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2014 Aprilia RSV4 Factory aPRC ABS Review

Hot on the heels of Aprilia’s wins in June at Sepang World Superbike, we received the 2014 RSV4 aPRC ABS Factory for one final 2014-model test before 2015 bikes arrive.

Aprilia Racing Team’s Marco Melandri doubled in that round, and followed the performance up with another double at Jerez in September. The Italian and his teammate Sylvain Guintoli then shared wins at Magny-Cours SBK. With one round remaining, Guintoli is the only rider that can mathematically rob the 2014 World SBK title from Tom Sykes (Kawasaki). The impressive RSV4 has achieved the SBK title twice before (Max Biaggi, 2010 and 2012).

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Aprilia also recently announced its entry into MotoGP in 2015, a year sooner than expected. Considering the technology it brings to its production bikes like our 2014 RSV4 Factory test bike, we are looking forward to what they will bring to the big show in the form of prototypes and electronics.

The hot days of August and September in Southern California were not conducive to enjoyable track days. Though we did some track time, we decided to focus on riding the RSV4 Factory through our local Santa Monica and San Gabriel mountains, staying closer to the cooler temperatures.

Whether at the track or on Angeles Crest Highway, the RSV4 never ceases to impress. With the massive grip produced by the sticky 200/55-17 Pirelli SuperCorsa rear bun on forged wheels, and all the confidence and control the top quality components and electronic goodness instills, the Factory will raise your game a level without trying very hard.

I recently found myself in the company of three long-time trusted riding friends who were astride a Benelli TNT 1190 with an upright seating position, and two race replicas (Suzuki GSX-R 1000 and another 2014 RSV4 Factory) both of which had higher handlebar replacements for the clip-ons.

Seeing all the straight backs, I wondered whether our 250-mile twisted excursion would be too much on the wrists. It didn’t take long to find out that, even at six-feet tall with a 34-inch inseam, the cockpit fit me, albeit tightly. Once the road edged into the canyons, and speeds increased dramatically, the RSV4 encouraged a tuck that was comfortable and allowed more finesse and finer inputs on controls and body position.

Following other talented riders becomes easy when you know that whatever they do you can too. When leading at a fast pace, or riding alone, the handling and braking abilities are beyond almost anything else you’ve ridden and, provided the pilot doesn’t muck up, always cashes the checks that the throttle hand writes.

Cornering clearance is high just like the footpegs, and I never did experience a touchdown. The bike will, basically, go as far as one is willing to take it, then more. Overcooked corner entries are often remedied with only a tiny dose of trailbraking or just more lean. For me, almost every corner exit is accompanied by the fleeting thought that I could have taken it faster. The RSV4 does exactly what it’s told, engenders confidence, and encourages speed.

Upon receipt of the bike the first order of business was to setup the aPRC (Aprilia Performance Ride Control) electronics for my riding style. This package consists of AWC (Aprilia Wheelie Control), ATC (Aprilia Traction Control), ALC (Aprilia Launch Control) and AQS (Aprilia Quick Shift).

Changes are accomplished through the display that handles all settings and also allows for selection of Race Mode which changes the entire face of the display to one that is well laid out for track use.

Traction control is adjusted with thumb and forefinger paddles below the left grip. It can be managed on the fly without accessing any menus and has 8 levels, lower being less intrusive. In clean and dry conditions I like running in Map 2 which allows all the rear wheel slide and spin I am able to muster but still has enough protection to keep my wheels in line.

Next is wheelie control which has Maps 1-3. I like to set it in Map 2 which limits wheelies to about 12 inches and then lowers the front wheel down gently.

If you want to feel what makes this bike so special try hitting your apex with the engine on the boil at about 6000 rpm or higher. Open the throttle and hold your lean. As you charge out of the turn ATC will keep the rubber on track and AWC will make sure you don’t over-wheelie.

When performed correctly the front tire may loft while still at full lean and the turn will be completed on the rear tire only. As the bike straightens up the front tire returns to earth and you are off to the next corner.

It is an amazing feeling to experience and can be a real ego boost. I tell myself that if I tried the same antics without these electronic aids I’d probably end up in the bushes. So much for the fleeting thought of how fast I am but aPRC can make it possible for a good rider to achieve feats previously available only to real experts.

A quickshifter is not a unique feature to race bikes but Aprilia does it a bit differently in the way they cause the engine to hesitate for the shift. This quickshifter allows full throttle clutchless upshifts and the sensor produces a torque cut-off through ignition and fuel injection control.

Upon gear-change completion the torque is progressively restored. On the road, this happens in the blink of an eye and is smooth a silk. Combined with their cable-actuated mechanical slipper clutch this is a potent system for performance and helps any rider shift up or down like a pro.

Launch control is a “track only” feature designed to get the bike off the starting line as quickly and easily as possible. Aprilia wants the rider to only be required to think about clutch action and the aPRC electronics use all of its logic to make this happen.

Engage ALC with a two-button press, pin the throttle, hang on tightly and quickly feed in the clutch. aPRC is monitoring every factor involved in the launch and makes adjustments accordingly. This feature is not for the faint of heart and if you do it more than once or twice you may want to have a spare clutch pack available.

The Bosch 9MP ABS offers choices of Maps 0-3. I like Map 2 which is labeled Sport and keeps rear wheel lift mitigation active. Map 1 is Track and Map 3 is Rain. Map 0 is off, but I’m not about to disable any features that are designed to keep me safe.

Three fuel maps are also available. They are Track, Sport and Rain. All feel correct and linear without flat spots. I favor the Track map as it channels all power on demand yet is superbly tractable around town even in slow zones with stop lights. The Sport map is all the Track map is except at the top but, I reckon, why pay for all the horsepower and not have it on tap?

How much power? The (claimed) 398-lbs dry RSV4 is powered by the 999cc, 65 degree V4, 16-valve, DOHC engine that produces 184 hp (up four from 2013 due to the exhaust canister upgrade) and 86 ft/lbs of torque. Power is applied through a 6-speed cassette-style gearbox. It’s all held together by an adjustable aluminum dual-beam chassis designed to balance braking and traction forces.

Masterfully, Aprilia electronically orchestrates all this potential through its aPRC and delivers a bike that is tame as a kitten when required and fierce as a lion when whipped.

And the sound it makes is heavenly. Naturally, people’s tastes vary so you may not agree, but if you like the sawing bark of a race engine whose internals smoothly harmonize as the revs are raised into a mighty crescendo then this motor may have you reaching for your checkbook.

Suspension is by Ohlins with 43mm upside-down forks, and a piggy-back shock absorber on the aluminum alloy swingarm in back. The bike also arrives with a steering damper. All suspension components – including the damper – are fully adjustable.

As expected, the suspension and chassis action are predictable and make riding fast through curves a pleasure. Combined with smooth tarmac and the sticky rubber the RSV4 makes a ballet out of direction changes. On poorly paved sections the ride can become quite rough.

Braking duties are performed by radial-mounted, twin Brembo M430 Monobloc calipers clamping 320mm floating rotors up front. The 220mm rear rotor is squeezed by their new floating caliper all connected by metal lines.

Brembo, like Ohlins, is synonymous with the highest quality and their efforts do not disappoint. They are, simply, a no-drama system that just works. No matter your speed or number of repeated hard stops, they deliver smooth engagement and initial bite with linear, proportional and predictable lever and pedal pressure required in any given scenario. Short of doing something stupid I just could not make this bike get out of shape.

For 2014, black with red highlights is the solitary color offered on the Factory model and, other than small details and the upgraded exhaust canister, the fuel tank has been enlarged to 4.9 gallons.

It doesn’t feel or appear larger but the extra juice is appreciated, especially since the fuel warning light can come on at 100-110 miles or sooner, depending on how you ride. Get aggressive and see your consumption go from 35 mpg cruising to 25 mpg or less. When in the lonely mountains there aren’t many fuel stations and I top off at every one I pass.

If you are a spirited sportbike rider seeking a rare, exotic and exhilarating machine, you may not have to look any farther than the Aprilia RSV4 Factory aPRC ABS. And remember that a premium product carries a premium price; the 2014 Aprilia RSVR Factory runs $20,499.

Riding Style:

  • AGV Corsa Velocity Helmet
  • Dainese Laguna Seca Evo P. Estiva Suit
  • Dainese Full Metal RS gloves
  • Dainese TR Course Out Air boots