Ever since I reviewed the Kawasaki Z1000, I have been intrigued by the naked bike class, and one of the top contenders year after year is the Aprilia Tuono.
So getting my eager little hands on a Tuono Factory after a half-year hiatus from reviewing bikes to tend to family was the perfect way to get back in the saddle. Would the naked Italian compare to the superbikes I’m used to riding? Would I be able to throw it down without worrying about dragging hard parts like the Z1000? Or would it be too much of a compromise from superbike performance to easier riding ergonomics with a detuned superbike motor?
Aprilia offers two versions, the RR and Factory, for the Tuono. The upgraded Factory gets fully adjustable Ohlins suspension, an Ohlins steering damper, racier livery and red wheels instead of black. The RR model is supplied with Sachs suspension and a non-adjustable steering damper. Both bikes get upper level braking systems, APRC electronics and Bosch ABS systems.
Aprilia supplied me with the Factory edition. The livery is very sharp and alluring. Several non-riders commented on how beautiful “my” bike was and some even correctly guessed it was Italian. What can I say… the Italian style bleeds through.
The motor is still the same 65-degree V4 it has been since 2012. Last year, however, displacement was increased to a stout 1,077 cc with an 81 mm bore, up from 78 mm previously. What this means to you is an increase in torque and a broader powerband throughout the low to mid-range. I describe it as having the low-end grunt you would expect from a twin, but with a more linear drive all the way to redline. Not exactly something you feel from the fading top-end power of your typical twin.
I’m a huge fan of how quickly manufacturers have progressed with their electronics. Since traction control and ABS systems became standard on race-ready machines, Aprilia has been ahead of the game. Offering three riding modes with preset electronic levels is a thing of the past. Now, rider adjustability is the name of the game. Changing traction control sensitivity on the fly is simple and intuitive for Tuono riders. Press a “plus” or “minus” button and you’re set. No pulling in the clutch lever for three seconds like with other makes. No decrease in speed while the system waits to see if you mean it. Instant adjustability.
On the other hand, it takes some time to learn how to navigate through modern systems, as I’ve found on the Ducati, BMW, or Yamaha platforms. Aprilia has a simple menu button on the left control that toggles and is depressed to access settings. For the life of me, I just couldn’t get to the option where I was able to adjust the power map. That elusive menu also allows you to recalibrate to different wheel size, which could otherwise cause the electronics (traction control and ABS) to read incorrectly and possibly be hazardous.
The braking system is on both models of the Tuono is outfitted entirely by Brembo. I’ve come to desire that initial bite of a Brembo system on performance bikes and these are the bee’s knees. The monoblock radial calipers up front on the Tuono stop you in a hurry! I also like the steel braided lines that come stock on Tuono models. If you’re a performance geek, you know that replacing rubber lines with steel provides better braking.
The Bosch ABS system does an amazing job paired with the RLM (Rear wheel Lift-up Mitigation) system. I actually had a hard time sliding the rear into turns, which I love to do, but that also means more predictable and reliable stability under hard braking.
I had the idea of testing the launch control by taking the Tuono to the open "drag night" at Irwindale Speedway. Unfortunately, my test didn't go as planned. The launch control is designed for roadracing starts, when tires are already somewhat up to temperature. If I did a burnout to heat the tire, it would fault the electronics and I couldn't use launch control. So I could only use launch control with a cold tire. Despite that handicap, the Tuono jumped out of the gate well enough that if I'd gone half a second quicker, I'd have needed to get my pro license, under the rules. Not bad for a bike that isn't designed to be a drag racer.
My hand was a bit forced, due to road closures from the rare Southern California rain storm. I had to conduct my video review on a much tighter and technical road than I wanted. I was on a road I usually ride on my Husky 510SMR supermoto, because of its quicker handling, and I was concerned it was going to be too much for the Tuono. The precise handling, combined with the wider powerband of the V4 motor and the electronics package, proved me wrong within a couple of passes.
The Tuono is essentially the RSV4 with a handlebar instead of clip-ons I have been on several RSV4s and the Tuono Factory felt exactly the same, except with more front end feel thanks to the wider-set grips. The added leverage, compared to the clip-ons, facilitated faster transitions. The Ohlins steering stabilizer and top-notch suspension kept too much rider input in check, making everything smooth as butter.
I am very familiar with some of the challenging sections on this testing ground from riding my tuned 2008 Honda Fireblade. I know exactly where bumps are in turns that I have to pick the bike up to keep from pushing the front from loss of grip. The Tuono Factory is the first bike I have ridden for an extended period of time with upgraded Ohlins suspension. I could literally stay at full lean through the same bumpy turn without the slightest sign of a front-end slide. The upgraded forks soaked it up and kept me planted, railing through the turn, able to hammer on the throttle without hesitation thanks to the traction control set at level four.
The trick suspension also does a phenomenal job when you’re just commuting on the highway. Splitting lanes in the motorcyclist war zone known as Southern California traffic, I was riding over the continuous line of the lane markers, not even knowing they were there. I once had to get off line and get back on the bumpy reflective mounds to make sure I was actually riding on them. Unexpected holes in the road were also met with unfamiliar smoothness instead of the slight pogoing of my personal bikes. Now I understand why upgrading suspension is the first step for most racers and why it costs so much. You get what you pay for.
The only drawback with the Tuono, like most naked bikes, is the lack of wind protection. I can imagine holding on for dear life and trying to find a bubble behind the nonexistent windscreen on long straights at the track.
In the end, the Tuono struck me not as a commuter-friendly upright bike, but more of a superbike-supermoto hybrid on steriods. Turn off all the electronics, if you dare, and you’ll accumulate performance awards from the fuzz faster than Lorenzo changes helmet sponsors in the off season.
I could easily see riders owning the Tuono to fulfill all their needs: commuting, track, twisties and longer journeys. If there is truly such a thing as an all-in-one performance bike, I would go out on a limb and say the Tuono is a top contender.