The MV, meanwhile, is fairly new to us, as it’s been difficult to secure press bikes in the past. On paper, the two share many things in common: 1000cc displacement from four cylinders, variable-length intake tracts, forged aluminum wheels and Ohlins suspension just to name a few. We’d be lying if we said pairing two exotic machines together wasn’t the main purpose of this test, but it’s also worth noting the relative similarity in price between the two.
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So, yes, this was an opportunity to thrash Italian exotica around Thunderhill Raceway, one of our favorite tracks, but there’s also a value consideration to this test as well. And with the recent news of MV Agusta’s return to Superbike racing in the British Superbike Championship with the F4RR, and Aprilia again winning the World Superbike Championship aboard the RSV4, it seems obvious to pit the two together for ultimate racetrack honors.
Same Country, Worlds Apart
We’ll spare you the details of each bike’s inner workings, as we’ve already covered them in their respective single-bike reviews above. However, some notable differences include: the Aprilia’s V-Four engine configuration compared to the MV’s Inline-Four, the Aprilia’s adjustable swingarm, steering angle and engine placement, and the RSV’s claimed dry weight advantage (394.6 lbs. vs. 407.9 lbs.). We didn’t get a chance to weigh the bikes independently, but published reports indicate just a 2-pound difference in ready-to-ride mass in favor of the Aprilia.
Ergonomically, the two Italians are distinctly opposite. Both saddles sit rather high, but the Aprilia at 33.3 inches is slightly higher than the MV (32.6 inches). Despite this, “The MV perches the rider on top of the bike which is in complete contrast to the sit-into feeling when riding the RSV,” says fellow editor, Tom Roderick.
Both sets of clip-ons are low, but the MV’s feels lower. Added to the long reach past the gas tank, and the F4 places the rider in an aggressive position. Thankfully, the MV has adjustable footpegs to help accommodate varying heights. The tiny Aprilia in contrast feels very compact with its short reach to the bars and fixed pegs.
Fortunately for the F4, the weight penalty it carries is at least partially offset by its rip-roaring engine which belts out 172.4 horses, making the RSV’s 160.4 seem almost anemic by comparison. Aprilia does win the torque advantage by a slim margin, 75.8 ft.-lbs. vs. 74.6 ft.-lbs. On track the power difference is immediately noticeable, leaving Roderick to note, “The power of the MV is awesome!”
Get the F4 in the meaty part of its powerband and it simply walks away from the Aprilia – and most other bikes – in the straights, leaving the RSV rider feeling helpless. But this power doesn’t come without a cost. As noted in the standalone review, the MV is marred by serious fuel-mapping issues, causing unpredictable throttle response.
A look at the accompanying dyno chart shows the MV Agusta’s curve rising and falling throughout the rev range, but that’s only during wide-open throttle. Riding the RR with various throttle openings reveals various hiccups, and acceleration initially feels flat until suddenly it rockets away. For a motorcycle of this caliber, one would expect fuel mapping to be dialed.
By comparison, “the RSV isn’t the most powerful superbike, but the application of power is precisely controllable,” says T-Rod. “And controllable horsepower is far more important than ultimate horsepower.” On track, this telepathic power delivery allows the rider to accelerate sooner compared to the MV. The standard factory quickshifter adds to the joy of riding the Aprilia quickly and is a feature oddly missing from the more expensive MV.
The story doesn’t get better for the F4 in the handling department. Despite both bikes benefitting from forged aluminum wheels and completely adjustable Ohlins suspension, the MV rider is greeted with quick initial turn-in, but then “must forcefully apply pressure to the handlebars in order to offset the bike’s inertia and maintain a tight line,” notes Tom.
With more time to dial in the chassis, we’re confident this issue would have been resolved. Tom was a fan of the MV’s Ohlins bits, especially over T-Hill’s bumpy turn six, as he felt they provided better damping. Personally, the difference to me was miniscule. Overall, the MV proved a handful to ride quickly. Fast laps are possible, but both Tom and I exerted noticeably more energy to achieve them.
It’s the opposite story with the tight, compact and agile Aprilia as it makes quick work of Thunderhill’s twists and turns. “The front end of the RSV reads the tarmac as if it were braille,” says Tom, noting the more he rode the bike the more he got a “feeling of uncrashable confidence.”
The Aprilia is proof that outright horsepower does not make a winning literbike. It takes a special blend of useable power, capable suspension and an agile chassis to harness it all, and this is a formula Aprilia has mastered.
When it comes to brakes, both motorcycles are evenly matched, with radial-mounted Brembo monoblocs and 320mm discs in front. All four front calipers utilize four 34mm pistons, a radial front master cylinder (also Brembo) and steel-braided lines. With identical top-shelf components, it’s no surprise that both bikes stop on a dime with great lever feel.
Both the MV and Aprilia are equipped with traction control systems (the RSV also features wheelie and launch control), though each takes a vastly different approach to the same end goal. Aprilia chose to go the complex route, equipping wheel speed, throttle, and gear position sensors, as well as gyros and accelerometers to monitor every aspect of the motorcycle.
The ECU is constantly monitoring these sensors and intervenes as programmed to limit rear tire slip. Adjusting the sensitivity is easily done via paddles on the left switchgear, allowing changes to be made on the fly.
MV Agusta’s traction control system is crude by comparison, using only throttle and gear position sensors. Tire slippage is determined by spikes in engine speed and are curtailed if deemed appropriate by the ECU. Its eight settings (same as the Aprilia) is also managed by buttons on the left switchgear, but is much less intuitive and can’t be done in an instant.
Despite the vastly different methods to provide optimum rear traction, we found both systems to be highly effective. In fact, Tom noted “The MV Agusta’s traction control works without noticeable intrusion,” while the RSV4 traction control was more disruptive at higher settings. Dial it down and its operation becomes transparent. Both systems are impressive pieces of kit and provide a welcome safety net when riding on worn tires, slippery conditions, or both.
Both motorcycles also feature adjustable power modes. Aprilia offers three settings – Track, Sport and Road – while the MV has only two: Sport and Road. As weather conditions were perfect, we stuck to full power modes on both bikes for maximum fun.
Both Aprilia and MV Agusta have produced works of art with their respective flagship motorcycles. Each comes loaded with premium components and features that help justify their hefty price tags, making the decision that much harder.
However, neither Tom nor I were enamored with the MV’s handling. And even if we had the time to methodically find the proper setup, the F4’s clumsy fueling ultimately is its Achilles heel. Simply put, out of the box the Aprilia delivers.
Being able to thumb the starter and immediately bang off fast laps was what won us over. “The Aprilia is one of the most user-friendly superbikes in existence,” says Tom. “It’s just so comfortably fun to go fast on.” Whether you’re chasing lap records or just out to have some fun at a trackday, between the two, we’d fight for the RSV4 keys every time.
|By the Numbers|
|Aprilia RSV4 Factory APRC||MV Agusta F4RR Corsacorta|
|Engine Type||65-degree V-4||Inline-Four|
|Transmission||6-speed multiplate slipper clutch w/quickshifter||6-speed multiplate slipper clutch|
|Frame||Twin-spar adjustable aluminum||Tubular steel trellis frame|
|Wheelbase||55.9 in||56.2 in|
|Front Suspension||Fully adjustable Ohlins 43mm telescopic cartridge w/TiN coating||Fully adjustable Ohlins 43mm telescopic cartridge w/TiN coating|
|Rear Suspension||Fully adjustable Ohlins monoshock||Fully adjustable Ohlins TTX36 monoshock|
|Front/Rear Tires||Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP 120/70 ZR17 & 200/55 ZR17||Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP 120/70 ZR17 & 190/55 ZR17|
|Front Brakes||Dual 320mm floating discs; radial-mount Brembo 4-piston calipers and radial master cylinder||Dual 320mm floating discs; radial-mount Brembo 4-piston calipers and radial master cylinder|
|Rear Brakes||220mm disc, Brembo 2-piston caliper||210mm disc, Brembo 4-piston caliper|
|Seat Height||33.2 in.||32.6 in.|
|Dry Weight||394.6 lbs||407.9 lbs|
|Electronics||ATC, AWC, ALC, AQS||Traction Control|
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