When I first met the Aprilia Tuareg 660, it didn’t make much of an impression. It was the 2019 EICMA show, and the bike was quietly on display in a glass box, covered with plants and vines.
The display was so nondescript, that thousands of attendees and hundreds of journalists passed by the Tuareg 660 without even noticing that it was there.
Nothing is subtle about the Tuareg 660 now though, as the middleweight adventure bike is riding the wave of success that has come with Aprilia’s previous two models from its 660cc platform.
Add into that notion how popular the middleweight ADV space has become recently, and we can begin to see why the Aprilia Tuareg 660 is one of the most anticipated motorcycles for the 2022 model year.
So to test its mettle, Aprilia brought us to the Italian island of Sardinia, where the winding mountain roads make for challenging and technical riding on the street.
And to get our feet dirty too, we tackled some rough gravel roads/trails, as well as an off-road circuit that Aprilia created with a good mix of sandy, rocky, wet, and bumpy conditions.
Is the Aprilia Tuareg 660 any good? Ask 31 riders and you will get a Baskin Robins of answers back in this highly personal two-wheeled space.
But, the Aprilia Tuareg 660 does seem to inhabit the Goldilocks zone of the middleweight ADV space that should impress many, and leave quite a few riders reaching for their wallets. Let me explain.
By the Numbers
That is to say, Aprilia knew going into its 660 platform development that its parallel-twin engine design would need to suit a variety of uses, including being used on a middleweight ADV bike.
For instance, on the Tuareg, the power plant mounts at six points; on the RS sport bike, it mounts to three; and on the Tuono 660 only two mounting points are used on the casing.
I mention this to illustrate an impressive feat of engineering that allows the motor to be extremely flexible in its applications, and in the Tuareg 660, we see the engineers in Noale making the biggest changes to this potent power plant.
This is not a sport bike motor wedged into an ADV chassis, but instead a platform that was designed to have what multiple riding applications would require.
The entire oil sump arrangement is different for example, and of course the camshaft has been changed to move the peak torque to 6,500 rpm and produce peak figures of 79 hp (59 kW) and 51 lbs•ft (70 Nm).
Four riding modes augment the engine, three being preset (Off-Road, Urban, and Explore). Within those modes there are three throttle map settings, three engine brake settings, and two ABS settings. Traction control can be adjusted at the riders whim, even while ripping and tearing.
The 5″ TFT dash is bright and clear, and while the screen’s layout isn’t going to hang in the Louvre, it is easy to read, and even easier to navigate, as most settings are a single button-push away.
The electronic thrills end with an optional up/down quickshifter, but unlike the Tuono 660, there is no IMU option for cornering ABS.
Aprilia quotes a wet weight of 449 lbs (204 kg) when the Tuareg 660 is filled up with its 4.75 gallons (18 liters) of fuel.
Add into that the best-in class inseam reach to the ground with a stock seat (low, tall, and comfort seats are also available), and you have a motorcycle that is very easy to handle.
That’s a big statement for a bike with nearly 9.5” (240mm) in suspension travel, and a 21″ wheel at the front and 18″ wheel at the back (both tubeless, mind you).
Those suspension duties fall to fully adjustable (preload, compression, and rebound) Kayaba forks and shock, while braking is done by Brembo pieces.
The lighting is full LED (as is customary now), and includes a daylight running light as an accent. The windshield is fixed in place, with no adjustability, but different screen heights are available in Aprilia’s parts catalog.
Swinging a leg over the Aprilia Tuareg 660, and heading to the tight and twisty roads that Sardinia has to offer, I can summarize the experience in one word: surprising.
A raked out front-end with a 21″ wheel and 50/50 tires should not be a machine that one finds spritely moving through tight and technical road apexes, and yet here we were, railing the Aprilia Tuareg 660 with surprising speed.
On a dual-sport motorcycle, you expect to give up some road prowess for off-road capability, but Aprilia has kept the Tuareg 660 close to its heritage of making capable sport bikes, and we thank them for it.
With the torque nice and low in the rev range, and a short gearbox, acceleration is what the Aprilia Tuareg 660 does best, though on more open and sweeping terrain, one might begin to see the limits of the quoted 79 hp power figure from the Tuareg’s engine.
Blasting from posted speed limits to a quick 100 mph though is where this bike thrives as a sport bike, and for most riders, that should satisfy the need for on-road thrills.
Quick transitions are made possible by the low curb weight, and tall perch with its wide handlebars, while the Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR tires are surprisingly sticky and give good feedback.
The fully adjustable suspension from Kayaba is a nice touch to the Tuareg 660, and another item that Aprilia has selected that helps make this ADV bike stand out from its direct competitors.
We didn’t fiddle too much with the knobs on the forks, though I perhaps would have benefitted from a stiffer front-end feel, as there was a bit of dive on the brakes from the stock setting.
Dialing-in some preload on the rear was an easy affair though, with Kayaba having a manual preload knob that’s easy to reach. This helped firm up the rear for our solo ride, but its real benefit will come when there is a passenger or luggage involved.
The Aprilia Tuareg 660 isn’t going to replace the sport bike in your garage, but you are also not going to have a boring time on the road, while getting to the trailheads for your next adventure.
One will have to manage the gearbox when riding at full pace, however, as lumping around in third gear left some acceleration points on the table.
Again, this shouldn’t surprise considering the spec-sheet, and perhaps the better perspective is how much grunt can be found if one wants to toddle along in a single gear on a spirited ride.
The gearbox on the Tuareg 660 was a bit clunky at times, with a couple false neutrals appearing between first and second gear. This was a bit of a surprise since the RS and Tuono models were smoother, and we imagine it is the shorter gearing done for the Tuareg that is to blame.
The issue seems to be exacerbated by the up/down quickshifter, which is certainly rougher in its operation than what you would find on a competitors’ machinery.
An optional item for the Tuareg, I would generally rave about having a quickshifter on an ADV to save on the clutch pulls, but would perhaps downgrade my opinion from my usual “must-have” in the case of this Aprilia.
Calibration issues were also present with the ECU, where the most aggressive engine map setting and the least intrusive engine braking map made for a very stark on/off switch from throttle.
The culprit seems to be more the engine brake mapping than the throttle mapping, and it is solved easily enough by switching to the next map of the three available. This workaround doesn’t affect the ride feel too much, so I don’t rate the issue a very high priority of concern.
Long-distance riders will be happy to hear that the Aprilia Tuareg 660 is mostly vibration free, while still having some character. However, we did notice some harsh vibrations in the footpegs through out the rev range. Having thick ADV boots on almost mutes the vibes, but those with street soles on their feet will certainly feel them.
My last gripe is even lower, and is aimed at the front brakes, which are a little weaker than I would prefer on a road bike. I will moan rather loudly about the lack of a cornering ABS option – so brace yourself, I doubt this is the last time I will bring it up in this review.
The braking force from these axial-mounted two-piston calipers and 300mm discs is still more than adequate mind you, especially considering the dual-sport application, but they do show the Tuareg’s leanings between the on-road and off-road world.
These four complaints are minor in the long-run though. Overall, the Aprilia Tuareg 660 makes for a spirited and fun ride on the street, and the bike is more than up to the task of embarrassing unsuspecting fellow riders when in the right hands.
For as good as it is on the street, the Aprilia Tuareg 660 is clearly a motorcycle built with off-road conditions in mind, and the shining feature of the Tuareg when you get to the dirty stuff is the bike’s 449 lbs wet weight.
Losing the bulk found on the larger ADV machines opens up a new range of possibilities for the every day rider – including the sport-biking enthusiast typing the pixels here in this story – and in more capable off-roading hands, the limits of the machine come down more to what is available from the terrain.
Easy to maneuver at low speeds, the Aprilia Tuareg 660 is a confidence-inspiring machine. The big 21″ front wheel helps tackle bigger obstacles with ease. Even in a dreaded sand wash, the Tuareg 660 feels in control.
Aprilia makes the transition from road to dirt very easy too, as the dedicated off-road map is selectable from a single button, and it automatically disables the rear-wheel ABS.
Disabling the traction control is another single-button switch, and both come toggled from memory of where you left them, for when you are going through multiple transitions.
One can also completely disable the ABS with a long press of the “mode” button, though a full-restart will see this setting revert back to its front-wheel only mode in the “Off-Road” setting.
All of this makes for a truly effortless transition process, which other brands should take note of and replicate.
Along that same vein, Aprilia has done a good job of making almost all of the key electronic features a top-level single-button affair, which wins some big UX points from my fickle scoring sheet (loyal A&R readers know what I’m talking about).
Once you are in the “Off-Road” mode, you notice that the bike’s 79 hp hooks up extremely well via the rear tire. The throttle mapping makes the power very tractable and the rear tire is predictable when it breaks free for roosting duties.
Even Aprilia’s traction control settings seem to work well enough in the dirt, keeping the rear tire inline while not hampering one’s ability to hill climb or tackle loose surfaces. I was genuinely impressed by this fact, as so many other manufacturers get this point wrong.
For those who were worried that this sport-bike born engine would have poor off-road manners, we can quiet those fears – Aprilia’s extensive re-working of the 660cc platform makes for a more-than-suitable off-road power plant.
To that notion, Aprilia has put a new first gear cog in the Tuareg’s motor, which is 5% shorter than on the other two 660 machines.
The final drive ratio has also been shortened by 10%, which helps the butt dyno’s overall “thrust” metrics.
Another change seen on the Aprilia Tuareg 660 is the higher air intake, which sits at the top of fuel tank cover and is protected from water and debris. The engine has also been rotated backwards 9° to get the weight distribution right.
Even riders of minor off-road skill will find the Tuareg 660’s power delivery approachable with the traction control off, but it is good to know that if one wants a safety net that the TC won’t limit the fun and actually works as intended, even in tougher terrains.
Whether it was done for science, or a moment of ambition outweighing talent, I did have an opportunity to see how the Aprilia Tuareg 660 copes with a modest crash in the dirt, and the results were favorable.
The worst of it was a bent rear brake lever that would have required a little time on the side of the trail to fix, if a replacement bike wasn’t at the ready for yours truly.
Beyond a bruised ego and that broken brake lever, a broken plastic handguard was all the damage suffered in this 20 mph tumble.
Sampling the carnage from my colleagues’ similar excursions, rashed bodywork wasn’t uncommon to see, though we had almost zero broken panels. The plastic handguards almost always were a casualty, which should surprise no one – but a fragile bike, the Tuareg 660 is not.
The skid plate is fully functional and covers the full bottom of the motorcycle, though it might seem too thin for some eager beavers. The chassis holds up well when the bike goes for a slide, as do the handlebars, with neither bent in my observations and experience.
It is hard to say how many bikes hit the deck on our launch, but the number that had to be trailered home was zero. Those holding perceptions that Italian motorcycles break like twigs should recalibrate their expectations.
With hard luggage options, auxiliary lighting, and a full crash cage available from the Aprilia dealer catalog, the opportunities to farkle and beef up the Tuareg 660 exist straight from the factory, should your heart so desire.
Yeah, But Would You Buy It?
Would I buy the Aprilia Tuareg 660? That’s a highly personal question.
It is not a personal question in the sense that I want to be coy about what motorcycles end up in the Asphalt & Rubber garage, but instead because the answer is going to depend greatly from rider to rider.
The adventure-touring space is perhaps the most prickly when it comes to definitively defining “the best” model in the category.
How much off-roading are you going to do? Even that question requires some follow-up to ask what kind of terrain you expect to tackle on two wheels.
How about on-road and touring? How much priority do you give to street riding over dirt? Is it 50/50, or a different ratio?
For me, the math has always been about finding the most capable off-road machine that is still comfortable enough to slug several hours on the highway. I want to ride Moab without hauling my bike there to do it.
Luckily for us, the middleweight adventure category is hot right now, and manufacturers are rushing to bring machines to this space that can do this very task. It is early days though, and we have yet to see a strong convergence on the spec-sheets for a general preference.
The 21″ hoop at the front seems to be mandatory, but is 70hp enough? Is 80hp? Or do we need 100+ hp in this space?
On the dirt, I am not convinced more is better, and the Aprilia Tuareg 660 illustrates this perfectly.
The combination of 79 hp and 51 lbs•ft of torque low in the power band is a proven winning combination. A best-in-class weight figure also makes for a very easy bike to ride in the loose stuff.
Our ride wasn’t aggressive enough to know the full capabilities of the Aprilia Tuareg 660 in the dirt, but we did get enough opportunities to see that the Noale’s creation has serious off-road chops.
Balance that against the surprising on-road performance, even with 50/50 tires mounted to the wheels, and Aprilia has a potent machine out of the gate. It’s not my favorite street bike (no ADV bike is going to be), but the lightweight and usable torque makes for a fun ride that soothes a familiar itch.
I would ding some points for the Aprilia Tuareg 660 at least not offering a cornering ABS option, and there are some rough spots with the gearbox, engine calibration, and optional quickshifter, but none of them are deal-breakers to my eye.
Reasonable motorcyclists can disagree on this ranking though, and again it comes back to personal preferences.
The luddites of the motorcycle industry enjoy the no-frills approach of the Yamaha Ténéré 700, which feeds into the marketing that this is a rough-and-tumble off-road machine.
Is the Yamaha more capable off-road though? Not necessarily. It carries its weight higher, and my personal issue with the bike is perhaps its biggest selling point – Yamaha has left off too much of the tech that I want from a motorcycle that goes on the street just as often as it does the dirt.
The base price of the Ténéré 700 is pretty damn attractive, but again by the time you work-around the places where Yamaha cut corners to get a sub-$10,000 bike to market, you get close to an Aprilia or KTM price tag.
On the other end of that spectrum, the KTM 890 Adventure brings “more” to the table, for a modest sum extra.
The biggest selling point on the KTM is its near-100hp power figure, which is a 25% bump over the Aprilia and over a 40% increase to the Yamaha’s quoted horsepower.
KTM also offers a bit more with its electronics package (in particular a cornering ABS option, which I think every street bike should come fitted with as standard), though contrasts that with some lower-spec components.
Coming back to the Aprilia, it wins points for being the only bike of the three with fully adjustable suspension, the lightest curb weight, and with the best price-point concessions.
I can see how it would be easy for riders to discount the Aprilia in their ADV discussions, especially with the perception of Italian fragility. But, the truth of the matter is that the Italian brand has not only made a bike that is hard to ignore in the space, but that it might also be the Goldilocks of choices in this complex segment.
Just as Yamaha has brought out a farkled Ténéré 700 option to the market, and how KTM offers a grand total of three flavors of the 890 Adventure series, I think Aprilia would do well to bring an up-spec version of the Tuareg 660 to the market in the coming model years, but that’s just my unsolicited advice.
Such an up-spec bike would be for the niche though, and today we have a bike for the masses. The Aprilia Tuareg 660 is an impressive machine. It is fun to ride at speed on the road, and it is confidence inspiring in the dirt.
I do wish the Tuareg 660 had a couple more features (most notably cornering ABS), even if those items were dealer add-ons, and a little more power for the street would help give my shifter foot a rest and satisfy my sport-biker needs.
To those desires, the KTM still has a siren song for my ears, but Aprilia’s package here is very, very strong, and at the end of the day, the Tuareg 660 is going to be considerably cheaper to put in your garage and enjoy.
For those who skipped to the ending, I was very surprised by the Aprilia Tuareg 660 when riding it in Sardinia. It’s not a perfect motorcycle, but it might perfectly blend what is needed in the middleweight ADV category. Where do I sign?