Aprilia Ups The Ante On The 1100 RR Naked Tuono
Whether it’s David vs Goliath or Darryl Kerrigan vs bullish developers, everybody loves an underdog story. Tales of the little guy fighting the giant resonate with people. We always want the underdog to win – it’s the great Australian way.
In today’s two-wheeled world that underdog would have to be Aprilia. It’s not by chance the ‘other’ Italian motorcycle manufacturer dominates WSBK championships. And good on them. Away from the rigours of racing, the Tuono naked bike is a shining example of what a small, tight-knit team can achieve against much bigger competition.
When Cam Donald tested the previous model in Motorcycle Trader he commented how that tight-knit team hadn’t rested on its laurels to allow the Tuono to be overtaken by a wave of cutting-edge competition.
“The company’s engineers looked at where they could improve the Tuono and implemented technology learned from the racetrack,” he said. “The pace with which the bike’s improvements have gone from the R&D lab to the showroom floor is something the Japanese manufacturers can only dream of.
“I fondly recall testing the 2012 Tuono APRC, a bike that made me grin from ear to ear. It was hard to fault as it did all you could ask and its performance failed to disappoint. I quickly put that machine on a pedestal as the best naked performer I’d ridden by a country mile.” How can you argue with that?
Now, in the face of even-stiffer competition (think BMW S 1000 R, Ducati Monster 1200, KTM 1290 Superduke R and Yamaha’s forthcoming naked R1, the MT-10) Aprilia has again upped the ante of the Tuono, or ‘thunder’ in Italian.
MAJOR CHANGES INCLUDE:
Headline changes include more outright power and torque, and Aprilia has done so the good ol’ fashioned way: with more cubes. Formerly a litre machine, the 65-degree V4 now measures 1077cc via a bigger bore size (78 to 81mm). In addition, larger 33mm valves are now titanium, the head is CNC ported and polished, the crankcases are vacuum-forged, and the Pankl conrods are titanium. As well as beefing up the Tuono’s mid-range, Aprilia says these internal upgrades have shaved 2.5 kilograms from the engine’s weight.
Overall power has therefore jumped from 126kW (170hp) at 11,500rpm to 130kW (175hp) at 11,000rpm while torque is now 120Nm at 9000rpm – up from 111Nm at 9500rpm. The big difference, however, is in the mid-range. There’s now a healthy 15kW (20hp) more than before at 8000rpm, and a far flatter torque curve for greater low-down grunt. In short, even more muscle with less effort.
That translates to effortless performance on the road and an engine so flexible it allows you to lazily leave it in fourth down to as low as 4000rpm without complaint. But why would you? There’s too much fun banging through the quickshifter and enjoying the Tuono’s full rev range, including a surprising top-end rush beyond 10,000rpm.
Sing to me, oh satanic V4 choir.
Aprilia has worked hard to perfect its ride-by-wire throttle system and the result is a nice, precise connection between your right wrist and how the red tacho needle responds. Also in the mix is a light clutch that won’t cramp your hand in slow stop-start traffic and a heavier flywheel than the Tuono’s racier sibling, the RSV4 RR, for more civility.
When Cam tested the Aprilia superbike he described the refinement of the throttle connection and electronics of the standard bike at a level he could only dream of for his Norton IoM TT race bike.
“There’s no point having power you can’t use. Aprilia has designed the RSV4 RR to be a very user-friendly package considering its performance.” Ditto the Tuono, with the same effective and seamlessly integrated electronics package that allows you to get the best from the 180hp naked bike without running into strife.
That comprehensive electronics pack is unchanged from the previous model and includes ABS, traction, launch and anti-wheelie control, each of which can be configured via various levels of intervention or deactivated individually if your name is Cam Donald. What has changed is the trio of ride-by-wire engine maps which now comprise Race, Sport and Track but, curiously, no more conservative Rain mode. So long, sissies.
IN ADDITION, WITH COMPLIMENTS:
The Tuono is also now more comfortable. A revised riding position comes via a tapered one-piece handlebar, which is a tad narrower and flatter than before, so you’re inclined slightly forward, loading the front wheel with your body weight. The footrests are high and quite rearset. The riding position isn’t at all uncomfortable and doesn’t tire your wrists or shoulders (in fact, it’s hardly noticeable), and the 15mm-lower seat is better padded than the old model’s tall timber-like plank.
We couldn’t complain of a numb bum after a big ride through the hills. What we did discover, however, was that you can actually corner quicker by just nudging the ’bars and tipping into the corner instead of hanging off it.
To compensate for the reduced leverage at the ’bars, the trail has been tightened slightly (99.7mm, down from 107.4mm) to help the Aprilia turn. Both the Tuono and RSV4 now carry their centre of gravity a little lower, too, thanks to dropping the engine to the lowest of the three settings in the mounts. The multi-adjustable twin-spar frame is unchanged apart from a 4mm-longer swingarm to improve traction and reduce wheelies via the longer 1450mm wheelbase.
The regular Tuono RR ($23,000 rideaway) as tested here rides on fully adjustable Sachs suspension which can be dialled in to your weight and liking (Tuono Factory gets Ohlins to justify its $26,000 price). Even in its standard setup, there’s a sense of rock-solid stability under acceleration – no handlebar waving in the wind and no unnerving shimmy when you hit mid-corner bumps.
Aprilia says it did extensive wind-tunnel testing in redesigning the half fairing, thus the mounting to the frame, not the fork, for stability. That fairing mightn’t fit the definition of a conventional naked bike but the Tuono certainly has the confidence-inspiring stability to sit on some very big speeds. The same cannot be said for all naked bikes. Same goes for the Brembo brakes, which are progressive and powerful and the ABS unobtrusive.
It’s no wonder the Tuono has won hearts and comparison tests the world over – it’s an unbelievably easy, cohesive, rewarding – and fast – bike to ride anytime. It’s also predictable and supremely refined making it a true multi-task master, whether your journey is slogging through city congestion or weaving your favourite country back road.
So what’s not to like? I’m still thinking… Like Cam said, it’s a hard bike to fault. Its turning circle isn’t great in the city, but it’s not Robinson Crusoe in that department.
Features found on some of its aforementioned rivals (including cornering ABS and clutchless downshifts with auto blipping) are coming soon, such is the rapid pace of Aprilia’s tightly knit R&D team.
Some might argue Aprilia doesn’t have the brand cachet of some its rivals or the distinctive styling flair of its compatriot counterparts, but that’s subjective so who cares?
It’s one seriously awesome machine. Go the underdog.
Tuono’s Electronic Wizardry Includes Three Engine Maps:
Track: Dedicated to the track. It acts on both wheels and guarantees maximum possible performance even when braking. Rear wheel lift mitigation, or RLM, which limits stoppies under heavy braking, is deactivated.
Sport: For sporty riding on road, it acts on both wheels and is combined with the tip-over system whose intervention is progressive based on vehicle speed.
Race: Delivers full engine performance via an intermediate throttle response which will have you clicking up the eight-stage traction control. Aggressive for road use, ideal for track days.
Aprilia Traction Control (aTC): Has eight settings that can be adjusted on the fly via the ‘+/-’ toggles on the left-hand switchblock.
Aprilia Wheelie Control (aWC): Has three settings and has been recalibrated to be even more sporty on engine map 1 (Track). It will still wheelie under hard acceleration, followed by a softer touchdown of the front wheel.
Aprilia Launch Control (aLC): Features three launch settings. For the track only.
Aprilia Quick Shift (aQS): Fast upshifting without shutting the throttle or using the clutch.
This article by Editor, Chris Harris, appears in Motorcycle Trader #304
Photography by Mark Dadswell