Do no clothes equal more fun? In the case of the Aprilia Tuono, yes it does.
To be honest, before testing for this article, I hadn’t a lot of experience riding nakedbikes.
So, when arriving to COTA to evaluate the newly refined 2017 Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 RR ABS and Tuono V4 1100 Factory ABS, there were a few questions buzzing around my head.
The first question was, what are these nakedbikes actually designed to do? Their aerodynamics don’t offer the kind of wind protection needed to take us cross-country comfortably, and the near superbike-spec engine, suspension, brakes, and electronics won’t ever homologate the machine to race against full-fairing weapons like the Kawasaki ZX-10R, BMW S 1000 RR or Yamaha YZF-R1.
If someone wants to carve up and down a twisty road in anger, they typically opt for the most aggressive ergonomics available to safely promote that high-performance activity, right? If they want the option to go on and off road, they grab a dual sport or even a supermoto.
Why then, has Aprilia cloned and distorted the DNA from their beastly RSV4 superbike’s genetic makeup, to offer a more upright mutation and mess around with the superbike’s natural balance?
Fast forward to me having just completed my first fiery laps around COTA atop Aprila’s latest 1100cc 175hp V4 Factory Tuono, and as I stepped off the bike I knew then what I had to do. I had to warn the planet earth of my findings in Austin and expose Aprilia’s true intentions of bringing naked mutant superbike spawn into this world, unleashing them into society.
They are serious fun to ride (this is my serious face).
New year, new bike
For 2017, the RR and Factory models share the same exact hardware with a few exceptions.
The Factory model, which necessitates a $2500 premium over the RR, gets a pair of 43mm Öhlins NIX forks with Tin surface treatment (800 grams lighter than the 2016 Öhlins), Öhlins STX36 rear shock and an Öhlins steering damper.
The Factory model also comes standard with a solo seat and dead-sexy Superpole graphics. For the slightly cheaper RR, you get upgraded Sachs suspension and steering damper, with colors between Portico Grey and Assen Black, both of which looked great but personally I’d opt for the grey.
The RR comes fitted with higher mileage Pirelli Diablo Rosso III tires, sporting a 190-section on the back versus the 200 Supercorsa SP’s for the Factory model.
A few of the more notable enhancements for both models in 2017 include new upgraded Brembo M50 monoblock calipers with higher friction coefficient brake pads and larger 330mm discs. During my extensive track time while riding both Tuonos, the new M50 ‘street-comp’ system worked admirably right up to the point when I asked them to perform as top racing-only binders, eventually over-heating a tad after several massive pulls back on the newly designed front brake lever. Some full-fledged synthetic brake fluid would probably help this issue immensely.
For the electronics, there’s a newly enhanced Bosch 9.1 ABS system which now adds a lean sensor. While tearing up the race track I could, for the first time in my life, feel confident grabbing a big heap of extra front brake (just to test the ABS) while still leaned over into a corner. Even with the Cornering ABS system set at its least intrusive Level 1, which is still accompanied by Aprilia’s new RLM (Rear Lift Mitigation) system, the attitude of the bike would not stand up during braking, nor would the front wheel lock no matter how hard I tried.
The new Demand Sender and Control Set—which effectively changed the throttle’s twist grip from physical cables connected to throttle bodies to a full ride-by-wire scheme utilizing only sensors at the wrist (for a total weight savings of 590 grams)—for me worked only fair to good. I could feel slight or not-so-slight variances between my requests for more or less throttle verses what the engine was actually delivering to the tire and therefore my senses.
Science of speed
I think when the bike is ridden flat out on the racetrack, the fully integrated electronic setup is working in its ideal way. But when less extreme throttle inputs are engaged, like at sustained mellow speeds, I felt a slight detachment from hand to rear wheel. It’s nothing drastic but I’d be lying if it didn’t call attention to itself. We didn’t get any street time in this test but when I simulated mellow street riding on the race track, I missed having the more direct analog feel to my throttle hand which comes with having a cable in series with the throttle bodies.
The new handlebar-mounted controls for 2017 worked about as expected. There’s lots to learn at first but with increased tries you get a better hang of it and can flip through the three engine maps of Sport, Track, and Race or various like the ATC (Aprilia Traction Control), or AWC (Aprilia Wheelie Control) with ease.
The new Euro 4 engine still pumps out massive amounts of low-end and mid-range power all the way up to its new redline maximum, which is now 500rpm higher than last year’s model. Several small improvements to the motor have helped its reliability, including Pankl con-rod honing and a new CNC-machined cylinder-head.
The brand-new Euro 4 exhaust system is said to be heavier and more robust, but it still emits a loud, gorgeous tone.
The new-for-2017 TFT (Thin Film Transistor) color instrument display looked clear and easy to read in all light situations, including direct sunlight. The various menus were easy to understand and navigate, and I was especially impressed by the Road vs Race modes. Road mode highlights what you need for the street—speed, fuel, trips, etc. Race, on the other hand, highlights your lap-time. A neat feature is you can change the background light from black to white and back again like on the Triumph Street Triple 765, and there’s fun little tidbits on display like Roll, Throttle, and Brake pressure.
One function I wasn’t crazy about as the end-user of the new TFT display was the frequency in which all the lights surrounding the thing would go ape-shit every time I got deep into a corner or grabbed a normal, healthy amount of gas exiting corners. This distracting but colorful dance of flashing lights reminded me of the end of the Close Encounters movie. It’s neat to see how much and often the various electronic aides are chipping in to help you out, but enough was enough after a while.
Flicking the switch
The fourth-generation aPRC (Aprilia Performance Ride Control) electronics suite—which now includes an auto-blip function for clutchless downshifts, a pit speed limiter, and cruise control—was damn good fun to play with. I tried all the settings from massive intrusion on traction and wheelie control, to switching the systems off entirely. With all the aids off, the RR and Factory bikes were awesome fun, but a bit sketchy over time as the body fatigued and tires went off. You could easily hurt yourself flogging a powerful 1100cc V4 around a circuit or canyon road with everything switched off, when the bike was designed work with these rider aides engaged.
It took a little while to understand how aggressive I could be with the throttle and brake electronics coming in and out of play. There came a point late morning when I could trust what the electronics would (or wouldn’t) do, to the point where I started to ride ahead of the electronic aides.
For example, a trusting and experienced Tuono rider can roll on the throttle sooner and to a much larger degree than it feels natural to do so, until it starts feeling natural. It boils down to trust—trust in the bike’s many systems, and trust that she may never let me down.
Oh, and did I mention the auto-blip downshifts were totally mind-bending cool? You just step down on the shift lever without moving your throttle hand, and the electronics take care of the rest.
I never tried the cruise control function or launch control, but the pit speed limiter did work. The updated V4-MP multimedia interface with infotainment system (optional for the Tuono, standard fare for the RSV4), was also left alone for our track day but there are some cool features to be explored there with some research. Your smartphone can now communicate with your Aprilia via Bluetooth in a big way if you have everything installed.
The main differences between riding the standard RR version and the special Factory models were about what you’d expect. Both models come with the same cast-aluminum wheels, unlike the RSV4 RF which come lighter forged aluminum hoops. The superior Öhlins suspension units on the Factory stayed more consistent after a few laps when they got hot, and offered a more efficient, tighter controlled, precise feel overall. Are they worth $2500 more? For me, absolutely. The Sachs units on the RR worked very well, but I just ride too hard and too long on the canyons at a given time to leave me with anything less than what’s obtainable, and $2500 in this hobby doesn’t go a long way these days. Plus, I love the look of the Factory’s solo seat and Superpole paint scheme with green accents.
I must say on topic I was very impressed with the higher mileage Pirelli Diablo Rosso III tires—standard equipment on the RR. They could not be pushed toward the same grip levels as the Supercorsa SPs, but I was able to go straight down onto my knee puck directly out of the pits for each rotation and never experienced a scary moment on the Rossos when riding briskly at about 75 percent. If they do last longer but still offer that level of performance, in the real world when top shelf sportbike tires can cost $400 or more per pair, adding some extra miles to each set becomes a very practical bonus in savings over time.
I could see how the padded passenger seat on the RR could come in handy at times, too. But the stock foot pegs suck—my boots were slipping off of them all day! If a RR or Factory were in my garage, it’d feature a lightweight titanium exhaust, synthetic racing brake fluid (to help with niggling brake system overheating) and grippy aftermarket foot pegs with race shift as an option—because I race bikes. Sorted.
Make no mistake, the Aprilia Tuono RR and Factory are superbikes fitted with upright handlebars. But there’s more to it than that. The extra capacity and improved gearbox make for a better streetbike than the hyper-active RSV4, and there’s plenty of comfort thanks to the relaxed riding position. Who cares if the Tuono isn’t ideal for cross-country trips or hardcore short circuit racing? Just wheelie and back the thing in all over town, tear up and down your best twisties, enter it in Pikes Peak Hill Climb (if you’re brave enough), then wipe off the bugs at the end of the day.
This is what it feels like to be a hooligan. Thank you, Aprilia, you’ve made me a better man.
A trip down memory lane
Sixteen-years-ago at the 2001 Bologna Motor Show, Aprilia engineers, I think as a goof, revealed that for 2002 they’d offer a stripped-down version of their then flagship, World Superbike contending, 997cc V-twin Rotax-powered RSV Mille to the public… but with straight handlebars.
Since then, Aprilia has found themselves at the sharp end of what could only be described as a venerable arms race over which manufacturer could build the most extreme, top shelf, high powered upright machinery aimed almost exclusively at, or by default, the finest hooligans among us.
From 2002-2005, the Aprilia Tuono was offered in a couple permutations which included the U.S. market’s original 123hp Fighter version with Showa forks, followed by the first Factory model (based on the Mille R), which bumped up its output to 129hp, added Öhlins suspension, forged wheels, Brembo brakes and weight savings thanks to a judicious use of magnesium, titanium, and carbon fiber.
Between 2006 and 2010, the first Tuono Factory R model was made available (based upon the 2004-2009 RSV1000R superbike) with an increase in power to 133hp, a closer ratio gearbox with taller first gear and larger throttle bodies.
In 2011/2012, the new Tuonos were derived directly from Aprilia’s 2009 RSV4 and sported a V4 engine, 167hp, and the original aPRC (Aprilia Performance Ride Control) electronics package.
Race ABS was introduced to the 2014 model year as well as a more refined, more powerful 170hp engine.
Then in late-2015/early-2016, all hell broke loose. The newest Tuono V4 1100 RR and Factory models from Aprilia hit the showrooms with a slew of enhancements and improvements including a 3mm bigger bore engine to bring its size to 1077cc, and its power up to 175hp. There was also refined third generation aPRC electronics, better bikini-fairing aerodynamics, improved low-rpm power, a new gearbox, lower seat, longer swingarm, new headstock angle, and a new exhaust—among the many upgrades.
2017 Aprilia Tuono 1100 RR and Factory
Engine: 65° V4, four-stroke, liquid cooled, DOHC, 16 valves. Ride-By-Wire with three engine maps (Sport, Race, Track)
Bore x stroke: 81 x 52.3mm
Horsepower: 172 hp @ 11,000rpm
Torque: 89 lb-ft @ 9000rpm (claimed)
Fuel system: EFI.
Exhaust: 4 into 2 into 1
Transmission: Six-speed gearbox. Quickshifter equipped.
Chassis: Aluminum composite twin spar
Front suspension (RR model): 43 mm fully adjustable Sachs inverted forks. 110mm wheel travel.
Rear suspension (RR model): Fully adjustable Sachs Balance Free shock. 120mm wheel travel.
Front suspension (Factory model): 43mm fully-adjustable Öhlins NIX30 inverted forks. 130mm travel.
Rear suspension (Factory model): Öhlins STX46 fully adjustable rear shock. 130mm wheel travel.
Front brake: Dual Brembo M50 four-piston calipers, 330mm discs. ABS
Rear brake: Brembo twin-piston caliper. 220mm diameter disc. ABS
Front tire: 120/70ZR17
Rear tire: 190/55 ZR17 (200/55ZR17 for Factory model)
Wheelbase: 57.1 in
Seat height: 32.5 in
Fuel capacity: 4.9 gal
Weight: 461 lb. (wet, claimed).
Color: Portico Grey and Assen Black (RR), Superpole (Factory)
MSRP: $14,999 (RR) /$17,499 (Factory)