This year our Superbike Smackdown comparison sees another entry from Italy in the form of Aprilia’s all-new RSV4R. Based off the premium $20,999 RSV4 Factory, a motorcycle engineered specifically for the rigors of World Superbike racing, the RSV4R is a Superbike made for us common folk. It achieves its favorable $15,999 price tag via a number of significant changes to the chassis and one single but nonetheless important modification to the engine. Learn all about each of the changes in the 2010 Aprilia RSV4R First Ride.
Before we rolled the bike out of the garage the Aprilia was already the one machine that absolutely everyone wanted to ride first. And who can blame them? It’s absolutely stunning—especially in its Glam White colorway. Visually it’s on par with the fabulous looking KTM and Ducati. Not only does it look awesome but the soulful character delivered from its exclusive V-Four engine simply has to be heard and felt to be believed.
In a sea of standard-issue Inline Four and V-Twin engine configurations, the RSV4 differentiates itself by using an ultra-compact 65-degree, liquid-cooled, 999cc V-Four. Double overhead camshafts drive each of the 8-valve cylinder heads and the 78.0 x 52.3mm bore/stroke measurements is the most oversquare among the four cylinder-powered motorcycles with exception of the BMW. Each piston squeezes fuel received from the dual-stage fuel injection system to a ratio of 13:1, which is identical to the S1000RR, signifying the potential for some serious engine performance on tap.
From the moment you press the starter button the Aprilia delivers an exotic riding experience that the others simply can’t match. The howl that emits from the engine is absolutely intoxicating and it’s so thunderous that I’m amazed that it’s legal.
The reason it can get away with this is due to the clever use of a flapper valve inside the trapezoid-shaped muffler. When the bike is in neutral the valve is closed keeping noise to a reasonable 88-decibel level. Drop the bike into gear and the valve instantly opens and belts out the V-Four’s fully unedited soundtrack to the tune of 93 decibels. It sounds even more awesome at speed with a measurement of 112 decibels at 6800 rpm (half of maximum engine speed), tying the Ducati for the award of the loudest motorcycles in the test. It’s amazing considering that the 1198S Corse we tested came with a set of aftermarket Termignoni mufflers.
If you’re looking for a bike with a lot of character, the Aprilia should be at the top of your list.
Power wise the RSV4R’s powerband feels like a hybrid of the low-end grunt offered by the Ducati and KTM and the high-rpm power afforded by the Inline Fours. However, looking at the dyno graph clearly shows it’s alignment with the latter. The torque curve is toward the middle of the four cylinders eventually peaking at 9700 rpm with 76.81 lb-ft. This puts it back into sixth position in terms of peak torque production. Keep the throttle pinned and the engine spools up quickly but with less voracity than the ZX-10R or BMW. Initially you can feel some vibration with each power pulse at low rpm, however it fades as the revs increase.
Power down low is respectable as is mid-range but when the engine hits about 10,000 revs it feels like it stalls out for a moment before coming back online in a major way. One thousand rpms later you’re back in business with motor doling out upwards of 155 horsepower until its 159.77 peak at 12,600 revs. The engine maintains peak power for another few hundred rpm before dramatically falling off right before its 13,600 redline.
“I really love the character of the Aprilia’s motor. It delivers a similar level of exoticness ala Ducati’s Desmosedici MotoGP replica only it costs four times less,” said Executive Editor Steve Atlas. “Though I wish it revved up a bit faster and didn’t have that weird flat spot at 10-grand; other than that I’m pretty impressed.”
All the adrenaline-pumping fun and excitement generated by the Aprilia takes a heavy toll on fuel supply. The 4.49-gallon tank empties faster than all but the Ducati with an average MPG of 28.2, netting a range of roughly 125 miles between fuel stops depending on how aggressive your right wrist feels.
A cassette-style 6-speed transmission and cable-actuated slipper clutch complement the engine and shift power through 16/42 final drive gearing. Like the rest of the bikes first gear is tall, meaning that a little more clutch slippage is required to get off the line cleanly. Thankfully clutch lever pull is wispy and offers an elevated level of feel. The Aprilia’s decent bottom end engine performance further assists in getting it moving.
In the quarter-mile acceleration test the RSV4R netted a time of 10.06 seconds at 142.7 mph. This put it toward the back of the pack in this close performing group. However, do keep in mind that it was less than four-tenths of a second off the class-leading pace set by the BMW.
Overall we were pleased with the way the gearbox felt. Second through top gear are stacked closely together and the lower final drive gearing helps maximize acceleration. While the gearbox didn’t feel quite as tight as the Japanese bikes it was definitely close and significantly better than the loose feeling ‘box used in the 1198. Equally impressive was the performance of the slipper clutch, with it providing a perfect happy medium between engine braking and freewheeling effect on the road.
ERGONOMICS / COMFORT
The Aprilia’s $15,999 MSRP is plenty reasonable for the amount of performance and exclusivity you get.
From the moment you hop into the seat it’s not hard to notice that the RSV4R was built with one purpose in mind—racing. Of all the bikes tested, the Aprilia features the most diminutive cockpit. It feels no wider than a Yamaha R6 and much shorter front-to-back than all of the motorcycles, including the petite Honda, which shows one of the benefits of its compact engine configuration.
This makes it more difficult to get comfortable on if you are over 5-foot 10-inches tall, however short riders didn’t have much to complain about other than seat height, which measures 33.3 inches off the ground, giving the RSV4 the honor of having the tallest seat. Fortunately the narrowness of the chassis and fuel tank negates the effect and makes it easy to touch the ground.
Reach forward to the handlebars and like the Ducati and Kawasaki you’ll instantly feel a good deal of pressure placed on your hands and wrists. We do however appreciate the angle in which the handlebars are positioned as well as how wide they are apart.
Next to the Ducati, the Aprilia has the honor of having the most uncomfortable seat. Not only is it thin, the tiny and the high location of the non-adjustable footpegs multiply the level of discomfort with every passing mile. The RSV4R’s narrow front fairing and short windscreen provides the most minimal amount of wind protection. The rear view mirrors are also too small and shake excessively making them useless just like those on the KTM and Ducati.
HANDLING / SUSPENSION
With a full tank of premium fuel we were shocked to discover that the Aprilia weighs just one pound less than the porky Yamaha—a big surprise considering how tiny the bike appears dimensionally. Other than rolling the bike around in the garage you’d be hard pressed to feel the bikes 473-lb curb weight on the road as engineers spent a good time perfecting its center of gravity.
Similar to the Kawasaki and the Ducati, the rear end feels a bit high in the air which helps with initial turn-in. Once on the side of the tire the bike felt the least planted as compared with the other bikes. But traction afforded by the OE-fitted Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP tires is phenomenal and more than enough to obtain knee-dragging speeds around corners. Conversely, on corner exit we were surprised by just how stable the bike was with it resisting the urge to headshake even on rough pavement. We also noticed how resistant the Aprilia was to quick side-to-side direction changes.
Even with its lesser grade suspension components we were still pleased with the way the suspension functioned. Both ends absorbed bumps well and generally delivered a fairly forgiving ride. In fact the only real weak spot in terms of comfort is its small, rock-hard seat and tight ergonomics layout.
“Overall I’d give the Aprilia’s handling a ‘C’,“ said Atlas. “It turns in okay—not quite as quickly as one would expect for a bike that looks this small but still on a similar level as the Suzuki and faster than the Yamaha. For the street the suspension wasn’t that bad at all. It was way more forgiving than the KTM and Ducati, yet it was hard to ride for long distances because of how uncomfortable the seat is.”
While the Aprilia makes use of premium Brembo components fore and aft we weren’t impressed with the overall performance of the brakes. In our braking test the Aprilia was toward the back of the field recording a stopping distance of 131 feet from 60 mph.
This is surprising considering the RSV employs Brembo radial-mount monobloc calipers up front that grip down on large 320mm diameter discs just like the Ducati and KTM. Out back a single 220mm disc and Brembo twin-piston caliper keep rear wheel speed in check. Both brakes also benefit from stainless-steel brake lines.
The problem can most likely be attributed to lack of front brake feel. While outright stopping force is at a high level it’s hard to achieve because the brakes simply don’t deliver enough feedback through the lever to really allow a rider to comfortably use them near the limit of lock-up.
INSTRUMENTATION / ELECTRONICS
Instrumentation is comprised of Aprilia’s signature orange-backlit mixed digital/analog instrument panel. A round swept tachometer is bordered by a LCD screen that provides everything you need to know. While the instruments are easy to read they don’t look as cool as the Ducati’s and the menu system is more complex to navigate through in comparison to the
Beemer’s intuitive display.
In the electronics department a handlebar switch allows the rider to choose from one of three engine maps: Track, Sport and Rain. Each map has a corresponding change in engine power and throttle response. Overall we preferred the Sport setting as it made the throttle feel far less touchy than Track mode without sacrificing power output.
Although it ranked at the back of the pack, if you’re looking for the wildest, most charismatic motorcycle then look no further than the $15,999 Aprilia. While it was held back in some of the performance-oriented and subjective scoring there wasn’t a person who rode the bike that wasn’t in awe of the bike’s unique personality and sheer fun factor. If Aprilia could somehow reduce the weight, increase fuel economy, and make the bike more comfortable to ride they could easily have a winner on its hands.
2010 Superbike Smackdown VII Street
2010 Aprilia RSV4R Comparison Street
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2010 Ducati 1198S Comparison Street
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2010 Superbike Smackdown VII Street FMM