ponies from the two additional cylinders—but asking for everything from the V2 engine much more often almost feels more fun than timidly approaching wheelies at triple-digit speeds on the fancier, racier, more expensive V4 SP big brother.

Little details after a week on the Streetfighter V2

Ducati tacks just about everything possible onto the V4 SP from the factory—even more than the absolutely smokin' but more specifically track-focused Panigale V4R. A bunch of little details made my week on the Streetfighter V2 stand out, though, even at the lower price point. Both the shifter and clutch lever nail perfect action and engagement, with light enough weight for slow-speed cruising but enough heft and positive feedback while pushing as hard as possible.

And while pushing as hard as possible (or as hard as I dared, shall we say), the V2's monobloc Brembo calipers and 320-mm twin front brake discs paired with a 245-mm single rear meant I never overshot my stops and rear-ended a Ferrari (or went over a cliff's edge into the Pacific Ocean). Now throw in the two Ferraris that nearly took me out—one driving entirely on the wrong side of the road, the other changing lanes without indicating (obviously)—and I appreciated Ducati's commitment to Brembos all the more at Monterey. Nobody wants that six or seven-figure insurance claim, after all.

Keeping a constant eye on fuel consumption

The Streetfighter gets less aggressive brake pads when compared to the Panigale V2, though, which makes sense given the wound-up nature of that sportbike. A bit less bite results in less nose dip while braking, either in neutral or with the clutch pulled in. In traffic, the handlebars perfectly positioned me to keep my head on a swivel, but trail braking while starting to lean over or while countersteering created an occasionally awkward moment of pushing up rather than out. But at least the exposed bar allowed me to easily install my Quad Lock phone mount in the hopes of using Waze to bounce between appointments in my Car Week scheduling.

No bike is perfect, even my favorite Aprilia RS660, and a few complaints popped up on the Streetfighter V2 as well. Mostly the fuel gauge or lack thereof, which resulted in the low fuel light turning on and off repeatedly. Tight for time and unsure of which neighborhoods in Monterey even allow gas stations, I wanted to keep a closer eye on consumption to plan out my routes a bit more. In total, I filled up twice in six days after Ducati's provided tank of gas ran out, so a bit more capacity might be nice given the Streetfighter's commuter aspirations. Then again, I spent probably half that time hard above 8,000 RPM, which certainly slices into MPG figures substantially—regular riding at lower revs would help, but who wants to do that when the road opens up?

A cool bike but not exactly cool

Given the swanky soirees and variable weather at Monterey Car Week, I never rode the Streetfighter V2 wearing full leathers. Yes, I am aware that especially among a raft of undoubtedly inebriated supercar owners, safety should have been first on my mind. But jeans and slacks fit in better at the Concours and media programs I attended, even if my perceived style meant I needed to suffer a bit for fashion on the bike as a bit more heat and exhaust soaked into my thighs.

Not many bikes can contain every hint of warmth seeping out in traffic, but check out the exhaust pipes winding up under the Streetfighter's saddle. That two-into-one-then-back-into-two-into-one system allows for additional muffling and dual catalytic converters, plus a solid dose of style points. Culminating in a single tip just ahead of the rear tire, though, the system warmed up noticeably in traffic or in the sun—even if I never noticed the coolant temp climbing above 208 degrees Fahrenheit thanks to the massive set of radiators sucking in airflow behind the front wheel.

I could have even brought someone along for the ride on the rear pillion pad, given the folding rear passenger pegs. But then I might not have shredded the tires quite as much, a point of pride I definitely felt while returning the bike to Ducati with quite possibly the most wear angle I've ever put on any motorcycle so far. A good sign, I reckon, for the Streetfighter V2's canyon-carving capabilities.

2023 Ducati Streetfighter V2 Verdict

Comparing a base Streetfighter V2 to its main competition, a Triumph Speed Triple (heavier and more expensive) or an Aprilia Tuono V4 (heavier and on the sportier side), the Ducati not only stands a notch higher up into serious motorcycling than its Monster sibling but also delivers a more unique combination of attributes. If I bought one, the budget would immediately include a tail tidy and flatter bars to drop my posture even just a tad. I might need to give the optional Akrapovic exhaust a listen to decide whether the minor power bump and 15 pounds of saved weight might offset angry neighbors every time I wake up early for a morning ride.

But really, playing with the posture and performance entirely consists of compensating for the fact that I prefer sport bikes. Yes, a Panigale might heat up even more and creates a less comfortable, lower ride while commuting—such is the price to pay for the more enjoyable days I spend up in Malibu, when my long time on road bicycles leaves me wanting low handlebars and a high seat for maximum handling and optimized weight distribution. But after a week of lane-splitting and charging up the spectacular roads around the Monterey Peninsula and Carmel Valley, making a case that any bike might have been a better choice quickly approaches an exercise in futility. And without a doubt, a Streetfighter V2 certainly looks the part for Monterey Car Week when finished in the classy Storm Green paint job.