Copyright 2021, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc.
by Michael Gougis
Back in the bad old days, manufacturers would take sportbikes and de-tune them into standard machines. Horsepower would be cut, weight would be added, and the whole platform would be less potent than the sportbike version.
Aprilia never went that route. Nearly 20 years ago, it took its RSV Mille and turned it into a super-standard called the RSV Tuono. Yes, it had tubular handlebars. Yes, it had smaller fairings. Other than that it was just like the sportbike, and it went like stink.
Sticking with a formula that has worked very well for the company, Aprilia has introduced its 2021 Tuono version of the highly-anticipated and well-received RS 660 introduced a few months back.
Sticking with the tested and successful Tuono formula, the Tuono 660 is almost a carbon copy of the RS 660. It has the same engine, same frame, and almost identical suspension. It has very nearly the same electronics, and the only reason the electronics are different is that by scaling the electronic specifications, Aprilia can afford to offer the bike at a lower price point. It comes with upright handlebars, a slightly less comprehensive fairing, a different fork – and that’s pretty much the extent of the differences between this bike and the RS 660.
The Tuono uses the DOHC, four-valves-per-cylinder, 659cc Parallel Twin based on the technology Aprilia has developed in its amazing RSV4 engines. The company says it puts out 100 bhp and does so over a wide powerband.
The chassis is an abbreviated twin spar aluminum frame mated to an aluminum swingarm, and the engine is a stressed member. Suspension is handled by 41mm inverted forks at the front and a single cantilever shock at the rear.
A six-speed gearbox transmits power to the rear wheel via an assisted slipper clutch. Brembo brakes provide the stopping power front and rear, and the Brembo master cylinder for the front is radial and provides excellent feel at the lever.
The electronics offer ABS, traction control, wheelie control, and a range of power and ride modes. The base Tuono does not come with the clutchless quick shifter and it does not come with the IMU of the RS 660. As such, the rider’s ability to fine-tune the electronics is slightly diminished compared to the RS 660. The wheelie control and traction control, for example, cannot be adjusted independently. The ABS braking is not corner-sensitive. And one of the really cool features of this platform, the cornering lighting, is not available on the non-IMU model.
On the bright side, the quickshifter is only a $199 option, the IMU is only a $200 option, and if you opt for both of them, you have all of the electronic functionality of the full-boogie RS 660 model. With a base price of $10,499, opting for the two electronic add-ons brings the price up to $10,897, neatly splitting the difference between the base Tuono and the RS 660.
We spent a day riding the roads behind Malibu, with the Pacific Ocean as our backdrop much of the ride. That meant a fair amount of climbing uphill from basically sea level, and that showed one of the weaknesses of the Aprilia Tuono. The models that we used for the intro were true production machines and there was definitely a dip in the powerband between 5,000 RPM and 6,500 RPM. It was some thing that I did not notice on the RS 660s when I rode them, but those were pre-production bikes, we were told, and it is unclear whether those RS 660s actually met all applicable emission standards.
Regardless, the Tuono pulled hard from the bottom, and once through that dip in the RPM range, pulled hard all the way up to redline. It’s really remarkable just how much performance Aprilia has extracted from a middleweight twin. It’s fun to wring the thing, it makes awesome noises, and it will do this all day long.
One of the really impressive things about the RS 660 is that it is extremely comfortable. The Tuono takes this another level, with tubular handlebars that are significantly higher than the RS 660’s clip-ons. The wider bars offer a real-world benefit. In the canyons, we spent a fair amount of time dodging rocks in the roadway. That part was not fun. The wider bars allow you to fine tune your inputs at the front end to tighten or widen your line as necessary to avoid unanticipated objects in the road, and to generally compensate for riding on roads with blind corners, dirt mid-corner, etc. The only real downside is a slight lack of feel at the bars compared to the clip-ons of the RS 660, which put the rider’s weight over the front wheel to a greater degree.
The front fork is a slightly less expensive version of the one found on the RS 660, and offers rebound and preload adjustment only in one leg. It has approximately the same performance on the street as the RS 660’s more complicated fork. It was composed enough over smoother pavement, but ripples and sharp bumps allowed the bike to move around too freely. Again, for street use, it’s more than acceptable, but for the committed canyon rider or the person who wants to take this bike to the track regularly, there’s some suspension work in your future.
Again, at street speeds, I really didn’t get too deeply into the traction control or the ABS. For the person who uses one of these bikes to commute, for touring, and for the occasional sport ride, the base electronics would be more than adequate.
One thing that is really outstanding on this bike, at least for street purposes, is the optional clutchless up-and down-shifting system as fitted to my test unit. Once again, it’s a little clunky at slow speeds, but once you start hauling and start shifting at the upper end of the RPM range, it’s smooth, quick and does not upset the chassis.
It’s almost like the Aprilia engineers wanted you to ride the bike hard. And who am I to argue with the desires of the Aprilia engineers?
The motorcycle comes in three color schemes – Concept Black, Iridium Grey and Acid Gold. Suggested retail starts at $10,499, and it should be available in Aprilia dealerships in mid-April.