2015 Aprilia RSV4 RR: Full Australian track and street review of Aprilia's iconic sportsbike... Test by Jeff Ware Photography by Tim Munro, David H.
With 200-horsepower the new benchmark for the superbike category it is no surprise that Aprilia have quickly stepped up to the challenge with an all-new RSV4 RR for 2015.
The engine is still the trademark 65 V4 but is heavily revised with new camshafts, conrods, valves, gearbox, crankcases, pistons and more. The chassis has been tweaked to cope with the new power, with a longer swingarm, the engine lower in the frame, revised steering geometry and newly designed upper fairing.
The new RSV4 RR also has Race ABS as standard along with the full APRC (Aprilia Performance Ride Control), which includes aTC traction control, aWC wheelie control and aLC launch control with unlimited options to settings along with Sport, Track or Race maps with pre-set factory recommendations. Track and Race are similar; the difference being Track has more engine braking and is the best option for fast road riding in good conditions.
Like all bikes these days, there is also an almost unlimited amount of options for dash display with the multi-function unit very comprehensive.
Aprilia have always been open about the fact that the RSV4 is built purely to win races – and it does that very well with over 54 Championship titles since 2009. The new model is no different – pure racetrack performance and nothing else went into development, however, the bike is actually pretty good on the road, thanks to the option of various maps and the fantastic engine management of all that horsepower. In fact, compared to the 1299 Panigale or Yamaha R1, the RSV4 is smooth and a little easier to ride on the street – in much the same way that the silky smooth BMW S 1000 RR is.
Aprilia have done a great job in dampening the delivery of the short stroke 999.6cc engine, which with 13.6:1 compression and a lightweight crankshaft holding four big pistons, could easily tear your arms off and have an on-off power delivery.
2015 Aprilia RSV4 RR – Road Test
This is the most compact bike in class, yet is one of the roomiest and has a natural riding position. The seat is tall, the ‘pegs high and the ‘bars sporty but not radically low, therefore a neutral riding position results – giving good control, no arm pump and free movement.
There is also the quality – Aprilia do it well. The welds, machining, plastics, paint, switches and styling are all typically top quality and very easy on the eye.
My first outing on the RSV4 RR was from the importers in Western Sydney back to my home on the NSW Central Coast. It’s 100km with around half of it urban sprawl. Over the full test period, however, I did around 500km.
The RSV4 is tall, narrow with a short reach to the ‘bars. The clutch is quite heavy in action in traffic and the mirrors are good for checking armpit hair but no much else – usual sportsbike stuff. What impressed me immediately was the gentle initial bite of the brakes. Super powerful but very well modulated and controlled, combined with plush enough forks to soak up urban bumps while giving support under brakes as well. The rear brake is not the best. I found it lacked feel and power.
I love rear brake it helps me balance a bike and gives me confidence. The final gearing is also tall to the extreme and not suitable for the road. Second gear is all you need, which is crazy, and a lot of revs are required, along with clutch slip, to get off the line. At least a tooth less on the front is required as a starting point.
In Sport Mode the throttle is smooth enough. For a RbW system of a bike with 200hp, the smoothness of the throttle is impressive. The engine temp remains stable in traffic and the switchgear is easy and falls to hand, however, I found the quickshifter consistent but the actual shift is a stiff one, so really needs a good boot to go up a cog. Overall the RSV4 is not bad in the urban sprawl, not that an owner will want to spend time there but you do need to get to the mountains somehow, right?
After a short freeway stint of 20km or so, where I was eager to test the new upper fairing design said to be more comfortable for taller riders (it’s not comfortable, it’s windy like any sportsbike on the freeway!), I took my fave exit and put my head down for a blast up the twisties.
It was a fine winter’s day with no traffic and just me and the RSV4, pure bliss. No cops either, not that I’d break the speed limit, right?
There are 8 levels of Traction Control and the toggle switch is at your left thumb. This was a sore point for me as I could not always feel the switch and was soon accidentally changing the settings. It is even possible to turn it off without realising. I was warned by Aprilia so was being mindful of it but it still happened. Reminded me of the Suzuki GSX-R1000 Mode switch when it went to the thumb button. I’m hoping Aprilia change this switch next year… The Modes are easy to flip through, also on the left switch block.
I used Sport Mode initially with aTC on 5. Riding at an average pace, the bike is fantastic. The front-end is confidence inspiring, with initial turn-in sharp and responsive without oversteering. From upright to full lean into a turn, even with bumps, the RSV4 arcs into the turn progressively and once on its side is happy to stay there, with no ‘stand up’ on brakes or bumps.
This is a truly fantastic chassis. The engine position, swingarm pivot and steering angle are all adjustable but to be honest, it’s right the way it is so I would never touch it. Well, I found the new steering angle a little nervous at times on the road, which made me nervous too, but I never had any really bad shakes. So that would be the only tweak I would test out.
The brakes are brilliant, with great feel and ease of control. I didn’t have the ABS engage on the street but it is always nice to know it is there, in this case on Level 2 of 3.
The lack of reverse blip shifter is fine with me, I much prefer to control downshifts myself on the street due to the variable surfaces encountered from turn to turn and modulate engine braking with my left hand rather than rely on other control. However, reverse blip would be good on track.
I soon up the pace and find the connection between me and the engine/rear wheel lacking in Sport so bump it to Track with aTC changed to L1. The bike comes alive even more and gives a very direct feel. Fantastic and thrilling are words that spring to mind instantly!
The Pirelli Supercorsa SP tyres are a road and track day sports tyre and although offer good handling through profile and good grip in a range of surfaces and temperature. It’s cold on this particular day and they do lack feel but on a warmer day later in the test there was some improvement. More on that in the track test…
When the going got fast road pace (again all legal of course), things got busy but I stayed cool, calm and collected on the RSV4. It’s not tiring, it is confidence inspiring and the stock suspension settings plusher than you would imagine for a pure sportsbike. Any softer would be too soft, in fact. Overall a fantastic road bike, even if it is by default. I would not want to be a pillion though!
2015 Aprilia RSV4 RR – Track Test
I managed to do a few sessions at an Aprilia track test at SMSP during a Steve Brouggy day. The bike was in Race Mode and ABS on Level 1. The tyres were stock but suspension on Aprilia recommended track settings.
In the first session I rode alone and familiarised myself with the bike on track, in the second session I rode flat out with Heath Griffin who was on his Project Staff Bikes Ducati 1299 Panigale. We wanted to compare the two and the results are what we expected. The Duke has the punch off the turns, particularly onto the chute, where it gets 15m on the RSV4. However, the RSV4 starts to reel the Panigale in up top but does not quite get there.
Around the back of the track it was close, with the Aprilia having an agility advantage but that Ducati having the punch off the turns. The Aprilia has the superior chassis and engine smoothness and character but the Duke is quicker. I had the wheelie control on, which was a mistake, so we need to revisit this, as the RSV4 will have more punch off turns with aWC off.
On track the RSV4 is almost without fault! The chassis is stunning, it really does feel like a 250. The engine is so, so controllable and useable and despite the insane acceleration and speed, not at all tiring to ride. The bike goes wherever you look, is stable on the brakes, holds a tight line and is incredibly manoeuvrable.
This was not a shootout of course but it is worth noting that on stock settings the YZF-R1, S 1000 RR and 1299 Panigale are more aggressive and a little harder to ride, particularly the Yamaha. The Aprilia is good straight out of the shipping crate. The only limiting factor as our pace hotted up were the Pirelli Supercorsa SP tyres. I found their limit very quickly and relied on the aTC and Race ABC to keep me on track from that point forward. Well I was not going to let Heath beat me was I?
I lost the front into T2 on the brakes, a full cross up, and the bike saved itself and me. I also lost the back around T8, big time, and the aTC saved that. I knew they would so I was just riding flat out. That’s the cool thing about electronics that work so well, you can trust them and just ride like a crazy man on the track!
At $25k ride away the RSV4 is good value, there is no other way to describe it in terms of bang for buck. Get to an Aprilia dealer now and try one. You can even opt for the full Race Pack fir an extra six grand.
2015 Aprilia RSV4 RR – Kris’s Ride
As primarily a road rider I was interested to see just how the RSV4 RR handled our often poor and over-policed roads. As it turns out it was without breaking a sweat. Fuelling is faultless and combined with the slipper clutch on and off the throttle the RSV4 is a joy to ride, especially aggressively – acceleration is just jaw dropping and addictive with the quickshifter offering seamless upshifts, but not including an auto-blip downshift feature unlike some of the competition.
I wasn’t overly fussed, as the gearbox is smooth, with only the heavier clutch action noticeable in traffic; with a bit of feathering required for really slow speed riding. I did at one point only get 30km out of the reserve tank with some heavy traffic, with less than 200km out of a whole tank but this was riding at a sportsbike pace. The next ride on the other hand offered closer to the 300km mark for comparison.
The chassis and suspension combine to provide exceptional feel and grip, with firm suspension that would occasionally have the rear kicking up over bigger bumps. I found myself exaggerating my usual positioning and hanging off the bike a bit more through the twisties, giving that rail like experience through the corners, where the super-agile bike would otherwise have me inadvertently changing and then correcting my line mid corner.
Traditional suspension, rather than the popular electronically controlled systems, was good – particularly the front – out of the box with plenty of room for adjustment, while Brembo brakes are powerful but without quite the same level of bite as those I experienced on the new S 1000 RR, something that works in the Aprilia’s favour in my opinion.
With the engine proving exceptional – albeit with tall gearing for the road, the APRC needs mentioning. I have to admit I didn’t get any ABS or traction control activation, using Sport mode, rather than Track or Race. I did however have all dry weather during the testing period and with the power on hand I can see the ABS and TC being worthwhile in dicey conditions, or for pushing the envelope a bit more. Launch and wheelie control like-wise weren’t something I had much of a chance to test out on the road.
The lasting impression the Aprilia RSV4 RR left was of a bike that handled like a 125 or 250 in a super compact package but with enough power to attempt a moon launch.
Road manners are surprisingly good and while the RSV4 RR is no commuter, it’s capable of handling anything thrown at it, including the heaviest of traffic and our sometimes-terrible road conditions. The only thing it isn’t so suited to is keeping your license… it’s just too much fun and too quick! – Kris Hodgson.
2015 Aprilia RSV4 RR Specifications
PRICE: $25,000 + ORC
Warranty: Two-year, unlimited kilometre
Colours: Black, Silver
Claimed power: 150kW[201bhp]@13000rpm
Claimed torque: 115Nm[85ft-lbs]@10500rpm
Dry weight: 180kg
Fuel capacity: 18.5L
Engine: Liquid-cooled, DOHC 65 V4, 16-valve four stroke, 78 x 52.3mm bore x stroke, 999cc, 13.6:1 compression, four Marelli injectors, four Dell’Orto 48mm throttle-bodies, ATC, RbW, ABS, AQS, AWC, ALC, four-into-two-into-one silencer,
Gearbox: Six speed, cassette-type
Clutch: Wet multi-plate, mechanical slipper system
Chassis: Aluminium perimeter frame, adjustable headstock, rake engine height, swingarm pivot height, double-braced aluminium swingarm, Rake: 26.5, Trail: 104mm
Suspension: 43mm fully adjustable 43mm Sachs forks, fully adjustable Sachs shock
Brakes: Bosch ABS with RLM, Dual 320mm rotors, four-piston radial-Monobloc Brembo calipers, Brembo radial master-cylinder, single 220mm rear rotor, two-piston Brembo caliper
Wheels & TYRES: Cast aluminium three-split spoke, 3.50 x 17in, 6.00 x 17in, 120/70 – 17, 200/55 – 17
Seat height: 847mm,
Instruments: Analogue gauges and digital LCD info display