The M696 is plenty of bike, and I think you'll be happy with what you are looking at. Older versions are prettier, but functionally, you'll be much better off with an M696 over a S2R800.
Monsters are good versatile all-around bikes; it's a good choice for mixing up highway, city, commuting, light touring, etc. The main limitation there is that touring is one-up -- it isn't a good choice for carrying a passenger on anything but a short ride. The bike doesn't mind, and works fine, but the passenger tends to object after a bit.
ABS is good if you can get it; I don't know if that's an option for the M696. Sprocket choice shouldn't make any difference for that. The 14t is a good mod for the city, and the twisties, but would be a minus on the highway or for touring. I actually went the other way on mine for a long time. Monsters of my year came with a 15/39 combination. When I bought it, I was in the American West (wide open, much like parts of Australia), and I switched to a 15/37 to help with highway/distance manners. Now I'm in a more populated area (New England), so I went back to the stock 15/39. I still travel, though, so I'm not going to go shorter than that.
It's surprisingly good for touring for me. I can do 500-600 miles (800-1000 km) per day on the highway pretty easily, and up to 900 miles (1500 km) in a day if I'm really aiming to get somewhere. I've been to 36 states, plus parts of Canada and Mexico, on it, over the last 24 years, and have 250K miles (400K km) on it total so far.
The core mechanicals aren't really very different from my bike to the M696/M796 generation. They'll last forever if you do the suggested maintenance, and don't let it sit and rot.
1993 Ducati M900 Monster "Patina" (260,000 miles, so far) -- 1995 Ducati M900 (wife's bike) -- 1979 Vespa P200 (daughter's scoot) -- 1964 Vespa GS160 (160cc 2-stroke) -- 1962 Maicoletta scooter (275cc 2-stroke) -- 1960 Heinkel Tourist 103A1 scooter "Elroy" (175cc 4-stroke)