I am Max Biaggi! I’m freakin’ Max Biaggi, I am! At least that’s what runs through my head as I twist the throttle on the jet black 2011 Apilia RSV4R APRC. I’m screaming this delusional rant as well, but I can’t hear myself over the sweet howl of the V-Four engine tucked inside the polished frame of this Italian Superbike. Ok, so I outweigh The Emperor by at least 75 to 80 pounds depending on what I had for dinner, and I have a quarter of a foot on him in the height department, but the compact layout on the Aprilia’s latest addition to the RSV4 line-up gives a glimpse of what it feels like to have Swoopy Number-1 stitched to the back of your leathers. All this and I’m only accelerating up the onramp to the 5 Freeway.
A few weeks ago we finally got our hands on the APRC equipped RSV4R, albeit too late for our Superbike Smackdown VIII, and have been putting in through its paces in the real world. Unfortunately, track duty was nixed for this review, but we hope to bring you a track review at a later date. It’s probably all for the best as we can figure out all the wizardry of the traction control system before trying our best to impersonate Mad Max (the Italian, not the Australian) at a local trackday.
For the most part it is the same machine we tested last year in our Superbike Smackdown VII Track and Superbike Smackdown VII Street tests with some updates and one very substantial addition – Aprilia Performance Ride Control (APRC). It’s basically the most high tech traction control system on a production bike, ever. The system uses an inertial sensor platform that consists of two
The traction control system on the 2011 Aprilia RSV4R APRC is the most impressive
addition to the base model Italian superbike, but the redesigned exhaust and lighter
wheels complete an already superb package. This is Biaggi’s superbike for the street.
gyrometers and two accelerometers to sense changes in the bike’s dynamic conditions such as a slide or wheelie. This info is interpreted by the ECU and adapts the engine’s performance accordingly by varying the fly-by-wire throttle bodies and ignition curve. Another impressive feature of the APRC is the ability to use different sized tires by “learning” the new tire’s radius and final gearing ratio.
Updates to the APRC model include a lighter exhaust, gear ratios that are optimized for the racetrack, improved internal engine lubrication, and lightweight wheels. Significant updates for a second model year for sure, but they pale in comparison to big brain installed in the RSV4R APRC.
The RSV4R APRC ramps up the already impressive technology available from Aprilia in this repli-racer, providing a ridiculous amount of fine tuning to the traction control system all from the handlebars. Also included in the system is wheelie control and launch control systems, both of which are adjustable to your liking. Throw in three engine power modes and you’ve got so many settings at first it’s a bit overwhelming.
The APRC system is controlled by the the stwitches on the left handlebar can can be adjusted on the fly.
The first component of the APRC system is the ATC (Aprilia Traction Control) that is tunable by eight steps. Step 1 is the least aggressive with Step 8 being almost silly as to how much it cuts the power to curtail wheel spin. We played with the system for quite a while to find the right balance and finally found that setting two and three gave the best amount of forward drive while jamming the throttle to the stop on corner exits. Once you put your faith in the system, you can get on the gas sooner and harder than is possible on the standard RSV4R. Our favorite hoodlum, Brian Steeves preferred setting two, which allowed him to spin up the rear tire like he was Gary McCoy. For my less aggressive style setting three gave me the confidence to twist the wrist just a bit more than usual. I was actually able to get a few nice slides going after finding the right traction management number for my riding style. You just roll on the throttle and let the APRC do the rest.
A really cool feature is the ability to change the level of traction control via the brushed aluminum thumb and index finger toggle buttons while on the fly. This would be a great feature on the track, but on the street we suggest finding a setting you like and sticking with it.
In addition to traction control, there are three levels of wheelie control (AWC) and launch control (ALC). Wheelie control allows the front to leave the pavement, but limits the altitude and gently brings the front end back to earth in a controlled fashion. The system works well, except when you want to really stand the bike up to show off for your fans. Popping the clutch and jerking back on the bars gets the front end up, but the power cuts abruptly causing the bike to lurch forward and back like a bucking bronco. The solution? Just turn the AWC off, and you are good to go.
The ALC system is the first of its kind employed on a production motorcycle. Once again three levels of control allow the rider to pin the throttle and dump the clutch, letting the electronics to the work, ensuring the best possible launch. In our quarter mile runs we put the system to the test and found it worked pretty well, although it was difficult to commit to letting
The rider can choose from eight levels of traction control. We preferred settings two and three on our Aprilia RSV4R APRC.
the system do its thing. Just by force of habit we would vary the throttle opening and slip the clutch negating the benefit of the system. Eventually we were confident the bike wasn’t going to flip over backwards, and let her rip. With Steeves at the controls, he managed a 10.52-second quarter-mile on a fairly dusty surface. An impressive result considering the RSV4 has the tallest first gear of any 2011 model year Superbike. It would be interesting to see how the Launch control would cope with a fully prepped drag strip launch pad.
In addition to all the adjustability of the APRC system, three power maps are selectable by using the starter button once the engine is running. Sport, track and rain are your choices for how much juice you want out of the Aprilia. The sport setting was the one we preferred for street duty as it made the fly-by-wire throttle feel less abrupt than the full-Monty track mode. Switch it over to rain and the RSV4R becomes docile and dare we say sluggish especially on the bottom end.
While the technology of the RSV4R APRC is impressive without a doubt, and we feel it is going to force the other manufacturers to step up their game in the near future, there are a few flaws that tarnish the stellar performance of the electronics. First being the fly-by-wire throttle system. It just doesn’t have the same feel and feedback that you are used to getting from a conventional cable-actuated throttle. Small movements of the wrist have a pronounced effect on the power delivery making it difficult to be smooth. This makes slower speed corners and tight bends a chore with the bike coming on and off the power quickly and abruptly. We understand the cable-less actuation is the cornerstone for making the wonder that is the APRC possible, but we definitely feel that the throttle itself needs some work.
The fly-by-wire throttle of the RSV4R APRC is sensitive, which make navigating through slow corners a little difficult if your right wrist is not rock steady.
Another let down is the quick shifter that allows clutchless upshifts. The system works great when the revs are high and the right wrist is at full tilt boogie, but at any other time the system is too intrusive. The cut in power to allow a shift is just too much and too long in duration. This has the tendency to upset the balance of the chassis, especially if you are just cruising through a corner and decide to grab another gear. While it’s not as bad as Ducati’s set-up on the 1198, it is light years behind the BMW S1000RR’s seamless shifts.
But the biggest frustration comes when trying to change or modify the parameters of the APRC system. The user interface is not intuitive at all, and we spend far too much of our time trying to get through menus and figuring out what button does what. The mode button on the left handlebar was slow to react, and we found ourselves over shooting the mark and then selecting something we didn’t mean to. When trying to figure out the launch control we actually had to search YouTube to find out how to set it up. In fact, Aprilia has actually created videos on how to navigate and set-up the various features of the APRC system. Seem like an admission that they know the system is tough to understand and use. In the age of iPod and PlayStation navigating through a motorcycle set-up menu shouldn’t be so complicated that it frustrates the user to the point they have to go to the internet to learn how to use it.
Power delivery from the ultra-compact 65-degree, 999cc V-Four engine combines the torque of a V-Twin with the high-revving rush of an Inline Four. Without a doubt, the feel is unique and borderline exotic. I enjoyed the ability to lug the RSV4R around town and then rev it to the moon up in the hills. It doesn’t rev as quickly as the Japanese Inline Fours, but it has far more character and can pull out of a tight bend harder thanks to its mid-range torque. Then there is the intoxicating exhaust note that could only come from something made in Italy. It really is music to my ears.
On the MotoUSA dyno the RSV4R APRC belted out 155.95 horsepower at 12,300 rpm and 74.75 ft-lb of torque at 9,900 rpm demonstrating that the V-Four engine likes to live in the mid-upper rev range for optimal power output. These numbers would have ranked the Aprilia right in the middle of the pack in horsepower and on-par with the Inline Fours in the torque department, confirming our seat of the pants feel that it gives nothing up in terms of power with its unique engine layout.
The three-way adjustable 43mm Sachs fork and Sachs piggy back shock offer a ride that is initially plush but stiffens up considerably as it moves through the stroke. This makes your time on the freeway getting to your favorite mountain road bearable as it soaked up the seams and imperfections nicely. Once up in the curves the suspension really begins to work as the pace increases, allowing to the RSV4 to track true in the corner. The only complaint is that at times the initial softness can cause some wiggle when transitioning for side to side, but once the bike is back over and squatting all is good. Turn-in on the 462-pound machine is quick with a light feel, and on exit the Aprilia is rock solid without any tendency to shake its head.
In terms of rider comfort, the RSV4R is hard-edged and compact as you would expect with such a track focused bike. The tail feels high and puts pressure on the wrist as it pushes you forward. We felt the seat was also too firm, but its shape allowed for easy movement in any direction. My 5’ 10” frame fit well in the cockpit, but our 6” 0” Road Test Editor Adam Waheed felt cramped on the short layout and high footpegs.
The Brembo monoblocs on the front of the APRC squeeze lightweight 320mm stainless steel rotors with authority. Our test riders were not impressed with the 2010 RSV4R’s brakes last year, but these suckers have some bite! Combined with the 220mm rear rotor and stainless steel brake lines, the Brembo package provides excellent feedback. This allowed our braking wizard Brian Steeves to stop in just 112 feet from 60 mph. Doubting the data from our data acquisition system, I
The APRC system from Aprilia is the future of Superbike traction control, available today for just $16,999.
asked Brain to back up the numbers and he was able to come close with a 114 and 115-foot stop. Very impressive.
Last year the RSV4R finished in last place in our Superbike Smackdown VII Street testing, but we have a feeling that the APRC equipped machine would have fared better if it had been included in this year’s shootout. Overall the street manners of the Aprilia are definitely dictated by it track-focused approach, but that is what this bike is all about. It’s a track ready Superbike with a license plate and mirrors. It is hardcore and high tech, and that is exactly what Aprilia was aiming for. With the addition of the APRC system the RSV4R has elevated its game and opened up a whole new world of electronic performance fine tuning that will likely become the norm in the next generation of Superbikes.