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2010 Aprilia RSV4 Factory Review

Introducing The New Premium Superbike Alternative

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating

By

Aprilia RSV4
Photo © Basem Wasef
Does the world really need another superbike? Between Honda’s CBR1000RR, Yamaha’s R1, and Suzuki’s GSX-R1000, speed starved riders have plenty of bestial bikes to feast on.

But Aprilia was serious enough about entering the literbike market—not to mention World Superbike Racing—that they built an all-new bike from the ground up with the ambitious goal of redefining this supersaturated market.

Enter Aprilia’s RSV4 Factory, priced at $20,999.

THE GOODS: Tailor-Made V-Four Ferocity

Most typical Japanese superbikes, and even oddball Germans like BMW’s new S1000RR, follow the inline-4 formula: four cylinders arranged in line with each other.

Not the Aprilia RSV4 Factory.

Its 999.6 cc engine is a 65 degree V4, which lays the cylinders out in pairs that meet in a “V,” like the engine layout of less all-out motorcycles like the Honda VFR. But the key to the RSV4's screaming 180 horsepower engine (which revs to 14,100 rpm and produces peak power at 12,500 rpm) is its unusual compactness. Aprilia's V4 displaces about as much size as many twins, like the one found in one of the bike's biggest competitor, the Ducati 1198.

That theme of compactness is carried throughout the bike, from its aluminum alloy perimeter frame to the saddle that meets at a narrow point, as seen in this overhead shot.

The rest of the RSV4 Factory's goods are textbook top-shelf. The engine is mated to a slipper-equipped clutch and a cassette-style 6-speed, and exhaust is routed through a 4-2-1 exhaust. Weight distribution is an almost-even 52% front/48% rear, and a dry weight of 395 pounds is aided by forged aluminum alloy wheels. Dual disc 320mm Brembo brakes up front and 220mm rears offer stopping power, and the front suspension consists of fully adjustable Tin coated 43mm Öhlins forks while the rear monoshock has spring preload, wheelbase, compression and rebound damping adjustability.

From its intake-equipped nose to its finned tail section, the RSV4 Factory is decked out with styling cues as distinctive as its nonconformist powertrain.

SWING A LEG OVER: Track-worthy firepower for the street

Aprilia RSV4Photo © Basem Wasef
Some sport bikes have sporting pretensions, but aren't quite ready for track duty. The Aprilia RSV4? Well, it's pretty much a wolf in wolf's clothing; from the minute you swing a leg over its rather tall 33.2 inch saddle, you'll likely be struck by this bike's committed riding position and its compact proportions.

Lay your belly on the tank, and the cockpit view puts your helmet up against a digital and analog instrument cluster and a nicely polished aluminum triple clamp. The RSV4 Factory's ergonomics are tight, but not unnatural to the point of discomfort-- at least initially.

Fire up the V-four, and its exhaust note projects a deeply satisfying hum. While I noted that the Yamaha R1's crossplane-equipped sounds and behaves like a V-four, this here's the high-tech real deal, equipped with fly-by-wire throttle, variable intake ducts, and three injection modes adjustable via the start button on the right grip controls: Track, Sport, and Road.

ON THE ROAD: Two-Wheeled Telepathy

The RSV4's mighty V-four responds with stunning immediacy; twist the throttle, and seamless power pushes the RSV4 forward with wheel-lifting thrust. But when you look down at the tach, the revs invariably reveal that there's more space than you expect between the needle and redline. Torque delivery is smooth, with some vibration becoming evident at higher rpms. Likewise, decibel level kicks up considerably when the engine is egged on.

Handling is also exemplary. Since the body feels notably smaller than comparable literbikes, dipping the bike into turns is confidence-inspiring. Ridden aggressively, direction changes come easily and the bike stays committed in corners; at least during my time in the canyons, the bike's abilities far exceeded my comfort level with wringing out its performance, as I consciously avoided attracting attention from law enforcement on local canyon roads. The RSV4's extremely high limits seemed like they might even be overqualified for track duty, as I barely began dipping into its acceleration and handling capabilities before I ran out of road (and intestinal fortitude.)

A less aggressive riding style reveals slightly choppy fueling during roll-on throttle at lower engine speeds (around 3,000 rpm.) The engine is predictable enough at lower speeds to be manageable, though switching modes doesn't change the relatively sharp throttle response as much as I'd like. Ride quality is firm but not jarring, and after some time in the saddle the riding position can tax your wrists… not that that matters much to the clientele buying this boutique bike.

IN CONCLUSION: High Dollar, High Yield

Photo © Aprilia
At $20,999, the Aprilia RSV4 Factory is a fairly big ticket item. It's roughly $7,000 to $8,000 pricier than its Japanese (and German) competition, though proponents will (rightly) point out that a more appropriate point of comparison might be something like the $21,795, Öhlins-equipped Ducati 1198S superbike or the $19,998 KTM RC8R.

Aprilia offers their down-spec RSV4 R variant with the same 180 horsepower powerplant, less the Factory model's premium Öhlins suspension components, chassis adjustability, and lightweight wheels. Unless you're serious about tracking your sportbike, the RSV4 R's $15,999 price tag starts looking attractive— especially considering it shares the Factory model's engine and brakes.

But if you're looking for a top-shelf sportbike that can rumble with the best of them, the RSV4 Factory is one of the rare superbikes that achieves world class status. If you've got the means and your ultimate goal is to feel like a World Superbike stud as you ride down your favorite road, the Aprilia RSV4 Factory should fit the bill quite nicely— even if the world doesn't need another superbike.

Click here for a 2010 Aprilia RSV4 Factory Photo Gallery
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