The Ducati Panigale V4 is an incredible sounding machine, and it owes that partly to its V4 engine. It’s definitely one of today’s most iconic V4 motorcycles.
Every time I listen to one I think “ye gods! I have to have a motorcycle that has that visceral, animal sound!”
But aside from the cost, the Panigale V4 wouldn’t be my first choice of commuter. Luggage would ruin its lines, and I’d spend most of my time below its powerband.
Luckily, the Ducati Panigale V4 is not the only motorcycle with a V4 engine that you can buy. What really surprises me is that not only are there a few other motorcycles with V4 engines, but that some are still available on the used motorcycle market — for very reasonable prices!
Here they are.
Are you obsessed with motorcycles?
Well, I am. That’s why I created this site — as an outlet. I love learning and sharing what others might find useful. If you like what you read here, and you’re a fraction as obsessed as I am, you might like to know when I’ve published more. (Check the latest for an idea of what you’ll see.)
All the V4 Motorcycles — In a Nutshell
There’s something special about the way a V4 motorcycle sounds and feels. It has a little bit of the animal of a V-twin, but the smoothness of a V4. In the motorcycle world, I think of it the same way I think of a V8 engine in a car. It’s something special!
But one rarely sees V4 motorcycles in production these days. In fact, there are very few, and to my knowledge, they’re only the highest-end motorcycles — the Panigale V4 and the Aprilia models, the RSV4 and Tuono V4.
So I got to thinking — what other V4-engined motorcycles are there out there? And are there perhaps some made by non-Italian manufacturers, for which service and parts might be cheaper and more available?
The surprising thing (to me) is just how many V4 motorcycles there are out there. And the fact that most of them don’t come from the two brand superstars Ducati and Aprilia, but in humbler motorcycles from Honda and Yamaha. And be ready… there are a lot of Honda motorcycles in this list!
So while V4 elicits “Panigale V4” from obsessives like me, I also know that Honda was making V4 engines since the eighties, and that Yamaha and Honda have put V4 engines into muscle bikes, cruisers, and sport-tourers.
Even Aprilia has been making a V4-equipped superbike for far longer than Ducati. Ducati partly received a lot of attention because people think “Ducati = V Twin”, and breaking from that mould was big news for a small manufacturer. But they definitely weren’t the first to experiment.
Here they are — all the V4 motorcycles (that you can reasonably buy).
Honda VFR and RVF series (VFR750, VFR800, VFR1200, VFR800X, VFR1200X)
Honda has been making V4 motorcycles for the mass market for decades.
In fact, before the VFR800 there were other V4 motorcycles that Honda made, like the VF750. But those are basically museum pieces now — very rare, and owned by collectors or people who are obsessive about them (or totally destroyed and in need of repairs). Even the VFR750 is quite long in the tooth, and early model VFR800s are usually quite high mileage.
So let’s start with the VFR800 — first released in 1998, the VFR800 has gone through many phases of evolution. Honda called the VFR800 the “Interceptor” in the US, and stopped selling it in the late 2000s for a period, before the 8th gen came out in 2014.
- 1998- 2001 — gear driven cams, fuel injection
- 2002-2005 — chain-driven cams, VTEC, but kind of abrupt (but also cool if you like a “turbo” feeling)
- 2006-2008 — smoothed-out VTEC, and the sexy 2007 anniversary edition
- 2009-2013 — C-ABS as an option
- 2014-2016 — Re-designed dash, standard ABS, Traction control
In general every year VFR has its quirks, but I tend to like the most recent one. It just comes with so much (in the Deluxe model, which is standard in some places) — traction control, heated grips, a lovely dash, a willing engine and gearing that makes sense for a wide variety of riding conditions, ABS as standard, and really nice paint. Oh, and a centre-stand.
Alongside the VFR800 was sold the VFR800X Crossrunner, a more upright adventure-touring kind of motorcycle. It didn’t look as nice, but they’re amazing to ride according to the owners.
Honda also released some larger-capacity, much more powerful, and heavier models — the VFR1200 and VFR1200X, which made north of 150 HP, had a shaft drive, and are more oriented towards long-range travel. These never sold as well, and remain bikes loved by a few and simply not purchased by many. They were part of a niche generation of heavy, high-power motorcycles (like the BMW K1300S, Suzuki Hayabusa, Kawasaki ZX-14R) which have their fans, but who are small in number and all preferred their own brands for some reason: BMW because BMW, the Hayabusa because it’s a iconic classic, and the ZX-14R becuase it’s the most powerful.
Honda also had a few 400cc engines in this V4 class — like the VFR400 and RVF400. These were only made in the nineties, and are pretty unavailable these days (unless you’re willing to spend collector money, and get something shipped). But they’re nice to look at, so here’s a picture here.
Honda ST series — ST1100 and ST1300 (Pan-European)
Aside from the VFRs, which are “sport touring” to many, Honda had some much more touring-oriented motorcycles, the ST1100 and ST1300, both of which are now discontinued.
Honda released the ST1100 in 1990, and replaced it with the ST1300 in 2002. Since that’s already pretty old and people tend to pile the miles on these (or thrash them, if they’re ridden by police!), let’s just talk about the ST1300.
The Honda ST1300 has a 1261cc longitudinal V4 engine that made 87 kW (117 hp) at 8,000 rpm and 117 Nm (86 ft-lb) of torque at 6,500 rpm — though a lot of that torque is available lower.
The ST1300 was popular with police all over the world. A lot of the high-mileage STs you’ll see on the market are ex-police. They’re usually well serviced, but also beaten to death by cops who rev them hard all the time (according to service technicians I’ve spoken to).
Honda released the CTX1300 in 2014. It’s a V4 motorcycle that’s a cruiser, and a bagger, and a tourer, and also just something highly unusual for anyone who wants to cruise/tour/bag with something highly unusual.
I’ve never ridden a CTX1300. But when my back finally can’t take sports bikes, bobbers, or even standards, it’s a futuristic cruiser like the CTX1300 towards which I’ll gravitate.
The CTX1300 uses the 1261 cc V4 engine from the ST1300, but in different tune, for lower-down torque. It’s a 90-degree water-cooled V4 with double overhead cams and four valves per cylinder, putting out 62 kW (84 hp) at 6000 rpm and 106 Nm at 4500 rpm.
It puts its power through a five-speed gearbox and a shaft drive.
It’s an easy bike to ride, with a low centre of gravity, but the CTX1300 isn’t that fast. Part of the problem is that it isn’t that powerful, and part of the problem is that it’s heavy — 338kg wet, in Gold Wing territory.
But it does have a Bluetooth-equipped stereo, though.
Ducati Desmosedici RR
Quick disclaimer: The Desmosedici RR is more expensive than a Panigale V4. But I had to include it, because it’s so cool.
The Ducati Desmosedici RR was an early experiment in V4 motorcycles that Ducati made in 2007-2008. Ducati only made 1,500 road-legal models to homologate their MotoGP racebike. They retailed for an insane US$72,500, and the price hasn’t dropped much since then.
Like many Ducatis, it screams “LOOK AT ME!” But interestingly, it has a few things different to the other racing motorcycles of the time (the 1098R, for example) — like a double-sided swing-arm, more reminiscent of the Ducati 999 or the later 899.
You really need to listen to the Desmosedici RR. Even laptop speakers can’t hide how insane it sounds.
Unfortunately, the Desmosedici RR is nearly unobtainable. The collectors who own them in good condition won’t part with them for less than 60 grand — and that’s in American dollars!
Yamaha V-Max and VMAX
The earlier V-Max 1200 (VMX1200) and the later VMAX 1700 (VMX1700) are a pair of bonkers (the earlier more bonkers, the latter one less so in some ways) motorcycles that are geared for just one things — straight-line power.
The first-generation V-Max (made from 1985-2008) had an 1198cc V4 engine based on the earlier Yamaha Star Venture tourer — but tuned for a lot more power.
It’s definitely a “cult” bike because of its roar and its arm-wrenching torque. That said, the V-max was never known as a handler. People use the words “wobbly” and “vague” to describe it.
The second-generation VMAX (slightly renamed), released in 2009, has a 1,679 cc liquid-cooled 65 degree V4 DOHC engine that makes a totally unreasonable 147 kW (197 hp) and ridiculous 167 Nm (123 ft-lb) of torque. It’s basically a show model — full-throttle on the VMAX would be a death sentence without traction control. That said, if sub-10 second quarter-mile times are your thing, the Yamaha VMAX is the V4 motorcycle for you!
Yamaha Royal Star XVZ1300
Aha, here’s one you didn’t know about. Did you know that Yamaha made a V4 engine cruiser motorcycle? Well, I didn’t.
Not just that, but it made it twice. In fact, the first V-Max got its engine in 1985 from the earlier Yamaha Royal Star Venture, which Yamaha produced between 1983 and 1993.
But it’s the second Royal Star XVZ1300 v4 motorcycle that you can reasonably buy. Yamaha released the second one in 1996, and produced it up until 2013, in both cruiser format (the Royal Star) and touring format (the Royal Star Venture).
The Royal Star (and Royal Star Venture) has a liquid-cooled 1,294cc (79 cubic inches) V4 engine fed by four carburettors (one per cylinder). It has four valves per cylinder, overhead camshafts, and a compression ratio of 10:1. The final drive is by drive. The whole thing is quite advanced and powerful.
Recent models have a CD player … and earlier ones had a cassette player. If you don’t know what that one is, then we’re of different generations.
Honda VF750C Magna
The Honda VF750C Magna was (is) a V4 motorcycle in a cruiser body.
The Honda 750 Magna has a liquid-cooled 748CC V4 engine with cylinders 90 degrees apart (like a Ducati’s L configuration), each with its own Keihin 34mm carburettor. The engine breathes through four valves per cylinder operated by overhead cams.
The Honda VF750C Magna may be a cruiser, but it revs all the way to 9700 rpm — very high for a cruiser! It makes 58 kW (79 hp) at 9,500 rpm, and puts it all through a hydraulic clutch, six-speed transmission, and a shaft drive. Not even the more modern M109R has a hydraulic clutch!
The Honda Magna isn’t just a high-RPM screamer. It has plenty of torque down low from just 3,000 rpm, and it pulls all the way to the redline.
You can still find some Honda VF750C Magnas around, and generally they haven’t been thrashed — because they’re cruisers. You might need to clean out the tank and carbs, though.
Aprilia RSV4 and Tuono V4
Lastly, I can’t go without mentioning the Aprilia RSV4 and the Tuono V4.
While much fanfare was made about Ducati making a V4, their fellow Italians were making V4 superbikes from nearly a decade earlier.
The first Aprilia RSV4 was released in 2008, replacing the V-twin equipped RSV1000R. That first version RSV4 had a 999.6cc 65-degree V4 engine that made 150 kW (201 hp) @ 13,000 rpm, though substantially less at the rear wheel (114 kW or 153 hp), suggesting maybe Aprilia was a little ebullient in their claims.
Aprilia launched their Tuono V4 in 2012, using the same engine but with a more bottom-end-oriented tune.
Aprilia makes an RSV4 and Tuono V4 today, but they’ve bumped the displacement closer to 1100cc for both their V4 motorcycles.