2012 Aprilia Tuono V4R APRC First Ride

Bart Madson | April 11, 2012

The Aprilia Tuono once ruled the Streetfighter roost. A perennial winner in MotoUSA’s annual Streetfighter Shootouts, the two-cylinder Tuono turned the Noale factory’s RSV Mille Superbike into a thrilling street bike. When Aprilia engineers scrapped the long-in-the-tooth Mille for the all-new RSV4 Superbike, a new Tuono seemed to be the logical progression. The result is the new Tuono V4R, which after early release in Europe is finally arriving on American shores as a 2012 model.

The Tuono returns to America  with Aprilia introducing the 2012 Tuono V4R APRC.
Racetrack performance in a street-friendly package. It’s the goal of every streetfighter, and one of the best interpretations returns to American shores in the Aprilia Tuono V4R APRC.

Tuono means Thunder in Italian, and thumbing the starter on our test bike the nomenclature immediately rings true. Aprilia’s stout exhaust tone gives riders an audible inkling of what’s on tap. Crack the throttle and things start to get interesting. Even bozos lacking clutch finesse (not that I’m talking about myself…) can yank the front end up with a stern twist. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves… For now let’s just say engine performance is exhilarating, with the impressive V-Four the defining feature of this latest Aprilia.

It should surprise no one that the Tuono mill is a ripper. Remember, this is the 65-degree V-Four engine platform that has won numerous World Superbike races, as well as the 2010 SBK Rider and Constructor titles with Max Biaggi at the controls. Adding to that impressive feat, the Aprilia RSV4 engines are powering the majority of the new Claiming Rule Team (CRT) entries in the 2012 MotoGP series. Now in its fourth year of development, this engine already boasts an impressive racing byline.

While the Tuono engine architecture is identical to the RSV4, including 78mm bore and 52.3mm stroke, Aprilia engineers didn’t plop in the Superbike engine without alteration. Valve timing has been revised, with the RSV4’s variable intake system tossed for a fixed intake ducts that are 20mm longer. These modifications target improved performance in bottom and mid-range. Meanwhile a heavier flywheel aims to smooth out the power delivery. The engine’s redline drops to 12,300 rpm, with peak horsepower and torque also arriving at lower revs than its racy SBK sibling.

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Watch the redesigned Aprilia Tuono in action in the 2012 Aprilia Tuono V4R First Ride video.

Such “street-friendly” alterations in the Streetfighter class can translate into a restrictive de-tuning that neuters the Superbike-derived powerplant. Thankfully the Tuono doesn’t suffer. The new Aprilia registered 152 peak horsepower on our in-house dyno, which ranges from 16 to 43 hp more than its class rivals (as measured in our 2011 Streetfighter Shootout). Compared to the RSV4 R we tested last summer, the Tuono’s 152.1 peak horsepower and 76.18 lb-ft torque register earlier in the revs. And compared to its Twin-powered predecessor, the V-Four Tuono churns out 40 more ponies.

So, to sum up – 152 horsepower at the rear wheel, on a street bike… Street-friendly indeed! Ample power is found everywhere, without flat spots in the power curve. Linear power builds from down low, packing a particularly robust pop around 9K. From there the Tuono keeps on churning as it growls to redline, the top-end kick showcasing its Superbike lineage.

The Tuono also inherits sophisticated electronics from its RSV4 kin. The APRC electronics package utilizes gadgetry, like gyro and accelerometers, to harness raw engine power with a series of systems. Foremost is Aprilia Traction Control (ATC), which offers eight variable settings ranging from minimal interference that allows for rear wheel slides to more restrictive levels which reduce wheel spin for rider safety. The ATC is easily switched via toggle button on left switchgear. The APRC system also incorporates three settings for Aprilia Wheelie Control (AWC) and Aprilia Launch Control (ALC).

The Tuono offers three engine maps, which alter power delivery and maximum output. Track (T) is the unfettered full power delivery, while Sport (S) delivers maximum power in a smoother manner, with Road (R) also smoothing out delivery but cutting power by 25%. The three engine maps can be swapped out via ignition switch on the right side switch gear.

Racetrack performance in a street-friendly package. Its the goal of every streetfighter  and one of the best interpretations returns to American shores in the Aprilia Tuono.
The Aprilia Tuono showcases a sophisticated electronics package that includes three selectable engine maps and an eight-level traction control system as well as wheelie and launch control. It’s also got a quick shifter too.

In practice the extreme ends of the ATC spectrum make a noticeable difference for even regular Joe riders like me. It ranges from minimal invasiveness to a more intrusive setting throughout a range of 1 to 8. It helps to have a track for sorting out the subtleties of the various ATC settings in between (as well a discerning expert-level rider). I monkeyed around with the numerous electronic settings, and opted to stick it on ATC 3 and the Sport mapping. We barely plumbed the depths of the electronics, but it’s a dialed system and best of all, it offers the benefit of electronic aids while still allowing riders to control the settings.

Our favorite electronic do-dad is the Aprilia Quick Shift (AQS). A quick shifter may be a track luxury, but it sure proves convenient on the street. Open the throttle and riders can bang up through the Tuono’s six-speed gear box sans clutch input. The AQS represents the highlight of a stellar transmission, with a slipper clutch smoothing out downshifts as well. Gearing has been altered in the bottom three gears from the track-biased RSV4. First gear still feels tallish, and Neutral proved sticky, at times, but we’re reaching for complaints, as the transmission is top rate.

The chassis shares some traits with the RSV4, including fully adjustable Sachs suspension components. The aluminum frame appears identical too, but Aprilia claims the Tuono unit has been revised for road performance. Changes include lowering the engine in the frame, and steering geometry has also been relaxed slightly, with rake pushed out a half degree (25 degree), trail increased fractionally (by 2.5mm) and wheelbase lengthened by an inch (56.9 inch).

The previous Tuono distinguished itself with its taut racing chassis. This latest version is perhaps overshadowed by the amazing engine, but still offers sportbike handling performance. The Sachs components feel stiffly sprung, but full adjustment options allow for fine-tuning. The Tuono is pleasantly neutral but with a sporty demeanor – eager for riders to press on the wide, tall handlebar and dive into a corner. The chassis boosts confidence with excellent feedback and stability, with the rider always feeling what’s going on beneath. Handling is only enhanced by the aforementioned electronics package, and its ATC safety net.

The previous Tuono distinguished itself with its taut racing chassis. This latest version is perhaps overshadowed by the amazing engine  but still offers sportbike handling performance.
The Tuono V4R adds a tall handlebar placement and lowerd pegs to improve its street-friendly ergos, though it is still a sporty mount with handling to match.

Oddly enough the myriad of electric assists doesn’t include ABS. In fact, the new Tuono’s braking package doesn’t quite match up with some of its modern Streetfighter competitors. The four-piston Brembo stoppers are radial mount, but are not the up-spec monoblocs design, nor does the Tuono use a radial master cylinder. It’s an easy spec sheet gripe, but mortal riders such as I have a difficult time finding reason to complain. Stopping power is strong, with good feel. Only compared side-by-side with the uprated components will riders find justification for critique.

The Aprilia’s styling left us nonplussed. Maybe it was the wasp-y yellow and black motif that did it… It doesn’t stand up to the likes of the Ducati Streetfighter and Monsters, but that’s a subjective opinion on aesthetics. We’ll let the reader decide. (Is there a class of motorcycles where the styling is more open to interpretation – the Triumph Speed Triple with its new headlamps and the Z1000 with odd four-pipe exhaust.)

Regardless of the individual taste, most riders would agree that the Tuono seat is a problematic design asset. Even if the two-tone coloring jives, it already looked the worse for wear during our testing – with the yellow fading to black. Hate to think what it would look like after a couple seasons. It’s the one detraction from overall solid fit and finish. Even the unconventional Piaggio switchgear is starting to grow on us.

The ergonomics package is comfortable, if on the sporty side. A tall handlebar is set at an accommodating reach and provides good leverage for handling. Our 6’1” dimensions found the footpegs a skosh on the high side, though thankfully moved down compared to the RSV4 Superbike. The riding triangle translates into a forward lean, but lacks hard pressure on the wrists. As for the seat, we did enjoy it comfort-wise – firm without being hard and stiff. The seat doesn’t provide much grip though, causing the rider to slide around.

With 152 horsepower it doesnt take much effort to turn the Tuono into a unicycle - provided the wheelie control setting is amenable.
The 2012 Aprilia Tuono V4R APRC is available now at American dealers, retailing for $14,999.

All told the Tuono is amenable to an ambitious daily mileage tally. And riders will pack a lot of action into the miles they ride on the revamped Tuono. It’s near impossible not to hammer the throttle, and its Superbike-engine doesn’t shy away from chugging down the high-octane (we netted 29.9 mpg). And speaking of fuel, it’s irritating to have more than 100 electronic settings available, with the various APRC gizmos, but not be able to get a simple fuel reading. Instead of a fuel gauge the Tuono kicks on a fuel light when it hits reserve, about 90 miles by our reckoning.

For all its performance on the road, the headlining feature for the new Tuono might be its $14,999 MSRP. The Tuono V4R APRC delivers a premium engine and electronics package at a price point that challenges top-shelve European rivals like the Triumph Speed Triple R ($15,999) and Ducati Streetfighter S ($18,999). In fact, the new Tuono is more affordable than the up-spec version it replaces – the Tuono Factory (which cost $16,999 five years ago!). Only when compared to the Japanese entries, and base Triumph Speed Triple, does it seem pricey. Not sure how the Piaggio suits crunched up the magical $15K price point, but American riders should just nod and be thankful.

The Tuono is back, make no mistake. This latest edition improves on its predecessor’s reputation. The Tuono V4R APRC advances the performance threshold in the liter streetfighter class, and comes with a competitive price tag. This Italian thunder should make some noise on the 2012 sales floor.

Stay tuned for a Streetfighter comparison review later this summer. 

The Tuono is a naked streetighter  but still offers some wind protection with is shrouds and small upper cowling.The Tuono adds a tall handlebar placement to improve its street-friendly ergos.The radial-mount Brembo brakes utilize steel-braided lines  but are not the monobloc designs found on some of its rivals.

Bart Madson

MotoUSA Editor | Articles | Bashing away at the MotoUSA keyboard for 10 years now, Madson lends his scribbling and editorial input on everything from bike reviews to motorcycle racing reports and industry news features.