2014 Aprilia Mana 850 GT ABS Comparison

September 2, 2014
Adam Waheed
By Adam Waheed
Road Test Editor|Articles|Articles RSS|Blog|Blog Posts|Blog RSS His insatiable thirst for life is only surpassed by his monthly fuel bill. Whether rocketing on land, flying through the air, or jumping the seas, our Road Test Editor does it all and has the scars to prove it.

Aprilia appeals to a different sort of rider with its Mana 850 GT ABS ($11,918.95 as tested). Outfitted with a CVT-style transmission the Mana gives riders the choice between manual or fully-automatic shifts. Paired with a fuel-sipping V-Twin engine and handy trunk-like storage compartment with an integrated 12-volt power socket, the Mana is ready to tackle any riding mission.

With its Twin engine fully exposed, the Mana appears the least sporty compared to the sleeker, fully-faired Ninja and VFR. It’s also the oldest model, too, as a six-year-old design. Still with an inverted fork and Aprilia-embossed two-piece gold radial-mount calipers from Brembo its hardware remains contemporary.

Seated behind the handlebar the Mana offers the least demanding riding position. Its seat measures 31.5 inches off the pavement, positing it between the Kawasaki (32.3 inch) and the Honda (31.0 inch its low setting). The saddle is thick, wide, and well-padded which two out of three of us preferred overall.

Instrumentation is basic but functional with a dial-face speedometer and an LCD that keeps tabs on engine vitals. Despite not employing a tachometer, we never missed it. What we did miss is a fuel gauge.

Considering its engine configuration, the Mana is slim and more compact dimensionally. However that compactness equates to a slightly cramped lower half for taller pilots. Yet, it isn’t anywhere as demanding as the four-cylinders.

“It’s got the tallest windscreen and a little bit more relaxed ergonomics,” voices Harley, who stands at six-foot.

One of the greatest features of the Aprilia is its illuminated pop-up style trunk. It swallows 19.1 liters of cargo and has a 12-volt power outlet inside.
The Aprilias instrument display omits a tachometer which we didnt really miss. What we did miss is a fuel gauge.
The Mana features a number of clever engineering tricks including the position of the 4.22-gallon fuel tank beneath the rider and passenger seat.
(Top) One of the greatest features of the Aprilia is its illuminated pop-up style trunk. It swallows 19.1 liters of cargo and has a 12-volt power outlet inside. (Center) The Aprilia’s instrument display omits a tachometer which we didn’t really miss. What we did miss is a fuel gauge. (Bottom) The Mana features a number of clever engineering tricks including the position of the 4.22-gallon fuel tank beneath the rider and passenger seat.

“It does have a really tall windscreen,” Madson agrees. “But I almost found that more of a deterrent as it created a lot of wind buffeting.”

And that is one of the biggest strikes against the Mana. Though the windscreen can be adjusted with an Allen key, its adjustment range is too narrow to prevent turbulent air from blowing into the rider’s line of sight. Again, this may not effect smaller than average riders but for our six-foot-plus trio it became highly annoying.

“I preferred say the VFR’s shorter windscreen, as it delivered a more direct and steady airflow,” says Bart. “With that said, the seat is comfortable the bar placement is nice and upright and you can do a lot of miles on that bike in relative comfort.”

On the scales the Aprilia weighs just one pound more than the Interceptor at 542 pounds. While it’s the heaviest, the Mana conceals its mass well with a favorable center of gravity. It doesn’t steer with the sharpness of the Japanese bikes, but its handling manners are neutral and easy to get a feel for.

The Mana shines around town. Its more relaxed suspension does a decent job of filtering the effects of rough asphalt. And paired with the mindless convenience of its automated transmission, the Italian bike quickly won us over through stop-and-go traffic on San Francisco’s busy Lombard Street.

“It’s literally twist-and-go — throttle and brake,” says Bart of the Mana’s simplified and clutch lever-less powertrain. “You can use the paddle shifters in the manual shifting mode which is interesting for a little bit. But after a couple miles with that I was more than happy to stick it in the auto mode and just gas it.”

Once out of town, in the twisties, the chassis misses a degree of composure. Suspension adjustment is limited to the shock only. Dialing in full spring preload certainly helped but it wasn’t enough to maintain the pace of the Japanese bikes. It also has the least amount of cornering clearance.

“It’s so easy to ride that I found myself sort of exceeding its limits when it came to the suspension,” Madson explains. “Particularly on left hand corners the side stand would drag pretty easily. Adding preload helped, but it definitely hits the limit when it comes to ground clearance.”

Like the Ninja, the Mana comes standard with ABS — a feature that only comes on the more expensive ‘DLX’ version Honda. Amongst the group the Aprilia’s brakes offered the least stopping bite. Yet in the braking test, they just eked out the Honda by 2.4 inches and were only six inches behind the class-leading Kawi.

Mana GT ABS Suspension Settings
Shock
Preload: 45 (Turns in)
Rebound: 0.5

Results of dyno testing demonstrate that it’s severely outgunned in the engine department. Its 839cc Twin pumps out just 39.11 lb-ft of torque, placing it well behind the competition. The gap is even bigger in the horsepower race, producing less than half the number of ponies of the Ninja (54.21 vs. 122.47).

“The Mana GT test is definitely the outlier in this test as far as the engine goes,” Madson describes. “It actually has a surprisingly amount of grunt down low, especially in ‘Sport’ mode. I came in with low expectations with the Mana’s engine and I was pleasantly surprised.”

Although it lacks the forceful rush of acceleration of the four-cylinders, the GT scoots around nicely and is capable of outpacing traffic from a stop proven by its 5.1 second 0-60 time (only a 0.5 second slower than the VFR but a full second off the Ninja). At freeway speeds the disparity grows with it barely cracking 91 mph through the quarter mile (a whopping 38.7 mph behind the Kawi and 22.7 mph behind the VFR).

The windscreen on the Mana 850 GT could be taller as it directs turbulent air into the riders line of sight.The Mana 850 GT offers the most relaxed ergonomics but didnt feel as agile as the Honda or Kawasaki.The Mana 850 GT uses a non-adjustable inverted fork with two-piece Brembo sourced calipers. The set-up was effective with the fork delivering favorable ride quality over bumps and pot holes in the city.
(Left) The windscreen on the Mana 850 GT could be taller as it directs turbulent air into the rider’s line of sight. (Center) The Mana 850 GT offers the most relaxed ergonomics but didn’t feel as agile as the Honda or Kawasaki. (Right) The Mana 850 GT uses a non-adjustable inverted fork with two-piece Brembo sourced calipers. The set-up was effective with the fork delivering favorable ride quality over bumps and pot holes in the city.

For optimum acceleration its best to row through the seven-speed transmission manually, with the handlebar-mounted finger triggers, or the conventional left-foot-operated gearshift lever. However, the ‘Sport’ automatic riding mode functions almost as well, especially on curvy roads by downshifting earlier and holding the gear longer on exit. Another plus is the seamless and never ending feeling of acceleration as the transmission switches between gear ratios.

Still it does take some time for riders to acclimate to the Aprilia’s phantom clutch lever. Says Bryan: “I didn’t like that the CVT doesn’t allow any engine braking. But the more I rode the Mana the more it grew on me. Especially on long highway miles.”

In contrast to the roaring howl of the Kawasaki or the purr of the Honda, the Aprilia’s drivetrain emits an utilitarian-like drone. It’s certainly not annoying but it doesn’t inspire excitement either. The engine could also stand to be smoother, as it emits foot-numbing buzz at certain highway speeds.

Considering its more modest power output, it’s not a surprise that the Aprilia recorded the second-best fuel mileage, just 0.1 mpg fewer than the miserly VFR (42.6 vs. 42.7 mpg). Only problem is its smallest-in-class 4.22-gallon capacity tank requiring more frequent fill-ups.

“The interesting thing about the Mana that I really liked is the fuel tank storage area,” explains Madson of the Mana’s clever illuminated 19.1 liter front storage compartment. “The Man fuel tank is actually under the seat. Where the traditional fuel tank would be is a very large storage area. When we went on our two-day tour I was able to pack all of my gear and put it in that and I didn’t even need the saddlebags.”

The compartment also includes a 12-volt power plug that can be used to power electronic devices while riding.

Mana 850 GT ABS Highs & Lows
Highs
  • Massive cargo capacity
  • Integrated 12-volt power plug
  • Automatic transmission simplifies the riding experience
Lows
  • Windscreen directs air into riders face
  • Could have more power
  • Engine could be smoother with less vibration

“Having the convenience of being able to pull up to the gas station and pop that thing open and access your wallet, a map, your phone, or anything quick was really nice,” concurs Harley.

Though the Aprilia’s side cases don’t offer as clean integration as the recently updated Japanese bikes, the lockable bags are simple to operate and mount/dismount— they also offer the largest cargo capacity (34 liters) and cost the least ($719.95).

Riders serious about touring will love the Mana GT ABS. On the other hand, if sport appeal is what you’re after, the Aprilia is easily out-muscled. So despite offering the best value, the Italian bike ranks at the back of this comparison group.

Aprilia Mana 850 GT ABS Specifications
2014 Aprilia Mana 850 GT ABS -  11 918.95  as tested with accessorial luggage.
Engine: 839cc liquid-cooled V-Twin
Bore x Stroke: 88.0 x 69.0mm
Fuel Delivery: Weber Marelli EFI, with 39mm throttle body
Transmission: Sportgear automated CVT
Final Drive: Chain
Front Suspension: 43mm non-adjustable inverted fork; 4.72 in. travel
Rear Suspension: Hydraulic shock absorber with adjustable spring preload and rebound damping; 4.92 in. travel
Front Brake: Dual 320mm disc, 4-piston radial-mount calipers
Rear Brake: Single 260mm disc, single-piston caliper
Front Wheel/Tire: 3.5 x 17-inch, 120/70-17
Rear Wheel/Tire: 6 x 17-inch, 180/55-17
Wheelbase: 57.5 in
Seat Height: 31.4 in
Weight: 542 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 4.22 gallons
Available Colors: Black, Orange
MSRP: $11,918.95 as tested