Although Max Biaggi won the 2012 World Superbike title on his RSV 4 Factory, Aprilia hasn’t had much time to rest on its laurels.
For 2013, improvements to the 65-degree, V-Four engine result in an additional 4 horsepower (a claimed 184 at 12,500 rpm) and a slight bump in torque (86.3 foot-pounds at 10,000 rpm). Key changes include improved crankcase ventilation, cooling and lubrication systems, a new exhaust system and an updated ECU. The focus was to make the engine more efficient, reliable, and responsive through the rev range.
Although the engine changes aren’t dramatic, those made to the chassis are. A brand-new Bosch 9MP ABS is fully integrated with the RSV 4’s APRC (Aprilia Performance Ride Control) electronics, and features three modes: Track, for extreme deceleration; Sport, for spirited road use (featuring RLM, a Rear Lift-up Mitigation sensor); and Rain, for ideal braking in wet/low-grip conditions. Hardware consists of the latest Brembo M430 monoblock radial-mount calipers and 320mm rotors up front and a new twin-piston caliper and 220mm disc at the rear.
Adoption of this highly advanced ABS adds only 4.4 pounds to the motorcycle, and the engine had to be lowered 5mm in the frame to make room for its hardware. To maintain the same geometric relationship among the front sprocket, swingarm pivot and rear sprocket, the rear axle had to be lowered by 5mm, as well.
With the new space above the engine, a larger (4.9 gallon), ergonomically improved fuel tank has been used. And the lower center of gravity means the bike is now more stable under heavy braking, but at the expense of some of the previous bike’s agility. A trade-off that Aprilia’s tech boss, Romano Albesiano, is willing to accept.
Beyond the mechanical updates, Aprilia continues to evolve the APRC electronics. The TC is now more effective thanks to additional functions and sensors, while its software is better integrated with the ride-by-wire throttle. Using lean angle, speed and lateral acceleration data, the bike selects the appropriate level of power to achieve maximum performance.
One of the first things I noticed at the Estoril circuit in Portugal was the bike’s modified center of gravity. The bike requires a bit more input at the bars to get onto the desired line, but the added stability is worth it. At the end of my track sessions, a light drizzle helped me test the TC. Despite being on Pirelli’s semi-slick Diablo Corsa tires, the RSV 4 found grip, even while exiting the fourth-gear, final bend that dumps you onto the main straight at knee-scratching speeds. At the end of that 130-plus-mph front straight, the new ABS brakes provided strong and controlled deceleration with no risk of lock up, even in the damp conditions.
Despite Biaggi’s absence (he retired), the 2013 RSV 4 will be a force in World Superbike this season. And if the championship gets tight, little Aprilia has proven it is up for the fight.
Editor’s note: The U.S. will be the only market in the world to get the Aprilia RSV 4 Factory APRC ABS SE, a race-replica model with a special graphics package. The bike can be seen here.