2015 Aprilia RSV4 RR Review

Given that 200 horsepower bikes (or more) are now becoming common in the superbike category, some may think it difficult for the heavily updated 2015 Aprilia RSV4 RR to stand out from the crowd. But an absolutely glorious engine that pulls heavily no matter what and a chassis that is quite possibly second to none mean that Aprilia’s halo model continues to punch well above its weight.

It’s sometimes easy to forget that Aprilia only made its first literbike back in 1998, being the RSV Mille, a V-twin superbike. Since 2009, their premier bike has been the V-4 powered RSV4 which powered Aprilia to three World Superbike world championships and four constructors championships. While the 2015 Aprilia RSV4 RR might not look that different from the previous model it is heavily updated with almost nothing from the previous model carrying over.

Aprilia has completely redesigned the front end, modifying the cowl and fairing for better aerodynamics and wind protection. Headlights have been slightly redesigned and the mirrors (which do little to help you see behind) are also new and include built in LED indicators.

The biggest change is probably to the engine. The RSV4 was always underpowered in comparison to the competition but that was never really an issue when it came to racing due to how well the bike handled. But unfortunately, horsepower figures do factor into people’s purchasing decisions and Aprilia needed to follow the dollars. Not that we’re complaining mind you – what was already a good engine is even better.

Not only does the new engine produce 16 more horsepower, it’s actually 2.5 kilograms lighter than before. Peak power is now 201 hp, but it has been improved across the range while torque is now 115 Nm which is reached at 10,500 rpm. While those are impressive figures, what is really great is how the engine delivers the power. Even at low speeds, throttle response is perfect and there’s virtually no abrutpness about it. It continues to perplex us that learner bikes have jerky throttle response by comparison when putting out a small fraction of the power available here.

At high speeds power delivery is just as good. No matter what gear you’re in or the speed you’re going, power comes on smooth and predictably. Only at speeds below 30 km/h does the bike really not feel comfortable but that’s hopefully a pace you won’t normally be travelling at. The ease at which power is transferred from the engine to the rear wheel is a combination of the bike’s brilliant chassis and the electronics package on offer.

Called Aprilia Performance Ride Control (or APRC for short), Aprilia’s software has been developed in conjunction with their WSBK team. It provides traction control which has eight settings of intervention, wheelie control (three levels) and launch control which allows you to spin the engine up to around 10,000 rpm and let the clutch out and have the computer do the work for you.

APRC also controls a race focused ABS system that has three levels of intervention (and can also be turned off) – one of which has been designed for track use. Street modes engage rear wheel lift mitigation so you don’t do somersaults when stopping at traffic lights.

All those are in addition to the three engine modes available. Aprilia have taken a different approach to most manufactures as the three maps actually all produce the same amount of peak power. All three maps are more manageable and less aggressive than the previously and the only discernible difference between them is the amount of engine braking applied when coming off throttle – race mode has virtually no engine braking.

For the most part the electronics do what they’re supposed to do and in such a way that you don’t notice when they’re intervening. I did however notice that on the lower settings, traction control felt quite abrupt, cutting the engine power and making for a rather rough ride. That’s easily rectified by changing the level up to 4 or higher  where it seems to do a much better job.

While the electronics of the bike are excellent, the means by which you select them is not. The whole rider interface is pretty awful, with selections you make taking around a second to update on the screen – it feels like lag when playing a game online. Worse though is the rather cumbersome way in which features are activated and changed. Traction control is modified by using the toggle on the left bar and pressing the paddles up and down.

That’s the good part. Changing ABS settings requires going into the menu system, launch control necessitates holding down both up and down paddles when turning the bike on and even after reading the manual I still can’t work out how to adjust wheelie control. To illustrate the point, here’s how to change engine modes:

Press the starter button once. The symbol of engine map currently in use is displayed in negative against a black background. Press the button twice within 1.5 seconds; the next engine map is displayed in negative against a black background. To select this engine map, press the starter button within 1.5 seconds. Otherwise, the next engine map in the sequence will be displayed in negative against a black background. When the desired map is shown, press the starter button and the desired map will be displayed normally. In any case, do not “open” the throttle during this operation. If the throttle is opened, the activation process for the new engine map by the ECU is interrupted (the map symbol is displayed normally and flashing) until the throttle is closed again, allowing the ECU to complete the procedure.

Once you’ve been riding the bike for a while no doubt it becomes second nature but it is all horribly convoluted. Why all the settings couldn’t be adjusted with a simple menu system utilising the toggle on the left bar is a mystery.

Other negatives of the bike are the rear mirrors are fairly useless, made worse by the fact that they’re on fixed arms that offer no range of moment and the pegs seem a bit cheap. The bike is also pretty cramped, even for literbike standards – those over 6 foot in height will find it a bit awkward.

But that tight setup does translate to a brilliant connection with the bike. This remains the Aprilia RSV4 RR’s best card. Its handling remains second to none – incredibly the bike actually feels more stable when leaned over. You always know what the front end is doing and it instills a level of confidence that encourages you to go quicker and quicker. Conversely, sometimes you don’t even realise how fast you’re going as it all feels so composed. It sounds cliched but you and the bike really do feel as one.

Part of that no doubt is down to how compact Aprilia has made the RSV4 RR. It actually looks small by superbike standards and sitting on it you realise how narrow they’ve managed to make it. That’s in part thanks to the engine configuration which allows the throttle bodies to sit between the cylinder heads. But it’s also because Aprilia has done everything to make this bikes setup close to perfection – it probably is the closest thing to a race ready bike you can buy off the shelf.

For those who want to get every fraction of performance out of the RSV4 RR, there’s plenty of room for adjustment. Headstock angle, swingarm pivot point, rear ride height and even the engine position in the frame can be changed. Both front and rear suspension is also fully customiseable.

The RSV4 RR doesn’t come with semi-active suspension or cornering ABS like some rivals, but it honestly doesn’t feel worse for it. This is a bike that’s so well put together, such extras would hardly make a difference although they’ll no doubt come in future updates.

The Aprilia RSV4 RR might lack the sex appeal of the Ducati Panigale 1299, the spec sheet dominance of the BMW S1000RR and the heritage of the Yamaha R1, but it stands up on its own merits. It’s a bike that delivers speeds that you don’t realise you’re actually doing because it’s such an easy machine to ride – a bike that makes average riders look good.

Is the Aprilia RSV4 RR practical? No. Is it comfortable? Certainly not. Would I lose my license if I owned one? Probably. Do I still want one in my garage? Absolutely. It’s not a head decision, it’s a heart decision and there is something that draws you to what really is a motorcycle at the apex of modern bikes when it comes to performance. You might not need to go fast on a motorcycle to have fun but the RSV4 RR shows that it helps.

 

The Amazing Numbers Behind the 2015 Ducati 1299 Panigale – Full Specifications and Price

It’s been a few days since Ducati has unveiled their new flagship model, the 2015 Ducati 1299 Panigale. That’s because we really wanted to delve into the figures and technology behind this bike and from what we can see it’s one of, if not the most sophisticated motorcycle ever made. It’s been overshadowed somewhat by the hype surrounding both the 2015 Yamaha YZF R1 and the Kawasaki Ninja H2/H2R but this bike is something else again.

First, let’s look at a few numbers key numbers. 205 horsepower, 144.6 Nm of torque and 190.5 kg wet weight. In isolation they already sound impressive, but when compared to other contemporary motorcycles they are in fact quite amazing.

2015 Ducati Panigale 12992015 Yamaha YZF R1BMW S 1000 RR2015 Aprillia RSV4
Engine1,285 cc L-twin cylinder998cc inline 4 cylinder999 cc inline 4 cylinder999.6 cc 65° V4 cylinder
Bore X Stroke116 x 60.8 mm79.00 x 50.9mm80 mm x 49.7 mm78 x 52.3 mm
Power150.8 kW (205 hp) @ 10,500 rpm147.1 kW (200.0PS) @ 13,500 rpm146 kW (198 hp) at 13,500 rpm148 kW (201 hp) @ 13,000 rpm
Torque144.6 Nm @ 8,750 rpm112.4 Nm @ 11,500 rpm113 Nm at 10,500 rpm115 Nm at 10.500 rpm
Wet Weight190.5 kg (420 lb) 199 kg (439 lb)204 kg (449 lb)
Dry Weight166.5 kg (367 lb)N/A175.5 kg180 kg (without fluids AND battery)

Two numbers really stand out – the weight of the Ducati 1299 Panigale and the torque of it’s engine. Unfortunately, not every motorcycle manufacturer releases both the wet and dry weights of their bikes, so a perfect comparison can’t always be made. But the Panigale 1299 weighs 14 kg less (dry) than the Aprilia RSV4 and just under 14 kg less than the BMW S 1000 RR with all fluids. These are impressive numbers from what are already light bikes. The Panigale ends up with a power to weight ratio of 1.07 hp/kg – pretty much the best seen in a road legal motorcycle save for Ducati’s own 1199 Panigale Superleggera (which wasn’t really a full production bike given only 500 were made at a cost of $65,000).

And that torque. That number of 144.6 Nm is nothing short of amazing. In fact, it reaches 117 Nm of torque at a mere 7,000 rpm. That’s more than the peak torque of any of the three bikes we’ve compared it to above and they’re the best of the best. Only the new supercharged Kawasaki Ninja H2 would be able to compete with that sort of power delivery, and it’s supercharger causes it to weigh over 30 kg more than the Ducati.

Ducati Panigale 1299 Dyno Chart

In addition to what is an amazing engine, The Ducati 1299 Panigale also features the most advanced suite of technological gizmos available in the one bike. Like the new Yamaha R1M, it features an Inertial Measurement Unit which measures acceleration in relation to the X, Y and Z Axis and calculates the bikes roll and pitch. With this the IMU and the ECU looks after:

  • Cornering ABS
  • 8-stage, lean angle sensitive wheelie control
  • Ohlins Smart Electronic Suspension (available on the Panigale 1299 S)
  • Quick Shift for both up and down shifts
  • 8-stage, lean angle sensitive Ducati Traction Control
  • Engine Brake Control
  • Various Riding modes

There are plenty of bikes with those things available, but there’s not one bike that has them all at once. Also like the new Yamaha R1M, Ducati has fitted a GPS device which works with the Ducati Data Analyser.  It automatically records the timing of each lap every time the 1299 Panigale crosses the finish line of a racetrack. When the rider, crossing the finish line, presses the high-beam flash button, this highly innovative system records the coordinates of the position and then records the timings of each successive lap once it’s been completed. This data can then be downloaded and analysed and even includes details on rear wheel spin and lean angles.

 

And just to confuse things slightly, because the 1299 Panigale’s engine is too big for WSBK, there’s also a 1,198 cc capacity version called the Panigale R. Amazingly, it still outputs the same 205 hp as it’s bigger capacity brothers. And while torque is down slightly to 136.2 Nm, it actually weighs even less at 184 kg with all fluids, hence it’s power to weight ratio is an incredible 1.11 hp/kg.

Ducati has created an incredible machine and it’s so good to see that while they’re pushing the envelope with horsepower, they’re not doing it at the expense of weight. Kawasaki, take note.

Pricing so far has only been released for the United Kingdom, with the 1299 Panigale listed at £16,995, the 1299 Panigale S with it’s electronic suspension at £20,795 and the made for racing Panigale R at £28,995. Release date for the United States and most other countries is expected around February of 2015.

1299 Panigale1299 Panigale SPanigale R
EngineSuperquadro: L-twin cylinder, 4 valve per cylinder, Desmodromic, liquid cooledSuperquadro: L-twin cylinder, 4 valve per cylinder, Desmodromic, liquid cooledSuperquadro: L-twin cylinder, 4 valve per cylinder, Desmodromic, liquid cooled
Capacity1,285 cc1,285 cc1,198 cc
Power150.8 kW (205 hp) @ 10,500 rpm150.8 kW (205 hp) @ 10,500 rpm150.8 kW (205 hp) @ 11,500 rpm
Torque144.6 Nm (106.7 lb-ft) @ 8,750 rpm144.6 Nm (106.7 lb-ft) @ 8,750 rpm136.2 Nm (100.5 lb-ft) @ 10,250 rpm
Gear Box6 speed with Ducati Quick Shift (DQS) up/down6 speed with Ducati Quick Shift (DQS) up/down6 speed with Ducati Quick Shift (DQS) up/down
Front Brakes2 x 330 mm semi-floating discs, radially mounted Brembo Monobloc EVO M50 4-piston callipers, with Cornering ABS as standard2 x 330 mm semi-floating discs, radially mounted Brembo Monobloc EVO M50 4-piston callipers, with Cornering ABS as standard2 x 330 mm semi-floating discs, radially mounted Brembo Monobloc EVO M50 4-piston callipers, with Cornering ABS as standard
Rear Brakes245 mm disc, 2-piston calliper, with Cornering ABS as standard245 mm disc, 2-piston calliper, with Cornering ABS as standard245 mm disc, 2-piston calliper, with Cornering ABS as standard
Front SuspensionMarzocchi 50 mm pressurized and fully adjustable USD fork with hard anodized aluminum lightweight sliderÖhlins NIX30 43mm fully adjustable USD fork with TiN treatment. Electronic compression and rebound damping adjustment with semi-active modeÖhlins NIX30 43mm fully adjustable USD fork with TiN treatment
Rear SuspensionFully adjustable Sachs unit. Adjustable linkage: Progressive/flat. Aluminium single-sided swingarmFully adjustable Ohlins TTX36 unit. Electronic compression and rebound damping adjustment with semi-active mode. Adjustable linkage: Progressive/flat. Aluminium single-sided swingarmFully adjustable Ohlins TTX36 unit. Adjustable linkage: Progressive/flat. Aluminium single-sided swingarm with adjustable pivot
Front Tire120/70 ZR17120/70 ZR17120/70 ZR17
Rear Tire200/55 ZR17200/55 ZR17200/55 ZR17
Wet Weight190.5 kg (420 lb)190.5 kg (420 lb)184 kg (406 lb)
Tank Capacity17 l - 4.5 gallon (US)17 l - 4.5 gallon (US)17 l - 4.5 gallon (US)