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2014 Ultimate Streetfighter Finale + Video
Aprilia Tuono V4R APRC ABS vs BMW S1000R vs KTM 1290 Super Duke R
Aprilia Tuono V4R APRC ABS
Ah, the Tuono. One of the most exciting motorcycles money can buy, it’s a thrill machine that won our 2012 Streetfighter Shootout based largely on its intoxicating V-Four engine that makes its riders think they’re riding a MotoGP racer with headlights.
For 2014, Aprilia has addressed many of our concerns with the previous version, giving it a 0.4 larger fuel tank (now up to a purported 4.9 gallons) and a more comfortable seat. Also new for 2014 is a Sachs fork that includes compression and rebound damping circuits divided into different fork legs, augmenting the returning, fully adjustable Sachs shock. ABS now comes standard, the system using new Brembo M432 calipers.
This shootout backed up the impressions from our single-bike-review, with the updated Tuono earning praises for its sure-footed, superbike-inspired handling and its raucously thrilling engine. Especially its engine. The 65-degree V-4 feels alive, maybe even a little bit insane. Spikey, non-linear throttle response is objectively a flaw, but in the SF genre, it’s forgivable, even almost desirable. And when the V-4 belts out its delicious, MotoGP-like exhaust note, it’s impossible to not be seduced. Revving an engine for no reason is indubitably juvenile, but the Tuono’s enticing and angry bark makes me do it anyway.
Exiting Auto Club Speedway’s infield section on a pinned throttle will deepen a gearhead’s love for the Tuono’s motor. It’s singing operatically in its upper range, then changes notes instantly after a prod of the quickest quickshifter/tranny combo in this test – or maybe anywhere. The BMW’s QS isn’t as swift, and the KTM’s lack of one is a glaring omission when riding at a racetrack and mildly inconvenient on the street. The only flaw from the Tuono’s gearbox is a moderate reluctance to access neutral when at a stop.
The ’Priller is also tops in terms of high-speed stability – it’s the only one in this group that didn’t exhibit a slight weave at 140-plus mph on Auto Club’s banking which is quite a compliment for a naked sportbike at ultra-high speeds.
The Aprilia Performance Ride Control suite of rider aids operates at a level higher than its rivals, with parameters for traction control, ABS settings and wheelie control able to be operated independently of ride modes, unlike the others. I went out with the TC set to 5 (of a max of 8) and was frustrated by how early it intervened and softened drives off Fontucky’s corners. However, even while running racetrack speeds, I was able to jab twice at the TC paddles to knock down TC to level 3 and enjoy more significantly more latitude for wheelspin, an operation that can’t be done while in action on the other bikes in this test.
“If you’re a trackday enthusiast,” Roderick notes, “the Aprilia’s launch control, wheelie control, ABS and TC customization make this one of the best electronic packages out there. BMW’s electronic suspension, cruise control and heated grips are more useful for street riders.”
As per usual, Aprilia’s V-Four machines feel incredibly mass-centralized. The Tuono weighs more than the others here, yet its extra poundage is well hidden. A handlebar wider than the S1000R’s provides additional leverage that helps overcome its weight.
“The mass centralization of the Tuono makes this naked a favorite of mine on and off the track,” T-Rod notes. “The BMW may be slightly more agile, but it’s such a negligible difference that I’ll choose to ride the Tuono simply because its noises are more soul stirring.”
The Tuono feels as fleet as the KTM and BMW on track, but it’s actually working with a half-dozen less horses at its peak: 148 hp at 11,600 rpm.
“The Tuono’s V-Four has awesome character, and its sound is amazing,” Trizzle comments. “But its engine is directly in the middle of the bunch. The KTM has more bottom-end power, while the BMW has more up top.”
And while we’re picking motor nits, the Tuono has an annoying off-idle throttle lag that surfaces between a gentle launch and a spirited one, the fault of a fuel-saving strategy first seen on the 2013 RSV4. Regardless, the V-Four still lives up to its thirsty reputation. It was typical to get mileage in the low-30-mpg range, dipping occasionally into the high 20s. Also, the Tuono throws more heat onto its rider than the Beemer and Katoom, which can feel oppressive in hot weather during stop-and-go traffic.
So, while the Tuono is our first choice for a trackday, its scores suffered on the street. It has the least amount of legroom, and its seat – despite its additional padding and a flatter profile – was the least comfortable in this trio. And short-legged riders beware: more padding has boosted seat height to a lofty 32.9 inches, tying the adventure-touring-ish KTM for the tallest saddle in this comparison, but its layout results in the longest reach to the ground.
There are a few other shortcomings to note. The V4R’s instrumentation looks a little dated, is difficult to navigate and doesn’t include a fuel gauge. Also, its brakes, while quite good, were tied for last with the snatchy BMW’s binders, requiring a heftier squeeze to access its considerable speed-retardation reserves. The suspension is a similar story. Its Sachs equipment works well, requiring only minor damping tweaks to adjust from a relatively compliant street setup to a tighter-controlled track setting. However, it lost points
for the difficulty of accessing its adjusters.
“I wish the clickers were more accessible,” Siahaan laments. “The handlebar placement makes it difficult to adjust the front clickers, and the exhaust does the same for rear rebound.”
Overall, it’s a slight lack of refinement that penalizes the Tuono against its newer rivals, which are both exceptionally well-engineered. Its instrumentation is frustrating to navigate, its seat padding yields least, and its barbed throttle response – especially in Track mode – challenges a rider to be smooth.
On the plus side, the Tuono is our top pick – if you intend to do trackdays on a streetfighter. It’s also the least expensive bike of this trio, retailing for a significant $2,500 less than the wickedly wonderful KTM. Also, you’d be forgiven if its lustful and scintillating V-Four engine makes you fall hopelessly in love.
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