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.
It’s been two years since we summoned together the superpowers of the sportbike world. In that time the Aprilia RSV4 RR, Honda CBR1000RR, Kawasaki ZX-10R, and Suzuki GSX-R1000 have either been heavily revised or completely overhauled. These changes beg a reinspection into the pecking order of world’s premier street-legal superbikes. Can Japan wrest away the literbike crown from the European OEMs, Aprilia and BMW, that have dominated the class since 2010?
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.
As far as 2017 is concerned, this might be the year we remember as the one that saw the entire liter-class field go electric. No, I don’t mean like that. I mean electronic rider aids – every major player in the field has them now. Honda and Suzuki, with their CBR1000RR and GSX-R1000, respectively, had held out on introducing riding aids (beyond differing power modes in the Suzuki’s case) until this year. Meanwhile, the rest of the competition has leap-frogged ahead, introducing highly advanced traction control, wheelie control, launch control, slide control, and all kinds of other controls previously only seen on MotoGP machines.
On Monday we brought you a flying lap of Auto Club Speedway aboard the 2016 Kawasaki ZX-10R, the runner-up in our two-way fight between it and the Aprilia RSV4 RR (which you can read about here). We praised the Kawasaki’s handling prowess and were really impressed with its updated electronics. However, we still gave the overall win in the comparison test to the Aprilia by the sheer fact it’s so easy to ride quickly. The V-4 engine’s wonderful, distinctive growl down low, combined with its pissed off bark up top encourages its rider to want to twist that throttle every chance they get. Luckily for us, that engine also produces abundant, usable torque throughout its rev range – a feature that helped it win our comparo.
Look around the liter-class sportbike landscape. The field is littered with some of the most technologically advanced and blindingly fast motorcycles the world has ever seen. Trickle-down technology from the world of MotoGP and World Superbike is making its way to production motorcycles faster than ever before, and it’s hard to deny the sportbike landscape is all the better for it.
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.