Aprilia Tuono Factory 1100: Factory Naked
BY: PHIL JAMES PHOTOGRAPHY: NIGEL PATERSON/SUPPLIED
Choices about “life partners” and where you’d like to live are emotionally charged and often filled with compromise. So it goes with motorcycles. Australian Road Rider’s advice on relationships and real estate would be crap, but we can help with motorcycles.
Consider the hyper-nakeds, essentially Superbikes without the bodywork and clip-ons. Serious performance with less compromise. The practical Superbikes, as it were. They are the best choice for having your high-performance cake and eating it too. Not quite as “track fast” as the plastic-covered missiles, but way better at 60km/h on a congested road and even running through tight corners.
The Aprilia Tuono Factory has always been a hyper-naked class leader. The MY19 bike makes another big step forward with the fitment of Öhlins semi-active suspension. The electronics package has been enhanced as well. It’s never been short of engine performance.
So what’s this bike giving you for your $27,190 (excluding on-road costs)? Let’s break it down.
The signature Aprilia 65-degree V4 engine has been around since 2009, undergoing a couple of design updates for increased power and reliability. The 2019 bike has been upgraded again, with maximum revs increased by 500 and internal friction reduced. The gearshift operation has been improved. After 10 years of development, this engine should be pretty well sorted. Aprilia even goes to the trouble of measuring components, then making matched sets out of pistons, conrods and cranks before assembly. Every nut on the bike is auto torqued with electric torque wrenches, and the achieved figure logged against the vehicle’s VIN. Impressive.
Aprilia’s chassis choices are at the sporty end of the spectrum. It’s relatively short, quick steering and not pillion-friendly.
The big news is the Öhlins semi-active suspension (ASC). You could argue this is the most sophisticated suspension currently fitted to a mass-produced bike.
The Factory’s suspension is from the Öhlins “after-market” catalogue. The components used are top notch and would be good without electronic control. Sometimes Öhlins OEM stuff is just gold-plated mediocrity. This isn’t a crime, as, with every other suspension company, they supply to a manufacturer’s specification and cost requirements, but sometimes the performance doesn’t match the badge.
Every bike I’ve ridden with semi-active suspension is good. However, some of the earlier ones were limited in adjustment, with just a couple of factory default modes. Soft, hard and very hard, sorry… “Comfort, Street, Sport”. Öhlins calls its setting options “Road, Sport and Track”. (Don’t get this confused with the “Sport, Track and Race” engine maps). Each ASC default option additionally allows the owner to customise it with their preferred settings.
The ASC terminology for the adjustable parameters is intuitive and easy to understand. For example, the front can be adjusted for “Firmness” and/or “Brake Support”. Suspension set up for dummys as it were. I liked this feature.
There are also three Non-Active modes, which you can individually map. Traditionalists (or possibly very serious track riders) will like this as it’s the same as screwdriver adjustment.
ELECTRONIC RIDER AIDS
This bike has lots of them. I’m not sure I can get through them all without losing you; here are the highlights.
The usual suite of premium Rider Aids is fitted: Traction Control, Wheelie Control, two-way Quick Shift, Rear Wheel Lift Mitigation, School Zone (sorry… Pit Lane) speed limiting, Cruise Control and… the ever useful… Launch Control.
Just because these are becoming common doesn’t mean they are all the same. Aprilia’s Rider Aids are current state-of-the-art. They’re also some of the most tuneable on the market. The Tuono differentiates itself by being able to change Traction Control and Wheelie Control on the move. Interestingly, you can have Cruise Control or “on the move” wheelie control — not both. Before you set off, you’ll need to decide if you want to cruise or do various types of wheelies. Decisions, decisions…. OK, variable wheelie control might have a place on the track.
Changing suspension settings requires the bike to be stopped. You’ve got to mark it down for that. Stopping by the side of the road to set up the bike for tight corners, rough roads or a transport section will soon wear thin on your mates. If they’re like my mates, giving them that sort of ammunition will hurt later at the bar.
Aprilia’s biggest point of difference with competitors is the APRC (Aprilia Performance Ride Control) system. APRC monitors the big picture of what the bike is doing and what it’s likely to do next. It manages all the Rider Aid acronyms and continually talks to them. Every action they might take is considered, and either allowed or modified as required by APRC. Essentially, it turns a team of Rider Aid champions into a champion team. Some other manufacturers have similar software, but the Aprilia system has been a leader in this technology from the start.
ON THE TRACK
We rode the bike at Sydney Motorsport Park as part of Aprilia’s new model launch. Most buyers at this price point expect a sportsbike with genuine track capability. With its RSV4 DNA, the Tuono Factory delivers. Typically for this class of bike, the wide ’bars make for easy corner turn in, and comfort on sub 150km/h parts of the track. At speeds north of 200km/h, it gets a bit aerodynamically challenged (as do its competitors).
On the track, the ergonomics work well. There’s lots of clearance, with high pegs and good feel through the low-set ’bars. You absolutely won’t scrape anything on this bike. The engine produces strong, user-friendly power, the narrow chassis provides a nice feel and is easy to move around on. It is a small bike (which suits me) and taller riders may find those pegs a bit on the high side. (Aprilia had to choose between comfort and ground clearance… ground clearance won).
The Factory’s main party trick is its semi-active Öhlins suspension. Does it make a difference the rider can feel? To help answer that burning question, Aprilia had a Tuono RR for comparison. I rode this first and found it to be quite capable (and that’s not damning it with faint praise either). Moving to the Factory, and straight up it felt more composed. The default track suspension setting was too soft, but it was still better behaved than the RR. However, the adjustability of ASC meant the softness was easily removed by tightening up the settings. Assuming spring rates are correct, I think a demanding rider could get this suspension dialled in perfectly. If not, there’s always the option to revert back to the non-active, conventional suspension mode. All bases covered then.
Brakes were top-notch, giving good power and feel. Here again, the Semi-Active suspension helps you out. ASC anti-dive function, rear-wheel lift mitigation and ABS produce stress-free hard braking. The bike just stopped in a nice controlled manner. If you get too ambitious and miss your brake marker, you’ll just run wide. The front won’t fold, and the back won’t come around on you. Two outcomes we don’t want, do we?
When I’d set the bike up to suit my riding, I found it very easy and predictable to ride. Typically, as you get near your maximum pace, holding a chosen line gets harder, but the Tuono just went where it was pointed. Corner entry is particularly nice — just click down through the gears (the auto blipper is good) and smoothly steer it in. It’s just fun, with the scary bits mostly eliminated (if you really cock it up it’s still scary). The bike flatters you, making you look like you’ve got more talent than you do. It’s not quite as good as the RSV4 Factory, but it is good. Oh… and the MotoGP exhaust note contributes to making this is a special experience.
If you want the everyday practicality, but also track capability, then the Tuono Factory is a good choice. As an occasional track bike, it works very well. If you really do a lot of track work, a dedicated Supersport is a better choice. A skilled rider on this bike will do a serious lap time. The bike isn’t a limiting factor. Its conventional seating position makes for a less-tiring track day as well (though not so much in the last half of the straight).
ON THE ROAD
The design choices that make this bike so good on track work against it a little as an everyday street machine. It does, however, have its strong points. To drill into this, let’s consider how it fills the various needs an owner might have.
Does it work as a sports bike? Well, it’s brilliant. You probably guessed as much. If this bike had a motto it would be “bring on the bends”. The flexible engine, quality suspension and suite of rider aids give the bike outstanding grip and predictability. Accelerate, stop, turn… repeat; once you find your rhythm, it’s just addictive. In addition to its corner capability, the relaxed riding position (for a sports bike) means you will have some energy left when you
do get to “the bends”.
Does it work as a commuter? The first thing that strikes you in urban riding is how it dominates the situation. It’s almost like donning an “invincibility” cloak. It will dart into any hole in the traffic flow, squeeze through most gaps and change direction like a pinball. If a tricky situation does present itself, this bike has one of the best sets of tools on the market to get out of it. Oh — and its 0-60km/h time would be about 1.5 seconds. No need to take crap from aggressive “tradie” trucks.
If you commute on this bike there are some compromises you’ll have to make. It will be outdone by a scooter when carrying gear and manoeuvring. It’s a backpack proposition only and the steering lock is very much Superbike. The urban environment often requires tight turns. Your Vespa mate will be long gone while you’re shuttling through your six-point turn. I just thought you needed to know that; if U-Turn ability and luggage is at the top of your purchase criteria, you’re probably only reading this because the magazine vendor ran out of Australian Scooter Buyer.
The transmission needs a mention. The quickshifter does its best work above 3000rpm, and is better than most below that. However, at urban speeds, you’ll still be using the clutch and it’s not the lightest one out there. Aprilia has also gone cheap with the lever. It may have been sourced from a low-labour-cost, iron-ore-buying country to our north. Would a span-adjustable lever be too much to ask?
Does it work as a Sports Tourer? Sort off. Every bike in this category has one big drawback. Let me explain. On Australian roads, every naked Superbike is held back by insufficient suspension travel. Bikes with high-end suspension are better, but it doesn’t completely mitigate the problem. Riders must make a choice between a plush and grippy set-up that bottoms out, or a stiff, less-grippy set-up that won’t bottom as much. Why is stiff less grippy? It can give you tyre “lift off” on the back side of bumps. Tyre not on the ground equals no grip.
The Tuono’s suspension is the best solution I’ve seen to this problem. I backed off the damping as much as I could to allow the suspension to move at maximum speed. The ASC still controlled wallow most of the time. It would run out of travel on bigger hits, but it wasn’t the spine-shattering experience it can be when you do this on lesser bikes. I think the compression damping tightens at the end of the stroke, making for a softer bottom out. For comparison, I tried the softest manual setting over the same bit of rough road and it wasn’t as good. The ASC is a genuine step forward and I’d pay the extra $3700 for this bike over the RR variant (but I enjoy good suspension).
Those high pegs would be a problem for most if long days in the saddle are required, and there’s still more wind blast than you’d like for long-distance comfort, although It’s better than you’d think by looking at it. Fitting luggage to it is tricky, and there’s no tool kit (which can be awkward if something comes loose when you’re on the road).
I have friends with Tuonos, and a few cheap aftermarket mods can reduce the impact of these issues. Most fit Ventura (or similar) rack bags, heated grips, higher screens. Bar risers and lower pegs help larger riders fit. Everybody still suffers to some degree on boring transport sections, but there’s a lot of fun when the corners eventually turn up. On the subject of bike personalisation, Aprilia offers a range of performance and bling accessories for this bike. There is a slip-on exhaust (fitted to the test bike), full system exhaust, forged wheels, tank bag, and various bling bits. A multi-media platform allowing Bluetooth connection is also available.
As far as hyper-nakeds go, it has a good stab at being a Sports Tourer, but I think Aprilia has missed an opportunity. A Sport Touring variant of the V4 family with another 20mm of suspension and weather protection would be an absolute cracker! A competitor to the MV Tourismo Veloce and KTM 1290 GT? Build it Aprilia; they will come!
As a premium bike, I would like to see a premium, three-year warranty, but you only get two. It is a bike that might need some ergonomic mods for larger riders as we discussed. If possible, try for a test ride before buying to assess this, or at least get your feet up on the pegs when doing the showroom “sit”.
This is a complex and sophisticated bike; owners really should read the manual to fully understand their options (I can feel you all shuddering at the prospect). While you can just jump on and ride it, the bike won’t get anywhere near its potential without owners adjusting the bike to their liking. Make the effort and you’ll have one of the best sporting experiences on the road.
If you don’t, well… it’s still very good.
Is it good value? It’s not inexpensive, but it does give you an awful lot. If you define “good value” as getting more performance and capability at a certain price point than usual, then I think this bike qualifies.
The Tuono Factory is a bit hard to pigeon hole because it is much more “all-round” capable than most hyperbikes. It’s a serious track bike, a brilliant sports bike, it will commute, and it does have long-distance ability. In all those roles, it is at least as good as its competitors, and usually better. You also get added X-Factor, and we all love that.
It’s worth quickly looking at why V4s works so well in this application. They are more expensive to produce and a bit trickier to service than an inline four, but you get a compact, narrow motor. The crankshaft is short, which minimises flex, meaning less stress at higher rpm and less vibration at all rpm. Narrow-angle engines such as this one still require a balance shaft, whereas 90-degree V4s don’t, but are less compact. A compact engine can be located more optimally in the frame; mass is centralised, front/rear weight distribution is closer to ideal.
Another V4 engine plus is flexible, muscular power delivery. They’re intrinsically better than an in-line four at converting the linear piston motion into rotational motion at the crankshaft. If I had a whiteboard and you had 20 minutes, we could look at why this is, but we’re not here to discuss force vectors within an engine.
As a bonus, the Aprilia V4 makes a sound which is … well, MotoGP. The test bike had the optional Akrapovic slip-on exhaust. It strikes the perfect balance between social responsibility and heightened rider presence on the road.
There are three power maps — Sport, Track and Race. All have the same peak power but vary in the aggressiveness of the delivery. They can be changed on the fly — by pushing the starter button. That’s weird till you get used to it.
We should touch on why semi-active suspension has the potential to dramatically improve a bike. Conventional telescopic forks are both a blessing and a curse when it comes to handling and stability. The reason is that as they compress, they change the steering geometry — reducing rake and making the bike turn more quickly, but potentially increasing instability.
Semi-active suspension mitigates this dilemma by adjusting the compression settings in real time to suit the situation. Want to dart into a corner, the system will allow the front to compress; want maximum braking, the system will increase resistance to fork dive, keeping the back wheel on the ground etc. Brilliant. However, the biggest benefit of real-time damping rate variation is better wheel control over bumps, giving improved tyre contact and better ride-height control. This means improved steering consistency, stability and grip. Got all that? There’s a test later.
2019 APRILIA TUONO FACTORYENGINE
Type: Aprilia longitudinal 65° V-4 cylinder, 4-stroke, liquid-cooling system, double overhead camshafts (DOHC), four valves per cylinder
Bore x stroke: 81 x 52.3mm
Compression ratio: N/A
Engine management: 4 Weber-Marelli 48mm throttle bodies with 4 injectors. Ride-by-Wire engine management that the rider can select on the fly: T (Track), S (Sport), R (Race)
Claimed maximum power: 175 HP (129kW) at 11,000 rpm
Claimed maximum torque: 121Nm at 9,000 rpm
Type: 6-speed cassette type gearbox & quickshifter
Final drive: Chain
Clutch: Multiplate wet clutch with slipper system
CHASSIS AND RUNNING GEAR
Chassis: Aluminium dual beam chassis with pressed and cast sheet elements. Double braced aluminium swingarm. Öhlins steering damper
Front suspension: SmartEC 2.0 electronically managed Öhlins NIX fork with TIN surface treatment. Forged aluminium radial calliper mounting bracket. Completely adjustable spring preload and hydraulic compression and rebound damping. 125mm wheel travel
Rear suspension: SmartEC 2.0 electronically managed Öhlins monoshock absorber with piggy-back. APS progressive linkages. Wheel travel: 130mm
Front brakes: Dual 330mm stainless discs with 4-piston Brembo M50 monobloc callipers
Rear brake: 220mm disc, twin-pistion
Tyres: Front: 120/70 ZR 17. Rear: 200/55 ZR 17
DIMENSIONS AND CAPACITIES
Claimed wet weight: 209 (full tank)
Seat height: 825mm
Fuel capacity: 18.5L
Price: From $27,190
Test bike supplied by: PS Importers, www.aprilia.com.au
Warranty: 2 years, unlimited kilometres