There is a spotlight shining bright on the middleweight ADV market, and the 2022 Aprilia Tuareg 660 aims to be the star of the show, promising a well-rounded mix of touring utility and off-road capability. As much as we know Aprilia for its racetrack escapades, the Italian marquee has a long history of getting dirt under its fingernails. In the 1970s and ’80s, the Noale-based brand touted a successful line of motocross, trials, and dual-sport motorcycles, including the original rally-raid influenced Tuareg range that lasted until the ’90s. In fact, Aprilia still produces dual-sport models in select markets.Aprilia is reinvigorating its off-road ambitions with an all-new Tuareg, powered by a revamped version of the 659cc parallel-twin engine found in its sporty RS 660 and Tuono 660 cousins. It boasts an all-new tubular-steel chassis with proper long-travel suspension and a heaping helping of electronics at an accessible $11,999 starting price.
We packed our bags and headed off to the Mediterranean island of Sardinia to see how the 2022 Aprilia Tuareg 660 handles twisting coastal roads and trails alike. Now, let’s get on with the Fast Facts.
The 659cc parallel-twin engine proves to be as fun as it is versatile. When your engine is essentially Aprilia’s V4 powerplant split down the middle, you know you’re in for a good time. Where Aprilia strikes gold is by creating a powerplant that’s fit for on and off-road duty—the incredibly linear low-end torque and robust midrange are exciting on the street, and that combination certainly helps when skittering around off-road. If that isn’t enough, the Tuareg 660 is ready to stretch its legs at a moment’s notice, sprinting to the upper rev-range, where its power eventually says arrivederci around 9000 rpm.
This isn’t a copy-and-paste job—the Tuareg is tuned with purpose. A new camshaft increases lift and overlap, accommodating a tune that prioritizes low to midrange grunt, with its claimed 80 horsepower at 9250 rpm and 52 ft-lbs of torque at 6500 rpm. By comparison, that’s 20 horsepower less than the RS, achieved 1250 rpm sooner, and three lb-ft more torque reached 2000 rpm earlier than the RS. The reworked powerband partially explains why the Tuareg feels much more energetic out of the gate. Other functional updates, such as the low-profile oil pan, allow for a respectable 9.4 inches of ground clearance. There’s also a new airbox with longer intake ducts, plus a quick-change air filter integrated into the top of the fuel tank.
New roads called for gearbox updates. To help with low-speed maneuvering on or off the trail, the 660’s first gear is shorter than its street-focused counterparts. In addition, a smaller 15-tooth countershaft sprocket is used. Coupled with the tuning and cam updates, this perks up the whole affair. Our test unit sported with the optional up/down quickshifter (+$200) that makes grabbing upshifts slick and sporty as you like, while the downshift can be a bit jerky at lower speed and rpm.
The updated high-pipe exhaust fits the bill. The under-slung exhaust systems of the RS and Tuono machines would have met an early demise when adventuring away from the pavement, so an all-new suitable high-mount exhaust is in play on the 2022 Aprilia Tuareg 660. Luckily, the 270-degree firing order spews a smile-inducing tune, and the audible induction howl adds to the drama.
The radiators cool the engine effectively but shed some heat onto the rider. The Tuareg’s cooling system didn’t flinch when trundling at slow speeds for extended periods, and the engine temperature gauge never went above the mid-point. However, the radiator exhaust vents directly onto your knees. While I welcomed this on my sometimes chilly and rainy ride, this could become uncomfortable in the dog days of summer.
Tailor your Tuareg with four selectable ride modes. Change the character of the 660 at the tap of a button by jumping between the preset Urban, Explore, and Off-Road modes, as well as a customizable Individual mode. All modes provide full power, restricting themselves to altering throttle response, engine braking, and electronic rider aids. Urban is quite relaxed and borders on a “rain” mode. The Explore offers perfectly athletic fueling and reduced rider aids, while Off-Road softens the initial throttle opening to help compensate for reduced off-road traction and disables ABS in the rear automatically (ABS can be completely disabled). Strangely, the off-road map can be snatchy on the pavement.
The 2022 Aprilia Tuareg 660 rider aids genuinely aid in the riding experience. We have four-level traction control, three-level engine braking management, three throttle maps, two-level ABS, and cruise control on deck. Sadly, we aren’t working with cornering ABS or lean-angle-sensitive traction control due to a lack of IMU. The saving grace is that the ABS works incredibly well on or off-road, even when braking aggressively. TC is done right. The four levels are progressive, with the least-intrusive setting allowing nod-worthy power slides that still propel you forward over rocky terrain. The 660 powerplant is incredibly tractable, so experienced riders feel comfortable disabling TC.
Tubeless 21- and 18-inch wheels won’t stop Aprilia from flexing its street pedigree. What immediately stands out about the Tuareg 660 is how poised and ridiculously rewarding it is on the road. Feel free to treat it like a supermoto, pitching it in on the brakes and accelerating hard out of corners. Even when flipping through quick transitions, the lanky ADV geometry never becomes unsettled. The story is remarkably similar when the road ends. The larger wheels allow you to tackle obstacles easily, and the chassis remains planted. The Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR rubber purchase a respectable amount of grip in the street and Sardinia’s damp hero dirt.
Fully adjustable KYB suspension with 9.4 inches of travel is up to task. As you might have picked up, I’m a fan of the fully-adjustable 43mm inverted fork and linkage-assisted shock, featuring remote spring-preload adjustment. The damping is plush yet supportive, hiding rough roads while letting feedback through. We did the kind of ADV riding that I enjoy—ripping around fire roads and hitting a few bump-jumps along the way. Paris-Dakar? Hardly, but the Tuareg can take a decent whack on the chin, the front digs into corners, and holds a line while accelerating. For reference, heavier damped than the Yamaha Ténéré 700, though not as firm as the KTM 890 Adventure R.
The 2022 Aprilia Tuareg 660 gets an all-new frame and swingarm. Interestingly, Aprilia designed the RS 660, Tuono 660, and Tuareg 660 concurrently, so engineering aspects such as ADV geometry were anticipated. The tubular-steel frame pushes a touring narrative and uses a welded subframe to accommodate a 463-pound load capacity. Hardcore ADV riders won’t appreciate a non-replaceable subframe, but engineers said it was needed to meet chassis stiffness and load capacity goals. The new aluminum swingarm is less rigid than what’s found on the road bikes for proper rider feedback. The swingarm also has the much steeper angle needed to create grip off-road and manage longer suspension travel.
Mass centralization is the key to the Tuareg’s handling prowess. One of the biggest challenges with motorcycle design is the weight distribution, which pays dividends on or off the pavement. To start with, the 660 engine uses six engine-mounting points (as opposed to two on the Tuono 660 and three on the RS 660) in the tubular-steel frame. The engine is rotated 10 degrees rearward, which Aprilia says helps further reduce yaw and improve cornering. While those elements help, my money is on the 4.75-gallon fuel tank carrying its load mostly under the seat, dramatically lowering the center of gravity and alleviating the top-heavy nature of some of its competitors.
Braking is provided by Brembo and fills the role nicely. Aprilia engineers went with an axial caliper and master-cylinder setup for a few reasons—cost, weight, and braking performance. The first two reasons are self-explanatory, while the performance was about striking a balance. Feel at the lever is progressive and lacks a harsh initial bite that can catch riders out in low-grip situations. Braking power aplenty, though the feel is much softer than what Aprilia typically offers. The rear brake has a soft bite and builds pressure quickly, without being a light switch.
The claimed curb weight is 449 pounds. Not too shabby, considering that it comes in below the wet weights of the Yamaha Ténéré 700 and the KTM 890 Adventure R. It still manages to sport a skidplate capable of deflecting a solid knock, though hardcore ADV enthusiasts are sure to up the crash protection.
Long, comfortable days in the saddle await. On paper, the Tuareg 660’s comfy 33.8-inch seat height is a hurdle (high and low seat options available). However, the Tuareg is edging towards a slim dual-sport width between the knees, allowing my 32-inch inseam legs to get boots on the ground. The wide handlebar gives you loads of leverage, and the generous lock-to-lock steering is essential in tricky off-road situations. The non-adjustable windscreen provides ample wind protection for my 5-foot 10-inch frame (taller options are available). My reach to the hand and foot controls was spot on when standing, making peg-steering a snap. Removable rubber footpeg inserts keep 95 percent of the engine buzz at bay. They can be pulled when you need more grip during ADV excursions.
Aprilia claims 59 mpg from the Tuareg. Match that to the 4.75-gallon fuel tank, and the range is a theoretical 280 miles—very adventurous. Of course, mileage varies greatly on what you’re carrying and how hard you’re cracking the whip.
The five-inch TFT display and LED lighting are standard fares. Navigating the menu and adjusting anything you’d like is quite intuitive. TC is adjustable on the fly, just like the RS and Tuono family of 660 Aprilia motorcycles. Should you want to customize other options, a quick dive into the menu is easy. Design cues are taken from the 1989 Aprilia Tuareg 600 Wind, incorporating many classic Dakar aesthetics, especially when rocking the Indaco Tagelmust livery (+$600) you see in the photos.
Aprilia is back in the off-road segment in a big way with the new Tuareg. There are precious few chinks in the 2022 Aprilia Tuareg 660’s armor—no IMU, a throttle map hiccup, and an autoblipper that can be jumpy, are relatively minor complaints. Aprilia nailed the handling and balance of the Tuareg, making it feel light, dextrous, and sporty, which certainly contributes to the success of the off-road experience. Add in a lot of touring potential, and Noale has a contender on its hands.
Zero Electric ADV Bike + Al and Bridget from Throw Your Leg Over
byMotos and Friends by Ultimate Motorcycle
Hello everyone and welcome to Motos and Friends, a weekly Podcast brought to you by the editorial team at Ultimate Motorcycling. My name is Arthur Coldwells.
Electric mobility is everywhere nowadays. Whether it’s a car, a truck, an assisted bicycle, a scooter, or any number of new innovations, the electric revolution is certainly here. In this week’s first segment, Nic de Sena took a ride on Zero’s recently announced new Adventure bike—the Zero DSR-X. There’s been a lot of hype about this new arrival on the ADV scene, and of course the questions are many. Nic talks to me about whether Zero actually have a credible, alternative energy ADV bike—or if the machine is just simply an empty promise.
In our second segment, I chat with Al and Bridget from ‘Throw Your Leg Over’. They took time out to record this episode from somewhere in the middle of Romania, of all places.
These interesting Aussies have traveled—and painstakingly documented—the thousands of miles they’ve covered riding the best roads and sights through Australia, Tasmania, Europe, eastern Europe, and Scandinavia, among other places.