Evidently, there’s a standard method of creating a naked sportbike and then there’s the Italian way. Most manufacturers have done it by producing minimalistic, significantly detuned sportbikes that are just as well-suited to urban commuting as they are to the occasional weekend romp. But the original Tuono, introduced a decade ago, changed the naked-bike landscape. Aprilia essentially took its RSV Mille superbike, stripped it of its bodywork and bolted on a wide, motocross-style tubular handlebar—and instantly put our driver’s licenses in jeopardy. The Tuono thus redefined the modern naked “superbike,” making all other hooligan bikes of the era seem meek by comparison.
Tuono—“thunder” in Italian—is a fitting name for this bike, considering the reverberation of influence it’s had on this category, an impact clearly evident in the Ducati Streetfighter and MV Agusta Brutale. Like the Tuono, those sassy-’n’-sexy Italian nakeds have delivered mile after mile of race-derived performance and backroad bliss without the backaches.
Every editor who took our V4 testbike for a ride returned Tuonostruck (sorry!) with excitement and awe. “Aprilia has once again done a great job of taking one of its pure sportbikes and transforming it into a naked,” noted Senior Editor Blake Conner. “By leaving the engine alone for the most part and giving the bike a great chassis with quality suspension, brakes and handling, Aprilia has created one of the most gnarly streetfighters ever mass-produced.”
The new Tuono V4 retains the best features of the RSV4 repli-racer, including its Aprilia Performance Ride Control (APRC) electronics. That lends it a fair degree of street civility without neutering its performance in the process—although a few alterations to the 1000cc, 65-degree RSV4 engine do help make it a better road bike. Revised valve timing and 20mm-longer, fixed-length intake stacks have improved low-end and midrange power. Additional crankshaft inertia and shorter ratios in the bottom three gears provide smoother running, better shift action and easier acceleration away from stops.
Runs on the CW dyno validated that street-savvy tuning. Compared with the 2011 RSV4 Factory SE we last tested, the Tuono showed a measurable increase in torque throughout the rev range below 10,000 rpm. It also made just 2 fewer peak ponies, even though the 12,500-rpm rev limit is 1000 rpm below that of its superbike sibling.
“Sounds like Darrell Waltrip pulling out of the Daytona pits,” declared Feature Editor John Burns following a spirited weekend flaunt. “This one takes over from the Triumph Street Triple as my favorite-sounding bike.” Paul Dean, our more-senior Senior Editor, weighed in, as well. “It’s really fun to ride anyplace where you can open it up. It squirts from corner to corner in a rush, making awesome noises along the way, and you can flick it into and out of turns almost like a big dirtbike.”
No argument from me. The bike feels light and comfortably compact, and the saddle is lower and narrower up near the tank than the tallish one on the previous Tuono. That allows improved footing at stops, which is welcome due to the stingy steering lock that can make tight-space maneuvers a chore. The engine is mounted lower in the frame than on the RSV4, a change that Aprilia says helps improve handling by adjusting the center of gravity to partially offset the Tuono’s more-upright riding position. This, combined with the leverage provided by the wide, tapered handlebar, lends the Aprilia a much lighter feel than you would expect on a 480-pound (fully fueled) motorcycle.
Aprilia’s familiar tri-map throttle-by-wire system, which offers three modes labeled as Track, Sport and Road, has been reprogrammed (as has APRC) for the Tuono package. The modes can be toggled on the fly and offer a choice between Track’s full power and response; Sport’s full power with slightly softer response in the first 15 percent of throttle opening; and Road mode’s reduced output above 6500 rpm and further taming of throttle response. Regardless of the selected mode, a momentary softness below 2500 rpm hampers linear delivery when easing away from a stop. Just a hint of aggressive acceleration smoothes things out when you have the luxury of nothing impeding your path.
There is, however, a fair amount of lash in the driveline that’s mostly felt in the lower three gears when jockeying the throttle through traffic. The slipper clutch appears to be a major contributor of that freeplay, and exceptionally sensitive throttle response at very small twistgrip openings makes matters worse.