Aprilia Tuono R
The Italian Tuono showed itself to be a versatile and well-rounded sport machine. There's a whole lotta stuff going on in its busy design, most of it very appealing.
If you just want to hop on a Eurofighter and immediately feel comfortable, the Tuono is the bike for you. While other bikes here demand some consolation to ergonomics or odd feedback from the chassis, the Aprilia simply does what the rider tells it with no fuss, muss or cuss.
"The Tuono is comfortable on the highway, cuts like a knife in the twisties and it just aggressive enough for track use," praises our graphics wizard Brian Chamberlain. "It's easily my bike of choice when the road throws a curve."
More than any bike here, the Tuono is the purest expression of a stripped racer-replica, being mechanically nothing less than an RSV1000 Mille shorn of its bodywork. Like the Mille Alex Gobert tested
for us earlier this year, the Tuono is also revamped for '06. The powerplant is dubbed "V60 Magnesium" for its 60-degree vee angle and lightweight magnesium engine covers. The V60 boasts revised cylinder heads and altered valve timing via new cams. Together with a remapped ECU, the changes are aimed toward increasing power in the bottom half of the rev range.
Whether that's the case or not, we're not sure because we've never had a Tuono on a dyno. But this one, fed by a new fuel-injection system, didn't feel especially strong down low, despite what the dyno traces show. Compared with the identically sized 998cc Twin in the Ducati, the Tuono feels less grunty at low revs. During acceleration testing, the Duc would pull strong and clean from as low as 5000 revs, but the Tuono needed 7500-rpm launches to stave off a bogged start.
The Tuono is basically a stripped RSV1000 superbike. A tall handlebar and seat makes for a roomy layout suitable for riders of various sizes.
"You are forced to rev the Aprilia more than I'm used to with a V-Twin because the low- to mid-range power lacks a bit of oomph," notes MCUSA President Don Becklin. "The top end revs out surprisingly high for a Twin," he added, referring to a high-rpm lunge that doesn't end until 10,900 rpm, second highest to only the four-cylinder Brutale.
None of the above means we don't love this engine. It ranked right up near the top in terms of both User-Friendliness and Open-Road Performance, exhibiting that distinct rat-a-tat-a-tat-a
sound unique to the 'Priller motor through its stainless-steel 2-1-2 exhaust system. (Fitting a low-restriction aftermarket exhaust is accommodated by the ECU's flash EPROM that holds the proper mapping - a dealer can easily switch it over.) Throttle response is glitch-free.
"The Tuono doesn't feel like it has the torque of the Ducati but still manages to really get the power to the ground on corner exits and will easily wheelie out of the tighter corners," says Chamberlain. "But what really stands out is how it keeps making good, useable power all the way up into the top end."
Getting the power to the tastefully exotic blue anodized rear wheel is a clutch and transmission combo that our testers rated highest. "Shifts were smooth and precise," adds BC, "and I always managed to find the next gear without any problem." It helps that the Aprilia's foot control nubs are adjustable on an eccentric and are able to provide a tailored fit for fussy feet. One of our testers said it was difficult to access neutral, but he has trouble tying his shoes.
The Tuono exhibits a nicely balanced combination of agility with stability. A bike like this is tough to catch down a tight and twisty road.
Part of the changes made to the Tuono focused on making it more compact, but that's not the way it feels, despite claims of being lower and narrower than the previous iteration. For 2006, its seat is said to be more than a half-inch closer to the ground at 31.9 inches, but it still feels lanky in this group.
"The Tuono definitely feels the tallest of all the bikes in this shootout," Becklin surmises. "If I hopped on this bike blindfolded, I'd almost swear it was a big dual-sport machine."
While this might be an issue to dwarf riders, even our stubby-legged Editorial Director had high praise for the Aprilia's accommodating ergonomics.
"Although the Aprilia feels tall it is actually quite comfortable," says Ken Hutchison, whose says his abbreviated title, ED, has no bearing on his bedroom performance. "The bars are wide, which offers up great leverage on either the track or the street. The seat is firm and fairly comfortable on the street, but its wide front attributes to the feeling of being tall because I couldn't get a straight shot at the ground with my short legs. Still, I wouldn't change it."
Our testers also gave the Tuono high marks in our Instruments/Cockpit category, as what the rider sees from the seat is quite appealing. We like how the billet handlebar clamp holds the tapered aluminum and gold-anodized 'bar, accented by red fork caps and blue damping adjusters framed in the nicely machined triple clamp. And although some of us said the gauges (sourced from the 2005 Mille) look a bit dated, their features and usefulness are among the best. A handy three-position switch on the left handlebar toggles through several screens, including max speed, average speed, tripmeters, time, and the only lap timer of the group. Its LED backlighting can be adjusted to three different levels. Mirrors are stylish yet useful. If we had to complain about something, it would be the heavy knurling of the grips.
The Tuono's 55.5-inch wheelbase was the shortest in our group, making it nimble in the corners; yet its least aggressive rake and trail numbers, along with a standard steering damper, provided a base of stability.
The chassis of the Tuono, like the RSV, is new for '06. The stout new frame scales in at a bit more than 21 pounds, which Aprilia claims is the lightest in the class. Made from a combination of aluminum-silicon alloy castings and Peraluman 450 pressed parts, the structure is more rigid than previous. Also new is the banana-style aluminum swingarm, helping contribute to a shorter wheelbase of 55.5 inches, the tightest of this group, though just a few millimeters shy of the compact Brutale.
All the above add up to an amazingly cooperative motorcycle that's nimble but not twitchy - nimble because of its wide MX-style handlebar and short wheelbase, and stable due to a standard steering damper and the most conservative rake and trail numbers (25.0 degrees and 104mm, respectively).
"It's difficult to find a fault," allows Kenny. "It's rock-solid stable, easy to flick through transitions and, combined with the decent quality suspension, this is one of the better handling bikes in the test."
"It didn't turn in quite as quickly as the MV," BC notes, "But the big wide bars gave you enough leverage to crank it over pretty quickly. Once in the corner the bike was very stable and provided good feedback from both the front and rear."
The Tuono was one of our favorites at Horsethief Mile where its low-rpm power deficit is easy to ride around. Smooth corner entries are aided by Aprilia's patented Pneumatic Power Clutch that provides a marginal reduction in rear-wheel hop during compression braking.
Comin' at ya! The style of the Aprilia's nose fairing proved to be controversial in our style council. The Tuono's cornering prowess wasn't.
"Despite that it does not officially have a slipper clutch, it keeps its composure on the track while being ridden hard," lauds Hutch. "I don't recall breaking the rear end loose under deceleration on the Tuono whereas the rear tire on the Triumph was constantly barking and chattering."
Suspension is handled by a fully adjustable 43mm Showa fork and a new rear suspension linkage working a Sachs shock that, like the one in the Brutale, lacks adjustment for compression damping. Nonetheless, the Tuono's suspension received the highest marks in this test for its well-tuned setup that required little fettling, street or track.
Brakes are another area the Tuono stood out, though we didn't all agree the dual 320mm discs and Brembo 4-piston, 4-pad radial-mount caliper setup was the best. Powerful? Incredibly. Funny thing is they're almost too
good, as it takes barely more than a breath to activate the touchy binders through Kevlar-wrapped brake lines.
"The front brake is extremely strong, with little to no play in the lever, just immediate grab," says Becklin. "On the track the Aprilia would allow you to go in too hot and then slow you down with little drama." Adds Kenny, "The abrupt initial bike takes some getting used to, but once you do they are amazing."
Brian Chamberlain tries to one-up Duke in the unspoken MCUSA wheelie-meister war, and the revvy V-Twin in the Tuono proves to be a willing accomplice.
Comfort-wise, the Tuono treats its rider about as good as a naked sportster can get. The vestigial windscreen doesn't offer much in the way of wind protection, but a couple of small plastic deflectors at the forward edge of the frame and surrounding the radiator offers class-leading leg protection, which isn't actually saying much. Footpegs slightly more rear-set than before kept the long peg feelers from getting scuffed, even at the track. Given the exceptional ground clearance, it's surprising that no one complained about leg room.
The Tuono's appearance drew mixed reviews and plenty of attention. "While I like the hard lines and geometric shapes, I was left a little unsure about the big boxy headlight assembly," critiques BC, our style maven. "On the positive side, the tail section with its integrated light and blinkers has to be one of the best looking in the industry. Fit and finish is clean with lots of attention to detail. I became very attracted to the Tuono and would rate its appearance second to the MV."
Overall, the Tuono impressed us with its well-polished character, not unlike a Honda. But Aprilia is not (nor will it ever be) Honda, and any one who's ever been to Italy will agree that this is a good thing.