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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The fully adjustable Sachs rear shock works quite well, keeping the rear end of the powerful Aprilia planted and driving in all of the situations we rode the Tuono V4 R in.
The Brembo radial-mount/four-piston calipers may not be the latest and greatest monobloc units, but they do an excellent job of slowing the Aprilia. New split-spoke design wheels are a combined 4.4 pounds lighter than the previous versions.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Unleash the beast
Of course, most of those gripes fade into the distance the instant you start twisting the Tuono V4 R’s throttle and the pace picks up. There’s something to be said about an engine cranking out 142 horsepower that packs the midrange punch of a V-twin with the quick-revving character of an inline-four. Add to that a superbly capable chassis that is both nimble and rock-solid stable, and you have the makings of a seriously fun motorcycle.
The aforementioned flexibility of the V-four engine is a joy to use in the turns, with plenty of steam available anywhere above 4000 rpm. The powerband is very linear (albeit very quick-revving and responsive), with no jumps or dips other than a slightly perceptible flat spot at 10,000 rpm that gives the impression of a bump in power at that point. You can choose to ride the midrange torque out of the turns like a V-twin, or power hard off the corner with Aprilia’s beefy top-end rush, making good use of the ATC as the rear tire scrabbles for grip.
The Tuono V4 R doesn’t quite have the rev range of the RSV4 however, with a soft rev-limiter signaling the end of the party at 12,250 rpm instead of the heady 13,250 rpm of the RSV4. As such, the Tuono V4 R eventually ends up about 10 horsepower shy of the RSV4, with a peak of 142.2 horsepower at 11,500 rpm. But you’ll never really notice that deficit, especially with the Tuono V4 R’s more upright ergos subjecting more of the rider’s torso to the acceleration forces and enhancing that “OMG” power rush.
While the Road riding mode is best reserved for riding in nasty pavement conditions due to its substantial neutering of the engine’s power, we had plenty of fun in both Sport and Track modes during our time with the Tuono V4 R. The Track mode’s aggressive throttle response helps in tighter sections that require a cut-and-thrust riding approach, and provided you can cope with the hair-trigger off-idle response, there’s a noticeable difference in acceleration off the corner. The Sport mode’s softer throttle response is well-suited for situations where you’re always at maximum lean angle (or for riders who don’t like the Track mode’s “right now” response), allowing you to more easily apply power without unduly upsetting the chassis. Unfortunately you cannot switch engine riding modes on the fly like you can with the ATC; as with the RSV4, the throttle must be closed, and you have to press the starter button with the engine running to switch between modes.
We have to admit that we didn’t play much with the on-the-fly-adjustable ATC or the AWC and ALC, mostly because we didn’t do much track riding with the Tuono V4 R. For most situations on the street, we simply left it in Level 1 or 2 and had a blast; we even rode in the rain on Level 3, and reveled in the ATC’s ability to keep the rear tire on the edge of traction while still driving forward.
Suspension action from the Sachs 43mm inverted fork and fully adjustable rear shock was very good, absorbing the big hits well and keeping the chassis under control in every riding situation we encountered. Working with the already nimble-steering chassis and added leverage from the wide handlebar, all this combines to provide the rider with numerous options in a corner. The Tuono V4 R’s steering habits are sharp, but by no means twitchy; there’s very little effort required to change lines, and overall handling and grip from the stock Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa rubber is excellent (although when pushed, we were wishing for a bit more tire feel at max lean).
Interestingly, the chassis does a good job of masking much of the Aprilia’s heft while cornering; at 472 pounds wet with all fluids topped off, the Tuono V4 R certainly isn’t the lightest of the naked bikes. But the only time you really feel that weight is when the pace has seriously ramped up and you’ve reached near-racetrack aggression levels.
The Brembo brake calipers may not be the latest flashy monobloc units that you see parading on other sportbikes, but the Tuono V4 R’s front brakes are more than capable of providing excellent stopping power with good feel and progressiveness. The same can be said of the rear 220mm disc/two-piston caliper combination, which becomes even more important on a bike with different weight bias than a supersport machine like the RSV4. And the Aprilia’s slipper clutch (same as the RSV4 unit) is one of the best we tested so far.
The King of Naked Bikes
Needless to say, we were very impressed with the Tuono V4 R. Aprilia did well to take just enough of the sharp edges off the RSV4 engine/chassis combination to produce a rowdy but controllable (and fairly comfortable) naked-bike package. All too often, bikes in this category have numerous compromises that blunt the performance to the point that we’re always left wanting more, and while the Aprilia certainly isn’t perfect, its capabilities when the pace heats up make up for those gripes.
Granted, $14,999 is a price tag that’s a good bit higher than the Tuono V4 R’s Japanese competition, but it’s also a good bit lower than its European competition. And it’s got the performance goods over all of them to warrant it. SR
Aprilia Tuono V4 R APRC
** **+ Powerful, flexible engine
+ Excellent chassis, good suspension
+ Full APRC electronics package
– Needs to lose a little weight
– Paltry fuel mileage/range
– Weak power off idle
x The best naked bike we’ve tested yet
Suggested Suspension Settings
** **Front: Spring preload — 5 turns out from full stiff; rebound damping — 6 clicks out from full stiff; compression damping — 7 clicks out from full stiff; ride height — 2 lines showing above top triple clamp
Rear: Spring preload — 10mm thread showing; rebound damping — 10 clicks out from full stiff; compression damping — 1.5 turns out from full stiff
**2012 Aprilia Tuono V4 R APRC
** MSRP: $14,999
Type: Liquid-cooled, 65-degree V-four
Valve arrangement: DOHC, 4 valves/cyl.; shim-under-bucket adjustment
Bore x stroke: 78.0 x 52.3mm
Compression ratio: 13.0:1
Induction: Weber Marelli EFI, 48mm throttle bodies, dual injectors/cyl.
** Front suspension: 43mm Sachs inverted cartridge fork, adjustable for spring preload, rebound and compression damping, 4.7 in. travel
Rear suspension: Single Sachs shock, adjustable for spring preload, rebound and compression damping, 5.1 in. travel
Front brake: Dual 320mm stainless steel discs, Brembo radial-mount four-piston calipers
Rear brake: Single 220mm stainless steel disc, single two-piston caliper
Front wheel: Cast aluminum, 3.5 x 17 in.
Rear wheel: Cast aluminum, 6.0 x 17 in.
Front tire: 120/70ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa
Rear tire: 190/55ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa
Rake/trail: 25.0 degrees/4.2 in. (107.5mm)
Wheelbase: 56.9 in. (1445mm)
Seat height: 32.9 in. (835mm)
Fuel capacity: 4.5 gal. (17L)
Weight: 472 lb. (214kg) wet (full fuel tank, all fluids); 445 lb. (202kg) dry (empty fuel tank, all fluids)
Instruments: Analog tachometer, LCD panel for digital speedometer, odometer, tripmeter, low fuel tripmeter, clock, coolant temperature, run time, maximum speed, average speed, current fuel consumption rate, ATC level, ALC level, AWC level, chronometer, rear tire diameter calibration, diagnostics; warning lights for shift point, “general alarm” (OBD fault), neutral, high beam, turn signals, traction control, low fuel
** Quarter-mile: 10.13 sec. @ 140.20 mph
Top speed: NA
Roll-ons: 60–80 mph/2.95 sec.; 80–100 mph/3.00 sec.
Fuel consumption: 28–31 mpg, 28 mpg avg.
** The naked-bike segment has always seen lackluster sales numbers, but I truly think the new Tuono V4 R could change that. The bike is borderline sadistic, but I love it. There’s a ton of arm-stretching power past 5500 rpm and the tall handlebar allows you to manhandle the bike as you’re putting that power down. The APRC electronics makes the package that much sweeter and allow you to keep that power in check when need be. Ergonomics feel well sorted for a taller rider, and the narrow, lightweight chassis makes the bike feel more manageable around town.
As animalistic as the Tuono feels, I found the bike to work surprisingly well as a daily ride. Power modes help neuter the beast and more suitable gear ratios make leaving a stoplight a bit less of a headache. The bike lugs a bit below 2500 rpm even still, and fuel mileage is laughable, but where else can you get a MotoGP engine in a naked bike? Ok that’s a stretch, but I’m still sold on this thing!
** I always liked the original Tuono, so when Aprilia debuted the new RSV4, I knew the next generation Tuono soon to follow would most likely be one serious ripper. I certainly wasn’t disappointed. In fact, the Tuono V4 R basically makes the original V-twin Tuono feel positively asthmatic by comparison. And yet, despite its major-league performance (the thing isn’t that far off of a 9-second quarter-mile!), the Aprilia is capable enough to keep everything under control at a pace that would have many supersport bikes sweating.
Yes, there’s still a few issues that give me pause — the poor fuel mileage being one of them — but all is forgiven once you get into the twisties and start wicking up the pace. The Aprilia is one of the few naked bikes (OK, not so naked) that has all the performance components in place. And best of all, you don’t feel like you need a visit to the chiropractor after riding the Tuono V4 R all day long. I’d definitely consider buying one — despite the near $15K asking price.