During our testing of the Aprilia RSV4 Factory it occured to us that we still had a small crop of Japanese literbikes from our '09 literbike shootout. Naturally, our curiousity got the better of us and we saddled up on the Aprilia, Honda CBR1000RR, Suzuki GSX-R1000, and Kawasaki ZX-10R, our reigning literbike champion two years running for an impromptu comparison test of sorts. Don't worry, we'll have a full and proper literbike comparison in the months to come. What follows is more of a seat-of-the-pants breakdown.
For starters, the Aprilia's diminuitive size is especially apparent when put side-by-side with the others. Even compared to the Honda-the former winner of the sportbike weight loss program-the RSV4 feels tiny. In contrast, after hopping off the Aprilia and onto the Honda, reaching the bars is akin to that of a cruiser. Once moving, the differences between all of the bikes is remarkable. The main distinction between the two is the way each bike delivers its power. As mentioned in the main story, throttle application is very direct with the Aprilia, though its delivery is ever so lazy. With the Japanese bikes-especially the Honda and Kawasaki-the riders brace themselves before twisting the throttle because propulsion is instant and brutal. While the Italian isn't slow by any means, that same level of trepidation before opening the butterflies isn't necessary since that initial hit isn't as fierce. Make no mistake though, look down at the speedometer and it wouldn't be a surprise to see triple digits.
When it comes to handling, however, there's no comparison: the Aprilia runs circles around all of them, even the former class king of agility-the Honda. There's just no getting around how quick, precise and stable the bike is. The Suzuki requires a fair bit of manhandling to change direction, as does the Kawasaki; the latter has a good excuse as its front tire was worn down to the wear marks, causing front-end confidence to drop significantly. The Honda's lightweight surety was welcomed in this quasi-test as it is easier to toss around compared to its Japanese counterparts, but whereas the CBR fires like a shotgun, in comparison the Aprilia is more like a sniper rifle.
Other than the power, the only area where the Japanese bikes can put up any sort of match to the Aprilia is under braking, where both the Honda and Kawasaki's excellent binders can bring the bikes to a stop quickly, with the edge going to the ZX-10R on brake feel and modulation. In fact, the Kawi's binders may even surpass those on the Aprilia for overall feel and power. The Suzuki meanwhile lingers far behind with its brakes feeling mushy in comparison. With each squeeze of the lever one can almost feel the rubber lines expanding under pressure.
All four of these bikes will put undue strain on your body when riding at less than 100 percent, but if it's any consolation at least the mirrors are actually useful (especially important when street riding) on the Honda, Kawasaki or Suzuki. Speaking of undue strain, the three Japanese bikes won't do that to your wallet, either. The Aprilia's significantly higher price tag is a definite turn-off especially in these economic times, but if you're in the market for the RSV4 Factory then these rough times probably don't mean much to you anyway. For the rest of us, we can take solace in the fact that Aprilia has also released the same bike sans Öhlins suspension, carbon fiber and magnesium bits, and forged aluminum wheels. It's called the RSV4 R and it promises nearly identical performance for $15,999, $5000 less than it's bling'd out stablemate.