2010 Aprilia RSV4 R Review

A less-expensive RSV4 is still impressive


Aprilia’s RSV4 Factory might be the most impressive new bike we’ve tested this season, and it blew us away when we tested it against KTM’s excellent RC8R and Ducati’s stellar 1198S in our first literbike shootout of the year.

But we wondered how good the standard and less expensive RSV4, the R, would be. Our European correspondent takes it for a spin around Portugal’s Estoril circuit to find out. He says “Exiting corners with 10.000-plus rpm on an Aprilia RSV4 is one of the most satisfying things to do in motorcycling.”


Full throttle in third gear, knee down exiting the Senna curve, and once again I have to keep a sharp eye on the wet patches. The Metzeler Racetech rear tire spun up earlier at a speed of 100 mph, and whilst I don’t mind a bit of drifting, a relatively cold December day in Portugal is not the day to challenge the grip too much. So I’m a bit more cautious than I usually would be and the laptimes suffered.

The Parabolica Ayrton Senna leads me on to one of the fastest straights on the MotoGP calendar. The straight is almost a kilometre long, and leading up to it is a third or even fourth gear corner. I always short shifted up from second to third gear to allow the rear tire to do its job and to allow me to get the bike upright before shifting up to fourth. The six-speed gearbox is very precise and I’m working my way up the gearbox without using the clutch. I did see around 165 mph at the end of the straight, but with more confidence in the tarmac conditions I could have left the braking later for an even higher top speed.

Is the base model RSV4 any good? Oh yeah!  

The monoblock Brembo brakes are the same as on the Factory and they are immensely powerful and impressive. The deceleration from 165 mph going slightly downhill is certainly a job the Brembos do very well. The forces are damped through a 43mm adjustable Showa fork rather than Ohlins on the R, and the front tire is a 120/70-ZR17 Metzeler Racetec rather than a Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa.

I know that the Factory setup is a better one that’d given me even more confidence and feel; however I’m still impressed with the RSV4 R chassis as it’s more than good enough for road and track day use. Aprilia have swapped the Factory’s Ohlins for a fully adjustable item from Sachs. The 6-spoke aluminium wheels are not as light as the forged items on the Factory, and overall the RSV4 R weighs in at 11 pounds more than the Factory (a claimed 406 lbs for the RSV4 R versus 395 lbs for the Factory).

Despite a lesser-spec suspension and a few extra pounds, the RSV4 R is still an extremely impressive handler.
The RSV4's compact dimensions are even palatable for Tor's tall frame.

The interesting thing about the RSV4 R is that despite the extra weight it still handles like a dream. The frame and swingarm can’t be adjusted in all the ways the Factory can, but you really need to spend a lot of time on a racetrack to utilize that adjustability. The RSV4 Rs tech specs also reveals that the variable intake ducts are not in place, but acceleration from 9,500 rpm and up to 13,000 is still immense whilst the midrange is also powerful and very useful, particularly on the road. The 999cc V4 acts like it has a turbo kicking in above 10.000 rpm, but it’s just Aprilia’s masterful natural big bang engine kicking in for real.

The V4 is very addictive and I felt no significant difference in this area between the two RSV4s apart from perhaps a slightly “milder” throttle response. The one good thing about Estoril being slightly damp in the morning was that I finally got a good chance to ride a lot more using the powerful midrange. Aprilia says 85 ft-lbs of torque peaks at 10,000 rpm, but at these revs the engine was way too powerful for the level of grip we experienced in the morning session. Between 7 and 10K rpm the midrange produces great pull, and even below 7,000 rpm there’s plenty of go that’s exclusively reserved for the roads.

The Gancho chicane that everybody loves to hate brings speed down to 35 mph, and the flick from left to right is done with ease as there’s no high revs or speed. On the Estoril circuit there’s plenty of hard acceleration through second and third gear as the corners are so slow. This again gives a good feel with what the RSV4 R is capable of in terms of pure acceleration from low speed. Imagine a 600 supersport with 180 horsepower and you’ll get the idea.

The RSV4 R feels very solid under both braking and acceleration. It’s down to the tires what sort of grip you can achieve, and since it was cold and not completely dry, the Metzeler Racetecs performed well.

Like WSBK rider Max Biaggi, Tor says he feels at home on the RSV4 R.I must admit that I love the ergonomics on the Aprilia RSV4. The motorcycle looks tiny, but for a motorcycle with the size of a 600 and the power of a 1000 Aprilia really has nailed it when it comes down to ergonomics. I’m tall compared to Max Biaggi, but both of us feel at home on the RSV4 R. This is something we can thank Aprilia official test rider Alex Hoffman for, as he’s been instrumental in developing many things relating to how the RSV4 handles. You can look at pictures of me on the RSV4 R and think that the rider looks quite big on the bike but the feel is nearly perfect in the seat.

The whole package is so nimble and transferring weight is the easiest thing in the world. After each session I did the “hold a cup of coffee test” and felt almost no shake at all. This is very important as it proves how little vibration the V4 engine transfers to its pilot. I could mention a handful of Inline-Fours and V-Twins where this is not the case at all. The only time there’s a shake is when the RSV4 R reaches its upper rev range, and even the Sachs steering damper can’t tame the big lion completely then. There’s never danger for a proper tank slapper, but without the steering damper it would.

I turned up at the Mugello circuit a couple of months ago where the original launch took place. However upon arrival I was told the launch had been cancelled due to 5 bikes blowing their engines due to a poorly manufactured conrod.

Since then Aprilia has issued a recall for all RSV4s shipped to North America. Finding the faulty part was easy, but finding out what was wrong with it was difficult. Quality control has been sharpened further in Noale.

Conclusion

I’m very tempted to say that the RSV4 is the best handling motorcycle available out there. There are other motorcycles that handle just as solid and safe but not quite with the same overall easiness of it all. The mass centralisation is supreme, and all 180 horsepower is kept in check at all times through all the aluminium goodness.

The $5000 difference in price between the RSV4 R and the upscale RSV4 Factory will be worth it to only the most discriminating clientele.

If you wonder if you should choose the RSV4 R in favour of the RSV4 Factory, my advice is to go for the RSV4 R as the Factory isn’t worth the $5,000 premium unless you really are going racing with it. On the road it’ll still be just as much of a weapon as the Factory compared to its competition.

 Highs:     Lows:
  • Nimble handling
  • Wonderful V4 engine
  • Powerful brakes
  • It takes too long to switch riding modes. Take a lesson from BMW and make it instant.
  • No traction control for cold and wet weather
  • Cheaper but not cheap

Related Reading
2010 Aprilia RSV4 Factory Review
2010 Literbike Shootout: Aprilia RSV4 Factory vs. Ducati 1198S vs. KTM RC8R
2010 Aprilia RSV4 Engine Recall
2010 Aprilia RSV4R Engine Failure Delays Press Launch [video]

View all Photos PHOTOS & VIDEOS

Aprilia RSV4 R Action-04
Aprilia RSV4 R Action-04
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Aprilia RSV4 R Action-03
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Aprilia RSV4 R Still-10
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Aprilia RSV4 R Still-04
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