Two Italian Masterpiece Motorcycles and One Stretch of Asphalt. Which Bike Would You Pick?

Two weapons-grade motorcycles, tested, back-to-back on the Circuit of the Americas.

Andrew Wheeler, Brock Imaging, and Matt Neundorf

Last year I fell under the spell of Aprilia’s Tuono V4 Factory — big time. Everything about it — from its ergonomics and style to its symphonic exhaust note — had me convinced that one belonged in my garage. For 2017, little has changed. It’s still an incredibly comfortable and adept machine, but thanks to some tech-heavy enhancements, it’s now a weapons-grade ride.

The uninhibited acceleration on the new Tuono, I found, was concussive. The 0.62-mile back straight at the Circuit of the Americas (affectionately referred to as “Smackdown Alley” among regulars) disappeared before I knew it; I had barely picked out my braking point marker when, in my peripheral, I spotted 158 mph on the speedo. I sat up to act as an air brake and started to squeeze on the big Brembos while my left foot ratcheted down through the gears, scuffing my left knee slider ever so slightly mid-corner — then, I was back on the power.

Oh, the power. It’s addictive. Every twist of the throttle created a longing for more, from every sense. And if you’re brave enough, there’s more to be had.

2017 Tuono V4 1100 Factory Specs

Engine: 1077cc 65-degree V4
Horsepower: 175
Torque: 89 lb-ft

Helping things along, the quick-shifter has been upgraded to allow clutchless shifts, both up and down, through the gears; the Aprilia Performance Ride Control (APRC) suite of software has been tweaked to deliver even more tuneable control; the ABS sensors have integrated lean angle sensors, and the V4 engine simply serenades with a beautifully operatic exhaust note. My only concern last year was that it was just too much bike for California’s public canyon roads. This time around, I had 3.41 miles of 50-foot-wide serpentine Texas pavement at my disposal to dispel those worries.

Sitting one rung above the Tuono V4 Factory is its fully-faired stablemate, the RSV4 RF, essentially a production version of a World Superbike with signals and a license plate bracket. The tune on the engine produces 201 horsepower, the Ohlins suspension comes in race spec, the brakes are beefier and the clip-on handle bars put you in a full-blown race stance.

2017 RSV4 RF Specs

Engine: 999 cc 65-degree V4
Horsepower: 201
Torque: 84 lb-ft

But I am certainly no pro. Try as I might, I just couldn’t find the same rhythm on the RSV4. It was a touch cramped for my liking, and my transitions into corners suffered because of it. I braked too early, accelerated too late and couldn’t tuck low enough behind the windscreen. Regardless, I still mustered 172 mph along Smackdown Alley — a personal land speed record. I got low enough to scuff my other slider in turn 13. Other riders more in tune with life at the track beamed about the RSV4 RF, and for good reason. In the right hands, this thing is an incredible track weapon.

Emblazoned on both the Tuono Factory and RSV4 RF is the slogan “Be a Racer” — a statement of their ability to deliver audacious performance on the street as well as the track. The RSV4 is an absolute masterclass in motorcycle engineering, but for me, it’s the Tuono that steals the show. I felt more comfortable, more confident and even a smidge quicker in its saddle.

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