2010 Aprilia RSV4 Factory Mallory Park track test

Small, feisty and peaky, but raw, basic and flawed in some respects. Aside from all that, a beautiful creation and a most lusted after machine. And very, very fast too


Aprilia’s 998cc V4 motor is a jewel. Not only is it almost comically small and compact, it’s uncannily smooth, massively flexible and it sounds gorgeous.

The shape and duration of the power curve speak volumes about real life behaviour of the motor. Linear, elastic and controllable. Not to mention immensely powerful. The ‘kick’ you feel at 10,000rpm is actually a flat spot between 10 and 11,000rpm – the only dip in the otherwise progressive power curve. This is where the wonders of variable length intake trumpets take over.

At 9750rpm the servo activates and shortens the bellmouths on the injectors for peak power. As this takes effect, the power increases while the torque dips accordingly. In this company the Aprilia doesn’t win the numbers game but it more than makes up for it with a massive amount of controllable, progressive delivery. Just a shame the slipper clutch doesn’t deliver the goods.

Mallory Park Track Data

The Aprila RSV4 Factory is top dog down Mallory’s main start/finish straight, or sector six as we call it on our data trace. Here, with its trumpets shortened and with Whitham’s nose pressed against the clocks in fifth gear it’s really pulling hard. It sounds absolutely amazing from pit wall, too. So you can imagine the quality of the onboard soundtrack.

But it loses out to the BMW in the braking zone for Gerards entering at ‘just’ 141.1mph as opposed to the BMW’s 146.3mph. The BMW holds this advantage all the way through Gerards recording a mid-corner speed 3mph faster and an exit speed 5mph faster. You’ve got to think the Aprilia’s lack of traction control plays a part here.

Everywhere else the mighty Aprilia is just a tenth slower here, there and everywhere than the BMW. Maybe this is the massively tall first gear, a slipper clutch that doesn’t and the glaring lack of traction control…

Whitham’s take

“Everything about the RSV4 is uncompromising, purposeful and aggressive. It looks like it’s gonna try and bite you when you walk past it. Of the four bikes here it’s the nearest to a race bike in virtually every respect: weight distribution, suspension, geometry and power delivery characteristics.

“It steers quickly and very precisely at all speeds but at the expense of stability. Before I headed out onto the track I waggled the bars from side to side and felt the steering damper was almost full on. I like to run as little steering damper as I can, so I turned the clicker to minimum as I set off. With every headshake I reached into the nose cone and added a couple of clicks. Within four laps I was right back on max again.

“The motor is awesome but doesn’t deliver its power as you would expect a V4 to. You’d think a one-litre V4 would have loads of torque and mid-range. It doesn’t. Certainly nowhere near the grunt of the Duke and probably less than the BMW too I felt.

“What it does do is pull reasonably and sensibly lower down in the rev-range, then goes mental at ten grand, pulling cleanly and strongly right to the 14K limit. In a race situation you’d gear this bike to stay above that threshold. On a track day you just need to be careful.

“The brakes have phenomenal power, but the lack of slipper clutch and the short-coupled nature of the bike in general means the rear locked up easily braking into any of the slower turns. To get round this I ended up making more of an effort to blip the throttle on the down shifts and feather the clutch a bit so the rear wheel could keep up with the road, just like we had to do in the good old days!

“An experienced racer who can ride this bike with aggression and accuracy would push it round very quickly. For most other people it might be a bit unforgiving. Karl Harris will be worth watching this season.”

Aprilia Data

Fastest lap 58.39
Theoretical best (optimum section times added together) 57.59
Section times 3.76, 7.84, 10.76, 14.04, 15.40, 6.59
Top speed 138.44 mph
Slowest speed 18.7 mph
Speed at mid and exit of Gerrards mid=82.0 mph exit = 97.17 mph
Braking force 1.05g section 4 hairpin
Maximum lean angle 47.55 degrees mid Gerards

Good points

  • Astonishing handling
  • Staggeringly beautiful

Bad points

  • Bit of a handful on the road
  • Bit of a handful on the wallet

Rating: 4/5

Return to Euro Exotica

2010 Aprilia RSV4 Factory Specifications

Price £14,999
Top speed 172.4mph Engine 999.6cc, 16 valves, liquid-cooled, V-four
Bore and stroke 78mm x 52.3mm Compression ratio 12.8:1
Power 160bhp @ 10,000rpm Torque 76ft/lbs @ 8,750rpm
Front suspension Inverted telescopic forks Adjustment Preload, compression and rebound
Rear suspension Monoshock Adjustment Preload, compression and rebound
Front brakes Four-piston Brembo calipers, 320mm discs
Rear brake
Twin-piston caliper, 220mm disc
Dry weight 190kg (419lbs) Seat height 179mm Fuel capacity 17-litres
Colour options Red/Black