Although it is the heaviest and slowest, the Aprilia still has enough juice to pop the front wheel off the ground.
It’s amazing how something you remember being so good upon re-sampling can leave you, shall we say, lacking something. It’s kind of like trying to rekindle the flame with your ex-girlfriend. Sure you have fond memories of the good times, but when you try and recreate that spark it just doesn’t happen. This, in essence, is what happed with the Tuono.
One of my very first assignments on the job some two summers ago was participating as one of the test riders in Managing Editor Bart Madson’s 2007 Streetfighter II Comparo. On that sweltering 118-degree afternoon, I distinctively remember not only how well the Aprilia performed but just how ridiculously hot it was. Seriously, that was the most extreme conditions I have ever been subjected to, let alone having to maneuver a 400-plus-lb motorcycle around the racetrack on melting street tires. Thanks again, Bart-man. Needless to say, any bike that can perform in those severe conditions has to be something special. And on that day the Tuono was so far superior to the other five bikes that I was really anxious to see how it would stack up against the other new kids on the block this time around.
Despite weighting in at 473-lbs, with a full tank of premium fuel, the Aprilia utilizes the smallest displacement engine in the comparison, its two pistons gobbling only 998cc’s of volume. Sure this Rotax-built engine uses modern performance engine tuning tricks – i.e. liquid-cooling, 4-valve cylinder heads and a respectable 11.8:1 compression ratio, but it can only muster 112.25 peak horsepower @ 9700 rpm. That’s 24 less than the class-leading Ducati and 7 ponies fewer than its fellow Austrian-powered brother, the Buell 1125CR.
When it comes to torque, the re-tuned RSV1000R engine delivers a more respectable figure. Spin the engine up to 8400 revs and it produces 65.26 lb-ft of twist, which is less than one lb-ft off the Buell, though nearly 15% less than the Ducati. Yet, despite the torque figure being relatively on par with the other two bikes, when one yanks on the throttle, the Aprilia leaves you yearning for more.
“The Aprilia’s engine feels like it lags a bit,” said test rider and motorcycling young buck Frankie Garcia. “It’s almost like someone stuffed a sock in the airbox. It comes off the corner okay, but the tach needle climbs slowly and it doesn’t pull forward with the same intensity of the other bikes.”
Although the Tuono’s narrow 60-degree V-Twin engine doesn’t have as much ‘oomph as its competitors, what it does have is a dead flat power curve. This equates to being perhaps the least intimidating and also the friendliest. Also of note was how lean the engine ran, having a propensity to surge forward even during constant throttle application, which, needless to say, isn’t confidence inspiring mid-corner. We also weren’t thrilled by its dull exhaust note and the way in which the engine pops when you hit the rev-limiter.
“Its engine plainly is not up to par with the others,” reiterated fellow MotoUSA editor Steve Atlas. “It feels alright and has decent bottom-end power, but that’s it. When the revs build it doesn’t seem to go anywhere. It feels really antiquated and long in the tooth, but at the same time, I have to admit, it’s pretty easy to ride.”
The Aprilia’s final-drive gearing complements its engine manners well and is a happy medium between that of the shortly-geared Buell and the tall-feeling Ducati. The only flaw is that the transmission feels sticky and can be especially difficult to find neutral when at a stop. You’d think that a simple bug like this would have been fixed by now, but it hasn’t. Equally as peculiar is the way the hydraulic clutch operates. Sure clutch lever pull is friendly, but it feels vague and, like the Buell, it doesn’t engage until the very end of the lever throw. We also weren’t all that impressed by what Aprilia calls its Pneumatic Power Clutch (PPC). Sure, it helped ensured easy clutch lever pull, but it wasn’t effective at keeping the rear tire from hopping during aggressive deceleration. Atlas noted that it “needs slipper-clutch badly”. A true testament to how ineffective it is.
In the ergonomics department, the Tuono offers a curious riding position. Although it has the honor of having the lowest seat height, it’s unusual how far back you sit in its seat. While riding, your legs are tucked in tightly into the recesses in the wide 4.75-gallon fuel tank, thus giving you a very aggressive-feeling stance for your lower half. Conversely, its handlebar looks like they might have been pulled off a new motocross bike with a wide and very upright bend. Overall, its ergonomics make the rider feel very committed to the motorcycle.
“Its ergo package is solid,” said Frankie. “It feels like a cross between a sportbike and a supermoto. Plus the handlebars offer a lot of turning leverage and keep the rider more upright, which helps keep you from getting worn out.”
While both its engine and ergonomics are somewhat questionable, there’s no doubt its chassis is a sure thing. As mentioned above, Aprilia chassis engineers modified the Tuono’s frame, giving it a slightly more trail than its RSV1000R sibling. Despite this difference, we found the Aprilia changed direction well for a machine of its size and weight. We also liked how planted it felt mid-corner and how stable it is both under braking and acceleration. What we didn’t like was the vague front end feel, exacerbated by Aprilia’s decision to fit it with Pirelli’s less expensive Diablo Rosso street tire as opposed to the track spec Pirelli Dragon Supercorsa Pros it came with in ’06. They must be less expensive…
“It didn’t handle like I had hoped,” said Frankie. “But it’s probably a result of the tires more than anything. It doesn’t have the best relationship between the tires and the ground. It was like putting two positive magnets together. The front kept tucking and the rear kept spinning.”
No doubt, at an elevated pace, the Tuono could benefit from the Pirelli’s up-spec Diablo Corsa III rubber as fitted on both the Ducati and Buell. However, even with those tires fitted, we still don’t think it would be enough to completely eliminate its inherently vague front feel.
When it comes to suspension the Aprilia uses a 43mm Showa fork with spring preload, compression and rebound damping adjustment. Rearward it features a hydraulic Sachs shock absorber that only offers spring preload and rebound adjustment. Around Horsethief’s suspension-taxing course, the stock settings were soft and both ends of the bike had a propensity to rebound too fast. A few turns of preload, compression and rebound were all it took to get the front end sorted. The back-end was another story; the low-budget shock kept us from getting it properly sorted. A higher-spec rear shock with compression and a wider range of rebound damping would be beneficial around the track. Good thing Aprilia sells an up-spec Ohlins-equipped Factory model.
Considering the outdated spec of the Tuono’s Brembo 4-piston front brakes we were skeptical to how it would perform as compared to the contemporary set-ups on the Buell and Ducati. But it holds its own in the braking department. Even though the front brakes lack that initial bite of the other two, pull deep on the lever and they’re surprisingly effective at shedding speed. There’s no doubt that the brakes aren’t capable of providing the same level stopping sensation as the Ducati’s ultra-sensitive monobloc’s, yet for a novice motorcyclist they might just be less intimidating and easier to use. Also of note is how resistant the brakes are to fading due, in part to its stainless-steel brake lines.
If Aprilia could give its Tuono 1000R platform a cosmetic make over and a power boost it could have something for the Buell and Ducati.
Despite only being on the market for three years, aesthetically the Tuono already looks out-dated. Especially in the Crowded Silver paint scheme which draws attention to its long, wide fuel tank and flat oversized tail section. While massive twin exhausts were the rage in the ‘90s, now they just make the bike look old. We’re also tired of its sad-looking, yet surprisingly functional puppy dog front facia, which does an excellent job of diverting air around the rider but doesn’t cut it looks wise anymore. We do really dig its beautifully crafted frame and banana-shaped swingarm, both polished to a brilliant shine. Other visual pluses are its stylish aluminum wheels and how well the engine is packaged within the frame as most of its innards are very cleverly hidden away, just like the Ducati.