Aprilia’s team of enterprising engineers headed by their chief of R&D Ing. Roberto Calò faced a real challenge in adapting their category-topping Tuono V4 1100 to meet Euro 4’s requirements for 2017. That’s because when you’ve been building a bike for the past two years which by general consensus is the best real-world motorcycle that money can buy – as has been the case since the 1100 version of the Italian company’s stripper Superbike reached the marketplace in 2015 – you don’t want to risk new restrictions imposed by the bureaucrats in Brussels detracting from what you’ve so painstakingly created. So quite apart from needing to meet the new regulations in order to stay in the marketplace, you’re also under pressure to live up to the benchmark you’ve set yourself with the outgoing model. Tough gig!
The chance to find out for myself if Calò and his crew had done just that was supposed to have come on a sunny spring day dancing through the Austrian Alps northeast of the Aprilia factory in Noale on the top-level Factory version of the new 2017 Tuono. Except, guess what – my group in the five waves of journalists attending the press launch was the only one to get washed away by a sizeable storm, during the course of which I learnt that the absence of a reduced power Rain map on the new Tuono’s uprated APRC/Aprilia Performance Ride Control system didn’t affect this massively capable real world motorcycle’s rideability in damp conditions. By adjusting the system’s numerous super-accessible programmes via the handlebar controls I had a pussycat of a V4 performance package at my command for splashing round the hillside roads just south of the Austrian border, with just one major concern I needed to pay attention to. With the exception of ABS, all the different components of the APRC electronics package are exclusively aimed at controlling how the power reaches the rear tyre, which is all very well except for the fact that the front Pirelli Supercorsa fitted to the Factory version of the Tuono I was riding is essentially a slick tyre with a nominal tread pattern to make it street legal, with no drainage sipes on the shoulders of the tyre. So in negotiating each switchback turn up in the mountains that was awash with rain occasionally leavened with diesel meant it was the front end I had to worry about keeping upright, not the rear where the electronics did their job to perfection. Personally, I reckon Aprilia should fit the Pirelli Diablo Rosso !!! rubber that comes as stock on the lower spec Tuono RR to the Factory version as well – this is supposed to be a real world road bike, right? So fit it with tyres that aren’t potentially unsuitable for use in rain, and keep the Supercorsas for track days, signori. OK – rant over!
The rain spoilt a day I’d been looking forward to all year – quite apart from being unable to assess how well Calò & Co. had grappled with Euro 4 on what had been my favourite ride of 2015. So by extending my next trip to Italy the following week by an extra day, I was finally able to do that by fronting up at the Aprilia factory at Noale north of Venice, and spending a glorious spring day blasting through the foothills of the neighbouring Dolomite mountains – often at licence-losing speeds – in company with hard-riding development engineer Mauro Salvador on a similar bike. No wonder Aprilia consistently deliver class-topping models in each category if they have engineers as fast and skilled as Mauro to properly assess the fruits of his and his colleagues’ handiwork
First time I rode the original Tuono V4R seven years ago I was immediately convinced this was the best all-round real-world sportbike I’d yet ridden. Challengers from rival manufacturers have come along since then, especially the KTM 1300 SuperDuke and BMW S1000R, but the cubed-up 1078cc version of the Tuono unquestionably regained its supremacy two years ago – an excellence maintained with the switch to Euro 4 noise and emissions levels. It’s a totally versatile, thoroughly practical everyday motorcycle with phenomenal performance, that’s nonetheless been developed to be completely at home in all kinds of riding conditions, from bumbling along in third gear through city streets at low revs, to blasting along at upwards of an indicated 160kph/100mph on the legible and informative new TFT dash. Unlike many Naked bikes that are spinoffs from the company’s Superbikes, the Tuono hasn’t been watered down at all – on the contrary, for it has 6Nm more torque that the latest version of the RSV4 and a wider spread of grunt all through the revband, as well as just 15% less power, but once more with an even fatter midrange. And you can’t help but relish that as you hold a gear – usually fourth – to scoot from one turn to another along a winding country road, grinning to yourself as you surf the Tuono’s unbelievably wide torque curve. It’s got such a meaty midrange that it’s become a sort of sexed-up scooterone, a twist-and-go maxi scooter with Superbike engine performance and racetrack-derived handling. It’s so flexible in nature yet so responsive and so torquey, that you can just stick it in fourth gear and barely bother to shift up or down, letting the engine run as low as 2,000 rpm exiting a turn without any transmission snatch, then riding the waves of torque all the way to the 11,000 rpm power peak and way beyond – the revlimiter cuts in almost apologetically at 12,500rpm, 500 rpm higher than before. With the real power threshold as low as 4,000 rpm, this is an unbelievably easy bike to ride for something so powerful, but that’s not to say it isn’t thrilling as well – because it is!
There’s a choice of three engine maps just as on the Superbike, with the R-for-Race delivering the full 175bhp of engine performance via an immediate throttle response which will have you clicking up the eight-stage traction control to stop the rear 200-section dual-compound Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa going walkabout exiting a tight turn. This is really too aggressive a map for road use, so keep it for track days, like it says on the label. Like all the Tuono’s digital programmes the TC can be altered while riding without closing the throttle, and operates smoothly in conjunction with the RBW/ride by wire throttle. It doesn’t cut out the engine or flutter the ignition, just decisively prevents the bike accelerating and breaking traction at rear, with a mega-light on the dash flashing as it does so to tell you you’re being protected. At the other end of the scale the S-for-Sport is much less fierce but still lives up to its name, though I liked the intermediate T-for-Track map best for real world road riding. All three modes still give you maximum power and torque but with varying degrees of urgency and smoothness of delivery in all gears, which you really appreciate in tighter turns and hairpins. But the bottom line is that I guarantee it’s impossible to find yourself unable to dial up a combination of engine map and APRC settings to suit the riding conditions and even the mood in which you find yourself, so versatile and accommodating – and effective – is the Aprilia’s electronic rider aids package, even if there still isn’t a reduced power Wet/Road map, which as I proved to myself on my day spent splashing round the Alps, really doesn’t matter..
But of course none of that works unless you get the basic engine package right, and Ing. Calò and his colleagues have very definitely achieved this in further adapting the RSV4 motor for use in the Tuono. In spite of that massive increased torque, the clutch is light and progressive to use in slow traffic or urban conditions, where the Aprilia will very definitely not cramp up your hand as you constantly work the lever to maintain momentum. This is an exceptionally friendly Superbike-turned-Streetfighter whose V4 motor starts delivering serious performance as the tacho needle hits the 5,000 rpm mark, and engine acceleration starts to pick up faster. From 7,000 rpm upwards acceleration becomes explosive in Sport mode – it’s the only word to use for it – and with peak torque delivered at 9,000 rpm, I found that was where the front wheel started to pop up lazily off the tarmac exiting a turn in second gear if I swtiched off the AWC/anti-wheelie programme, and again when you hit third, making me glad I had the Öhlins steering damper well wound up. But then hold the gear and at 10,000 rpm there’s another dose of top end power that will send you rocketing forward as the engine heads for the revlimiter in a way that’s seriously satisfying, and definitely dramatic. Yet there’s a degree of real world rideability that’s as ever unexpected, especially when combined with the APRC rider aid package. You especially can’t help appreciating the smoothness of the perfectly dialled-in powershifter, now fitted with an auto-blipper for clutchless downshifts punctuated by a musical blip from the distinctive note of the V4 motor as you hook a lower gear. The Tuono’s ultra-distinctive engine note is still as intoxicating as ever, the lazy-sounding V4 drone in some ways at odds with the startling performance available at just a twist of the wrist. Indeed, the Tuono’s insane performance is delivered almost apologetically, at almost any revs – top gear roll-on from an indicated 160kmh/100mph with the tacho reading on the TFT dash parked at 7,500 rpm is muscular and decisive, with the droning exhaust just changing slightly in pitch as revs mount. There’s always more of everything yet to come on this motorcycle.
I found the revamped Aprilia’s handling to be as excellent as ever, with enough leverage fron the one-piece handlebar that you can soon forget about the slightly longer wheelbase in terms of compromising agility, although the big surprise was how rock-solid stable the Aprilia Super-streetfighter is under fierce accaleration, especially with the three-stage AWC switched on. No handlebar waving in the wind, no speed shimmy even when you hit a bump, just totally planted. Aprilia was aware this could become a problem with a Naked bike with such a high potential top speed, so it made extensive wind tunnel testing in designing the Tuono’s half-fairing, and especially made sure it’s mounted to the frame, not the forks, in pursuit of stability. The Öhlins suspension on the Factory version I was riding seemed a little stiffly set up, but both the piggyback nitrogen rear shock with the variable-rate linkage off the RSV4, and the 43mm upside down fork are fully adjustable – compression damping in one leg, rebound in the other – so with more time I expect I could have dialled them in better, to exploit the increased 120mm of front wheel travel available.
I certainly couldn’t complain about the brakes, especially with some residual engine braking still left dialled in by the setting chosen for the slipper clutch, and the variable engine idle speed programme dialled in to the APRC. In fact, I found that with the tall one-piece handlebar it’s best to ride the Tuono through turns without hanging off it – you’re faster if you just use the leverage from the ‘bar to steer it, with a bit of help from your knees as you remain in situ. Less hard work, too, leaving you to just focus on enjoying the ride aboard this Streetfighter supreme.
And that’s what the new Aprilia Tuono 1100 Factory very definitely is – in its latest Euro 4 compliant guise it remains the benchmark in real world everyday riding, with a soundtrack that makes you smile every time you open the throttle. This is an absolutely exceptional motorcycle in every way – a compliant, comfortable streetlegal Superbike, supported by class leading electronics that are ultra-accessible in everyday use.
They don’t get any better than this.