In just a few days I’ll be the lucky bas—- who gets to unwind the new Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory around the legendary Mugello circuit as part of the bike’s international press launch. Stay tuned next week for my thoughts on it. However, in anticipation for that event, I thought I’d look back to see what makes the RSV4 such a darling in the eyes of the moto press. So rewind your minds back ten or so years to 2008/2009 and think about the literbike landscape back then. With the benefit of hindsight, we can say with confidence the space looked pretty bland, with the Big Four Japanese, Ducati, and KTM’s RC8 the only real players (sorry MV Agusta fanboys). The field then got a jolt in 2009 with the announcement of both the BMW S1000RR and Aprilia RSV4 – both models promising to shake up the status quo. If you’ve read any motorcycle magazine since then, you undoubtedly know each bike lives up to the claim. Personally, the Aprilia is one of my favorite liter-class bikes out there. Here are seven ways the RSV4 shook up the game.
We teased you recently with a dyno shootout between the Aprilia RSV4 RF and the Ducati Panigale V4 S, with the Ducati blowing the doors off the less powerful – and smaller displacing – Aprilia to the tune of 187 hp for the Panigale and 168 hp for the RSV4. This set the stage for our track shootout between the two Italians nicely, as on paper, anyway, the Ducati seemingly has the Aprilia’s number. A bigger engine clearly gives it a power advantage, while 20 pounds less mass on the official MO scales and electronic Öhlins suspension prevails over the RSV4’s extra heft and manual Öhlins bits. But what does that all translate to once the tire warmers come off and fast lap times need to be set?
Without a doubt, the biggest news in the sportbike scene for 2018 is Ducati’s Panigale V4 and the emergence of a mass-produced four cylinder engine – the Stradale V4. While Ducati has finally left its beloved V-Twin engine behind (at least in terms of superbikes), there was no way the folks in Borgo Panigale would conform to tradition when it came to its new four-banger. For starters, as the name implies, the new engine is arranged as a 90º V4 – essentially multiplying its V-Twin tradition by two.
We can’t say that we blame Aprilia since the RSV4 is, according to the Book of MO, one of the greatest sportbikes – perhaps ever. Need proof? In the last year, the Aprilia RSV4 RR won both the street and the track portions of our superbike shootout on its way to the overall win. Then it notched a MOBO (and not its first, mind you) as Best Sportbike Of 2017. So, like we said, we can’t blame Aprilia for sitting on its laurels a tad when it came to updating the RSV4 for 2018.
The 2017 Aprilia RSV4 is the culmination of sportbike perfection. Not only is the RSV4 insanely fast and one of the best handling motorcycles available today, its exhaust note is more intoxicating than a fifth of whiskey, while its new-for-2017 electronics package is industry-leading, to say the least. For 2016 we awarded the RSV4 our Sportbike of the Year trophy, which it may well retain for 2017.
After a half-decade of sitting second chair to BMW’s S1000RR ( Honorable Mention 2010, and again in 2015) Aprilia’s RSV4 finally, deservedly, secured Motorcycle.com’s 2016 Sportbike of the year award. Subjectively, the RSV and its V-Four engine have been a staff favorite every year since its introduction, but where does one go after having ascended the throne? For the 2017 RSV4 RR and RF, the answer is improved electronics.
In spite of protestations from various peanut gallery season-ticket holders who claim disinterest, our mostly annual Superbike Comparison remains MO’s single biggest deal of the year when it comes to clicks and comments. Apparently, many people who don’t have much interest in owning any of these motorcycles are still really interested in riding them vicariously, which is fine by the MO staff; we’re willing to make the sacrifice, for a few weeks anyway. Whether you lust after one or not, it only makes sense to be interested in them, since this is where the new performance stuff turns up first, as motorcycles, like everything else, grow more sophisticated.
From the unchained environment of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, where performance is the sole consideration for victory in our 2015 Six-Way Superbike Track Shootout, we move to the confines of public roadways to determine which superbike renders the best street-legal exhibition. As tight as our track test results were, the street shootout was just as close with a half-percent separating second from first place. If the MO offices were located in Florida, I’d demand a recount.
If you’re like us, then you must be salivating over the 2015 literbike prospects. With no less than eight new bleeding-edge sportbikes on the table from both European and Japanese marques, the bar is being raised in the quest for track domination or, in the case of the Kawasaki H2 and H2R, simply having the rider experience intense acceleration like they’ve never felt before. However, there’s an interesting trend in the method in which each manufacturer is going about upping the literbike ante. More and more, a greater emphasis is placed on technology and electronics rather than hardware. Sure, hardware isn’t being ignored, but with today’s bikes making so much power, being able to harness it effectively is of utmost importance.