Turn eight at Willow Springs Raceway is intimidating. One of those corners that some twisted human being created just to torment every racer who ever visited the place. A fast right-hander taken at as close to full throttle as your brain will allow, it’ll chew you up and spit you out into the California desert. No mercy. Zero. On any bike it’s scary, and on BMW’s S10000RR, it’s downright terrifying. I’m about three seconds from pitching the BMW in, and I can already feel the butterflies.
We’ve brought the BMW here along with the 2017 Aprilia RSV4 RR. Updated with new electronics, revised engine components, and bigger brakes, this is a refined version of a platform we’ve already grown to love. Proper competition for the BMW.
We tried to bring along a Panigale 1299 for the fun, but Ducati declined. At last, part one of our 2017 literbike comparison (part two is up next issue) comes down to these two weapons, toe to toe.
|2017 Aprilia RSV4 RR|
|Type||Liquid-cooled, DOHC V-4, 4 valves/cyl.|
|Bore x Stroke||78.0 x 52.3mm|
|Induction||Marelli EFI, 48mm throttle bodies, dual injectors/cyl.|
|Front Suspension||Sachs 43mm inverted fork, adjustable spring preload, compression, rebound damping, 4.7-in. travel|
|Rear Suspension||Sachs monoshock w/ piggyback reservoir, adjustable spring preload, compression, rebound damping, 5.1-in. travel|
|Front Tire||120/70ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo SuperCorsa SP|
|Rear Tire||200/55ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo SuperCorsa SP|
|Rake/Trail||26.5°/4.1 in. (114mm)|
|Wheelbase||56.3 in. (1430mm)|
|Seat Height||33.3 in. (846mm)|
|Fuel Capacity||4.9 gal (18.5L)|
|Weight||474 lb. (215kg) wet, 443 lb. (201kg) dry (all fluids, no fuel)|
|Fuel Consumption||33–38 mpg, 36.7 mpg avg.|
|Quarter-Mile||10.32 sec. @ 147 mph|
|Roll-Ons||60–80 mph/2.24 sec.|
|80–100 mph/2.49 sec.|
Set in the high desert of Southern California, “The Fastest Road in the West” (as Willow is nicknamed) has everything from difficult side-to-side transitions to rises and a long front straight where you can truly stretch a 1,000cc’s legs before having to jab the binders and click down through the gears before the first corner.
The BMW is better at getting into turn one. Its brakes offer all the power necessary to slow down its 175-plus horsepower, even if an overly aggressive initial bite hinders their true potential. Squeeze the lever tightly while in a rush to slow down the bike, and the power can be intimidating and difficult to modulate. But be delicate enough with a single finger or two, and the brakes will offer gobs of power and reward late brake markers.
The 2017 Aprilia is updated with Brembo’s M50 Monoblock calipers as well as (10mm) larger 330mm discs, but the result wasn’t what we had expected. The new components provide plenty of stopping force all the way to the apex, but they lack feel. What’s missing from the Aprilia’s brakes is a sensation through the lever telling the rider just how much brake pressure is being used and how much more there is to rely on. It’s fair to suggest that new pads could help both bikes, but neither fail to do their jobs in any sense.
The Aprilia builds speed in an identical manner as last year’s model, despite the updates to its powerplant (which include a 300-rpm higher rev ceiling, lighter pistons, updated valve springs and connecting rods, and the elimination of variable intake stacks). Throttle response is aggressive but not overly so on the racetrack in Race Mode. The V-4 jumps off the corner, letting out a roar that says, “I’m not going to throw you off, but you better hold on tight,” as it builds steam. Engine rpm climbs quickly, and the power is broad enough to pull all the way until the 14,200-rpm rev limiter—that’s the point where the RSV4 feels more rocket ship than motorcycle.
It’s funny that BMW feels slightly overshadowed by the RSV4 in this department because it actually made 2 hp more than the Aprilia while on the Sport Rider dyno, producing 177 hp. The S1000RR feels down on power low in the revs when compared to the Aprilia and doesn’t feel as linear either, with a big hit coming at about 10,500 rpm. Another issue is that the BMW quickshifter’s ignition cut is a bit too long during upshifts, and a numb feel on downshifts sometimes caused us to miss a gear-change occasionally.
The Aprilia‘s only weakness in power delivery isn’t in the engine itself but rather the Aprilia Performance Ride Control (aPRC) traction control system’s issue with consistently managing wheelspin. On TC level 2, the system allows you to spin the rear wheel enough to help pivot the motorcycle around the corner but not consistently enough to trust every lap. One lap the system will work without issue, and the next it’ll seem nonexistent before snapping the wheel back into line. In contrast, the BMW’s Dynamic Traction Control system has drastically improved from previous generation DTC systems and is now incredibly transparent and consistent, allowing you to drive hard off corners without intervening too much to slow you down.
Both the Aprilia and BMW had their own unique handling characteristics, but ultimately our testers decided the RSV4 was more balanced. The Aprilia provides a confidence-inspiring feel from corner entry to exit—one that allows you to feel in control of the bike, make corrections when needed, and trust that the tires will stick every lap. It’s stable, with the only drawback being a heavier feel in transitions and midcorner corrections. The BMW is much the opposite, feeling nimble on its feet and quick to turn in and steer at midcorner. Put too much input into the S1000RR, however, and it becomes unsettled, making you feel like you’re just along for the ride rather than in total control.
|2017 BMW S1000RR|
|MSRP||$15,695 ($19,490 as tested w/ Premium Package)|
|Type||Liquid-cooled, DOHC inline-four, 4 valves/cyl.|
|Bore x Stroke||80.0 x 49.7mm|
|Induction||BMS-KP EFI, 48mm throttle bodies, dual injectors/cyl.|
|Front Suspension||Sachs 46mm semi-active fork, adjustable spring preload, compression, and rebound damping, 4.7-in. travel|
|Rear Suspension||Sachs semi-active shock, adjustable spring preload, compression, and rebound damping, 4.7-in. travel|
|Front Tire||120/70ZR-17 Metzeler Racetec K3|
|Rear Tire||200/55ZR-17 Metzeler Racetec K3|
|Rake/Trail||23.5°/3.8 in. (97mm)|
|Wheelbase||56.6 in. (1438mm)|
|Seat Height||32.1 in. (815mm)|
|Fuel Capacity||4.6 gal. (17.5L)|
|Weight||467 lb. (212 kg) wet; 438 lb. (199 kg) dry (all fluids, no fuel)|
|Fuel Consumption||32–39 mpg, 37.9 mpg avg.|
|Quarter-Mile||10.18 sec. @ 151 mph|
|Roll-Ons||60–80 mph/2.79 sec.|
|80–100 mph/3.14 sec.|
Likewise, suspension bits on both bikes have contrasting characteristics, mainly because of different designs. The Aprilia’s Sachs pieces provide ample amounts of feel through both the front fork and rear shock while providing support to keep things settled under hard braking and acceleration. Once you tip into a corner, it has a way of telling you exactly what’s happening all the way through. Finding faults in the RSV4’s setup is a difficult thing to do.
Our S1000RR was equipped with BMW’s semi-active Dynamic Damping Control system (part of the optional $3,150 “Premium Package”), and the system is impressive in the sense that its active changes to damping rates go almost unnoticed; previous generations’ DDC systems were actually too “active,” often stiffening up in midcorner or during moderate braking, which caused issues with steering. Ironically, our issues with the BMW suspension centered on the hard parts. We experienced major wallowing under acceleration when the rear suspension would squat excessively, only to spring back up again. Tuning its DDC settings helped to partially bandage the issue, but it still seemed as though the S1000RR could benefit from a stiffer rear spring.
AiM Solo Data Analysis
Willow Spings, CA
|Top Speed Front Straight||Top Speed Back Straight|
|Aprilia: 163.3 mph||Aprilia: 152.0 mph|
|BMW: 163.4 mph||BMW: 151.9 mph|
Lap Times | Aprilia: 1:25.960 BMW: 1:26.252
The Aprilia’s best lap is three-tenths of a second quicker than the BMW’s. The data shows the major difference between the two bikes comes down to a trade-off between corner speed and power. The Aprilia shows consistently higher apex speeds, with Michael able to carry as much as 0.1 G more cornering force in several turns compared to the BMW, a significant difference. But on the straights, the BMW logged higher acceleration than the Aprilia, enough to make up the lost corner speed and post almost identical top speeds on each straight. Over a full lap, the BMW can’t quite make up the Aprilia’s gains in each corner, giving the RSV4 an edge in the overall lap time.
The data somewhat conflicts with Michael’s perceptions of the two bikes: “The BMW feels lighter on its toes and steers quicker than the Aprilia. It also stays in line, whereas the RSV4 likes to spin the rear and pivot around the corner.” However, he did note the BMW had a shock pumping issue that hampered corner exit speeds and that the S1000RR revved quicker for potentially more top-end speed.
This plays out in three key areas on the Willow Springs road course. In sweeping turns two and eight, the bike that can carry more corner speed can gain a big advantage in terms of time, and that’s exactly what happens here: The Aprilia gains more than half its lap-time advantage in these two turns alone, and because the speeds are so high, the acceleration disparity between the two bikes is almost negated on the succeeding straights.
The Aprilia also gaps the BMW in turn three and the run uphill to turn four. Here Michael is able to consistently carry more corner speed on the RSV4 than the BMW and keep that additional speed up the hill for a segment time 0.3 second better, a huge difference for such a short section of track. Because the turn is uphill and heavily loads the rear end of the motorcycle, it’s likely the BMW’s shock problem is more of a factor here than at other portions of the track.
The two bikes’ strengths and weaknesses played out at Willow to the Aprilia’s advantage in large part because the track consists of mostly high-speed sweeping corners. On a track with slower turns, the RSV4 would not be able to take such advantage of its better corner speed, but the BMW’s better acceleration would feature more prominently.
It’s worth pointing out the difference in performance over the entire sessions, as opposed to a single lap for each bike. In addition to the single 1:25 lap Michael carded on the Aprilia, he posted a string of six 1:26 laps with two of those quicker than the BMW’s best. Contrast that to the BMW, where Michael posted his 1:26.2 best with only two 1:26.9 laps to back that up.
Nowadays, it seems that sportbikes are built with the idea of “racetrack first, street and comfort second,” which is great for the trackday hero inside us all. But that doesn’t mean the vast majority of these bikes won’t spend most of their time on the street. Which is all the more reason to subject our testbikes to the harsh California canyon roads and daily grind in order to give the bikes a true overall evaluation.
The “racetrack first” design philosophy comes out quickly on public roads, more so on the Aprilia than the BMW. The RSV4’s ergonomic package is comfortable on the racetrack but can be harsh on the body during long stints in the saddle. A long reach to the bars forces the rider to bear weight on the grips, and the seat is anything but compliant, which will have you squirming after just a few minutes. The BMW has a softer seat, more legroom, and a preferred handlebar position that results in a slightly more relaxed riding position. Seat heights between the two bikes vary, with the Aprilia being a stretch for smaller riders sitting at 33.3 inches, while the BMW comes in shorter at 32.1 inches.
We found the S1000RR’s suspension package to have better compliance on the freeways and roads than the Aprilia. The RSV4’s Sachs components are stiff by nature and don’t seem to absorb the bumps as well as the DDC system equipped to the BMW, forcing the shock into your back. Once in the twisties, both bikes impressed, the Aprilia with its stability over rises and on varying road types, but it was the BMW that stole the show with its quick handling. The S1000RR requires considerably less effort than the Aprilia to navigate tighter roads and side-to-side transitions, and powerful brakes boosted confidence to ride at a more spirited pace.
Both bikes come with cruise control too, a nice touch for the daily commuter or longer freeway stints. It’s optional equipment on the BMW, included with the Premium Package (which our test bike came equipped with) along with other features like Gear Shift Assist Pro (bi-directional quickshifter), DDC suspension, Ride Modes Pro, ABS Pro, forged wheels, and heated grips. Considering that the RSV4 is sold standard with most of these options, it might be a tough sell for someone looking to save some coin.
If I’m being completely honest, I thought I already knew the outcome of the test before it even began. Aprilia poured a lot of effort into the RSV4 and even more so into the 2017 model. When the Italian brand updated its electronics, engine, and brakes it seemed like the BMW would have no chance. Zero.
Then we rode the things, and to my surprise, the BMW put up a hell of a fight. Its engine is fast, the chassis handles well, and the ergonomics prove capable of long stints on the street. But it has its downsides too, like unbalanced suspension, a dated dashboard, and a high-priced Premium Package that is arguably required for it to compete with the Aprilia.
The RSV4 RR, on the other hand, comes ready to rip straight out of the shipping crate. Plus, with the dollars you’ll save by buying the Aprilia, you can buy extra track time. You’ll be wanting as much as you can get. I guarantee it.
|Test Notes: 2017 Aprilia RSV4 RR|
|Impressive chassis stability||Good braking power but dull feel|
|Torquey V-4 engine||Electronics could be more consistent|
|Updated dash||Where’s the closest Aprilia dealer?|
I like that BMW now has its semi-active suspension available as an option for the S1000RR, and for the street rider, it makes a lot of sense. But for track use, it still needs a couple of kinks worked out before I’d choose it over standard non-electronic suspension. And I still hate the S-model quickshifter; downshifts have a numb, clunky feel. Get those two items sorted, and this comparison might’ve been a different story.
The Aprilia is simply a stunning package in nearly every aspect: a beast of an engine, a superb chassis, decent suspension, brick-wall brakes. It could stand to lose some weight, sure, and the electronics still aren’t as sorted as the Yamaha R1’s (well, whose are?), but the RSV4 RR is one impressive bike. Enough so that it’s a heck of a value compared to its upscale brother, the RSV Factory.
|Test Notes: 2017 BMW S1000RR|
|Comfortable riding position||Excessive heat buildup|
|Powerful brakes||Older-looking dash|
|Quick-revving engine||Soft suspension settings on track|
|BMW’s Premium Package costs an additional $3,150 and includes many features that are standard on the RSV4|
- The SuperCorsa SC’s first drop in grip came after 15 laps then remained consistent throughout the rest of the tire’s life.
- Both the front and rear tires provide confidence-inspiring feel and stability under heavy braking and hard acceleration.
- Front tire grip is the most impressive quality of the SuperCorsa SC, with the front end feeling hooked at midcorner, helping steer the bike where you want it, when you want it.
- The Diablo SuperCorsa SC has been the control tire of the World Supersport Championship since 2004.
If it sounds like both bikes—the S1000RR and RSV4 RR—compete against one another in a heated game of “anything you can do, I can do better,” it’s because they are. The BMW wants to be a racebike at heart. It’s edgy on track, wanting be ridden as fast as possible, but breaks loose at the slightest mistake—a sign there is room to improve. But somehow it still has its own special way of making 177 hp on the street feel just right.
If it were our money, we’d buy the Aprilia because of the extra overall refinement it has and its ability to make you feel like a racer from the word “go.” No need to mention how much of a hero it’ll make you feel in the toughest corners—even turn eight has nothing on this bike.
|Final Ratings||Aprilia RSV4 RR||BMW S1000RR|
|Fun to ride||9||9|
|Instruments & controls||9||9|
|Chassis & handling||9||9|
|Engine power delivery||9.5||9|