Aprilia are being clever with their 1000cc V-twin engine, by spinning off as many variations on that basic biking theme as humanly possible. The latest in the series is the streetfighter styled Tuono, available as a limited edition.
With a hi-tech specification, effortless performance and the sort of styling that you either love, or loathe, the Tuono is a distinctive option in the Aprilia Mille family, but at over £11,000, it’s also an expensive one. Kevin Ash reports from the launch in Italy.
There seems to be something of a knee-jerk reaction among a lot of journalists – if a bike is unusual looking and it’s Italian, then automatically, it must be gorgeous. Sorry, but I don’t subscribe to that theory, and a succession of less than attractive machines from Aprilia simply underlines that. The Futura and Capo Nord are plain ugly, and even though the new Tuono might be expensive and dripping with carbon fibre and Kevlar, it still doesn’t spark my aesthetic nerve.
This, believe me, is a huge shame because the bike as a riding machine is an absolute cracker. The Tuono was shown for the first time at the Bologna Show last December, where the presence of a prototype was designed to gauge public reaction. The response was positive enough for Aprilia to run out the production version, although it’s only available in very limited numbers – 200 are being made for Europe, the USA and Australia, so even at the £11,250 price tag there’s no doubt it’ll sell on rarity value alone, if not beauty.
Let’s hope most examples go to riders and not just collectors, because it really is a storming motorcycle. That’s no surprise really as essentially the Tuono is no more than a stripped down RSV Mille R. The engine is almost untouched aside from some tweaking to smooth out the low rev throttle response (a mod which the R itself will probably benefit from), so refreshingly, Aprilia hasn’t followed the naked bike masses by ’retuning for extra mid-range’ as all the press packs say. Instead, it packs the full 130bhp punch of the RSV-R, and just as encouraging, it rolls on the same very high quality Ohlins suspension front and rear, and loses its speed through the RSV-R’s four-piston Brembo front calipers.
Flash your Tic-Tacs at me
The changes amount to far too much gold paint, applied to the frame and swingarm as well as the handlebars and sundry smaller items, along with a mix of carbon fibre and Kevlar panels applied almost randomly to the various sticky out bits around the engine. The triple headlight unit has been retained and shrouded in a carbon nose fairing which works very well at fending off the muscle of the windblast with little turbulence reaching the rider, but it’s gawky and looks like a cheap accessory part designed to fit ten different bikes, without matching any one of them.
But those handlebars are some 17cm higher and 7cm wider than the RSV-R’s clip-ons, and it’s this as much as anything which gives the bike its fabulous supermoto-on-steroids character. The launch venue was a twisting mountain course in Tuscany and I doubt any motorcycle of any description could have despatched the black top with more efficiency and excitement than the Tuono.
The steering feels even faster than the RSV-R’s, presumably because the rider has more leverage over the front wheel, and in fact the bike turns so fast and accurately, if you try to move your body weight across with it through a succession of tight S-turns, you end up slowing the whole plot down because you just can’t move fast enough (well, I couldn’t anyway?).
Instead, ride this beast in the motocross/supermoto manner, of pushing it down into turns while keeping yourself upright and it gets through a series of sinuous twists with breathtaking speed.
The superb chassis lets you get away with chucking the bike around like this while sending back all sorts of useful messages about how the hugely grippy Pirelli Dragon Super Corsas are dealing with the road surface. Despite the rapid response to the handlebars the stability is unflinching, while the suspension’s firmness is tamed by the very low friction characteristics of the titanium nitride coated forks, whose suppleness absorbs harshness that lesser items transfer up to the rider.
Those brakes are especially adept at releasing their grip as you peel into a turn – two-pad calipers have a stronger servo action which makes them a little reluctant to release as you let go of the lever, but these four-pad versions are as progressive in relinquishing their hold on the discs as they are at applying it. So you can brake harder and deeper without any more worry about losing the front as you dive into a turn.
The engine is a gem, offering huge top end horsepower with the progressive rise in torque that you’d expect from a full-on superbike motor. It gets frantic at 7000rpm, but below that there is still enough grunt for some seriously quick progress, and the latest engine management mapping allows you to trickle down to just over 2000rpm in the higher gears before the transmission begins to protest.
The combination of this and the high bars make the Tuono a real wheelie monster, popping up the front in first or second with a relish that should be a reasonable defence in court. The temptation to slip on ’race’ cans for a little more power and a lot more noise is probably also fully justifiable – after all, Aprilia supplies ’em in a box with the bike and it’d be impossible to resist. Or maybe Aprilia could be sued for entrapment?
For all the bike’s wild, back road nature it’s pretty adept at other types of riding. As a tourer it impresses, offering good comfort and enough lower rev torque to be effortless in gentler riding, while the ill-formed snout is protection enough for 90mph cruising.
The Kevlar weave seat is too slippery and as it’s not waterproof (although it’s backed by waterproof material) it takes time to dry out, but Aprilia has hedged its `butts’ by supplying a conventional seat with the bike. Around town the upright riding position is much friendlier than the RSV-R’s, although the seat is high enough to trouble shorter riders and the supersport bike’s limited steering lock is carried over.
If the Tuono looked more integrated and cost £4000 less it would be a sure-fire winner, and there’s a good chance Aprilia will follow this limited edition up next year with a more mainstream machine in the same vein. Let’s hope they’re not tempted to lose any horsepower or downgrade the chassis too much – if the costs are cut instead by losing some of that carbon fibre and Kevlar, all the better.
Get Aprilia bike insurance for the aprilia the tuono.
|ENGINE||Liquid cooled, 8 valve, 60 degree V-twin, four stroke|
|BORE AND STROKE||97mm x 67.5mm|
|CARBS||None, digital fuel injection|
|CLAIMED PEAK POWER||129bhp @ 7250rpm|
|FRAME||Twin spar aluminium alloy|
|FRONT SUSPENSION||Ohlins 43mm usd forks, titanium nitrade coated, multi adjustable|
|REAR SUSPENSION||Ohlins race monoshock, multi adjustable|
|BRAKES||Twin 320mm front discs, 4 piston callipers, Single 220mm rear disc, twin piston calliper|
|WHEELS/TYRES||120/70 front, 17 inch, 180/55 rear, 17 inch diameter|
|FUEL CAPACITY||18 litres|
|CURRENT PRICE||£11,250 (Limited edition of 200)|