First UK ride: 2014 Aprilia Tuono V4R ABS review

Can the new Tuono hold its own in the ultra-competitive super nakeds class?

WITH the recent launches of the S1000R, Z1000, 1290 Super Duke R and Monster 1200, the new Tuono V4R ABS always had a tough act to follow.

Competition within the super naked class is fierce with manufacturers slowly but surely bridging the gap in performance between faired sportsbikes and their naked counterparts. And the revised Tuono is no exception to the rule.

Plant yourself on the tall 835mm seat and the first thing you notice are the ergonomics, you sit on top of this bike, not in it. The bars are flat and require a stretch over the angular tank - only several miles of riding is needed to confirm that the Tuono is just about as close to a full-blooded sportsbike as a naked could ever be.

And the engine is no different. Thumb the starter and the 170hp 999cc V4 aggressively barks into life. The 65-degree motor gets a revised fuel-injection system, a new silencer, and has received subtle modifications to reduce internal friction, all of which results in a 3hp increase from last year’s model. As if extra power was what it needed.

It also has a soundtrack like no other, going from an ominous crackling rumble at idle, to a full-on intoxicating symphony of raucous bellowing towards its 12,300rpm redline. It’s fantastic and above 4,000rpm the fuelling is smooth enough not to detract from the riding experience.

Devastatingly quick is possibly the only way to describe the Tuono. It will happily hit 81mph in first gear and go on to reach over 160mph, incredible when you consider it’s naked guise probably makes it about as aerodynamic as a toaster.

Despite the visceral experience that the bike provides, it’s almost difficult to class it as a motorcycle. With Aprilia’s aPRC onboard - or traction control, launch control, wheelie control, a quickshifter, and ABS as it’s known to you and I, it’s perhaps easier to justify the Tuono as a computer on wheels. Not that that’s a bad thing necessarily.

The eight-level traction control can all be adjusted on the fly, and for a while I was under the impression that if you didn’t instigate wheel spin, it would automatically lower the setting until you reached level one, the least intrusive of the bunch. Since then, I've discovered that an incorrectly positioned clutch lever will actually brush the traction control button during gear changes, resulting in the system lowering from your desired setting down to level one. When working correctly, the TC system cuts power smoothly and quickly. I just wouldn't want to be that guy inadvertently lowering the setting whilst out in the rain on the stock Pirelli Supercorsas.

The new-for-2014 ABS is a Bosch 9MP unit and adds 2kg to the bike’s 185kg dry weight, a small price to pay for extra safety and peace of mind. The system works on both wheels in each of the three settings: Track, Sport and Rain, and works in conjunction with RLM, which limits the height that the rear wheel can lift to under heavy braking.

The quickshifter which comes as standard works at any speed, although is at its smoothest during high speed upshifts, helping you extract maximum performance as you knock up through the slick six-speed gearbox.

However, it’s how the package works collectively that makes the Tuono such a pleasure to ride. Find a suitable stretch of tarmac where you can open the taps, chuck in some corners, and it’s hard to describe the experience as anything short of motorcycling nirvana.

It all feels so well setup; high-speed cornering is done with utter composure and isn’t achieved at the expense of turn-in speed either. It willingly drops onto the edge of its tyre no matter how fast you’re going. It’s quick-steering redefined, so much so that I found myself turning into corners too early. Perhaps I need a couple of settings of my own: Luke mode and Tuono mode.

The new Brembo M432 monoblocks clamp down on 320mm discs and deliver a powerful braking setup. However, initial bite isn’t as sharp as I’d have hoped for on something as track-focused as the Aprilia, and the ABS cuts in too early, even in Sport mode.

Perhaps one of my biggest qualms though is not with the bike itself, but its reputation. Mention a V4 Tuono, or mention its power figure and lack of fairing, and most people will brand it a hooligan bike - and it simply isn’t. The combination of tall gearing, a short wheelbase, and enough power to kick-start a small sun means riding it is much more enjoyable with both wheels on the ground. Forget balance point wheelies or backing it in sideways, the Aprilia makes hard work of it and implores you to set faster lap times instead of larking around.

That’s not to say it doesn’t belong on public roads though. The riding position is comfortable, the engine smooth, and with a new 18.5L fuel tank you should just about manage to get 140 miles out of a tank. That is - if you can refrain from self-gratifying throttle-blips.

At £12,432, the Tuono sits at the pricier end of its rivals, pipped only by the Ducati Monster 1200S and the eye-wateringly expensive £13,999 KTM 1290 Super Duke R. It may not be the hooligan bike you were hoping for, but it offers one of the most sophisticated electronic packages around matched to one of the most exciting engines you’ll find in a production bike. In other words, it’s unlikely to disappoint. 

Model tested: 2014 Aprilia Tuono V4R ABS

Price: £12,432

Power: 170hp (claimed)

Torque: 82lbft

Dry weight: 185kg (dry weight)

Seat height: 835mm

Availability: now