Open-class superbike competition is dedicated to balancing the means of mass horsepower, knife-edge handling, and rideabilty. It’s here that manufacturers push the boundaries of motorcycle technology, oftentimes drawing from their respective MotoGP and World Superbike racing efforts, strive for the perfect lap time, and deliver absolute performance for public consumption. And it’s an awesome thing to experience.
The 2020 Aprilia RSV4 1100 is at the leading edge of production superbike competition, and looks to sharpen its performance further with the addition of top-shelf, semi-active Öhlins suspension components given to it for this model year. Are the changes worth another fraction of performance?
In this episode of MC Commute, we exploit the outright sporting capabilities of the Noale-built machine. At the racetrack, no less. Our chosen testing grounds being the undulating and unique 2.5-mile layout of the Ridge Motorsports, courtesy of Aprilia’s Racer Days following the recent MotoAmerica weekend. The testing regimen included two 20-minute warm-up sessions where both the conventional and semi-active Öhlins damping characteristics were sampled, followed by several laps onboard with Road Test Editor Michael Gilbert. Pirelli Diablo Superbike racing slicks were spooned onto the RSV4 1100 Factory, signaling Aprilia’s intent with the model.
Opening the throttle of the Factory’s 1,078cc V-4 powerplant sends a visceral pulse through the controls as it punches its way through the midrange and quickly climbs toward its 13,600 rpm redline. In fact, the last time we ran the RSV4 1100 Factory on the dyno, it produced 189.99 hp at 13,500 rpm and 82.1 pound-feet of torque at 9,800 rpm. That’s wicked power, especially considering it’s straight off the showroom floor.
But it’s the linear nature of the power delivery and overall usability that makes the Aprilia so impressive. Initial throttle response is gentle at first touch, then continuously lays down a tractable delivery while lunging out of corner exits and making its way through its well-spaced six-speed gearbox thanks to an equipped electronic quickshifter.
Of course, the precision of the Aprilia Performance Ride Control (APRC) ride-by-wire electronic suite helps here too. Three ride modes—Race, Track, and Sport—offer tunable throttle response, while AWC wheelie control and ATC traction control add a degree of confidence-inspiring control on spirited corner exits.
The RSV4 has a sure-footed feeling in the corners too, and begs to be ridden with aggression. Tipping the scales at a claimed 439 pounds fully fueled, it takes handlebar effort to flick onto its side, but once settled, rips with pinpoint accuracy.
Aprilia updated the 2020 model with the aforementioned semi-active Öhlins NIX fork and TTX rear shock components, which are managed via the Öhlins Smart EC 2.0 control unit. The system allows for easily customizable events-based tuning via the Objective Based Tuning Interface (OBTi).
Toggling to the A1, A2, or A3 modes, or semi-active settings, allows the system to change damping characteristics on the fly, while the Manual modes freeze damping characteristics to those chosen before lapping.
While the semi-active settings have made leaps and bounds forward in terms of consistency since their introduction, lapping in the Automatic settings revealed slightly unpredictable movement, especially during corner entry. That said, as a current racer looking for lap-to-lap consistency, the Manual modes fulfill my desires of exact precision. I would, however, welcome semi-active settings on the open road, where conditions are constantly changing.
The Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory is a truly remarkable production machine, and is often used as a benchmark of open-class literbike performance. At $25,499, it comes with a steep cost of admission, but what you get is an exquisite powerplant, ultra-precise electronic rider aids, a solid chassis, and all kinds of trickle-down MotoGP bits. Oh, and it lets off an unmistakable V-4 howl!
It’s a good time to be a motorcyclist.
Helmet: Shoei RF-SR
Gloves: Dainese Full Metal D1
Boots: Dainese Axial D1
2020 Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory Price And Specifications
|BORE x STROKE:||81.0 x 52.3mm|
|CLAIMED HORSEPOWER:||217 hp @ 13,200 rpm|
|CLAIMED TORQUE:||90 lb.-ft. @ 11,000 rpm|
|FUEL SYSTEM:||Marelli 48mm throttle bodies w/ RBW|
|CLUTCH:||Wet, multiplate, cable operated|
|FRAME:||Aluminum dual beam main chassis|
|FRONT SUSPENSION:||43mm semi-active Öhlins NIX fork w/ Smart EC 2.0, adjustable for compression, rebound and spring preload; 4.9-in. travel|
|REAR SUSPENSION:||Double-braced aluminum swingarm, semi-active Öhlins TTX shock w/ Smart EC 2.0, adjustable for compression, rebound, and spring preload; 4.7-in. travel|
|FRONT BRAKE:||4-piston Brembo Stylema calipers, dual floating 330mm discs w/ Bosch 9.1 MP ABS w/ cornering function|
|REAR BRAKE:||2-piston floating caliper, 220mm disc w/ Bosch 9.1 MP ABS w/ cornering function|
|WHEELS, FRONT/REAR:||3.50 x 17 in. / 6.00 x 17 in.|
|SEAT HEIGHT:||33.5 in.|
|FUEL CAPACITY:||4.9 gal.|
|CLAIMED WET WEIGHT:||439 lb. w/ full tank of fuel|