Aprilia Tuono R vs. KTM Super Duke Comparison Review—From The Archives

Continental warfare

Aprilia Tuono R and KTM Super Duke static group
Aprilia Tuono R vs. KTM Super DukeBrian Blades

Europe has been the center of so many conflicts that historians can barely keep track of them. One of the key strategic locations is Italy's South Tyrol. This gateway to the "boot" has over the years been controlled by the Romans, conquered by Napoleon, ruled by Austria and since 1919 been a part of Italy. Currently this Austro-Italian rivalry is all about European showroom dominance. The key players: KTM vs. Aprilia, Austria vs. Italy, liter Twin vs. liter Twin. Can the new Katoom dethrone the winner of last year's 12-bike "Hot Rods & Hooligans" mega-throwdown?

For the first time these two companies have motorcycles tailor-made to go mano-a-mano. With the introduction of the Super Duke, the Austrian firm is finally armed and ready to take on the multitudes of naked sportbikes on the market. The 950 Supermoto we tested last year was a step in the right direction and is an awesome street machine, but the Super D is much more sporting and taut.

Both of these tall-bar treats pack some serious punch. Aprilia’s Tuono R returns for ’07 with an updated engine and chassis. This year the R version gets the V60 Magnesium Evolution engine yanked right out of the RSV Mille Factory. This 998cc, liquid-cooled, four-valve-per-cylinder, 60-degree engine is good for a teensy bit more horsepower and a touch more torque than last year’s test unit. The Magnesium moniker is derived from the ample use of that material on its engine covers for weight savings. Internally, the mill gets enlarged exhaust valves (31 to 33mm), larger exhaust header diameters and revised fuel-injection/ignition mapping.

In the other corner, stuffed into the all-new KTM Super Duke chassis, is the 999cc, liquid-cooled, 75-degree Twin that is similar to the unit in the 950 SM, with a couple of important differences. Obvious is the displacement increase, but key is the use of fuel-injection.

On paper these two V-Twins match up nicely and in our performance testing seesawed back-and-forth. Dyno charts may not tell lies, but they don’t necessarily tell the entire story, either. A quick glance would leave you to believe that the Aprilia ran circles around the KTM due to its significant 10-pony advantage up top. The Katoom had no plans to roll over that easily, however. Bottom line: The Super Duke makes more power and more torque everywhere in the rev range all the way up to 8000 rpm. This is where the Aprilia goes ballistic, but by that point in the quarter-mile it was already playing catch-up to the orange bike that had smoked it out of the hole. At the stripe, the Tuono takes victory with a 10.68-second, 128.99-mph pass to the Duke’s 10.79/123.92 run. In the real world, however, how much time do you really spend at 9000 rpm? Another notable figure is the 0-to-60 time in which the SD just edged out the Tuono with a 2.9-second time compared to a 3.1.

Aprilia Tuono R on-road action
Aprilia Tuono RBrian Blades

Aprilia Tuono R

Rock of Gibraltar stability High pegs cramp legs
Sportbike-like power delivery Narrow clutch engagement range makes launches a challenge
Gets better with speed Bottom-end fueling leaves something to be desired

As closely matched as these two streetfighters are, they feel dramatically different on the road. The KTM’s good torque and instant snap make it super responsive around town and on tight backroads. Despite a deficit in outright power, the Duke’s fat torque curve invites you to short-shift and keep the acceleration building. The Tuono has more power up top but requires you ride it accordingly if you want to take advantage. This means revving the motor deeper into the tach to get the same drive. On open sweepers and faster ribbons of asphalt, the Tuono will walk away from the KTM, showing the racing heritage deep in its DNA.

Fuel-injection response on the Aprilia is good almost everywhere except at the very bottom just above idle, where it tends to stutter leaving stoplights unless you give it a good blip of revs. The KTM’s EFI feels crisp and responsive everywhere but throttle action is very light, almost too light, which makes smooth input difficult. Both of these engines are very low-vibe, although the Aprilia’s AVDC (anti-vibration double countershaft) quells shakes a little bit better than the KTM’s single counterbalancer.

Leaving the line, the KTM’s clutch is more linear than the Aprilia’s, making quick escapes easy work. Neither transmission is as slick as what we’re used to on most Japanese bikes, or even Ducatis for that matter. The Aprilia feels notchy between first and second, while Big Orange’s tranny had more play between the ratios than we’d like, though engagement remained positive.

Engines aside, these two bikes are a pretty close match when it comes to chassis performance. Seating position on the Tuono is upright and commanding, as is the KTM’s, giving the rider a great view of traffic on either bike. The Aprilia’s footpegs are significantly higher and more rearset, making it feel way racier. The Tuono’s small windscreen offers better protection than the KTM’s lipped headlight nacelle, diverting most of the wind over the top of your head with minimal buffeting–though the Super Duke offered a surprising amount of protection considering its plastic’s diminutive size. Seat height on the Aprilia is almost an inch lower than the sky-high 33.3-inch plot on the KTM, making it easier to get your feet down at stops. The saddle on the Tuono is more comfortable, but the more relaxed location of the Duke’s pegs puts your legs in a better position on longer rides.

KTM Super Duke on-road action
KTM Super DukeBrian Blades

KTM Super Duke

Great grunty engine Seat no place to spend the day
On-the-nose stops from big Brembos Front-end feel good but not great
Not shy about carving up tight roads Transmission could be more precise

Handling ends up being critical in determining a victor between the two. The Super Duke came out swinging in this area with ultra-responsive and quick steering manners. This bike loves to be flicked into and out of tight corners and is awesome in the urban jungle. The problem for the KTM is that the Aprilia steers almost as lightly, yet offers a touch more stability. That’s not to say that the KTM is in any way unstable; it’s just that the Tuono’s front end feels a little more planted, like it has more weight over the front tire. Comparing the numbers: The Duke has a half-inch-longer wheelbase (57.2 to 56.6 inches) but a bit less trail (3.9 to 4.1 inches) and a steeper rake (23.9 to 25 degrees) compared to the Aprilia. Pushed really hard, the KTM’s front end feels a touch vague when ridden back-to-back with the Aprilia; it’s only then, however, that you notice the sensation, as they both handle so well. Once again, the Italian’s racetrack know-how shines when the going gets fast.

When it comes to braking, these bikes offer some serious anchors. Both feature Brembo four-piston, radial-mount calipers with twin 320mm rotors. The difference is that the setup on the KTM offers a lot more initial bite than the Tuono’s; the latter takes a bit more lever travel before clamping gets aggressive. Both modulate very well and feel like they have similar power, so it’s just a matter of feel. For the experienced rider it’s hard to fault either, but we leaned toward the Super Duke stoppers.

As the dust settled from this cross-border scuffle, it was hard to pick a winner. To knock the King of the Streetfighters off its throne, the challenger from KTM was going to have to beat it decisively. That didn’t happen, though it was a close thing. For us, it came down to a few important details. The Super Duke is one hell of a contender for a first-year model and will only get better with refinement. Performance from both was impressive, the Aprilia showing its Superbike heritage, the Super D more of a grunty streetfighter similar to the Triumph Speed Triple. Ultimately, it came down to the fact that the Tuono didn’t get bested performance-wise and stickers for a full grand less than the KTM.

So, Aprilia has won this battle, but with upstart KTM treading on hallowed ground, it won’t be long before this escalates into a full-scale war, ’cause either way these are two of the best nakeds money can buy.

aprilia tuono r studio side view
Aprilia Tuono RCourtesy of Aprilia
Price $12,999
Dry weight 449 lb.
Wheelbase 56.6 in.
Seat height 32.5 in.
Fuel mileage 35.3 mpg
0-60 mph 3.1 sec.
1/4-mile 10.68 sec. @ 128.99 mph
Horsepower 115.3 hp @ 9500 rpm
Torque 66.8 ft.-lb. @ 8500 rpm
Top speed 150 mph
ktm super duke studio side view
KTM Super DukeCourtesy of KTM
Price $13,998
Dry weight 417 lb.
Wheelbase 57.2 in.
Seat height 33.3 in.
Fuel mileage 37 mpg
0-60 mph 2.9 sec.
1/4-mile 10.79 sec. @ 123.92 mph
Horsepower 105.6 hp @ 9650 rpm
Torque 67.6 ft.-lb. @ 7000 rpm
Top speed 142 mph