2020 Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory
By Adam Child ‘Chad’ – Photography by Snapshot
You’d think 214 bhp in the wet would be frightening, like stepping into a bull ring for the first time and running around in a red cape. That much power and force should be overwhelming in the wet – but the new 2020 Aprilia RSV4 Factory has ensured it isn’t.
This is the most advanced RSV to ever leave the Aprilia factory, and it now comes fitted with the latest electronic Smart EC 2.0 Öhlins suspension and steering damper, and alongside some clever rider aids, it makes this supersonic superbike quite usable in the wet.
And it’s far easier to set up, too. Its semi-active suspension now has three ‘active’ modes and three ‘static’ modes, which are electronically adjustable from the buttons on the left ’bar.
You could argue Aprilia is a little late to the game given the major manufacturers already have electronic semi-active suspension. But, to quote Aprilia directly, “We would never use semi-active suspension until the stopwatch demonstrated an improvement in terms of lap times. That time has come. After two years of development in close contact with Öhlins technicians, and thanks also to experience gained with the Tuono V4 1100 Factory, semi-active suspension now features on the top-of-the-range RSV4 1100 Factory.”
Aprilia has extensively tested the new Öhlins electronic suspension at tracks like Imola and Mugello, and is claiming the new RSV4 1100 Factory is now half-a-second faster as a result. So 214 bhp, 177 kg dry – all sitting alongside some huge electronic advancement. I was like a kid on Christmas Eve.
We headed to a very wet Vallelunga race-track just outside Rome to put it through its paces. If it worked in the wet, I reasoned, then it’s sure to work in the dry.
Taking Your Money
It costs $38,690 Ride-Away, so Aprilia is slotting the new RSV4 factory right into the middle of the pricing war. It’s cheaper than Honda’s Fireblade CBR1000RR-R SP at $49,999 +ORC, and cheaper than its closest rival, which is arguably Ducati’s Panigale V4 S at $40,390 Ride-Away.
Interestingly the previous V4 1100 Factory, with conventional Öhlins suspension was listed at $33,990 + ORC, so you’re only paying $3000-odd for the clever electronic suspension once you factor in on-road costs. Both Kawasaki’s ZX-10SE and Yamaha’s R1M come with semi-active suspension and are cheaper again; the Yamaha at $34,999 Ride-Away and the Kawasaki at only $25,999 Ride-Away.
Power and Torque
So when did 200-plus bhp become normal? Quite recently, actually. In today’s superbike battles, if you haven’t got over 200 bhp to warm your tyres, you’re effectively bringing a knife to a gun fight.
The V4 engine remains unchanged for 2020, which means 214 bhp at 13,200 rpm and 122 Nm at 11,000 rpm. At the start of 2019, the RSV4 was upped in capacity from 1000cc to 1077cc by keeping the stroke the same but increasing the bore from 78mm to 81mm, and although power remains identical on the ‘new’ model, it’s still hugely impressive.
It’s not a one-trick pony either; torque from the V4 is stunning and, on paper, its 122 Nm blows away the Japanese competition. It is only edged out by the slightly larger-capacity Ducati (Aprilia: 1077 cc, Panigale: 1103 cc), with a quoted 123.3 Nm of torque.
Engine, Gearbox and Exhaust
The team that designed the fly-by-wire fuelling deserve a huge pay rise, because it’s perfect. I recently rode the new 1100 Tuono on track and couldn’t compliment the fuelling enough. It’s the same story with the new RSV4 Factory. It’s so precise, yet without any snatch. There isn’t a trace of lag, and you always feel you’re in direct management of the bike and have a perfect connection. The gearbox, combined with the up-and-down quick-shifter is also flawless.
In wet and tricky conditions this is exactly what you require; immaculate fuelling and throttle response that allow you to seek out grip, with quick gear changes to moderate and optimise the force to the rear tyre. Add to that the road-legal titanium Akrapovic exhaust, and you have a sweet soundtrack to help you along. I’m unsure how Aprilia have managed to get it past the Euro regulators, but it does sound nice, even at low revs.
The engine is a peach. The 65-degree V4 provides a lovely synchronisation between usable torque in the low and mid-range, and a screaming over-run of power that ultimately hits the rev limiter at 13,600rpm. On test, in heavy rain, I simply short-shifted to give the rear full racing wet tyre a calmer time. But in dryer conditions, I let it shriek, only changing gear when the rev limiter lights flashed, logging 265km/h down the relatively short back straight.
There are three engine modes to choose from: Rain, Sport, and Track. Despite the rain, everyone still opted for Sport mode; Rain mode is for wet riding on standard tyres, and we were using full race wets. Each of the three maps gives you full power, but changes the engine character and power delivery. The modes also change the percentage of engine braking, which is specific to each map.
Handling, Suspension, Chassis and Weight
For 2020 with the electronic Smart EC 2.0 Öhlins suspension and steering damper, you now have three ‘Active’ options – A1, A2 and A3 – and three ‘Manual’ options – M1, M2 and M3. Active signifies the suspension is acting according to the road and riding, and Manual is more like conventional suspension.
A1 is used for slick tyres, obviously on a racetrack, which should, surface-wise, be relatively smooth. A2 is for race or track-day tyres, again on track, but now the track is a little bumpy. And, finally, A3 allows more movement for the road on road tyres.
The manual modes are similar but not semi-active. The modes within Active and Manual are not fixed and can be fine-tuned to the rider’s weight and skill, weather conditions, track, etc. The Öhlins steering damper is also now managed electronically.
Aprilia has simplified fine-tuning the suspension, so you don’t need to be an Öhlin’s technician to get the perfect set-up. Everything is presented via a 4.3-inch full-colour dash using the buttons the left ’bar. But Aprilia doesn’t use words like “compression” Instead, you have the option to increase or decrease “brake support”, or reduce or increase “rear support” on acceleration. You can even add or reduce “cornering support”.
For most of the test ride I opted for A2; track use with race tyres. Yes, it was wet, but grip was acceptable, and Vallelunga is a flat and relatively smooth race track. On the RSV4 I immediately felt at home. Some taller and larger riders remarked on the smallish ergonomics of the RSV, but I’ve always found it roomy enough on the road. As soon as you leave pit lane, your confidence is boosted by that perfect fuelling, which means on pre-heated wet race tyres you can attack from the get-go.
Every now and then electronic suspension can take away a chassis’ natural feedback. You tend to rely on the suspension and tyres rather than feel the level of grip, but not so on the Aprilia. I’d never ridden Valleunga previously, and I soon discovered different sectors of the track have fluctuating levels of grip, which changed several times during the four-kilometre lap. But after only a handful of laps I’d worked this out, and this was all down to the superb response via the Smart EC-2 Öhlins suspension.
It was the same result in braking and acceleration. Once again, the Öhlins suspension allowed me to feel for the grip available. I could brake later and later as the conditions improved, get on the power slightly earlier, feel the rear wet tyre take the load and smoothly, and with the precise fuelling, start accelerating.
The chassis is outstanding, you can make mistakes and bring it back to a tighter line without it objecting. I couldn’t push as hard in the wet as I could in the dry, but the data showed towards to end of the day when the rain stopped, I’d achieved a lean angle of 45-degrees on those wets, and I always felt relatively safe, thanks to the feedback the chassis was giving me.
In 2019 Aprilia upgraded the Brembo brakes from the old M50 radial calipers to the new Stylema items to put the RSV on-par with the opposition. The braking set-up remains untouched. There are three levels of ABS: Level 1, with conventional ABS on the front and no ABS on the rear; Level 2 with corning ABS front and back with rear-wheel-lift intervention; and Level 3 with corning ABS front and back and rear-wheel-lift intervention, which is more road specific.
I was immediately impressed by the feedback and lack of intrusiveness of Level 1. On par with the other very clever rider aids, you can’t ‘feel’ the system working; there is no juddering. Only in severe situations in greasy conditions did I feel the system take over, saving me from locking up the front tyre.
More toys than Santa
You have the previously rider modes, Race, Track and Sport, which give full power in each mode and simply change the engine character, responsiveness and engine brake assist. You also have the braking modes mentioned above.
But there’s more. There’s the eight-stage traction control, which is simple to change via the thumb and finger toggle on the left ’bar. It is easily altered on the fly and can also be deactivated.
More? Sure. AWC is three-level Aprilia Wheelie Control; ALC is Aprilia Launch Control; AQS is Aprilia Quick Shift; a pit lane limiter, APL, and even cruise control, ACC.
To make a 214 bhp Superbike functional and rideable in the wet takes very clever electronics and rider aids. I’ve ridden the previous model and the naked Tuono, which have very similar electronics, and both are exceptional. The only downside, and this is me being very picky, is the engine brake assist, which prevents the rear from locking up, but unlike other manufacturers’ similar systems, can’t be changed independently. In fact, it can only be changed via the three engine modes.
We had the optional front brake carbon air vents fitted, which are designed to cool down the calipers and maintain a consistent braking performance.
Other accessories include a full racing exhaust from Akrapovic, which requires a dedicated map supplied by Aprilia Racing. There is also a racing ECU designed for track use and to work with the dedicated racing exhaust. Cosmetically, there are a host of carbon extras to lighten the bike further and give even greater visual impact.
I’m struggling to find a negative, aside from the atrocious track conditions at its launch, and maybe the rather small dash – but even that is still clear and easy to read. All I have are superlatives and applause for the revamped 2020 model.
The fuelling is flawless; the gearchange, the quick-shifter, engine performance, and sound, are hard to fault. On test, the new Öhlins electronic suspension was fantastically responsive which increased rider confidence. And it’s easy to adjust and personalise, too. The electronic rider aids are some of the very best, and to top of it all off, the RSV4 looks just stunning. Aprilia doesn’t make ugly bikes.
Hopefully, my track impressions transmit to the road. I can’t wait to find out.
|2020 Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory Specifications|
|Engine||Liquid-cooled 65° V4 DOHC 16-valve, 1077cc|
|Bore x Stroke||81 x 52.3 mm|
|Claimed Power||159.6 kW (217 hp) @ 13,200 rpm|
|Claimed Torque||122 Nm (89.98 lb-ft) @ 10,500 rpm|
|Induction||Four Marelli 48 mm throttle-bodies with eight injectors, RbW|
|Clutch||Multi-disc oil bath with mechanical slipper system|
|Frame||Aluminium dual beam frame with pressed and cast sheet elements|
|Forks||43mm fully adjustable Smart EC 2.0 electronic Öhlins suspension, fully adjustable|
|Shock||Smart EC 2.0 electronic Öhlins TTX monoshock, fully adjustable|
|Tyres||120/70 ZR17, 200/55 ZR17|
|Front Brakes||2 x 330 mm discs, Brembo Stylema monobloc four-piston calipers with cornering ABS|
|Rear Brake||220mm single disc, Brembo 2-piston caliper with ABS|
|Electronics||Three rider modes, APRC System (Aprilia Performance Ride Control), which includes Traction Control (ATC), Wheelie, Control (AWC), Launch Control (ALC), cruise control (ACC) and speed limiter (APT)|
|Instrumentation||4.3 inch TFT|
|Rake / Trail||24.5°/103.8 mm|
|Fuel Capacity||18.5 litres|
|Service Intervals||10,000 km|