2010 RSV4 FactoryThe Aprilia RSV4 Factory is not Aprilia’s first motorcycle entry when it comes to World Superbike racing, having contested the series for a number of years with the RSV Mille. Scoring eight wins, twenty-six podiums, and finishing third in the championship on two occasions, the Aprilia program was finally cancelled in 2003 for Aprilia to focus on 250 Grand Prix racing.
During this time, Aprilia had raced with the Rotax built 60 degree V-twin, and one big item of news for the Noale based company is this time they go racing with their own engine.As the first V-four to be seen in World Superbike since Honda’s RC45s in the ‘90s, Aprilia has chosen a unique platform to hang their racing reputation. A longitudinal 65-degree V-4 to be technically precise, the new engine uses double overhead cams and four valves per cylinder. The cylinder heads themselves are extremely compact, and the inlet valves are driven by a lateral timing chain, while gears drive the exhaust valves. Aprilia decided on the V-four configuration as it is narrower than a traditional inline four, and has less vibration than a twin. It is also more compact then the RSV 1000R engine. Using a wide 78mm bore and short 52.3mm stroke the over square power plant’s maximum power is being quoted as 180 horsepower at 12,500 rpm. Peak torque arrives at 10,000 rpm and the rev limiter shuts everything down just passed 14,000rpm. This is a two-stage affair where you get a few seconds of stuttering before the ignition is killed completely.Aprilia is raving about the "Full Ride by Wire Technology" but Yamaha beat them to the punch with this system when they introduced their new R6 in 2006. Magnet Marelli provide the electronics and the feeling at the throttle is perfectly normal though. The new Aprilia RSV4 Factory uses three different map settings, in a similar fashion to Suzuki on its GSXR series, and for the first time in my career I was glad to have them. With the track soaked and covered in puddles, and the rain coming down intermittently all day, heading onto the track with the full 180 horse power available wasn’t something I felt ready to do. Even before I took my first ride on the Aprilia RSV4 Factory, two very experienced journalists in the session ahead of me hit the floor, so I made sure the mode selector was in "R" for road before I took to the track. Limiting me to a nice safe 140 horsepower, it was time to go play in some puddles.With full World Superbike wet tires in place, at least we could get some feeling for the Aprilia RSV4 Factory, and it was possible to run the engine up to red line on the straights. In street mode it certainly is somewhat strangled, and I’m not sure it was the best solution for me in the wet. It felt as if the throttle was too far open for the forward progress it was giving and kept me thinking of spectacular high sides if the wheel broke loose with the throttle in this position. Switching to "S" mode, which limits power in the first three gears, felt much better. Exiting corners there was more control with the throttle, and when I heard the engine give its telltale rise in pitch as the rear broke loose, it was easier to modulate. It also felt a good bit faster, and topping it out in fourth gear gave me the chance to experience full power, which was mildly exciting on a soaking wet track. Talking with my mechanic he advised me against trying "T" mode until I get onto a dry track. With at least eight motorcycles hitting the floor in one day, there was no need to argue with him.Fitting a big displacement engine into a frame that looks like it came from a 250cc Grand Prix racer isn’t a new concept for Aprilia. Back in 1995, they put Loris Reggiani in the premier 500cc class on an Aprilia 250cc with the engine enlarged to 380cc. Loris often qualified better than his final race positions, but the Aprilia still managed a credible tenth place in the world championship. They went on to field 500cc versions with Tetsuya Harada and Jeremy McWilliams in later years, but never quite found the success they have had in the 250cc class. With the new aluminum twin spar Aprilia RSV4 Factory frame looking like a racing prototype, it is no surprise to learn it weighs just 22 pounds and features adjustable engine mounts. Structurally more rigid than Aprilia’s benchmark RSV 1000 twin frame, it houses a similarly constructed swing arm that weighs a mere 12 pounds and is adjustable for ride height. Rake and trail figures are listed as 24.5 degrees and 105mm respectively as delivered, with these also being fully adjustable; a first for a modern production motorcycle.Suspension components on the Aprilia RSV4 Factory are top shelf Ohlins racing items, a 43mm inverted race fork up front and single rear shock in the rear, which are multi adjustable in the all the usual ways. A set of forged alloy five spoke rims come wrapped in Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SPs. These new wheels weigh a remarkable two pounds less than the RSV 1000 rims, which makes them extremely light. Using top shelf Brembo brakes, a pair of monoblock radial calipers mauls a pair of 320mm stainless steel floating discs for what has to be one of the best braking systems in the business. These Aprilia designed rotors are held in place by six pins.Up at the bars a radial pump master cylinder operates the system, and a fully adjustable brake lever sends the fluid to the pads. The system is extremely strong, and in the wet conditions I never needed any more than the lightest brush on the lever for braking duties. Making for some interesting moments entering turns one and six with the rear wheel floating from side to side, the strength of the system is certainly not in doubt.During our test it was possible to learn more than I had expected on first arriving at the rain soaked track. The Aprilia RSV4 Factory might be physically small, but the riding position doesn’t reflect this with normal sportbike ergonomics. Tip it into the first bend though, and the motorcycle reacts so fast you have to correct your input levels, as it feels so small and light. It is never nervous. It just feels more like a race motorcycle than a street motorcycle, and in reality that’s what it is.During our ride I was able to push the Aprilia RSV4 Factory some in a couple of places and the way it responds is sublime. Moving where you want it with a thought, the motorcycle certainly feels lighter and more compact than the other liter motorcycles I have tested. It also sounds way different. Running up through the rpm faster than expected, it was easy to hit the rev limiter, and it took extra attention to shift before this happens.The Aprilia RSV4 Factory V-4 engine just doesn’t sound as if it is revving that hard, even when it’s approaching 14,000 rpm, and it is so deceptively quick. Not switching to full power mode, it is hard to comment on the exact nature of the power delivery. What I can say is, winding it out in fourth gear before the fast right-hander on the backside of the track gave enough information to be able to report; this is one very fast motorcycle. Easily the match of the Japanese liter motorcycles, I would be very surprised if it wasn’t faster. It just gave such a kick when it got up above 10, 000 rpm, and this is due in part to the variable inlet system the Aprilia uses. Again something that Yamaha has had in place for a while.Styling wise it’s all Aprilia. Sitting behind my peers in line waiting to head onto the track, I couldn’t help smiling to myself as I looked over the motorcycle. Without any badges it is so obviously an Aprilia with all of its angles and shapes, and one of my favorites is the exhaust system. As something that gave the designers a lot of sleepless nights, as it has to meet Euro 3 emissions, it contains a single oxygen sensor with an engine control butterfly valve and a catalytic converter in the sleek, single canister.The Aprilia RSV4 Factory bodywork is minimalist and aggressive. The back end is MotoGP tiny, and this is possible with their being no provision for a passenger. Up front, the headlights appear to be floating in space with the twin air ducts running below them, and the motorcycle looks like it’s doing 180mph standing still. Inside the cockpit, the dash is functional and the analogue tachometer is big enough to read on the move. There is a digital speedometer also, but I can’t say I paid much attention, as it didn’t help my delicate disposition to realize how fast the beast was traveling through puddles.In short, the Aprilia RSV4 Factory is the most sophisticated, technologically advanced sport motorcycle yet produced. And for fans of all things Italian, surely one of the sexiest motorcycles ever produced.