Copyright 2021, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc.
By Michel Gougis
When I first rode the new Aprilia 660 RS last year, my first thought was, “There’s no way this thing is just a 660.”
When I first turned the throttle on the 2021 Tuono V4 Factory, my first thought expressed the same feeling, but in a different direction. I thought, “This is Absolutely an 1100! Woo-hoo! “
It’s a winning formula for Aprilia: Take a powerful engine from a sports bike and put it in a chassis that offers a slightly more user-friendly riding position. This is the Tuono, historically one of the most important models of the company.
The 2021 Tuono V4 models refine this idea a bit, with Aprilia offering two similar but very distinctive models from its iconic range of “standard” sports models. The Factory version is even more track oriented than the previous RR model, while the V4 version is aimed at the person who rides on the street and wants to accumulate significant mileage.
When Aprilia unleashed a handful of motojournalists on the new machines on the Southern California mountain roads last week, the glorious sounds of V4 motorcycle engines echoed in the canyons above Pasadena.
The machine is powered by Aprilia’s 1077cc 65-degree V4, with architecture it shares with the company’s flagship sports bike, the RSV4. Aprilia says the Tuono version has been readjusted for more mid-range torque, but still puts out 175 horsepower at 11,350 rpm with a peak torque of 89.25 lb-ft. at 9,000 rpm. Aprilia was determined to ensure that meeting the new Euro5 emissions standards did not reduce the overall performance of the engine.
The rest of the powertrain is very similar and in line with the DNA of the Aprilia V4 sportsbike. The engine retains its unique chain / sprocket camshaft drive system. Lighter valve spring lifters raise the redline from 12,500 RPM to 12,800 RPM.
A new Magneti Marelli 11MP ECU offers more pins (from 80 to 144, to allow more inputs into the electronic brain of the bike) and four times the computing speed of the previous unit. Driver aids include ABS when cornering, traction control, wheel control, engine braking, launch control, clutchless climbs and descents, pit speed limiter, cruise control, three engine maps and six driving modes. (You know you are really versatile when your bike is equipped with a pit lane speed limiter and cruise control. That’s a wide range of features!)
The cosmetic changes for this model year are subtle, but significant. Both versions get a redesigned fairing, and both versions get a new reverse swingarm based on a MotoGP design and are lighter, easier to produce and 48% stiffer. A new tank is present on both machines, as are the LED headlights that illuminate the inside of the corners. The changes, or the differences between the two models, are in the suspension, in the riding position and in the details.
The Factory model comes with an electronically adjustable Ohlins Smart EC 2.0 semi-active suspension, a system that also controls the settings at the steering damper. On this model, suspension adjustments are made using buttons on the left handlebars and displayed on the thin-film transistor dashboard.
The windshield is tilted, the tubular bars are lower than on the previous model and at the rear of the machine, the factory uses the subframe, footrests and passenger seats from the RSV4. For people who have already been passengers of the RSV4, these arrangements are a polite way of saying that the biker prefers to travel alone! They were, however, designed to be removed quickly for track use.
And for track use, the Factory comes with a shorter final gear and a bigger (200 series), stickier Pirelli Supercorsa rear tire, paired with a 120 series Supercorsa front tire.
The base model V4 comes with conventional Sachs suspension front and rear; handlebars raised about an inch via taller risers; a wide, flat passenger seat; and passenger footrests which are located on longer rods to provide more legroom for the passenger.
In addition, the bike comes with a bespoke soft luggage set consisting of a remarkably spacious tank bag and a set of asymmetric saddlebags to fit around the exhaust system.
A final touch to increase rider comfort is a higher windshield than found on the factory and a pair of small side panels that help keep wind away from the rider. Taller gears for a more relaxed cruise and Pirelli Diablo Rosso III tires complete the entire street.
The suggested MSRP for the base model is $ 15,999, while the factory version costs $ 19,499.
These are important models for Aprilia. Depending on the year, Aprilia will sell between two and three times more Tuono than RSV4. Plus, the Tuono is the model that brings people into the Aprilia brand, and an owner is more likely to hang on to it longer than an RSV4 owner. Aprilia therefore did not take this model review lightly.
As mentioned, the first thing I noticed was the potency. It’s everywhere. And while the company’s claims about usable mid-range torque sound so much like a marketing cliché, the point is, it’s true. The torque produced by this large-caliber sportbike engine is a joy, and there in buckets. Pick a speed, turn the throttle, and there’s always enough thrust to move quickly. Unlike other Euro5 machines that I have ridden, the Tuono always turns quickly and enthusiastically.
As I walked up Angeles Crest Highway and the surrounding roads, I found that I had a choice of several speeds. I could spin the thing closer to the red line in second and let the power at the top pull me through the turns, or I could leave it in third and just apply torque all the way through the apex, wearing even more. speed through a longer part of the turn and exiting harder on the accelerator. Either way, provided a lot of speed.
The chassis clearly demonstrated its cutting edge sports roots. The best way to describe the handling of this machine is responsiveness and precision, as you would expect from a bike with the RSV4’s frame and an upgraded swingarm. But I felt all the imperfections in the pavement, thanks to the very stiff chassis and swingarm. Maybe that was a function of the straighter tubular handlebars, compared to the clip-on handlebars, but I felt like I could respond to those very direct messages from the bike with a light, precise feel. Driving through the bends of the Crest, I felt like I could put the bike where I wanted, even at high speed. Between that, the excellent Brembo M50 Monoblock brakes and the ease with which the engine delivers power, this made for a very stress-free ride, even carrying more than a little bit of speed.
The riding position is significantly more comfortable than on a complete sports bike. It’s not a naked bike, and it’s closer to a full-fairing sports bike than a bare one. Aprilia’s philosophy is that a motorcycle that rolls this fast should offer rider protection and aerodynamic stability, hence the fairing. And the fairing works, providing a pocket of still air to the rider, reducing turbulence and leaving the rider feeling more planted at the bars.
Clutchless gear changes work seamlessly, throttle response is precise and smooth. Clutch traction is a bit heavier than I expected after being completely spoiled by the modern crop of power-assisted slip clutches that are now standard on apparently all motorcycles.
The Factory version was a bit soft and vague when I first turned around in the corners, but pressing a few buttons on the left handlebars allowed me to dial an electronic “click” for more firmness up front and at the rear, and, to add a little more resistance, add a steering damper “click”. It was an absolute pleasure to ride, with more feedback and feel than most other bikes, and the complete confidence that the bike would do whatever I asked it to do.
After lunch I hopped on the base V4 model and was ready to be disappointed. I can honestly say that I was not disappointed – a remarkable surprise. The Sachs suspension is more than enough to go down the mountain at a very, very fast pace. The straighter handlebars increased the comfort of an already comfortable riding position, and the slightly larger windshield offered noticeably more protection.
Aprilia marketers say the two new models are based on what they found Aprilia customers actually do with their Tuonos. Either they were built into more track oriented machines, or they were outfitted for longer walks down the street.
It is best not to view the two new models as better or worse. Instead, think of them as two very, very good bikes aimed at different target audiences and configured to meet the needs of these two different riders. It is indeed a horse business for the courts, and in each case Aprilia has created an even better thoroughbred.