Aprilia redefined the Streetfighter category with the introduction of the V-twin Tuono 1000 R back in 2002 — a bike that was such fun to ride it earned both critical acclaim and showroom success, based as it was on the Italian manufacturer’s RSV 1000 R Superbike. But with the launch of the RSV4 in 2009 with its 65-degree V-four engine designed by legendary Ferrari progettista Claudio Lombardi, Aprilia has built on that platform, just as it did a decade ago with the RSV 1000 R V-twin, and has now produced a real-world ride that sets new standards for the naked bike category. Besides the base model (selling for €13,590, about $19,000), for an extra €2000 ($2800) you can get the APRC version complete with the same eight-stage traction control, three-stage anti-wheelie control, AQS powershifter and ALC launch control as on the RSV4 equivalent.
The Tuono V4 R APRC model...
The Tuono V4 R APRC model comes with the AQS (Aprilia Quick Shifter) for wide-open upshifts without the clutch. Ignition kill time was well-dialed, with smooth shifts every time.
In creating the new Tuono V4 R, Aprilia’s engineering team led by Romano Albesiano didn’t simply strip the bodywork off Biaggi’s RSV4 and stick on a high-rise handlebar. Instead, they redesigned the chassis from the ground up, and reworked the title-winning V-four engine to deliver a different kind of riding experience. And in doing so, they also altered the exhaust note so that now it’s impossible not to smile when you hear the throaty, lilting roar from the airbox when you twist the throttle hard on the new Tuono — tuono means ‘thunder’ in Italian, after all.
While the 78 x 52.3mm basic architecture of the 999.6cc V-four motor remains unchanged, there have been several detail changes aimed at altering its character and power delivery. Heavier flywheels on the crank help deliver a smoother pickup down low, and the variable intake system of the RSV4 has been omitted on the 48mm Dell’Orto throttle bodies. The stock velocity stacks have also been increased by 20mm in terms of overall length, in order to fatten low-rpm and midrange performance. The gear-driven single counterbalancer mounted low in front of the front cylinder block has also been revised, and while the pairs of 32mm titanium inlet and 28mm nimonic steel exhaust valves sitting at an ultra-flat 22-degree included angle are unchanged, the valve timing has been altered for more torque. The six-speed gearbox retains its slipper clutch, but the bottom three ratios have been shortened to improve acceleration, while the new 4-into-2-into-1 stainless steel exhaust that’s subtly different from the RSV4’s (also nearly five pounds lighter, as is the combined weight of the Tuono’s cast aluminum wheels) carries a single oxygen sensor and three-way catalyzer, as well as a reed valve which allows air during cold starts to help counter start-up pollution issues. In addition, as on the RSV4 there’s an ECU-controlled powervalve fitted to further optimize bottom-end performance, as well as to cut down on noise in urban situations. The bottom line is that the new Tuono is already Euro 4-certified, yet the revised motor still delivers a hefty claimed 167.3 horsepower at 11,500 rpm and 82.2 ft-lb of torque at 9500 rpm. The new Tuono makes just 13 horsepower less than the RSV4, but with a broader spread of torque, and the Tuono’s rev limiter is set at 12,300 rpm, 1000 rpm lower than the RSV4.
The Tuono V4 R’s frame-mounted...
The Tuono V4 R’s frame-mounted half fairing underwent extensive development in a wind tunnel in order to help generate some downforce and keep the front end planted at speed.
The Brembo four-piston radial-mount...
The Brembo four-piston radial-mount calipers aren’t the latest monobloc units seen on many other sportbikes, but in conjunction with the 320mm Grimeca discs provide more than enough stopping power.
Fully adjustable Sachs piggyback...
Fully adjustable Sachs piggyback reservoir rear shock ably handles suspension duties on the Tuono V4 R.
The wide and supportive seat...
The wide and supportive seat is color-matched to the styling of the rest of the bike, including the passenger seat.
Fronting up at Aprilia’s Noale headquarters on a sunny spring morning, I found the keys of a yellow-and-black-liveried APRC version of the Tuono V4 R awaiting me (also available in all-black and all-grey paint schemes). Climbing aboard, I found a great riding position via the flat one-piece taper-section handlebar mounted to the upper triple clamp. While inevitably a bit sporty, but with more room than on the RSV4 thanks to the lower footrests, the Tuono’s stance doesn’t put too much weight on your arms and shoulders, and in a full day ride I never got tired. In fact, Aprilia tester Carlo Zuin led me on a full 186-mile day that showed to best advantage the new Tuono’s astonishing all-round abiltities, as he led me first south from Noale to the Adria race circuit where I put in 40 laps in a track-day session. Then we headed over to the Colli Euganei volcanic hills south of Padova for a satisfying squirt through their twists and turns, interspersed with a bit of street work while sightseeing in some of the scenic towns along the way, before taking the autostrada back to Noale.
I must say that I honestly think the Tuono V4 R is the best all-round sportbike I’ve ever ridden. It’s a totally versatile, comfortable motorcycle with phenomenal performance that’s completely at home in all kinds of riding conditions. From putting in third gear through city streets at low revs, to cutting a series of fast laps on a racetrack with two fourth-gear straights and three hard stops per lap, to blasting along at an indicated 150 mph on the extremely legible and informative digital dash (no fuel gauge, though, just a warning light), the Tuono V4 R handles it all with amazing aplomb. There’s a surprisingly harsh rev limiter that’s definitely much more severe than the RSV4’s at 12,500 rpm.
This evolved version of the reigning World Superbike champion motor is installed 5mm lower in a visually identical but subtly re-jigged aluminum twin-spar frame in order to lower the center of mass for easier turn-in and to counter the risk of wheelies, according to Aprilia R&D boss Mariano Fioravanzo. You can’t alter the location of the engine in the chassis as you can on the RSV4 Factory, he reveals — but the whole bike is set 10mm closer to the ground, resulting in a 10mm-lower 32.9-inch seat height versus the RSV4. The footpegs are 15mm lower than the RSV4, with the fully adjustable 43mm Sachs fork mounted in a steering head that’s 10mm further forward, resulting in a 25mm-longer 56.9-inch wheelbase. This in turn sees the Tuono’s claimed 403-pound dry weight evenly split 50/50 front to rear, against the 52/48 percent distribution of the RSV4’s 395 pounds. The head angle and trail are set at 25 degrees/107.5mm on the Tuono, against 25.4 degrees/105mm for the Superbike — a subtly sharper difference on the Tuono that improves the handling according to Fioravanzo.
Just as on the RSV4, there’s also a choice of three engine maps, with the T (for “Track”) delivering the full 167.3 horsepower via an immediate throttle response which will have you clicking up the traction control to stop the rear 190-size dual-compound Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP (a 200-size rear is also available) spinning up on you exiting a second-gear turn at the racetrack. I ended up using level 3 out of 8 on the track, and level 4 on the highway. R (for “Road”) reduces power by 25 percent across the rev range, but since it didn’t rain and the roads were in good condition, I only tested it long enough to prove to myself that it’s pretty intrusive and thus presumably effective on a damp surface. Just as on the RSV4 APRC, I liked the intermediate S (for “Sport”) map the most for real world road riding, which gives you maximum power but with a smoother delivery and limited torque in all gears. I couldn’t really tell how much grunt had been removed, and it actually felt better using this map than T-mode on some sections of the Adria circuit, especially in the tighter turns and hairpins. But the bottom line is that the Aprilia’s electronic rider aids package is so versatile, accommodating and effective, that it’s nearly impossible to find yourself unable to dial up a combination of engine map and ATC settings to suit the riding conditions and your mood.
But of course, that doesn’t work unless you have the basic engine package right, and Fioravanzo and his colleagues have very definitely achieved this in adapting the RSV4 motor to use in the Tuono. The clutch is very light and progressive, and definitely won’t cramp up your hand in slow traffic or urban conditions. It’ll pull from as low as 2800 rpm in top gear without a hiccup, with the engine starting to deliver serious performance at the 5000 rpm mark. From 7000 rpm upwards, acceleration becomes vivid, and with peak torque delivered at 9500 rpm, that was where the front wheel started to pop up lazily off the tarmac exiting the last turn at Adria in second gear, and again when I hit third, making me glad I had the Sachs steering damper mounted as standard on this APRC bike (not on the base model). But at 10,000 rpm there’s another dose of top-end power that will send you rocketing forward as the engine screams toward the rev limiter. Among comparable naked bikes, even the 1098-engined Ducati Streetfighter doesn’t have this level of acceleration. “We adopted three different strategies in mapping the engine for power delivery,” admitted Fioravanzo. “We established the thresholds of each new strategy at 3000, 7000, and 10,000 rpm, and altered all the engine parameters — especially the ignition curve — to suit each strategy.”
Dash layout on the Tuono V4...
Dash layout on the Tuono V4 R is nice and simple, with an analog tach and LCD panel providing all the info you need. The wide handlebar provides plenty of leverage.
You can’t help appreciating the smoothness of the perfectly dialled-in powershifter, which allows you to just tap in one gear after another with the throttle wide open in a flawless manner worthy of a factory Superbike racer. The comparable stock system on the Triumph 675R I rode a couple of months earlier seemed crude and jerky in comparison, and on the Tuono the gearbox is so perfectly set up that I found I didn’t need to use the clutch shifting down from sixth to fifth, or fifth to fourth gear.
In spite of the subtly altered chassis geometry, I found the new Aprilia’s handling on a par with the RSV4’s, which is to say, excellent. The one-piece handlebar gives enough leverage that you can soon forget about the longer wheelbase in terms of compromising agility, but the big surprise was how rock-stable the Aprilia was at velocities up to 150 mph. No handlebar waving in the wind, no speed shimmy even when you hit a bump, just totally planted. “We were very aware this could become a problem with a naked bike that has such a high potential top speed,” said Fioravanzo. “So we made extensive wind tunnel testing in designing the cupolino (the ducted nose fairing with twin polyelliptical headlights and LED indicators that gives the Tuono a distinct personality), and we especially made sure it’s mounted to the frame, not the forks. The result is the stability you experienced.” The Sachs suspension was a little stiffly set up, but both the piggyback nitrogen rear shock with variable-rate linkage off the RSV4, and the 43mm inverted fork are fully adjustable, so with more time I expect I could have dialed them in better.
I equally appreciated the good braking from the 320mm front discs and Brembo radial calipers, even though for cost reasons these are not the monobloc numbers that have lately become increasingly commonplace. Nor is there a radial master cylinder that’s seemingly become equally de rigueur. The Aprilia stops hard and well, and even if there isn’t perhaps quite the same degree of bite as on a full-on superbike, I certainly couldn’t complain about the brakes. In fact, I found that with the taller handlebar, it’s best to ride the Tuono through turns without hanging off; you’re faster if you just use the leverage from the handlebar to steer it, with a bit of help from your knees. Less work, too; of course it was a warm sunny day in Italia bella on a streetfighter supreme.
And that’s what the new Aprilia Tuono V4 R very definitely is — the new benchmark in real world motorcycling. Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself.
|Aprilia Tuono V4 R
||Liquid-cooled, DOHC, 65-degree V-four, 4 valves/cyl.
|Bore x stroke
||78 x 52.3mm
||EFI, 48mm throttle bodies, single injector/cyl.
||25.0 deg./ 4.2 in. (107.5mm)
||56.9 in. (1420mm)
||32.9 in. (840mm)
||4.5 gal. (17L)
|Claimed dry weight
||402.6 lb. (183kg)