It is a tough gig when you have to ride back-to-back track days at America’s premier MotoGP circuit, but such is the life of a moto-journalist. Our next trip to the Circuit of the Americas sees us on Aprilia’s 2017 lineup for its V4 models, which consists of four machines in total.
This review will focus on the 2017 Aprilia RSV4 RR and 2017 Aprilia RSV4 RF, even though the RSV4 provides the basis for Aprilia’s other V4-powered sport bike, the Tuono V4, which we will cover in a separate piece.
In the United States of America, the Aprilia RSV4 is easily one of the most underrated motorcycles on the market, due largely to the brand’s tumultuous past, thin dealer network, and weak brand recognition. That fact borders on criminal, in our opinion.
From our perspective, the RSV4 has long been on our short-list of motorcycles you should have in your garage – and now after riding the 2017 version, we again have the feeling that Italy’s other superbike brand has set a new standard. Hide your wallet from this ride review.
What’s New – More Than Meets the Eye
Outwardly, not much has seemingly changed for the 2017 Aprilia RSV4, save for maybe a larger exhaust pipe that is 50-state and Euro4 compliant. Underneath it all though, Aprilia boasts a bevy of changes for the new model year.
Starting with the engine, just about every internal component has been changed in order to be more efficient and lighter. Accordingly, the new engine pieces allow for the redline of the 65° V4 engine to be increased by 300 rpm – hence how the RSV4 keeps its 198hp rating.
The electronics have also been upgraded, with new settings and new algorithms. As such, the APRC electronics suite now includes traction control, wheelie control, launch control, rear-wheel lift, cornering ABS, and quick-shifts up and down, cruise control, and a pit-lane limiter.
The brakes on the 2017 bikes have also been improved, with 330mm discs now being used up front – mostly for superstock racing purposes, where rules would require the use of OEM disc sizes.
A new color dash has been fitted, and the handlebar controls have been changed, both items making the RSV4 a lot more intuitive to use for the rider. It’s evolution, not revolution, here with the RSV4.
Engine – Zen and the Art of Going Fast
Aprilia is true to its word though, this Euro4-compliant edition of the RSV4 hasn’t lost a step because of the stricter emission standards. All 198 ponies show-up when you crack the Aprilia RSV4’s ride-by-wire throttle, the brains of which have now been moved inside the handlebar tube.
As with the 2016 model, the power is extremely linear on the Aprilia RSV4, which can be deceiving to the butt dyno, but our speeds down the front and back straights of COTA confirmed that the 2017 Aprilia RSVR RR and RF are matching rival machines on the top-end.
The mid-range grunt is there as well, but where the 999.6cc V4 engine really shines is in its usability – the power is tractable and extremely modular. Aprilia has one of the best ride-by-wire systems on the market, and the connection between rider and machine is truly “there” and connected.
This means that when the RSV4 is leaned over, there is solid feedback when rolling on the gas to step-out the rear tire, or when spooling up the superbike for corner exit.
New for the 2017 model year is a quickshifter with up and down shifting abilities. The system works fairly well, though it took some tinkering with the shift lever position on the bike, as well as my shift points on the track to get the QS to operate the way I prefered.
On the harder braking zones – namely T1, T11, and T12 – I reverted back to using the clutch lever, to continue my “pump and dump” style of downshifting bikes with slipper clutches.
I have since learned from Aprilia that their quickshifter system won’t engage a lower gear when certain criteria haven’t been met yet, i.e. lower engine speed.
Electronics – The Nerds Win Again
Don’t let my words detract from what is happening behind the scenes though, as the nerds in Noale have built a robust electronics suite to help tame and modulate their mechanical wonder.
It is worth noting that Aprilia probably doesn’t get enough credit for its work with motorcycle electronics. The Italian brand basically introduced the inertial measurement unit (IMU) to the production side of the two-wheel world, and Aprilia has been leading this space in the motorcycle industry ever since.
The updated APRC package works as advertised, with the new Level 3 on the traction control being last year’s Level 1. This has allowed for the creation of traction control levels that let a bit more wheel-spin through, while still safely allowing rear-wheel slides as well.
There is no separate slide control toggle however, which is becoming a new must-have feature in the superbike space, but you can independently adjust wheelie control, ABS activation, and rear-wheel lift.
More importantly for our purposes though, Aprilia has made changing these setting significantly more intuitive, continuing to use dedicated paddles for on-the-fly traction control changes, but now adding a joystick to select and change the other rider aid settings. This addresses one of my few pet peeves with the RSV4’s interface, so thank you for that, Aprilia.
Our rapid sessions meant we could only explore a handful of the 72 possible system configurations with the APRC electronics, but being able to change them all while still tooling around the track aided this endeavor. Menus are so 2016.
Overall, Aprilia continues to be at the pointing end with its APRC system. Most of the time the traction control isn’t noticeable in its application, even in the higher settings, and it certainly works in saving your butt when you goose the throttle on wearing street tires.
If you haven’t been on a motorcycle with an IMU-powered traction control system, the giggle factor in power sliding the rear tire through a long sweeping turn might be worth the price of admission in itself.
I would still like to see this as a separate control item, like on the Yamaha YZF-R1, but it works well enough in application as is.
Chassis – Too Much of a Good Thing?
Getting into more mechanical things, the chassis is both a high-point and low-point on the 2017 Aprilia RSV4. In the fast transitioning esses, found on COTA’s T3-T6, the weight of the Aprilia RSV4 RR’s 450 lbs mass is apparent, though things get better with the Aprilia RSV4 RF model.
You really have to work hard to get the RSV4 RR leaned over in fast turns, but once you are there, you are rewarded with a chassis that feels planted to the ground.
Not surprising, when we switched to the 2017 Aprilia RSV4 RF, with its forged aluminum wheels and Öhlins suspension pieces, things improved with the side-to-side transitions.
I should note, I attribute this difference more to the wheels than the suspension, and despite those better components, the RSV4 RF is still more sluggish than other machines on the market.
On longer turns, where the turn-in is slower, the Aprilia RSV4 really shines, and the chassis provides tons of mechanical grip. Each lap on the RR and RF models rewarded us with the confidence to push harder and harder, with nary a complaint from the front-end of the machine.
Similarly, the rear only got out of line when we asked it to, with overzealous throttle applications. The RSV4 is very neutral in its turning, and it rewards smooth riders who carry corner speed.
You can still ride the RSV4 with a point-and-shoot style, there is no shortage of superbike power here, but Aprilia has clearly relied on its success and history in 125GP and 250GP for its riding philosophy.
Brakes / Suspension – Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One
Keeping up with the Jones’s, Aprilia has fitted 330mm brake discs to the front, and added a cornering ABS system on both the RR and RF models. However, these two models diverge on their use of Sachs and Öhlins suspension, respectively.
The braking is what you would expect from top-shelf components, with the Aprilia RSV4 able to brake much deeper into T1 and T12 than I had expected, having been there just the day before on the 2017 Suzuki GSX-R1000.
The difference between the two bikes was shocking really, and I had to adjust my brake markers close to the apex by as sizable 75 feet or so while riding on the RSV4.
Having cornering ABS is a must-have safety net these days as well, and the technology has already made great strides for use on the race track. Exploring how far you can push your trail-braking is no longer a sketchy affair that often ends with your butt on the ground and your bike in the gravel.
As such, the 2017 Aprilia RSV4 gets kudos for making this technology available as standard on both trim levels of the superbike.
For 2017, the Aprilia RSV4 RF comes with new Öhlins suspension pieces, namely an Öhlins TTX shock that has a new rear linkage and Öhlins NIX30 front forks.
Truthfully though, the Sachs pieces on the RR felt just as good to this rider (and several others I talked to), which makes one wonder why you would spend more for the RF – perceived value, we suppose.
Ergonomics – Progress to Be Made
While Aprilia has made strides in making the electronic settings more intuitive on the 2017 edition of the RSV4, the company is running afoul of providing too much information on the color TFT dash for its superbike (see the photo several sections above).
As such, I had to strain to track the progress of the bike’s tachometer to redline, a gauge that really needs to be much larger while on the track with a 198hp superbike.
Similarly, while displaying telemetry from the IMU (braking force, throttle, and lean angle) is interesting to watch on the display, it is impossible to use while at speed, and thus takes up valuable real estate on the dashboard.
A final request for future designs would be a larger front fairing and windscreen, as my 6’2″ body struggled to get protection from the wind, while blasting down COTA’s back straight (see the photo immediately above)
TL;DR – Shut Up and Take My Money
For our money, the 2017 Aprilia RSV4 RR ($16,999 MSRP) might be the best superbike on the market. Yes, the 2017 Aprilia RSV4 RF ($22,999 MSRP) comes with more bells and whistles, but the RR is almost as good out of the box, and $6,000 cheaper.
For that price delta, you can get yourself a nice set of carbon fiber wheels, which will help reduce the RSV4’s sluggish feeling on side-to-side transitions, and laugh all the way to the bank with the money you saved.
We are not sure how many more iterations of the RSV4 that Aprilia can continue to make, before looking for a brand new design and package, but until the competition catches up to them, we don’t see the Italians having much motivation in changing what already works.
The Aprilia not only ticks all the right boxes that superbikes must have in this digital age, but the RSV4 excels in their application. And while this superbike is starting to show the age of its design, the Aprilia RSV4 continues to be the motorcycle being chased by the competition, not the other way around.
If you have the means, we highly recommend swinging a leg over the new 2017 Aprilia RSV4 RR or RF at your local track day. It’s so choice.
Photos: © 2017 Andrew Wheeler & Brock Imaging – All Rights Reserved