159.77 @ 12,600 rpm
76.81 lb-ft @ 9700 rpm
10.06 @ 142.7 mph
Racetrack Top Speed:
Superpole Best Time:
An all-new bike for 2010, the V-Four-powered Aprilia RSV4R came into the shootout with a target on its back before we ever even thumbed the starter button. Why? Since the first press introduction for the Factory edition late last year, nearly everyone has ranted and raved about the new motorcycle. So, did it live up to all the hoopla? Let’s find out…
First, a quick look at the steed from Noale, Italy: New from the ground up, the RSV4 has been developed specifically to compete in World Superbike. It features a high-horsepower V-Four engine and a compact chassis wrapped in a distinct set of angular bodywork. The RSV is Aprilia’s first mass-production sportbike of the V-Four variety and it seems they hit the nail on the head on their first try.
A twin-spar aluminum frame and box-section swingarm harness the powerful-but-relatively-heavy engine. The Factory models gets Ohlins suspension, but for our test we received the base R model, which is fitted with a Showa fork and Sachs rear shock, with both ends fully adjustable. The R also doesn’t get the Factory’s lightweight wheels and variable intake stacks, though otherwise it’s mostly the same. For full details check out our 2010 Aprilia RSV4R Factory First Ride
from Mugello, Italy.
In many ways the Aprilia surprised us a great deal – some good and some bad. The sounds of that engine and the sheer visceral experience of the V-Four lump is awesomely spine tingling. Each pulse of those four pistons propels that Italian forward with an authority not known from many bikes currently made. However, while the R edition is nearly identical in terms of engine components compared to the Factory, it lacks one key piece: Variable intakes. They simply took them off the base model to reduce costs and the result is a powerband that can be difficult to ride smoothly.
Though it builds steam like a freight train with great grunt off the corners, once the rpms get up to 10,000 it falls off fairly abruptly, giving the inkling that it needs to be shifted, only to have the power pick back up briefly from 12,000 rpm up to redline. This made for a somewhat inconsistent power delivery. Also, the play in its throttle cable and the resulting on/off abruptness during the first quarter-turn requires a good deal of finesse to ride the bike smoothly, something we didn’t experience with the Factory model.
For Earnest, though, the power delivery didn’t bother him at all. As he puts it: “The V-Four engine rocks. It has good tractable power, pulls hard down low off the corners and revs like a banshee on top!”
While some of the others struggled with the V-Four a bit more, everyone agreed that it is one powerful machine. Says Neuer: “The Aprilia had a rough map in it, not smooth at all, but it made tons of top-end power, making it fun to blast down the straights!”
“I found the Aprilia’s engine to be abrupt,” Hensley adds. “I never felt quite confident enough to really open the throttle to full stick anywhere other than on the front straight.”
These comments were reflected in the racetrack data, as when it came to top speed the Aprilia was right in the mix, clocking 150.8 mph down the front straight, putting it on par with the Kawasaki and the Yamaha. On the other hand, max acceleration numbers out of both Turn 6 and Turn 15 were low down the order, both under 0.6g, no doubt from the rider’s inability to be precise enough to open the throttle as early as some of the competition.
“The V-Four engine rocks. It has good tractable power, pulls hard down low off the corners and revs like a banshee on top!” - Earnest.
The Aprilia’s clutch received mixed reviews as well. The back-torque-limiting unit worked well to get the V-Four into the corners, but a fairly notchy transmission had a long throw to the foot lever and would hang up between gears if the riders weren’t precise with each and every shift.
It fared better on both the dyno and during performance testing at El Toro. The V-Four lump makes a solid 159.77 hp and 76.81 lb-ft of torque. As for the quarter mile, the RSV4R ticked the lights with a best pass of 10.06 @ 142.7 mph. And though in this group that puts it toward the back of the pack, with just the Yamaha and KTM going slower, that’s still a respectable pass.
There’s no question the RSV4R’s small and compact size makes for a motorcycle that’s easy to put where you want it. The compact chassis is solid and reassuring, allowing for great feel and feedback through the twin-spar frame to the rider. The suspension also seemed to hold a great deal of potential, though the set-up wasn’t quite perfected during our day of track riding.
“The Aprilia chassis is awesome and the shock worked well,” Sorensen comments. “But again I think it was set up a little on the soft side, as under acceleration the bike would snake a bit, especially when you are really hard on the gas exiting corners.”
Combined with a fork that was ever so slightly too quick to rebound and on the soft side as well, the overall balance of the Aprilia needed some tweaking. Adds Earnest: “The Aprilia dove too quickly while on the brakes, causing the bike to back-in excessively.”
The Aprilia's compact size makes for a good overall handling package, though some minor suspension issues held it back.
Several others who were pushing at a similar fast pace noticed the same issues. Much of this came down to set-up, as after the shootout we spent another full day at a different track dialing in the Aprilia’s suspension to see if we could tune out its woes. And with some serious trial and error we were able to get it performing substantially better, though still not up to par with that of the Honda or Ducati.
These comments directly correlate with the data gathered at Thunderhill, as one can see the Aprilia struggled in terms of maximum lean angle measured in both Turn 2 and Turn 14, the direct result of a lack of confidence in putting the chassis on its limits. The max grip in both corners was also 0.9g, and while not the worst by an means, it is still at the bottom end of the spectrum compared to a best of 1.2g in Turn 2 for the Yamaha and a whopping 1.6g in Turn 14 for the Honda.
Its compact size is also deceiving. The Aprilia was one of the heaviest bikes of the bunch at 473 lbs full of fuel and all fluids thanks to the weight of the V-Four engine; though the heft goes relatively unnoticed at speed due to the compact size and low CG.
Braking was another area the base Aprilia was somewhat dull. In comparison to the supreme stoppers on the BMW or the precision feel of the Ducati’s binders, we couldn’t help but notice a slightly wooden sensation from the RSV’s brakes. Not to mention several riders experienced a fair amount of fade during stints of over five laps. As for the measured braking performance from 60 mph, its best pass was 131 ft.
The end result was a Superpole lap time of 1:58.59, the second slowest of the group. And while there’s no question the Aprilia has more time in it with a better base set-up, the power delivery and on/off throttle played a major role in holding it back. Whereas with some bikes one can feel like they are on a Sunday ride and turn fast times, the Aprilia took full concentration and felt close to the ragged edge, yet still came up at the back of the pack.
While Aprilia has loads of redeeming qualities, the overall package of the 'R' could still use some work.
This test confirmed to us that while the base RSV4R is a good machine, the Aprilia RSV4 Factory is definitely worth the extra cash. Having recently tested the Factory model, there’s no question that when the Italian manufacturer designed this machine it was to be sold in that form, as the bike is amazing. The variable intakes, better suspension and upgraded wheels make more of a difference than we ever thought possible. It’s hard to fault those sexy lines, but this is a track test and performance is king, so as such the Aprilia ended up at the back of the field. Now put those variable intakes on the base model, spend several days dialing in the suspension and, well, it may be an entirely different story. Or you can just buy the Factory model and call it a day…