You can tell at a glance that the Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 Factory is a fast machine. Everything about its parking-lot demeanor exudes speed in amplified fashion. The “Superpole” graphics slathered over its minimalist plastics would look at home in a World Superbike paddock, and there’s a wreathed reminder of Aprilia’s racing success tattooed atop its tank — 54 World Titles. Hell, even if its bodywork were painted beige, those red, Pirelli-wrapped wheels would still advertise the punch it packs. I laugh quietly to myself and shake my head as I drop the key into its ignition. The next few days will be fun.
It took all of 15 seconds to fall in love, and I haven’t even sat on the thing yet. Outside of Laguna or the Circuit of the Americas, I’ve never heard a bike this raucous. Thanks to its V4 arrangement, the Tuono’s 1,100cc, race-derived 65-degree engine growls like an angry mechanical cat at idle and, with a flick of my right wrist, unleashes 175 horsepower of symphonic fury. At peak (11,000 rpm) it sounds like the colicky, misbegotten bastard of a C63 AMG and an F12 Berlinetta‘s unprotected mistake — a deep, cackling baritone with screeching highs. Yeah, it’s that good.
Traffic, legalities and the fragility of the San Andreas fault won’t allow me to keep the engine at full boil the entire ride, but I’m impressed with the Tuono’s low-speed competencies. I aim south from Costa Mesa and cruise down the PCH to take in the sights, to acclimate to this Italian’s manners and to scare afternoon commuters with throttle blips at every red light. Most fire-breathers don’t like slow-moving traffic, but lower gearing (a 15-tooth countershaft sprocket replaces last year’s 16-tooth unit), a lighter crank and copious amounts of torque (89.2 lb-ft) help with urban civility. So too does the suite of electronics Aprilia have programmed into the Tuono’s ECU (engine control unit) which includes multiple ride modes and an adjust-on-the-fly traction control and ABS module. There are other benefits to Aprilia’s e-wizardry, but my commuter’s pace won’t let me exploit them just yet.
Engine: 1,077cc V4
Torque: 89 lb-ft
Curb Weight: 405 pounds (dry)
Despite its effortless rideability around town I know I’m cheating the Tuono out of showing me its true talents, so I set my sights on a canyon run through Cleveland National Forest. The Tuono begs to be ridden aggressively, and it actively rewards this behavior. I twist up a handful of noise from the throttle and tuck down low. The integrated quick shifter slots cogs at an Uzi’s pace while the Aprilia Wheelie Control module (APC) keeps my front end planted. Screaming into the first bend, the brakes provide excellent feedback and smooth modulation. I purposefully skip the downshift but that magical mill reaches down deep, provides adequate corner balance and never lugs. I head into the next curve properly geared and things feel much better — this bike loves to hunt and peck.
On its lowest setting, traction control lets the rear wheel squirm under hard acceleration, so before I paint the canyon in Superpole smear, I thumb the “+” symbol on my left to keep the beast reigned in. On every empty stretch along the Ortega Highway the Tuono simply devours every curve and undulation. The chassis, upgraded Ohlins suspension and electronic witchcraft play their concert and I feel like Stefan Bradl, dive bombing every curve in sight. Of course, my abilities are nowhere near that MotoGP caliber; that a civilian could exploit so much performance here is testament to the Aprilia Performance Ride Control (APRC) software development team. When a too-quick wrist or a too-slow brain necessitates intervention, APRC simply steps in and figures out a way to make you appear smooth. It’s scary how seamless the interaction is.
The Tuono begs to be ridden aggressively, and it actively rewards this behavior.
Of course, software is only as good as its hardware allows it to be. To that end, the top level Tuono is outfitted with the best available. The forks are completely adjustable, 43mm Öhlins units with a matching, fully adjustable, piggy-back-controlled monoshock in the rear. Braking is tackled by Brembo with twin, 320mm, floating four-piston units up front and a 220mm disc out back, all fed by braided metal lines. The clutch has a mechanical slipper system to prevent lockups during downshifts and an Öhlins steering damper solves any possibility of front-end chatter.
The top-level Tuono may boast a racer’s build sheet but it’s got a street fighter’s stance. The aluminum frame — something it shares with Aprilia’s vaunted RSV4RF — has been tweaked with revised geometry and a set of wide, flat bars atop the triple tree. The result is a surprisingly comfortable machine. Its 3/4 fairing provides decent protection while slicing through the air and a modestly padded seat (also shared with the RSV4) offers enough comfort to drain a full tank. With a set of perfectly sized soft bags, the Tuono would even make a decent long-weekend tourer; the Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 Factory is a track-day weapon that can pose as an easy rider and makes an excellent argument for single-bike ownership.