Back in 2002, Aprilia decided to test the waters of the burgeoning naked-bike market over in Europe by peeling off the bodywork from its RSV1000R V-twin supersport bike, mounting up some standard handlebars behind a small quarter fairing, and changing the seat. Labeled the Tuono R, the bike’s 999cc V-twin engine was basically left untouched from its RSV origins, and with race-spec Öhlins suspension, Brembo brakes, O•Z forged aluminum wheels and beautiful aluminum alloy twin-beam frame/swingarm, the bike ended up showing what kind of unlimited performance a proper naked bike could accomplish. The limited production run of just 200 examples was snapped up in days despite its lofty $16,000 price tag, prompting Aprilia to produce a slightly less expensive version with more production-oriented components in greater numbers. The Tuono was a hit both in Europe and with the small but enthusiastic naked-bike contingent here in the States.
With the introduction of its stunning new RSV4 four-cylinder supersport machine two years ago, everyone expected Aprilia to do the same Tuono treatment to its flagship sportbike. And they weren’t disappointed, with the Tuono V4 R making its debut in Europe last year to many accolades from the Euro moto press (“The Real Superbike Streetfighter”, September 2011).
Unfortunately, we’ve had to sit and watch the Euros having all the fun for a year before we could finally get our hands on a U.S.-legal model. But we can tell you this: the wait for the Tuono V4 R has been worth it.
The 999.6cc V-four engine...
The 999.6cc V-four engine is basically the same as the RSV4, save for heavier flywheels on the crankshaft, closer ratios in the first three gears, revised cam timing, and longer velocity stacks in the non-variable-length throttle bodies.
Not quite a stripped-down RSV4
Unlike the original Tuono that was little more than an RSV Mille with different seat, handlebar, and running gear — not that there were any complaints about that design route, mind you — Aprilia decided to put a little more thought into the construction of the Tuono V4 R. Granted, the RSV4’s V-four mill has a very flexible powerband, but there’s a big difference between a 120-horsepower V-twin and a 154-horsepower four-cylinder. Some changes would be necessary to keep the power from spiraling everything out of control.
The basic construction of the 999.6cc V-four engine is unchanged, with the same 78 x 52.3mm bore/stroke configuration, same cylinder heads with 32mm titanium intake and 28mm steel exhaust valves set at a flat 22-degree included valve angle forcing a 13.0:1 compression ratio, and the Dell’Orto throttle bodies retaining an identical 44mm bore size. Smoothing the power delivery however, is a crankshaft with heavier flywheels (with the gear-driven counterbalance revised slightly to suit), and the variable intake system from the RSV4 R Factory is absent, with the velocity stack length increased 20mm to help low-end and midrange performance. Cam timing has been similarly altered to promote better midrange power, and the 4-into-2-into-1 exhaust with power valve is slightly different than the RSV4 unit (while also coming in five pounds lighter). The close-ratio six-speed transmission with slipper clutch has also had the first three gears shortened compared to the RSV4.
The 4-into-2-into-1 exhaust...
The 4-into-2-into-1 exhaust is slightly different from the RSV4, and is five pounds lighter as well. Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa tires provide excellent grip.
While the chassis looks outwardly identical to the RSV4, there are some subtle but substantial differences that play a big role in the Tuono V4 R’s performance. The engine is installed 5mm lower in the twin-spar aluminum frame, with the bike as a whole sitting 10mm lower, resulting in a lower 32.9-inch listed seat height compared to the RSV4’s 33.3-inch measurement. The footpegs are 15mm lower, and the steering head is 10mm further forward, with the steering geometry relaxed a tad from the RSV4’s 24.5 degrees/105mm rake/trail measurements to the Tuono V4 R’s 25 degrees/107.5mm setup. The resulting wheelbase is 25mm longer than the RSV4’s at 56.9 inches.
One big carryover plus with the Tuono V4 R is the APRC electronic rider aid package. The same eight-level-adjustable (plus off) traction control from the RSV4 is retained (this includes the paddles on the left side handlebar that allow you to switch TC settings on the fly), along with the three-way adjustable (plus off) launch and wheelie control. The AQS (Aprilia Quick Shifter) power shifter also remains on the Tuono V4 R, as does the three-way Riding Mode electronic throttle control, with the T (Track) setting offering full power with the quickest throttle response, S (Sport) providing full power but with less aggressive throttle response and “torque limited in all gears”, and R (Road) reducing power 25 percent across the board.
The Tuono V4 R’s cockpit is...
The Tuono V4 R’s cockpit is nice and roomy, with the wide-bend handlebars set fairly high. Instrument panel with analog tach is well-positioned and easy to read, and mirrors are more functional than most.
Awesome, but it’s not all vino e delle rose
Like the RSV4, the Tuono V4 R comes to life with a distinct bark as the ECU opens the throttle plates slightly to initiate starting. And also like the RSV4, the Tuono V4 R settles into a fairly high 1500 rpm idle that surely helps with aggressive corner entries, but also makes the engine run hot during slow going in urban environments.
The specs may state that the seat is lower but you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference, with part of the tall feel probably due to the wider seat that splays your legs out farther. The ergos are obviously much roomier up top, however, with the wide-bend handlebars set relatively high compared to other naked bikes, and the flat and supportive saddle has plenty of space to accommodate six-foot or taller riders. Unfortunately, while the footpegs may be slightly lower, they’re still set pretty high in relation to the seat, folding our legs up more than we’d like. Another gripe we had with the seat is particular to the Sunlit Yellow color model we tested (Competition Black is the other color available in the U.S.): the seat vinyl is color-matched to the rest of the bike, but unfortunately the yellow portion becomes dirty very quickly and easily.
The Tuono V4 R’s headlight/bikini...
The Tuono V4 R’s headlight/bikini fairing nacelle contains two projector headlamps that provide a good light spread at night. Fairing also helps direct air to airbox intakes.
In fact, the few complaints we have with the Tuono V4 R center around its ability in less aggressive riding situations. For instance, although the V-four engine is very flexible with a wide powerband and impressively smooth torque curve for a four-cylinder, there’s no getting around its high-rpm design ancestry; the Aprilia doesn’t possess a whole lot of torque below 3000 rpm, and any attempts at using more than half-throttle below this point result in the engine struggling against the gearing. And speaking of gearing, although the first three gears are definitely shorter and closer than the long-legged ratios on the RSV4, first gear is still pretty tall, requiring a good amount of clutch slip to leave the line smartly.
The Tuono V4 R’s seat is wide...
The Tuono V4 R’s seat is wide and supportive (unlike the RSV4’s tiny plank). The two-tone styling is nice on the yellow model we tested, but the vinyl gets dirty very quickly and easily.
That clutch technique also comes in handy if you have to make any U-turns in a parking lot or need to maneuver in tight quarters, because the V4 R’s steering lock radius is surprisingly limited for a bike of this type. It can easily catch you off guard when you suddenly find yourself against the steering stop as you turn the bars while leaning, requiring constant power application to keep from falling over.
We don’t expect many Tuono V4 R riders to be making long distance treks, but if you do, you’d better plan your trip around gas stops. Like the RSV4 models we’ve tested, the Aprilia is one of the thirstier sportbikes around; our Tuono V4 R averaged a paltry 28 mpg. With the 4.5-gallon fuel tank, that means you’ve got a maximum range of around 125 miles or so (the low fuel light usually came on around the 95-mile mark) — not exactly adventure tour material in our book.