Aprilia could have taken the easy route and simply slotted last year’s (excellent) RSV4 motor into the new Tuono chassis. Instead, they chose to progress and give us more – and the bean-counters can go whistle.
It was actually a smart decision; if the previous iteration of the Tuono had a flaw, it was the somewhat anemic mid-range power. Although the bike was fabulous once it got on the pipe, down low it was certainly competent but not particularly spectacular.
The new Tuono’s engine is completely redesigned. Essentially a bored out new RSV4 motor that displaces an extra 100cc, the Tuono is obviously still a 65-degree V4 configuration. Now an 1100, the Tuono was not hindered by the race-bike limited 1000cc ceiling, and otherwise shares the RSV4 motor’s impressive specs, with larger 33mm valves now in titanium; a CNC polished and ported head; vacuum forged crankcases; Pankl titanium con-rods; and a lighter, redesigned gearbox.
The end result is a claimed output of 175 peak horsepower (an eight horsepower increase), but more importantly, the power delivery curve has changed dramatically. At 8,000 rpm, the Tuono now produces a whopping 16 additional horsepower over its predecessor. Now that’s what I call an increase in mid-range!
In terms of torque, the new model outputs a more than respectable 89 ft/lbs at just 9,000 rpm – some 5,000 revs below the redline; and thanks to a multitude of tweaks including the new straight-flow airbox and variable length intake trumpets, these increases come in the crucial mid-range part of the powerband. Similar to the horsepower, this increase in torque is a considerable jump over the previous model, so it’s fair to say this is a different feeling machine on the street, anyway.
I’m fortunate to live near fast, open roads, so in my experience the Tuono V4 always sang its heart out for me. That thrumming V4 engine left the low notes far behind and really started to yowl at the higher revs. Power was not a problem. So although I personally was never bothered by the mild mid-range, the two things I did say I’d immediately change were the too wide handlebars and the ridiculously tall gearing.
Clearly both of those are owner-changeable niggles that didn’t spoil the bike for me. However, the former did make the bike feel a little nervous unless you focused on keeping the weight off your wrists; and the latter was so weird that I had to slip the clutch like crazy just to move off the line. Riding my favorite triple-digit high-speed mountain road never saw me leave second gear!
Presumably my criticism was not the only voice out there, as both have been handily addressed. The gearing is now sensible — nay, normal — and the handlebars are now a very comfortable, perfect shoulder-width. To compensate for the reduced leverage at the bars, the trail has been tightened slightly to give the Tuono a bit quicker turning.
The bike is noticeably tall when you’re seated, and my somewhat lanky 33” inseam was maxed out when my feet were down. Both the RSV4 and Tuono now carry their center of gravity a little lower, mainly due to dropping the motor to the lowest of the three settings in the motor mounts.
Pulling on to the twisty Italian roads outside of Rimini during the Tuono’s launch I immediately felt the bike’s improved agility. The 2016 version has lost its previous mild low-speed nervousness, but it turns quickly, surely, and precisely when asked. The swing arm (like the RSV4) is longer by 14mm, and so the Tuono has lost none of its legendary high-speed stability or neutral handling.
This is the same easy-to-ride, user-friendly motorcycle that has developed such a strong following. The Sachs 43mm fork and Sachs rear shock were excellent on the fairly dubious Italian tarmac. There were lots of asphalt irregularities and multiple large bumps that the Tuono suspension simply lapped up. That’s not to say the suspension is soft – far from it. This is most definitely a sportbike after all, so of course it is firmly damped and ready to help a hugely powerful machine handle well. However the setup certainly works well on the street and I didn’t find myself being bounced out of the seat at all.
Talking of the seat – it has been redesigned, with softer foam and a changed cover material with a view to making it more comfortable, especially for passengers. I can’t comment on the rear section, but from a rider’s perspective the seat cover was grippy, the foam was firm, and the forward angle worked well with the leaned forward riding position. The other change is that the Tuono now comes with a new front fairing and headlights. The headlight is more aggressive, and the fairing itself now offers more wind protection.
Although the Tuono is comfortable, make no mistake it is a full-on, hardcore sportbike that happens to have a more upright riding position; it is fully committed in everything but the amount of rider’s forward lean. The footpegs are quite high and rearward (much more so than say the KTM Super Duke R) as you might expect from a relatively undiluted RSV4 superbike—but I am used to this sort of foot positioning and found my legs and feet were comfortable with my thighs and knees happily engaged on the well-shaped gas tank.
The motor, of course, is spectacular. It is a crazy-powerful torque monster with a ton of power anywhere you need it, no matter what gear you’re in. It is seamlessly reined in now by a new, second generation package of Aprilia’s exemplary WSBK-spec electronics (identical to the RSV4), that includes three Ride-by-Wire modes controlled by a new and more powerful ECU.
The improved modes each allow different engine power output, but also control the dedicated engine brake management maps. Track and Sport modes are now joined by the new Race map, which has the most extreme power delivery and where engine braking and back-torque is reduced to a minimum to support more aggressive braking. All three maps are more manageable and smoother than the previous version, and besides a better rider experience Aprilia claim this will also reduce rear tire wear.
All three maps produce maximum horsepower, however the level of aggression is changed with each mode. Strangely I found Race to be the smoothest overall, although it was noticeably more aggressive than the others. I tried riding in all three versions but ultimately settled on the smoothness of Race mode (and TC setting 5 on the street) simply because it felt the most exciting without feeling abrupt or nervous.
The new gearbox with revised ratios is lighter and more compact than before, and gears can be clutchlessly changed on the throttle using the aQS (Aprilia Quick Shift). Although it originated for track use, I consider quick shifters to be an essential part of any motorcycle now, and when I come across a bike without a quickshift I’m not thrilled. Happily Aprilia left it a part of the Tuono and it works great, even around town and at low revs you can just gently upshift on the gas without using the clutch or coming out of the throttle.
Eight levels of aTC (Aprilia Traction Control) are available and can be switched on the fly using the plus and minus thumb and finger switches built into the left handlebar switchgear. For the street I settled on level 5, and despite the abnormally slippery surface, the rear wheel never broke away; the TC was clearly doing its thing though as the dash light flickered a fair bit on some corner exits.
For a motorcycle with such excellent throttle connection and easy modulation, it turns out that Aprilia’s Wheelie Control (aWC) is for me, a most unwelcome inclusion into the electronics package. Unlike the superlative Traction Control that can be adjusted on the fly, the three levels of anti-wheelie are not easy to adjust; and incidentally, they are not linked to the Traction Control settings.
The bike has to be at a standstill with the engine off, and by accessing the Settings menu from the track screen, you can then dig around and change the wheelie setting. Not only is it difficult, it’s also not that intuitive. However, if you persevere, it can fortunately be turned off completely, and once you make the effort you are left with a beautifully balanced machine that can float the front wheel in the first three gears with ease. If you choose to leave some wheelie control intrusion, then the maximum setting (level 3) is very aggressive, and first and even second gear acceleration becomes an uncomfortable, lurching affair as the front tries to come up and is constantly stopped by the electronics. Take a Dramamine pill first.
Least intrusion (setting one, as on the RSV4) was pretty good, and I’d certainly leave that on for track days. But for me on this particular streetbike, it’s wheelie control off, no doubt. Interestingly, with it on, if you’re super-aggressive with the throttle in first or second you can actually defeat it, but the front comes up fast and you’d better be covering the rear brake.
Ultimately I preferred the predictability of turning it off and trusting my own skills rather than second-guessing the electronics. But once turned off, boy can the Tuono pull up the front easily – and yes, it’s as fun as you might imagine. That’s not to say you want to ride around everywhere in lurid arrest-me-please wheelies, but if there’s a spot of open road and a quick bit of aggressive acceleration is in order, then it’s nice to feel the front lift a little and float elegantly while you’re on the gas. It’s grin inducing for sure, and the Tuono is so well balanced, and the power delivery so beautifully polished, that controllable power wheelies can be achieved on demand, and in total safety.
The Race ABS was designed and developed by Aprilia in collaboration with Bosch, and it is likewise the same as on the RSV4. On the highly sketchy Italian roads (apparently they’re heavily salted during the winter and since there hasn’t been any rain yet to wash the residue away, they can be surprisingly slippery) the ABS function was a welcome safety net.
There are three different ABS levels accessed from the instrumentation menu. Level 1 is optimized for the track, but interestingly also approved for street use. Acting on both wheels it offers least intrusion. Level 2 is more suited to sport riding on the street; it works on both wheels and is combined with an advanced anti forward-flip system (aRLM – Aprilia Rear Lift-up Mitigation) which is progressively more intrusive based on the vehicle speed.
Level 3 is dedicated to riding on surfaces with poor grip. It acts on both wheels and is also combined with the Rear Lift Mitigation. Each of the three Race ABS levels can be combined with any one of the three engine maps to allow riders with varying experience and skill levels to find the best possible combination.
The naming conventions of the two Tuono versions are slightly different to the RSV4 (sigh), but essentially the Tuono V4 1100RR is the standard version as tested here, which is available in Portimao Gray. It will be in dealers around July 2015 and is listed at $14,599. Sadly the blue will not be available in the States; not yet, anyway.
The Tuono V4 1100 Factory, on the other hand, comes with Öhlins suspension, aluminum front brake disc carriers, a 200 mm section rear tire (instead of the 190), the tail fairing/seat cover from the RSV4, the Superpole graphics package, and red wheel rims. Although the Sachs suspension on the base model RR didn’t appear lacking at all, this test was a bit limited and for just $1,700 more than the RR, the Factory seems like the bargain of the century. Just the Öhlins suspension alone is enough to be a deal-clincher for me. The Factory will be in dealers May 2015, priced at $16,299.
Overall the Tuono is a very, very impressive ride. It is sophisticated, sanitized and user-friendly. You can leave your kids alone in the same room with the Tuono and they’ll be just fine. But never forget the Tuono is also a snarling, savage beast; it is the most committed upright superbike out there—and ready to go into attack mode any time you ask.
The world-class electronics package sanitizes the astonishing motor perfectly and takes the Tuono to pretty much the top of any serious rider’s shopping list. The riding position is ideal for the street, and the handling and Brembo brakes with revised pad compound are exemplary. Literally the only thing I disliked about this bike was an electronic function that I was able to turn off, and once I’d done that I was left with a spectacular machine that I absolutely loved and would buy in a heartbeat. Now, where’s my checkbook?
Photography: Roberto Graziani
2016 Aprilia Tuono 1100 RR and Tuono 1100 Factory Photo Gallery: