All the Japanese brands are very good--well-engineered, reliable, long-lived, economical. I think Honda is a little better and Kawasaki a little worse, but that's really just personal preference.
BMW and Harley are also very good, but very expensive. A Japanese bike is a better deal for the money. BMW and Harley probably would last longer, but for what it costs to keep one of these bikes going for, say, 20 years, you could have had two Japanese bikes for 10 years each.
Aprillia and Ducati are very sexy and beautiful, and I'm sure they're a blast to ride too, but they have quality and reliability problems compared to the Japanese brands, and they don't have as big a dealer network so parts are not so readily available.
Handling, performance and torque are variables. Some bikes are built for performance and give up other things, like reliability, economy or safety. Others are built more for comfort and carrying capacity. I don't think any company has a huge advantage in -all- these categories, they just offer different compromises. Harley Davidson is all about retro styling. BMW does the most innovation and next-generation engineering. I think Honda does the best all-around solution, be it sportbike, cruiser, standard, etc.