Note : This is a review of the 2016 model – The 2017 model gains a TFT dash and even more sophisticated electronics package
Test bikes come and go, but few cause a stir among the troops like the Aprilia Tuono Factory model.
In truth it is difficult to write dispassionately about the Tuono because it is, clearly, incredibly good. But while some say this is currently the most stunningly capable naked sports bike on the planet, does that make it an equally great road bike?
Firstly though, before we dive into answering that question… a few details. The new 1100cc (actually 1077cc) engine is similar to the RSV4 lump in the Italian company’s RSV4 superbike, and the old 1000cc Tuono.
It is still a 65 degree V4 that is liquid-cooled, has twin overhead cams and four valves per cylinder, with a six speed gearbox, slipper clutch and a speed-shifter.
The Tuono has always been delivered in a slightly different state of tune compared to the RSV4; mainly resulting in a more road-suitable power delivery (stronger midrange) and slightly reduced top end power.
However, the new motor has been enlarged with more torque in mind, for further increased flexibility on the road with each bore size going from 78 to 81mm. An added bonus is the peak hp has also jumped up to 175hp at 11000rpm while maximum torque is a more than handy (think huge) 120Nm at 9000rpm.
Also new are the smaller, now 36mm rod pins and the cutting edge Pankl con-rods are lighter by a total of 400 grams. Ride-by-wire electronics control the four Weber-Morelli 48mm throttle bodies and injectors, as well as the fantastic power delivery management electronics.
Of course, there are different power modes, S for sport, T for track and R for race. Basically… in all modes it goes like a bat out of hell, it’s just some of those bats are faster than others; from seriously fast right through to simply astonishing.
(This model tested is the 2016 version, the 2017 bike gets an even more sophisticated electronics package and TFT instrumentation).
Hit the starter button and the feral, almost angry but oh-so-cool sounding V4 bursts into life… honestly you could sell this sound, it’s that cool. At very low revs the engine is at its worst, being a whisker abrupt and a little lumpy – but I’m talking about from when the throttle is first cracked open to just above idle.
From then on, remarkably, the engine just gets smoother and smoother – phenomenal. A little below 4000rpm and upwards the engine pulls strongly, at 8000rpm it’s really starting to do the business and from there onwards you should really be on a track and know what you’re doing!
But wait there’s more… even better than the amount of power is the electronic control of it, particularly considering the Tuono is not really a race bike. The traction control and anti-wheel are amazing.
It goes like this, on a wet incline with the throttle pinned the rear starts to spin a little controlled by the TC, the front wheel lifts about 100mm from the deck but the anti-wheelie stops it going any higher, the rear tyre is still spinning somewhat as the revs are approaching the rev limiter.
Hook another gear on the speed shifter and the whole process is repeated! Awesome stuff and each TC management modes can be finely tuned for personal preference. It’s seriously a stunning set of electronics.
The handling and general balance of the 1100 is sublime with the Ohlins suspension playing a big part in the extremely confidence-inspiring ride. Genuinely great suspension is plush, smooth and controlled in action and somehow never seems to bottom out or unsettle the bike/rider no matter what, or how fast, you are attacking our sketchy pothole festooned back roads.
This is what the Tuono Factory delivers – simply fantastic suspension action. The Ohlins forks are 43mm USD fully adjustable units with 120mm of wheel travel. The rear shock, also by Ohlins, is fully adjustable with 130mm of travel, plus tucked away up on the triple clamps is an Ohlins steering damper.
Of course, no matter how good the suspension is, if the chassis is crap the bike will still handle awfully – a case in point being the first alloy framed Honda CR250R, which was so rigid it was basically unrideable.
Fortunately the Tuono has a superb aluminium dual-beam chassis with pressed sheet and cast alloy elements. The steering is agile and precise, the stability excellent.
For me at least, some of the awesome handling comes from the more upright and commanding riding position (than a superbike style) with the wide, straight bars offering genuine purchase to coerce this very grunty beast around as needed.
The ergonomics are pretty roomy with a reasonably high 825mm seat, high-ish footpegs and not too much of a reach to the bars. The pillion pegs are probably uncomfortably high for most adults bigger than a Hobbit and the actual pillion seat is an optional extra if required – and there’s not much of it either.
Something else not so great is the steering lock when manoeuvring is rubbish… brush up on your four- or five-point turns. The clutch lever is not span adjustable, which meant I couldn’t set it for my preferred two-finger use without taking up too much free play and the danger of having the clutch slip – come on Aprilia, this is a premium bike and should have a span adjustable clutch lever.
But this is minor stuff and really only comes to mind because everything else is so well considered.The brakes are fantastic and while not using Brembo top line M50 front calipers, the twin monobloc Brembo four piston M4 32 radially mounted calipers are still top units.
They offer great initial bite and very strong stopping power thereafter with excellent feel. Both front discs are floating 320mm items. The single rear disc is 220mm in diameter and has a two-piston floating Brembo caliper. All the brakes have steel braided lines as standard, just like race bikes.
However, even top brakes won’t do much without decent rubber to hold tight on to the road surface. Again, the Tuono is on top of the game with 120/70-17 front and 200/55-17 rear Pirelli Supercorsa SPs that are excellent track day suitable tyres.
The dash is a single all LCD display that covers everything including lap times and all the various TC and ABS settings, speed, revs and warning lights. The only problem with all these settings is the switch to change modes seems unfathomable to me with seemingly no logical sequence to mode adjustment… clearly I need it all explained to me by an Italian engineer – I think all the hand gesticulations would help.
So now to answer the question, is the Tuono a fantastic road bike too? Absolutely and utterly yes… for the experienced rider. It is beyond beautiful to look at with fantastic build quality and outstanding attention to detail.
It has an exhaust not that’s almost blood-curdlingly awesome, with a power delivery to match. However, it is still very easily controlled with flexible and useable power, and the handling is light and very precise. The small, curved screen does a decent job of keeping wind pressure off the rider at speed and the Ohlins suspension provides an excellent ride.
So what is the only real down side to the Tuono 1100 Factory on the road? Well, like all extremely fast machines, it requires a lot of self discipline – do you have the necessary self control?
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