RSV4

As reviewed by Ultimate Motorcycle (May, 2010)

Ever since Aprilia introduced its first motorcycle in 1968, it has been passionate about racing-unsurprisingly, perhaps, as the firm is Italian. But not content with merely competing at the highest levels, Aprilia has also accumulated some 40 world championship titles in the process.

Aprilia's return to the World Superbike stage in 2009 and its consistent running at the front proved the company's engineering prowess beyond doubt. The upside for us is that we can now reap the benefit of the lessons learned in that pressure cooker as Aprilia's new RSV4 Factory street bike hits American showrooms. It is essentially the World Superbike race machine, with lights.

Aprilia's racing DNA clearly shows through in the RSV4 Factory, and when the bike was first delivered I found myself simply studying it in stunned amazement. Futuristically styled with an angular nose and stubby tail section, expensive carbon fiber abounds; the fins and various aero treatments on the machine only add to its aggressive styling. The paint is deep and lustrous, and the striking neon orange offsets the menacing look of the black and metallic highlights that scream purposeful high technology. A large titanium nut atop the triple clamp and the gold Öhlins 43mm forks with sky-blue caps enhance the premium-quality impression. The RSV4's instrument panel is only easily readable when you are in a racing crouch-no big surprise, of course, but it is the one legacy from the race bike I don't welcome. Other than that, Aprilia's attention to detail is striking. For example, precision offset shims enable every aspect of the chassis to be adjusted, including both the position and incline of the headstock, the height of the swing arm pivot, and, uniquely, even the engine position.

With a whirring, offbeat exhaust note similar to Yamaha's crossplane R1, even at idle the RSV4 is throaty enough to make you smile. And hard on the gas with the power flooding in, the growl becomes an electrifying howl that curdles the blood. The 65-degree V-4 motor has a one-piece crankcase and integrated cylinder liners making it extremely rigid, and Aprilia's unique cam timing allows extremely compact heads, making the RSV4 narrow and therefore aerodynamically efficient. Revving to over 14,000 rpm, the short-stroke motor has been specifically engineered to minimize gyrocscopic inertia, and combined with Aprilia's careful attention to mass-centralization, gives the RSV4 its spectacular agility. The race-derived cassette-style gearbox is tactile and positive, and the slipper clutch is useful in the canyons.

Weber-Marelli supplied the ride-by-wire fueling system, and although it does not have traction control, the throttle connection is perfect. Three power delivery settings-Track, Sport and Road-can be toggled through with the starter button once the motor is running. Road mode limits you to 140 (crankshaft) horsepower-great for the rain, but uninspiring in the dry; the other two settings unleash the full 180 horsepower (claimed at 12,500 rpm). The RSV4 pulls linearly and strongly as soon as you are underway, so Sport mode with its gentler torque delivery in the bottom three gears makes the ride smoother on tight canyon roads.

If you are buying an RSV4 Factory, then you are probably as addicted to speed as I am, and that means Track mode is the place to be. With 85 ft/lbs of torque peaking at 10,000 rpm, and a motor that spins up instantly when you blip the throttle, it would be easy to think the RSV4 rides like a peaky two-stroke. Actually, the engine is surprisingly torquey at low revs and the RSV4 is perfectly docile around town, but that docility disappears as the revs wind up and the motor goes into a feeding frenzy. Although it is predictable power, the lack of flywheel inertia builds everything so fast that the front will come up quickly in the lower gears if you are not careful. It doesn't have quite the shove of Suzuki's GSX-R1000, yet freeway on-ramps are still a mixture of hanging-on-for-dear-life and a grin that hurts the cheek muscles.

Read the full review at Ultimate Motorcycle

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Models

RSV4

RSV4 Factory

STARTING AT 15,995

*plus freight, setup and licensing fees where applicable.