Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 Factory Review – NAKED THUNDER

Where there is the Thunder, will rain be far behind? We ride the most powerful high performance sport naked bike on the planet on the first weekend of monsoon. Price is in the INR 20-25 lakh range. Images - Shantanu Singh Rathore.

Bulldogs had a purpose. Vane as it was, these stocky canines were bred for the ‘entertainment’ of yore known as bull-baiting. Let loose on a closed arena, bets would be taken on how fast a well-bred and trained example could ferociously devour the bovine that had the misfortune of suffering on that particular day. Yet, for its entire sponsored maniacal spree in the ring, the bulldog was a house pet and hence expected to behave as such, once leashed. Not to mention, they are known to be great around kids.

So when one looks at the Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 Factory, with its squat front stance, stubby raised tail, ungodly release of torque from the word go, and an adjustable leash in the form of myriad thingamajig gizmos to keep it from taking a nip at you, it appears no less than a champion bulldog reincarnate – but bearing the Italian Tricolore stripes, of course.

Then there is its name; Tuono translates to Thunder from Italian. And it remains unclear whether one should commend the chaps over at Noale in Italy for this spot-on identification, or thank them for the warning. In typical over-the-top Italian fashion, the boffins at Aprilia decided that the previous 999 cc iteration of the machine was grossly inadequate in the face of growing European competition from the likes of KTM and BMW.

So the Italian company upped the Tuono 65-degree V4’s engine displacement to 1,077 cc by increasing the bore from 78 mm to 81 mm, bumping up maximum power to 175 BHP at 11,000 RPM, and a time-warping peak torque figure of 121 NM at 8,000 RPM. More significantly, there is a claimed 20-BHP jump in power up at the 8,000-RPM mark as compared to the previous motor. Read on to find out how that churns one’s internals.

Where there is the Thunder, will rain be far behind? The question of taking this – the most powerful high performance naked bike on the planet – out on the first weekend of monsoon faded soon after this reviewer lifted his boots off the tarmac. For, as it would turn out, the Tuono is also among the friendliest beasts one could hope to live with. (Please, Italian Santa, won’t you please send me one?)

The Factory trim of the Tuono we rode, with its loud Aprilia silver and black graphic on either side, is accentuated by scarlet red highlights and wheels. Parked in the dark or by the roadside during day, the dramatic look ensures it stands out for all its sculpted magnificence. Que Bella!

For a naked, though, this motorcycle is quite covered up, thanks to flanks on either side of the radiator that transition from small wings under the nearly half-faired front. The beastly V4 motor is too tucked in from a purist’s perspective. But hey, far be it from me to question the design and engineering choices on this race-bred masterpiece.

Swinging one’s leg over the saddle results in a notion-tossing feeling. Is this plush, comfortable seat really what they intended to put on a machine that maxes out at about 270 kmph? The supportive seat coupled with the wide flat handlebar hits the sweet spot for this reviewer’s 5-foot-9-inch frame and thus brings a certain confidence boosting appeal while on the move.

The seat height is a comfortable 825 mm, accessible for most with room for a slight bend at the knee. The overall measurements too are similar to bikes in to 350 cc to 650 cc bracket. Heck, one could get used to these dimensions for more than just weekend runs!

Disengage the trigger-style kill switch, crank the motor and revel in the noise of pure aural orgasm – once you experience this throaty V4 exhaust note, nothing else will ever do. Ever.

Weeks, months, years may go by and you will still identify this sound from a distance remembering your own chance encounter with a sort of fondness reserved for purely carnal memories. Mind, you will blush much the same way too!

The level of seduction is entirely shocking when you learn that this is no easy-going motor either. The horses rain, nay pour quicker than you can rein them in.

This is where the Aprilia Performance Ride Control (APRC) suite comes into play. Calling it a leash is a bit rude, considering that this elaborate parachute ensures you live to get your kicks out of this manic machine another day. Especially evident, with the rain-smoothened near traction-free roads we were faced with while testing the Tuono.

Aprilia have based this suite on their World Superbike (WSBK) track bikes. APRC includes 3 ride modes, 3 launch control modes for track use, 3 levels of ABS tune and wheelie control each, a quick shifter, a slipper clutch, and an insane 8-level traction control setup. If the brochure had said the ride induces out of body experiences in the company of Monica Bellucci, one would believe them.

All of these are controlled through plus (+) and minus (-) buttons located under the front and back of the left switchgear. The display, analogue rev-counter reading upto 15,000 RPM and a digital display with telltales around its top is apt.

Apart from the usual digital speedo and mode selection and fuel consumption, the display also goes into a hidden track mode that features lap time on top, gear indicator, temperature and selected traction control level, as well as selected engine map. The system also features cruise control, which we did not test.

For those from the ‘always-connected’ generation, the APRC suite also includes connectivity to smartphones via the V4-MP multimedia platform. Aprilia claims the V4-MP offers additional data on your smartphone and using its GPS can also locate you on a track, and offering real time corner-by-corner adjustments on all the parameters as selected by the rider.

In essence, all a boy racer has to do is show up and ride the motorcycle.

And so we did. There was not a single stretch of road that does not seem half its length aboard the Tuono. Comfortably purring in peak traffic even as the rain drops turn to steam on brushing past engine, the motorcycle sets the bar for urban usability for big bikes. The fully-adjustable all-Ohlins suspension setup and steering damper from its faired sibling RSV4-RF are a big part of this observation.

This reviewer was amazed at the setup’s response to small and medium potholes. The first few times we rode over them, we cringed at the thought of damaging such a great system, but the way it eats up tiny craters is truly remarkable. No thuds, creaks here. At the same time, it also ensures a proper response when you flick it from a left lean to the right – firm enough to stay on course, comfortable enough to inspire confidence.

A slightly longer swingarm helps keep the front closer to terra firma on most occasions. Despite this and the wheelie control, there was the odd moment on one wheel when we pushed the motorcycle a bit much. All these nannies made us wonder what it would be like to ride the Tuono without them. I mean, how scary it could be?

Engaging the ‘R’ (Race) mode took my breath away by way of a slap-kick-punch combo of torque. In full tuck, the Tuono zips past the double ton (Note: closed road) without much of a scare on slick roads to the tune of its bellowing exhaust. Windblast felt at upwards of 140 kmph due to lack of a windshield. With a quick shifter and slipper clutch included in the Factory package, the motorcycle enables instinctive gear changes, and ensures downshifts are never regretted.

Even more instinctive is its handling – look at the apex and the motorcycle will carve it for you. This is thanks in part to the tighter rake angle than its predecessor, and in part to the Ohlins damper. The latter allows one to move confidently from side to side without the consequences of a wobble while the tighter rake helps in rapid change of direction. There is also a learning ECU to keep tabs on your inputs, which accordingly adjusts power delivery and engine braking in all conditions, reducing surprises at crunch time.

Then there are its anchors, dual 330 mm floating discs and radially-mounted Brembo aluminum monobloc calipers with four 30 mm pistons up front and a 220 mm disc at the rear with two 32 mm separate pistons. To manage them is a Bosch cornering ABS setup, adjustable to three levels, which can be switched off altogether.

The braking system delivers true progressive feel, working well to keep the motorcycle rider-side-up even in trying conditions. During the few moments of emergency braking in corners, the 200-section Pirelli Diablo Supecorsa SP rear tyre held up well all the while providing feedback on the slightest of variations.

In this reviewer’s experience, the Tuono’s nannies work to offer an infinitely-tuneable seamless ride – be it in traffic, out on the open blacktop, snaking through twisties or on a busy track. There is a mode, adjustment or a permutation thereof to match any style, rider and surface. Now isn’t that a bit much? Hell, no!

EDIT: To put the amount of features into perspective, one recalls a recent discussion about the drama and flair of a thoroughbred Italian as against an efficient Japanese bike of compare. The Japanese machine is like a sushi – healthy, minimal, and filling – consistent. This Italian, on the other hand, is a Sunday spread of the finest ravioli, pasta, and gobsmacking pizza with a sprinkling of the freshest seasoning and cheese. What you pick is your choice.

Having said that, who would not want the drama that comes with marrying into a loud Italian family? Especially when despite a thin service network in India, lack of spares at times, and need for complex repair know-how for upkeep, you can have the time of your life every time you ride out.

The Tuono will see a rider through from entry into the big-bike arena until the day they can ride no more – all the while keeping them engaged. It evokes the sense of oneness between rider and machine that few will ever even get close to in their lifetime. Is there a comparable motorcycle in the Indian market? NO.

What this reviewer sees is a machine that one can learn their skills on, eliminating each safety intervention incrementally until none is needed. And yet, resting easy in the awareness that these nets will jump to catch you when you need them. The powerful motor ensures that a true upgrade will in all probability coincide with the rapture.

Dare I say it, this is the best motorcycle I have ridden in my short life so far. And for being such, the Aprilia Tuono will stay in a rarefied space in the world of motorised bicycles. Just like your beloved pet, you will get a tattoo of it, you will treat it as one of your kids, and you will grow old in its presence, knowing full well that joie de vivre is but one release of the leash away!

Rushlane Rating


Images – Shantanurathore Photography