Riding a motorcycle that is this much fun should be illegal. Well, I guess riding it the way it begs to be ridden is technically illegal… if you get caught. Anyway, the 2016 Aprilia V4 Tuono is the epitome of a hooligan bike and it makes no excuses for it. This is a bad-ass superbike stripped of its bodywork and unleashed on the world with a fire breathing 170-horsepower big bore V4 engine, stuffed into an ultra-capable chassis with an attitude that begs you to hang on for the ride of your life. Sound like fun? It is. Plus, it’s equipped with all the necessary electronic rider-assist tech to make it easier to haul ass and still make it home safe.
As the summer riding season came to a close I managed to secure a 2016 Tuono V4 1100 Factory from Aprilia and the race was on to ride this bike in as many situations as humanly possible, take some photos and return it in one piece before the hot days of summer turned into the wet days of autumn. While logging roughly 1,500-miles on this Italian stallion, I commuted 25-miles each way to work, took it drag racing, hit a couple track days and tried to not get arrested on the street.
I got acquainted with the V4 Factory at a Pacific Track Time track day at one of my favorite circuits, Thunderhill Raceway in Willows, Ca. It was there, at the tight and technical West course that the Tuono made a stellar first impression. It was easy to ride very fast, right out of the gate. It turns as sharp as any sportbike, has powerful brakes plus the Ohlins suspension is awesome and the 1077cc 65-degree V4 engine is better than ever before. I’ve ridden every version of the RSV4 Superbike and the first Tuono using this engine as well, so I knew it was going to be good, but this is more fun than I expected.
Unless you have a race-prepped RC45 or Desmosedici in your personal fleet, Aprilia now has the best running V4 powered bikes you can get your hands on. And after watching the Tuono lose magazine shootouts because it was under-powered, Aprilia decided to bore-out the engine 3mm, (bumping displacement from 78mm to 81mm), tossed-in lighter pistons attached to lighter Pankl connecting rods and increased midrange power delivery by nearly 20hp versus the 2015 version.
The V4 1100 makes just under 170hp at 11,000 rpm compared to 160 at 11,500 rpm – but the big difference is the range where the engine makes its midrange power. You now have 82ft-lbs. of torque at 8000rpm compared to 9000rpm on the 2015. The goal was to make it a better street bike and it worked, with a side effect that it is also a better track day bike too.
Between the increased power and lightly revised gearing (one-tooth smaller front sprocket) it is easier to get the Tuono rolling from a stop, which is way better for its street credentials but it is much also more forgiving on the track. If you are off a gear at a corner exit you can still get a good drive. And when you find the sweet spot it takes just a moment for it to spool-up and start accelerating like mad. On the track you’ll be happy you have Pirelli Supercorsa SP tires providing lots of traction.
Supercorsas are one of the best track day tires you can get and they’re about as sticky as you’ll ever need on a street bike. And, if you are willing to test their limits, Aprilia offers state of the art electronic rider assist technology known as Aprilia Performance Ride Control (APRC). It includes eight-level Traction Control (ATC), three-level Wheelie Control (AWC), three-level Launch Control (ALC), three Ride Modes (Sport, Race and Track) and a Quick-Shifter. All of the modes and levels are adjustable by the switchgear on the left handlebar. A pair of small paddle shufters allow you to adjust the ATC on the fly. The menu pops-up on the small LCD screen so you can easily make setting changes as needed. All settings carry over even after you shut the bike off.
After the track day I signed-up for our local Friday Night Drags. I like drag racing but I don’t do it enough to be real good at it (but I have won a few races here and there). Plus this is the place to figure out how fast a bike actually is, while messing with APRC gizmos. Remember the APRC has Wheelie Control and Launch Control, both of which are specifically designed for getting good starts (but not necessarily drag racing specifically). I only had a limited number of passes available and I would have preferred to spend a day experimenting with the settings, familiarizing myself with the bike and making a bunch of passes but in the end I only was able to get in four runs.
I did all the drag racing in Race Mode with the ALC at Level 3 (Max setting), I lined up for my first pass with instruction to hold the throttle to the stop and let the ALC get you off the line safely. I rolled into the staging lights with the clutch pulled in. Twisted the throttle to the stop with my heart pounding while the engine was raging, spinning at 10,000rpm, bouncing off the rev-limiter with warning lights blinking and the clutch lever was throbbing. There’s a lot of stuff going on and it is a bit overwhelming. The light went green, I fanned the clutch and launched pretty hard with the engine being noticeably controlled by the APRC. At about 100mph it reverts back to rider control and about that time I was grabbing third and crossing the finish line with a not-so-impressive 10.92 at 132mph.
I kept the settings the same on the next pass, focused on getting a better launch, and dropped my ET to a 10.71 at 133mph. On the third run I took LC to Level 1 to feel the difference in settings and as expected, the launch was more aggressive but I didn’t handle it as well I should have. The result was a slower ET at 10.75 but I reached a faster 135mph. On my final practice pass I didn’t use the Launch Control and instead put ATC on Level 4 and AWC on Level 1. It was nice to not have the crazy Launch Control antics in the equation but I did a big wheelie off the line for about 100-feet before getting it under control and back on the gas. That resulted in a lame 10.99 at 130mph effort as I was heading into the elimination round. It was obvious the Launch Control was a good option so I went with ALC Level 2, hoping it would be a good compromise.
And much to my dismay, I had a terrible reaction time. I anxiously sat fully staged, holding the throttle WFO with the V4 engine fighting against the ALC with warning lights flashing on the dash, the clutch lever vibrating and the howling, popping, growling sound of the exhaust filling my head while my more experienced competitor eased into the staging lights. My launch was as strong as the ALC would allow but the lowered ZX-14 drag bike I was racing went past me before I grabbed third gear. Still managed a semi-respectable 10.44 at 136mph, but I lost and would not get any opportunity to redeem myself. Clearly, I need more time getting familiar with the Launch Control if I was to close in on the low 10-second pass that this bike is capable of. It turns out the Launch Control is intended to keep you from botching a launch during a road race, more so than providing a perfect launch at the drag strip. But it would be great for a fist time drag racer to experience the excitement of drag racing without the fear of failure.
As you can tell, the V4 Factory has proven to be a thrilling ride at the track and the electronics are some of the easiest to utilize thanks to Aprilia’s straightforward navigation and controls. I’m happy to report that this is also an excellent daily rider as well. The upright riding position puts only a little strain on your arms, the bars are high and the pegs are low enough that my stubby legs didn’t get cramped up. At 5’ 8” with a 30-inch inseam it isn’t hard to get comfortable on a compact bike like this, but I can imagine it might fold-up a taller rider a bit. Seat height is 32.5-inches and the new seat is nice and comfy with a narrow cut at the front that makes it easy to reach the ground.
Wind protection form the low-cut front fairing is pretty good for a rider of my height and the mirrors offer a good view behind you with a bit of buzz making it to the bars and mirrors at 5-6K rpm. It doesn’t blur the image too much but you can feel it a bit. This is a side effect of the V4 but it is not as buzzy as say, an Inline Four. When you’re wrangling the bike through turns you will appreciate those wide handlebars. The leverage helps you make quick transitions or initiate long, purposeful arcs on the faster, flowing sweepers or make quick transitions in the tight stuff. However, the steering-stop does not allow the expected range of side-to-side movement, so slow speed turns can be tricky as you get about 80% of the range you would expect. This sucks when you’re pulling in and out of parking spaces, doing U-turns or just maneuvering it in the garage. It’s my biggest issue with this bike.
When riding at night the Tuono dash glows red and is very easy to read at a glance. During the day the black LCD numbers don’t pop as well as they do in the dark so you have to take an extra second to focus on it. The headlights kick-ass at night too. The low beams light-up a swath across both lanes and they reach out a ways ahead but the high beam doubles the distance but it is much more-narrow, providing light only across the width of your lane. But man does it light it up.
There’s a very fun and dangerous single lane mountain road that my friends and I have ridden for the past 25-years and it’s got a bit of everything you can expect a bike to handle on the street. It’s usually free of traffic, has lots of tight turns, small fast straightaways, with a bunch of blind corners, cliff edges, guard rails, gravel, tar snakes, decreasing radius blind corners, and lots of elevation changes. It remind me of the Horse Thief Mile track at Willow Springs.
I could feel the ABS (Level 3) working on the entrance to a few corners while the ATC was keeping the rear end from stepping out on the exits. This particular road is not smooth so it’s a good example of the terrain the ATC and ABS are designed to help you with. I left the wheelie control on Level 1 most of the time so the sweet V4 would lift the front wheel while accelerating at full stick between turns. If you keep the engine in the meat of the power from 6500-9000rpm you’ve got loads of power on tap with barely a half turn of the throttle. This bike will shorten a straightaway quick.
Playing around with the APRC it was cool to see how much the ATC intervenes on the higher settings. Using Levels 7-8 it kicks in with any significant combination of lean angle and throttle. Levels 4-6 are still intrusive but not anywhere near the top two. Levels 1-3 were hard to differentiate so I left ATC on Level 3. I didn’t feel it kick in much but the blinking yellow indicator light reminds you it’s working, even if you can’t feel the loss of traction and that’s pretty cool.
What isn’t cool about riding like this though, is the fuel economy. This fast pace resulted in a pitiful 28-mpg compared to the 36-37mpg that I recorded on my commutes. The gas tank is 4.9 gallons so your range when hauling butt, is around 140-miles, but can go up to 180-miles if you're easy on the throttle. On the freeway you’re doing 65-75mph, which is great for your mpg, but if you’re on the track or just hauling ass, the V4 engine is thirsty. This is the second biggest complaint I can come up with. Other than that, there’s not much to whine about.
Would I buy this bike? Hell yeah I would. Aprilia, has put together a motorcycle that combines the best attributes of many riding disciplines. It offers the comfort of a sport-touring bike, the look of an exotic combined with real superbike power and performance. At $16,999 that’s a lot of cash but if you’re already looking at bikes in this price range you have to consider the 2016 Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 Factory as one of the most bitchin’ all-around street bikes you can buy.
Helmet: ICON Airframe Brozak
Jacket: ICON Overlord Primary
Gloves: ICON Anthem Primary
Weight: 180 lbs.
Experience: Loads of track riding, testing, etc, even more time on the street.
Age: 46 years