2013 Aprilia RSV4 R & RSV4 Factory | Review

2013 Aprilia RSV4 R APRC ABS and RSV4 Factory APRC ABS Test

Aprilia’s flagship and championship winning RSV4 superbike has received some important upgrades for 2013.

And the manufacturer of Noale, Italy, this weekend launched its newest RSV4 models – the RSV4 R APRC ABS and the RSV4 Factory APRC ABS – at the Estoril Circuit in Portugal.

The motorcycling granddaddy of Ride-by-wire and radial brake calipers behaves better than ever on an international circuit such as Estoril – and that is not a small statement.

The latest Aprilia RSV4 models come from a lineage of more or less successful racing bikes. Launched in 1998, the RSV Mille twin wasted no time winning races, but the Mille didn’t win any championships.

Regarding chassis, the unrivaled success in 2-stroke racing, particularly in the smaller 125 and 250 GP classes, gave Aprilia some of the best chassis expertise in the world. This all occurred at the twilight of 2-stroke racing.

In 2002, the RS Cube triple four-stroke arrived, and it all went downhill in terms of results. But make no mistake, the RS Cube still plays an important role etoday as it was the monster that introduced the motorcycling world to Ride-by-wire. Today, Ride-by-Wire is a staple nobody can live without in GP racing.

The RS Cube was rumored to produce a staggering 270hp (it was half a Cosworth F1 V6…) at the test bench before Aprilia withdrew its MotoGP team to focus 100-percent on the new V4 RSV4 superbike. Insiders in Aprilia Racing states that in 2013 the RS Cube would win races as today the traction control technology has caught up and the RS Cube would in fact be rideable. The same insider also revealed that the 2013 Aprilia RSV4 Factory World Superbike produces a measured 233 horsepower and that it doesn’t need any more to win races.

My source also explained that the V4 was first determined for the 800cc MotoGP class, but a last minute decision sent the V4 into World Superbike instead (hence the 999.6cc capacity).

Come 2009 and the mighty RSV4 was a reality, and I’ve tested every new version since then. The newest 2013 version is the fourth evolution, but the first time Aprilia have officially upped the horsepower figures from 180 to 184 horsepower at 12,500 rpm. Torque is also up from 84 ft. lbs. of torque to 86 ft. lbs. at 10,000rpm. It’s not like the old one wasn’t responsive enough, but the 2013 is just more of everything in the same stable package.

Out on the Estoril GP circuit there’s plenty of opportunity to use torque and horsepower. The RSV4 R and Factory are incredibly sure footed, and with the additional traction control advances, it’s the most confidence aspiring superbike I have ever ridden.

Despite being massively powerful, you’re instinctively just applying overkill throttle everywhere. The RSV4 R and Factory just laughs at me in corners even though I’m trying my best with limited time on my hands. Midcorner the RSV4 is just so stable while still being nimble enough to change the racing line at a whiff should it be needed.

The 2013 upgrade to the APRC system includes improved algorithms for the TC to smooth out a tendency in past models for an abrupt rear wheel slip in certain situations. This upgrade will be available to pre-2013 models as well so make sure you tell your garage to add this on your next service. As I’m not Max Biaggi, the retired two-time World Superbike Champion, this abrupt slipping tendency isn’t something I have been able to explore in the past. Considering this, I have to put my faith in Aprilia, which I have no problem doing.

I tested Traction Control on setting 3 and 1, and rear-wheel slip is about as dramatic as a snowy weather forecast in Norway. In fact I like it when the rear slides a bit, and knowing the fact that the latest APRC is more intelligent than Stephen Hawking, I’m safe.

The APRC now features sensors that know whether you are going slowly or fast through a corner, and applies suitable algorithms faster than you can say the letter I. Technology is a wonderful thing, but it would have counted for nothing if the RSV4 hadn’t felt so good to ride fast.

The main upgrade is the introduction of Aprilia’s in-house developed race ABS system. The upgrade has in fact also led to a 1.5 liter (0.39 gallon) fuel capacity increase because as the engineers had to change the fuel tank to fit the ABS brains under it they just simply decided to make the tank a little bit larger at the same time. The fuel tank now holds 18.5 liters (4.8 gallons) of fuel and the new shape supports a rider much better during hard braking and cornering. Win win.

The acceleration range at Estoril is massive. The straight is measured at almost one kilometer but the acceleration itself starts before you hit the straight through the third gear Senna right hander. It’s an all out guts and glory corner and you can go as fast as you dare on the RSV4.

You can maximize third gear and shift up to fourth at the beginning of the straight if you’re good. That leads to unknown top speeds because Aprilia set all our dashes to the track mode which doesn’t read speed because speed is irrelevant to know in racing. It shouldn’t be difficult to hit 186 mph before braking.

In fact a good session has you grinning from gunning down the straight fighting the wind forces with your jaw. I know it’s fast because at the end just before braking the turbulence to my crash helmet got so big that vision got blurred. It’s a good feeling I tell you.

Braking with Aprilia’s new race ABS was a fantastic experience and oh so confidence inspiring. In race mode it will allow rear lift and feels just like maximizing braking on a system without ABS. Aprilia’s own very fast test riders have been able to ride down to a second of the same lap times with or without ABS which is good news for us ordinary people as it means ABS will win for us every time.

The main thing is of course to never let go of the brake lever, but you wouldn’t do that when it doesn’t slip anyway. I could basically circulate at high speed around Estoril without ever even thinking about the ABS brakes. I’d just pick my brake markers and brake as I would on any non ABS motorcycle. It’s great stuff when it doesn’t intrude at all unless there is a real emergency where it most likely would make your braking faster and safer.

I didn’t use the rear brake at all, and at one point I got a bit sideways when the rear had a whiff to come around to my side. But of course it didn’t because the front wheel had already brushed off an incredible amount of speed in time to settle for the corner ahead.

In truth the RSV4 R and Factory both struggle to put a foot wrong and that makes these superbikes incredibly rewarding rides. Brakes on both models are the Brembo Monoblock M430s, which is about as good as it gets in 2013. Braking markers stayed constant during all sessions, and the brakes maintained the same amount of power throughout. ABS can be adjusted in three, preset modes and can be turned off. The entire race ABS system weighs only 4.4 lbs., which is about half of a lesser more road orientated system.

Tires on both models are the Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa in 120/70-17 front and 200/55-17 rear dimensions. The front stood up to some serious abuse very amicably while the rear was moaning a bit towards the end of sessions particularly on the sides.

The RSV4 Factory APRC ABS differs from the RSV4 R APRC ABS in the fact that the Factory can be adjusted a whole lot more and it features fully adjustable Ohlins suspension and lighter wheels. To utilize this to your advantage you must have godlike riding abilities. And if you don’t and if you don’t, you’ll be just as fast on the RSV4 R. The Factory weighs in at 399 lbs., while the R weighs 11 lbs. more.

2013 Aprilia RSV4 R and RSV4 Factory Conclusion

It wasn’t a big surprise that both 2013 RSV4 superbikes felt fantastic on the circuit. The fact that the Factory version is both lighter and better suspended was difficult to distinguish on our short test. In fact I wouldn’t worry too much with the Factory version unless you are into some serious club racing.

The RSV4 R is a great base model, and now it’s available in matte black. Its Sachs suspension works just fine, but I have a suspicion that the RSV4 R would handle really well almost regardless of suspension badge. Both have all the latest high tech and the 184 horsepower V4 which is difficult not to love.

It sounds mighty impressive and riding it just adds to the impressions of invincibility. If you didn’t already know it I’ll just say it: both RSV4s are pretty great motorcycles and stand up to absolutely anything on the market today. Another big upgrade is scheduled for 2015, but until then treat yourself to what is near perfection.

2013 Aprilia RSV4 R and RSV4 Factory Positives and Negatives:

+ Racing ABS which is completely unobtrusive and immensely powerful with the help of Mr. Brembo and Mr. Bosch
+ The V4 V65 just got better with 4 extra ponies all of which are useable courtesy APRC
Extra support from new larger fuel tank during braking and cornering

– Minuses are supposed to be a point a manufacturer should improve upon. I struggle really hard to find any, so I’ll have to settle for the fact that the RSV4 R and RSV4 Factory are rubbish at touring because of the lack of luggage solutions.

Photography: Milagro


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