Not since the heady days of the 600cc sportbike wars have we witnessed competition between manufacturers as fierce as it currently is between Aprilia’s and KTM’s super streetfighters. With the arrival of the Super Duke R in 2014, the monstrously torquey V-Twin-powered hooligan has been in a lock step dogfight with the Tuono and its rip-roaring V-Four. So enamored were we with the SDR it won both Streetfighter and Bike of the Year awards in 2014. For 2015 the SDR retained its streetfighter of the year title over the Tuono, but in 2016 an updated Tuono took away the SDR’s streetfighter crown by virtue of offering a nearly equally equipped but more affordable RR model alongside its top-of-line Factory version. The Tuono duo also claimed honorable mention for motorcycle of the year in 2016.
For 2017 both bikes were again tweaked with a variety of mostly electronic upgrades, gaining full-color TFT gauges and cruise control in the process. Again this year the Tuono is available in two flavors, RR and Factory, while the SDR remains a solo act with a couple of optional packages available for upgrading the bike’s already astounding performance. Because the bikes are so equally matched, we’re basing our choice of winner (like we did last year) upon the Aprilia’s dual-model offering, and more so because of what the RR brings to the table at a price point thousands below the MSRP of the base model Super Duke R.
The 2017 Aprilia Tuono was presented to the media at COTA following the MotoGP races alongside its racier RSV4 brethren. The same-day introduction provided an interesting venue for not only comparing and contrasting the similarities and differences between the Tuono and RSV, but more so between the RR and Factory Tuono models. The RR brings to the table everything the Factory model does (157 rear-wheel horsepower V-4 engine, Brembo M50 front calipers, up/down quickshifter, as well as a litany of other electronics) for a relatively affordable $14,999. At $17,499 the Factory model enjoys Öhlins fork, shock and steering damper in place of the Sachs units on the RR. And, even at this higher price, the fully outfitted Tuono comes in $600 under the price of the base model Super Duke R, that, at $17,999, still lacks adjustable traction control and an up/down quickshifter.
We’ve noted in the past that between the two the Tuono is the more formidable track weapon compared to the Super Duke R. In fact, in our First Ride Review of the 2017 Tuono we posed the question: Is it still a streetfighter if it’s this good of a track bike? The Tuono’s shorter gearing was evident when spinning laps around COTA, but otherwise even the RR model is a scalpel of a streetfighter in a closed-course setting compared to the ganglier SDR. Sharing the same chassis with RSV4 it’s no wonder why the Tuono is as good as it is at the track. On the street the Tuono is every bit the Super Duke R’s measure, making deciding between the two a matter of personal preferences that even we couldn’t reach an accord, awarding a rare tie outcome in our 2016 Ultimate Streetfighter Shootout.
However, outfitted as it is and brimming with equal performance at a price $3k less than the base model SDR, it’s impossible not to give the Tuono RR the nod as the streetfighter to have for 2017.
The lowly RR is so good in fact, that following a full day at Laguna Seca on a well-used 2016 Tuono RR equipped with a fresh set of Pirelli Supercorsas, Sean Alexander committed buying a Tuono 1100 as his very next motorcycle. He was serious, saying that he can’t imagine a finer motorcycle to ride 500+ miles on the street and then also have that much fun on a racetrack. When he dreams at night, he dreams of a V4 Tuono.
When it comes to KTM, any bike with word Duke in its title guarantees you a stellar streetfighter. The 390 and 690 Dukes are the smaller-displacement single-cylinder streetfighters in KTM’s hooligan lineup, and while the 1290 Super Duke GT may be draped in touringish attire, make no mistake, it’s the most aggressive, high-powered and bag-equipped sport-tourer we’ve ridden. But if unadulterated naked performance is what you desire, look no further than the Super Duke R. The SDR’s 1301cc Twin pumps out more than 80 lb-ft of torque as early as 3,800 rpm on its way to a peak torque output of 96 lb-ft at 8,100 rpm. The arm-yanking thrust, regardless of gear chosen or speed travelling, is intoxicating.
The base model SDR brings to the table all the qualifiers of a great streetfighter, but to keep pace with the menagerie of electronics available on the Tuono, an SDR owner must purchase the Performance Pack ($475.99) to get the quick-shifter+, motor-slip regulation (MSR), and smartphone integration known as KTM My Ride, and the Track Package ($299.99), which includes Track ride mode (in addition to Street, Sport, Rain), the option to disengage the anti-wheelie function, Launch Control, adjustable traction control, and a choice of Street, Sport or Track throttle sensitivity. The combined price of the two packages bring the Super Duke R’s MSRP to a hard-to-swallow $18,775 ($1,276 more than the Factory Tuono and a whopping $3,776 more than the RR model).
The Super Duke R is not as track-oriented as either Tuono model, but it’s a formidable naked able to easily dispatch fully faired sportbikes, and might be the best sporty motorcycle for big and tall riders. On the street the SDR is hard to beat, offering a roomy seating arrangement and more available power where you need it most, compared to the Tuono’s tighter rider triangle and revvier four-cylinder. Too bad KTM can’t reign in the price a little. If Aprilia can include an up/down quick-shifter on a $15k Tuono RR, we think KTM should be able to include the same technology on an $18k SDR.