2012 European Literbike Shootout - Video

Europe's best are upping the ante in the literbike wars

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And The Winner is...

Deciding on a best overall motorcycle between this trio of European exotica was no easy task. Taking both street and track performances into consideration, each machine built a strong case for itself. This is where the MO scorecard comes into play.

Judged in 13 different categories ranging from engine performance and value to handling and cool factor, our subjective opinions are given an objective score. After calculating all the numbers, this proved to be one of our closest shootouts yet.

2012 Aprilia RSV4 R APRC, BMW S1000RR and Ducati 1199 Panigale S

After a poor showing on the street, it shouldn’t come as a surprise the ultra-focused Ducati placed third, scoring 86.1%. It is, without a doubt, a very exciting motorcycle when ridden in the right context. Unfortunately this window of opportunity is very limited. Revs must be high and the road must be smooth and curvaceous to extract all it has to offer.

However, we did give it top billing in the brake, technology, instruments, fit & finish, appearance, and cool factor categories. But factoring the reasons mentioned earlier and its highest price tag of the three$17,995 for the standard version; $22,995 for our S model test bikeand the Ducati’s fate was set in scorecard stone.

2012 Ducati 1199 Panigale S

From here the judging process was much more difficult. All three testers were enamored with the Aprilia’s gentle yet precise and confidence-inspiring engine and chassis, on track and on the street. But we couldn’t ignore the less exciting, but extremely practical and equally capable BMW.

The Aprilia took top honors in the transmission, handling, and grin factor (where we judge the intangibles, like the excitement it generates) categories, while the BMW won for best ergonomics, and received perfect scores in both engine and value categories.

2012 Aprilia RSV4 R APRC

The scorecards were so close, with all three testers virtually tied after 12 categories. Our thirteenth and final criterion, value, tipped the scales. Coming in $2000 less than the $16,999 RSV4, the BMW once again wins our Euro literbike shootout with a 90.4% score compared to the Aprilia’s 88.5%.

Granted, if you’re looking at any of our high-end combatants, then price might not be an issue for you. If we were lucky enough to be in that category, our hearts would recommend the Aprilia. However, considering the performance, practicality and technology the BMW offers at a relatively low price, it’s impossible to overlook. Personally, it’s the bike I would choose if I were to ride to a track, do a trackday and ride home.

2012 BMW S1000RR

With minor but cumulatively significant updates for 2012, the BMW S1000RR retains its Euro literbike crown. And with Kawasaki’s ZX-10R already named as our Japanese literbike winner this year, the only thing left to do is pit them together for ultimate literbike supremacy in our third and final portion of this test. Stay tuned.

The Last Word
Tom Roderick, Content Editor: The S1000RR is the most pragmatic choice of these three bikes. More horsepower, greater comfort and user-friendly performance in a package costing thousands less than its Italian competitors. The S1000RR is a two-wheel testament to the precision of German engineering.

But as much as my left brain demands that if I were spending my money I buy the BMW, my right brain is arguing aesthetics. Not that the Beemer is an ugly bike, on the contrary, I find the S1000RR’s styling and asymmetrical headlight configuration appealing. The fact of the matter is, it simply doesn’t turn me on.

I’m addicted to the power delivery of Aprilia’s V4 engine and the sound associated with its acceleration and deceleration. The RSV is also one of the most confidence-inspiring sportbikes on the market. The BMW makes more power and the Panigale is an exotic, sexy beast, but if it were my money the RSV strikes the best balance between the track-bred Duc and all-around mannerisms of the Beemer.

Troy Siahaan, Associate Editor: I was truly torn this time. On track, I’m completely enamored with the Ducati. It’s an exciting motorcycle that begs the rider to try a little harder and ride its wheels off. With all its techno-wizardry that’s also easy to understand, I feel like the Panigale helps make me a better rider at the push of a button.

However, my adoration evaporated during our street ride. Its “no-compromises” attitude is simply torturous: it’s uncomfortable, jumpy down low and incredibly hot. It’s hard to fault the BMW’s 172 horses and least expensive price tag, and by no means am I putting it down, but this category of motorcycle is supposed to incite visceral emotion. Simply put, the Aprilia’s combination of smooth power, remarkable handling and dashing good looks does it for me every time, and would be the bike I’d choose if my garage had a vacancy needing to be filled and my wallet had no bottom.

Kevin Duke, Editor-in-Chief: I take my job as a motorcycle evaluator very seriously, and the S1000RR is definitely at the top of the heap of the European literbikes in our test when judged on the terms of a usable street motorcycle. That’s a relatively easy assertion to make when you’re talking about the most powerful and most versatile bike of the bunch.

However, this shootout doesn’t have as its subject matter scooters or commuter bikes, and this space on these virtual pages gives me the opportunity to speak from my gut. It’s the RSV4 that tugs strongest on my heartstrings. While its V-Four motor is the least powerful, it’s the powerplant I preferred most. I love the way it feels as it builds revs, accompanied by an angry but creamy bark that makes me want to rev it up in every tunnel I passed through. And if I was offered a nice prize for blasting up and down a canyon road the quickest, the willing and cooperative Aprilia would be my choice.

I have to say I’m surprised the wonderful new Panigalle wasn’t at the top of this subjective list, as it thrilled me in countless sensational ways when riding it both at Yas Marina and at Thunderhill. But our street testing revealed jumpy throttle response that annoyed and sapped my confidence. I predict Ducati will release an updated engine-mapping download this summer. Throw in a barely padded seat and enough BTUs from the rear cylinder to roast a small animal, and the scrumptious Panigale loses any overall battle on the street – except at the coffee shop …

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