I bought the 2004 model in July '04 and rode it for 4500 miles until low-siding the bike on a little gravel in an Arkansas switchback in September '04. The bike only had cosmetic damage and I rode it 900 miles home, but the insurance company totaled it! Warning, Ducati plastic and gas tanks cost LOTS OF MONEY. Despite those problems, I really liked the bike so I went out and bought the 2005 model.
I've used these bikes for the majority of my transportation needs on a seasonal basis. I ride to work, run errands, go for weekend rides, and have taken longer tours.
I initially found the bike to be a little hard to handle around town, with this being related to the gearing and fueling. My previous bike was a Speed Triple which was much more a "city bike". However, after a little time on the bike I understood the quirks of riding around the city.
Anyway, this bike was designed for sport touring and that it is what I bought it for. On the highway this thing is solid. I find the riding position to be just about perfect for me, and it is easy to ride from gas stop to gas stop without taking a break. I absolutely love the stock seat on the bike in terms of comfort, but it is a little hard to shift your weight from side to side. As indicated in some of the bike mag. reviews, the suspension is a little soft for hard riding in the corners, but during my weekend and tour riding I only push hard a small fraction of the time, so it doesn't bother me much. The bike turns into corners well and holds a nice line through the apex. I find that the bike does want to stand up a little early coming out of corners and I've adjusted for that. I really like riding this bike through the twisties at any speed except "stupid fast".
The bike shines at multi-day touring and the hard bags are excellent. I rode the '04 bike 2800 miles to Arkansas and I rode the '05 bike 3300 miles out to the Tetons and Yellowstone and had a ball both times (except for my little mishap). The bikes just ate up the miles and I was smiling the whole time.
As for reliability/maintenance, my 2004 had a fuel leak that was covered under warranty, and I have had no problems at all with the 2005. The stock tires on the '05 lasted 7000 miles and I have to replace the chain and sprocket now at 13500 miles. As everyone knows, the scheduled service costs for Ducati are higher than typical, but I believe the riding experience is worth the extra cost. That being said, I will buy another bike in the near future to handle my day to day riding, and will use the Duc only for longer rides.