Ready for a one sentence review? This is my favorite bike of 2021. But I guess you probably need more than that, so read on…
First Ride Review – 2021 Aprilia Tuono V4 + Factory
Photos by Larry Chen.
VerdictAprilia says the Tuono offers “SBK performance in an athleisure suit,” which is an odd way of implying that it’s quick and agile but a little relaxed. I say the Tuono is my favorite bike of 2021 so far. It almost represents my perfect combination of performance, practicality, and exclusivity.
You likely knew going into this review that the 2021 Tuono V4 (especially the Factory) would be an excellent bike to ride. But Aprilia has done something quite clever this year: they’ve given the base model a purpose for existing beyond being cheaper than the Factory, and I’m excited to see how the market responds – I’d buy the base model over the Factory myself. But before we discuss how they differ, let’s start with what the base and the Factory share:
4 Updates for the V4New for 2021 are four main components:
The Tuono V4 now gets the design language that debuted with the RS 660, which is dominated by triple headlamps with LED running lights as well as double layer fairings. As noted in my RS 660 review, the idea with “double layers” is that it provides the aerodynamic benefits of wings while minimizing their horrible visual qualities.
I much prefer the double layer fairings to having large wings on the side, though I am disappointed that the two “color” options for the base model have barely any color in them at all. The official terms are Tarmac Grey and Glacier White, while the Factory gets Aprilia Black with red wheels. I understand the need to offer a modest livery, but offering both grey and white is rather dull. It would have been nice to see one conservative option and something else with a bit more spice, especially considering how exciting these bikes are – and its doubly worse seeing as the cheaper 660 models get vibrant options like Lava Red and Acid Gold.
Euro 5 has typically forced manufacturers into lower power numbers (or increasing displacement to maintain previous output), but Aprilia was able to revise the 1,077cc 65° V-4 engine so that it’s Euro 5 compliant and retains the peak numbers of 175 horsepower at 11,350 rpm and 89 lb-ft of torque at 9,000 rpm. It also sounds wonderful – I’d venture to say it’s the best sounding production bike that passes Euro 5 regulations. Special thanks to Ryan Adams of Motorcycle.com for unknowingly providing the first part of this soundtrack:
Thanks to their MotoGP experience, Aprilia was able to simplify the design of their swingarm to weld three major parts together (instead of the previous 7). This enables a 48% increase in stiffness even though it’s also 600 grams lighter.
4.) Electronics Package
The new brain is a Magnetti Marelli 11MP ECU, which yields increases in pin number (80 to 144), clock frequency (50 MHz to 200 MHz), and flash memory (1 Mb to 4 Mb). This is all a very boring way of saying that the ECU can now handle more tasks at once and process them quicker. Will you ever notice this in the real world? Probably not. But what you will notice is the new 5″ TFT screen which now comes with something that Tuono owners have been wanting for years – a fuel gauge. It’s the little things, right?
Also improved is how the rider interacts with all the electronic whizbangery. Last year there was a joystick which could sometimes be a pain, especially when wearing gloves. That’s been replaced by buttons which are much easier to use, though sometimes the menu controls aren’t as intuitive as I’d like.
There are a few more minor changes, including a different tank profile which allows for more room on top if you really want to tuck your helmet behind the windscreen, but I think the above are the most important updates for 2021.
A Change in PhilosophyAprilia has historically offered two versions of the Tuono – a base model and an up-spec Factory. Both were performance focused, which typically meant that the main reason to get the base model was because you couldn’t justify the additional spend for the upgraded model. But for 2021, the Italian firm has made what I think is a genius move by deliberately differentiating the base model with unique features that will capture certain buyers.
Aprilia says these modifications come from customer feedback, and it appears said customers want more comfort and convenience in their lives. Changes include wind deflectors and a taller windscreen, 20mm higher bar risers, a decent-sized passenger seat, passenger grab rail, lower passenger pegs, narrower and less sporty rear tire (190mm Pirelli Diablo Rosso III), and a longer final drive ratio (42/15). If you’ve been following Bike-urious for a while, you know that last part means it’s harder to wheelie, and that makes me sad.
Lastly, the base model gets optional asymmetrical luggage (pricing not yet confirmed) – if you’ve been following Bike-urious for a while, you know that this makes me unreasonably happy.
Pricing for the base model starts at $15,999 ($18,595 in Canada), and it’s offered in Tarmac Grey and Glacier White.
On the sportier side of things, the Factory offers Ohlins semi-active electronic suspension, lower bar risers, a short windscreen, the tail/passenger pegs from the RSV4, shorter final drive ratio (40/15), and wider, more aggressive tires (200mm Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa). The Factory has always been the track-oriented variant, though it’s still relatively pleasant from a comfort standpoint.
Pricing for the Factory starts at $19,499 ($21,495 in Canada), and it’s offered in Aprilia Black.
The best-of-both-world situations (at least to me, who’s looking at this from the perspective of wanting a fun commuter) would be to install the luggage rack on the Factory, however Aprilia reps confirmed that the subframes are different and this would not be possible without getting into heavy customization/welding/etc…and that’s why I’d get the base model over the Factory. But none of that matters if they’re not fun to ride, right?
Riding ImpressionsI started my day on the base model, and was immediately taken aback by how comfortable it was due to the taller bar risers. Our first miles were in town and on the highway, and the Tuono V4 would have felt as comfortable as any sport-touring bike if it weren’t for the short hip-to-foot distance. The V4 engine also put out more heat than I liked on my left ankle – I’d plan on wearing taller boots if I was riding this bike for extended distances.
Once we got to the twisties of Angeles Crest Highway, I had another unpleasant surprise related to my feet. While the lower passenger pegs make things more comfortable for whoever’s riding on the back, they got in the way of my size 12 feet when I wanted to get aggressive and on the balls of my feet. It was quite frustrating and one of my very few complaints about this excellent motorcycle.
It’s not a deal breaker to me, but if your primary focus with the Tuono is to get low and go around corners as fast as possible, you may want to look at the Factory model instead.
While the base model and the Factory share the same engine, the shorter gearing on the latter (40 teeth on the rear sprocket vs 42) means that the acceleration is a bit peppier. The shorter handlebar risers also give you better feel and put more of your body weight on the front wheel – when combined with the Ohlins semi-active electronic suspension there’s definitely a noticeable upgrade in handling. Everything just feels crisper.
For canyon carvers and especially track day junkies, the Ohlins SMART EC 2.0 electronic suspension will likely be worth the price of admission alone. The amount of adjustability is stunning and probably deserves its own story, but there are three settings in each of the active and manual modes – some are preset designed by Aprilia and Ohlins, while some are up to you to customize. Active mode allows the suspension to respond to road conditions, while Manual locks it in to specific settings if you’re on a perfectly groomed piece of pavement, such as your favorite track. Either way, you won’t be disappointed, and it’s no marketing gimmick: you will absolutely feel a difference when you change settings.
I switched back to the base bike and figured I’d be underwhelmed after my time on the Factory, but I still thought the base model was impressive and that the standard Sachs suspension was more than up to the task of street riding. I’d like to see if that changes when there’s a passenger and luggage in play, but the only thing that truly ended up bothering me was the passenger pegs getting in the way of my heel, not the downgraded hardware.
And it’s not like there’s even a lot of hardware that’s downgraded. With the base model you’re still getting all the electronics, the same engine, and the same Brembo brakes, which combine a Brembo radial master cylinder with M50 calipers and 330mm rotors. On paper the M50 is slightly unexpected considering Brembo introduced the next generation (Stylema) almost four years ago, but on the road I couldn’t put myself in a situation where I was unhappy with either the performance or the feel of the front or the rear brakes.
One last thought about base vs Factory: even though the improvements to the Factory were clear when riding both bikes back to back, I still feel confident in saying that the base model is more capable than most bikes and above the capabilities of most riders. You’ll just have to decide what you want – the beauty is that this year you’re finally given the choice to make.
ConclusionI’ll just repeat my opening line here – this is the best motorcycle I’ve had the pleasure of riding in 2021.
I believe Aprilia has made a wise call by keeping the Factory as the performance option but dramatically increasing the practicality of the base bike, and I’d go with the latter if I was spending my own money…but I wouldn’t begrudge anyone for buying the Factory!
The Tuono is incredibly important to Aprilia – the RSV4 is technically their flagship, but in some years the Tuono outsells the RS by a factor of nearly three to one. So it’s crucial to their success in the US, and Aprilia does not underestimating the Tuono’s importance.
It had been a little while since I last rode a Tuono, so I asked a friend if I could borrow his to ride to the launch. But his bike wasn’t the most recent model, it was actually one of the earliest – a 2003 Tuono Racing. I only spent a few miles with it but it was wonderful to get some seat time on it as reminded me how good the Tuono has been for so long.
Back when Aprilia first launched the Tuono in the US, Mitch Boehm wrote the following in a story for Motorcyclist: “this is the bike I — and a lot of 40-and-over riders — have been looking (and asking) for for a long time. It’s amazing it took an upstart Italian company to do it. Or maybe it isn’t.”
Obviously, other companies have since copied the formula, but based on my day with the Tuono last week, Aprilia’s still doing it best. Try one for yourself and let me know what you think!Check out the 2021 Aprilia Tuono V4!