APRILIA TUONO V4R APRC – the reality…

Published by Nick on September 16th, 2011 - in REVIEWS

We loved the solid RSV2 motor that powered thousands of happy grins the world over, and reminded IL4 riders of the meaning of mid range… The old Tuono takes centre stage in our private biking pantheon. And now this…

What could possibly go wrong?

The ingredients are spot on. It’s a beautiful early autumn day, and I’m crossing seductive Dorset countryside on a variety of spectacular roads, sitting on top of the most powerful production street bike in the world. I am assisted by traction control and a plethora of electronic management devices, top notch suspension and brakes. The machine has abundant torque throughout the range, to the extent that the top two gears are hardly required on anything other than an empty motorway. Everyone, it seems, has been smitten by the glory that is the Tuono RSV4. specification

And for the first fifteen minutes of my ride, I was too. On a flowing A road the power was effortless, and the chassis seemed made for fast open bends. But then weight of traffic and approaching lights meant a section of stop start stuff. And the dream faded, never to be re-captured, regardless of the type of road I subsequently found myself on. It isn’t supposed to be like this, not here and now, not astride the second coming. So… what’s going on? Why am I not enjoying myself?

We all know that on any naked bike, aerodynamics becomes a serious obstacle as you head onwards into three figure – which, broadly speaking, is where the V4 wakes up, forcing the pilot into a crouch. Wind pressure on arm muscles causes him or her to inadvertently start gripping the bars, a bad move. So your elbows drop further down until you are pretty much adopting the kind of ride position that is default on say a 1098, but a demented crouch is both counter intuitive and faintly ludicrous on a naked. On a sportsbike the fairing makes the whole deal far more efficient at speed, but drop the revs back on the Tuono so you can sit up – and it feels a bit pointless, just like it did when you were unsuccessfully trying to hang onto big speeds. There is 165 brake sat under you, and yet you can only use maybe two thirds of that on the Tuono. That power compliments the Tuono’s RSV4 sportsbike brother and the call of the track, but it compromises the naked. A decent screen or a really well designed bikini fairing would help, up to a point, and it may be that this issue will be addressed  by the factory.  In its current form, the V4R seems conceptually flawed:  has there ever been a road bike less capable of realising its true potential?

One day the penny will drop and manufacturers will re-discover that ultra light, lower powered machines are more enjoyable on the road, corner faster, drink less fuel and are far less likely to land you in the dock when chasing the revs. Imagine a 450 Tuono or RSV based around the SXV lump, permitting the rider to properly get to grips with the bike instead of having to back off all the time. Weight wise we’d be looking at around 125 kilos. The V4 weighs in at 183 dry – heavier than its exalted V2 predecessor in both its standard and factory guises.

This machine’s capabilities can only be challenged on the track, and then – courtesy of the aerodynamic scenario – only by a pretty decent rider. For the rest of us, on the road, the bike consistently reminds us of our own inadequacy, more so than say a Fireblade: it’s easier to utilise the sportsbike’s performance because you aren’t fighting the storm. On the Tuono, it’s a running battle.  Because such a significant chunk of its performance is simply unusable, the RSV4 is arguably a more sensible option.

The V4R does not happily accommodate backing off, something we have to do all too often on our overcrowded roads. Stuff that works as a seamless unit at speed – fueling, quick-shifter, slipper clutch – can become intrusive when, for whatever reason, things slow down. And pottering on something like a Tuono V4 is just so counter intuitive…. which negates part of naked’s raison d’etre: it’s very hard to chill out for a while. It’s as though you had a leopard instead of a tabby restlessly patrolling your apartment. It just doesn’t want to be there, and you yearn to set it free.

Around town, a nice light touch on the clutch lever pays off . The change up from one to two at urban speeds causes a bit of rattle from the top end as you pull away in lowish revs, and getting on the throttle low down gives an FI kick very familiar to KTM Superduke riders. The lump felt like it was running lean at low revs – courtesy of emissions – something which never lends itself to smoothness. It could be that rain mode is worth a shot when things snarl up, because in town smoothness is what you want. I stayed in sports mode: track, the other option, is best left for where it belongs. If you have to slow down on a roundabout while someone makes up their mind which exit is required, and then get on the throttle, you’ll feel that kick again. But the Tuono has traction control to keep the rear wheel in order…

Those who pontificate about TC being redundant on the road are missing the point: it’s a safety feature for Joe Ordinary on shite roads, as the bike demonstrated when we encountered the usual rural mix of stones and mud across the carriageway. The back end stepped out but everything was back in order instantaneously: job done. We would probably have recovered fine without TC, but it’s easy to imagine a scenario where that might not be the case. What I don’t get is the make up of the APARC package. ESA would surely have been a more useful addition than launch control: we’re talking about a naked road bike here. But the most notable absentee is ABS. Quality ABS and TC can work in tandem when things go seriously pear shaped. But decent ABS requires a working back brake: the Tuono’s follows the classic RSV template in being almost useless in that department. For those who still claim not to need it, your rear anchor is a brilliant asset in town, useful going downhill, and essential for maintaining good pillion relations. It’s also been known to assist in the odd powerslide (with TC turned off). The Italian tradition of a ‘drop me quick’ sidestand and conservative steering lock has also been adhered to. The fact that irksome design foibles have somehow survived into this extraordinary new incarnation is another gripe.

Standard suspension settings were excellent except on rougher sections of road: backing off rear shock compression damping a couple of clicks would certainly have resolved that issue with no major downside. The front brake was strong but lacked a little bit of progression, without ever feeling harsh. The high ride position, fat rear section and limited lock made U turns cautious. Whilst being on rails in fast bends, the bike didn’t feel quite as flickable and maneuverable as the last generation of V2 Tuonos: again I wondered about the wisdom of a 190/55 rear section as standard.

I owned an 03 Tuono for a while, a bike I miss more than my lamented Street Triple R, which speaks volumes for the former. I think it arguable that on the road, the V2 Tuono simply makes more sense while sacrificing very little in the way of fun. One reason for that is the new bike being a bit serious, in a way that the old one never was: housed in a naked those power figures demand a very focussed mindset… It all ends up being too much like hard work.  Subjectively, the old one felt more rewarding, more funky. The V4 is awesome, but that same quality makes it a bit irrelevant in this form. You can pick up clean V2 mk2 and save yourself £7.5k over the V4. And whatever it is, as far as road riding is concerned, the new Tuono is not seven and half grand more fun than the old.  For all its undoubted qualities, the V4 felt like a bike in search of a context.

Many thanks to the knowledgeable lads at MotorSport Aprilia in Yeovil for the loan of the V4, a quality source of Tuonos old and new, and all things Aprilia in general. The rapidly improving Guzzi range can also be found there.


15 Responses

  1. David Collins says:

    I really hope this isn’t a professional opinion, and just one you have adopted from having a tet ride compared to the old V twin.
    You dont really give your background in bikes apart from saying you have owned an old Tuono V2.
    I will start by saying over the last 48 month I have bought and owned quite a few bikes.
    Z1000 (04), Mv Agusta F4 312R (09) ZZR 1400 (57) R1 (09) cross plane crank KTM690 SM (57) and a couple of sheds plus I’ve rode alot of my friends sports bikes all top end post 2008.

    So there is my background, And you might not like what I am going to say but you sound very like the type of person that will put another bike down because you cant afford it and you are trying to justify keeping the Tuono V2. Fairplay, its human nature, But…
    As an owner of the Tuono V4R that was one pants review, the bike is impecable at low speeds more so than the lumpy twin and the handling is a decade ahead, APRC makes this bike lightyears away from the old one.
    Just to prove I’m not talking bullshit, If you disagree, email me for a trackday meetup.

    • Nick says:

      David, hi. I can only call it like I see it. I too have had many bikes – including press test bikes – and yes, I could afford a new Tuono: but I’m afraid I would spend the money elsewhere. My background in bikes – I’ve been riding since the mid seventies, on and off road and on track. I’ve also freelanced for most of the Brit UK bike media. If you read the review carefully, my major problem is that 160 odd brake at the rear wheel makes no sense on a naked bike, because you can not sustain those kind of speeds – aerodynamics become a serious issue.

      I suspected my test bike was running lean at low revs which generally makes town work a pain in the arse. I think you’ve got a great bike, but you tell me how often on the road you are using more than two thirds of the available power. It’s interesting that you’d like to meet up on the track, because this is supposed to be a road bike first and foremost, which is the point I’m making here: on the road, its very difficult to get anywhere near using the bhp. Thanks for your input. NICK

      • Adam says:

        Well Said Dave.
        There are those that ride, and then there are those that sit around in an office that go out and test the occasional weapon and have a whinge in a mag and call themselves motorbike journalists!

        You CAN”T comment on a bike from a simple test ride and nothing urks me more than these bullshit columnists who think they have experience cause they test ride a bike for 5 min and then write a whole lot of nonsense about them from their short-lived experience. Very short sighted indeed.

        Get a test bike for a couple of months, ride the hell out of it every day in all types of conditions including the odd track day, live with it, park it in your bedroom where you sleep, keep the oil so clean you could drink it with a steak, think about it and only it, straight after sex and then give it a review.

        I have owned over 25 bikes in my 17 years of riding and i just traded my Diavel on a new Tuono V4r APRC.
        Best bike i have ever owned and its less than a month old.

        Review:
        Aprilia tick all the boxes, wether it’s for the daily commute or an exhilarating track day.

        Better than ‘oh my arms got tired cause i had to hold on when i went fast and it go windy??? Um…don’t know about you guys, but i hold on with my legs and my arms are relaxed, even at speed. Duh!!

        • Nick says:

          I guess I should say I own a naked bike which is 145 at the crank (aka 132 bhp @ RW) and so I’m well used to riding at speed on a machine without a fairing. And before that I owned a Tuono. And before that, a Street Triple, going all the way back to the 1970s and my GT 500. So let’s not get too hung up on my lack of naked bike experience.

          Once you start going much north of 100mph on any naked it isn’t so much the fact that your arms get tired as the way the aerodynamics start to disrupt the whole experience. And drag is exponential – this is physics, and nothing to do with my riding habits!

          If I want things fast and controlled I ride the sportsbike. If I occasionally want to go properly fast, a naked bike is fine. I seriously doubt whether on the road any V4 owners spend more than 20% of their riding at speeds over 100 mph, which makes 165 bhp slightly redundant.

  2. David Collins says:

    Hi Nick,

    Thanks for your reply and a bit on your history, obviously you know what you are talking about when it comes to bikes, So mabye I owe you an apology for my silly remark above.
    I do concede the point that 160 at the back wheel is too much for on the road especially if you want to stay out of jail, but coupled with the APRC inc wheelie control, you can set your own limits and open that throttle safe in the knowledge that it isn’t going to send 160 HP to the back wheel unless the bike is at the correct attitude to be able to use it, or if your just not in the mood put the throttle response in RAIN mode for a much more mellow ride and IIRC it will only give you 80% of the power across the whole throttle range meaning you will never achieve full power.
    Much like yourself I know that a very light properly set up bike is UBER fun even at low speeds hence my reason for having a supermoto but somewhere along the line I started yearning for a bike that handled with wide bars yet have the power of a sports bike, and I jumped at the chance of the new tuono for this reason.
    So yes its unrealistic to expect to be able to use 160HP on the road but its having more than I can use that keeps me happy and this is my horse for my course, and I appreciate we all have slightly different courses.
    Thanks for your feedback Nick, I’m hopefully off on a little trip to Italy on the Bike within a couple of weeks and when I get back I’ll email you for that ride.

    Regards,

    Dave.

    • Nick says:

      Interesting that you have a supermoto as well Dave, because that way you get the light weight and have the ability to push the bike much closer to its limits on the road than the V4, TC notwithstanding. The Tuono offers a different kind of thrill, so you have your bases covered. BTW someone else said I should have used rain mode in town and for the more gentle stuff… I suspect in rain mode the fuelling is richer low down.

      I fully admit I am prejudiced in favour of as light a weight (and as skinny tyres) as possible…Sportsbikes apart, there are very few machines out there with a dry weight of around 155 kilos and a genuine 100+ bhp at the wheel. Add a comfortable ride position and a mini fairing and you have fun, power and practicality. Thats what I’d like to see. The street triple gets close. A modded SV 650 naked gets close (big bore, full system, dymags etc). A mate modded an 07 GSXR 750 and did achieve those figures, and surprise surprise, it was a great bike. Get in touch when you get back from Italy, the Tuono will make short work of the boring stuff…

  3. diablo says:

    It is a subject near to my heart, love that V4. But can you use that power on a naked road bike?

  4. solar says:

    hello there and thank you for your information, good to read a balanced write up on the V4 Tuono. Cheers SOL

  5. owen says:

    Thanks so much for this write up. I have been toying with the idea of a v2 tuono for a few months … more recently I was convinced I should go get the new v4. You have absolutely added clarity in my head that for real world riding the v2 is the better option , especially from a financial point . Just need a v2 now !

  6. Rich says:

    You need the V4.

    Test rode V4R and then my beloved Superduke was agricultural, slow, low tech, handled crap etc. Test ride to change over two weeks.. Enough said.

    I’ll never be able to use all its goods I just dont have the talent. Tell you what though it is fantastic trying and it lets me get away with having a go, SD was scarier especially commuting in torrential rain, TC8 and it’s a breeze now..

    Also, sometimes the future arrives before it should, that my friends is time travel.. cool.

  7. Bill says:

    You can use a powerful naked on the road, you just need to be more considered in where and importantly when you use the power. I ride a 150bhp/170kgs wet naked bike on the road most days. I do use the power as often as is practicable, I’m a firm believer in using it if you have it as my licence will attest!! Using full power isn’t a problem if you are careful in your choices of where/when.

  8. John says:

    Hi Guys,
    I just came back from a ride of approx 1800 km in 3 days. 10 bikes including a Tuono V4, my speed Triple 1050, a Benelli R160, KTM 1290 Super Duke, Ducati Diavel and a few others. I love to wheelie and of all the bikes to Tuono with wheelie control off was by far the easiest and most effortless. The acceleration from almost any gear was awesome, the engine sound was was god-like and you just can’t get all of that from a smaller engined bike. With open roads and a bunch of guys who like to have short spurts of fun at speed the Tuono was a winner in my book.

  9. Arthur Gottschalk says:

    I recently had to sell my 2008 Tuono Factory. Yes, best bike I’ve ever owned. Too bad it wasn’t dead reliable, and too bad I live six hours from the nearest dealer. And yes I would love another.

  10. Chris says:

    Hello, just like to add my input here!
    I currently own a tuono v4 aprc. It is by far the best bike i have ever had the pleasure of owning! Got mates on the beemers, this keeps up and passes em no problem. It’s very rare I get to pin the throttle, and also very rare I get to see the fun side of 10k revs, but it’s just leaves you grinning for a week!
    Personally I’ve got all the aprc functions turned off, unless it’s wet then in wet mode tc on full. I agree realistically far too much power for the road, but like anything it will only go as fast as you want it.
    I’m no expert but from my personal experience you will no regret buying one!

    • Nick says:

      A few matters arising from comments. Firstly, the review was written in 2011, and since then the both the Tuono and the competition have been updated. It is still a remarkable machine, and would remain my choice in the event of being forced to choose from the current crop of super nakeds. Right from the start I’ve been a huge fan of APRC, and believe that TC and quality ABS enhance road use, especially in conditions familiar to UK riders….

      However, the fact remains that on the road using anything like 100% of available power will be the exception, rather than the rule. The original piece asks if there isn’t another way of getting naked kicks without bulk and high power. In 2011, only the Street Triple ticked those boxes. But in 2014 something like the MT07 also does the job. The point being that there is now more choice than ever before. The Tuono gets the nod as numero uno of the top boys, but at last manufacturers are beginning to get that there is another way for nakeds which still puts a massive grin on the rider’s face.

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