Aprilia’s Tuono is a motorcycle that is almost strictly brought up in hushed, reverent tones by those who know motorcycles. It offers a combination of power, technology, good looks and sound that is unmatched by anything else in its class. Like most very fast motorcycles, it doesn’t suffer fools, though surprisingly it isn’t the fiery Mad Max death machine that I was expecting.
Any conversation about the Tuono has to begin with its engine. The 1,077-cc, Rotax-designed V4 is arguably one of the greatest piston-powered devices ever conceived by humankind. For 2018 it produces a frankly silly 173 horsepower at 11,000 rpm, and an also-fairly batty 89 pound-feet of torque at 9,000 rpm.
To people used to automobile engine layouts, the V4 is something relegated to old Saabs, but to motorcycle folks, it’s heady stuff. This is the same engine layout used by MotoGP, aka the Formula 1 of the two-wheeled world. It offers a number of benefits over twin-cylinder or inline-four setups, including smoothness and narrowness, and it sounds like the world’s angriest little Ferrari engine in its upper registers.
That fantastic V4 is paired with a smooth and easy-to-shift six-speed manual gearbox in the motorcycle-traditional one-down, five-up layout, as well as one of the nicest, hydraulic, multi-plate wet clutches I’ve ever used. The pull at the lever is light and engagement is smooth and easy, totally belying that this transmission is in charge of managing 173 horsepower.
Both Tuono 1100 models come with Aprilia’s excellent quickshifter. Think of a quickshifter like the paddles in a dual-clutch gearbox, kind of. To get going from a stop, you need to use the clutch, but once you’re rolling you can kick the shifter up or down as necessary, clutch-free, and the bike will handle everything. It will even blip the throttle for you on downshifts and make you sound like a pro.
The Tuono’s riding position is aggressive for a naked bike — naked meaning that it lacks the full fairings (aka bodywork) that one would expect to see on a sportbike. The foot pegs are incredibly high, which is great for cornering clearance on a canyon road or race track, but not so comfy when you’re six-foot, four-inches tall, and riding around town or on the freeway. The handlebar is relatively low-mounted by naked bike standards, and it leaves the rider canted forward. Again, this is great for performance and handling, but it also means that there is a lot of weight on the rider’s wrists, which can become tiring.
The Tuono’s seat is a relatively tall 32.5-inches, so those riders with a shorter inseam can look forward to being on their tippy-toes a lot at stop lights. The seat itself is surprisingly comfy, even over long-ish rides, but the Tuono throws a lot of heat at the rider, mostly owing to its high-performance engine, emissions-tuned exhaust system and big aluminum spar frame. I ride in kevlar-lined jeans and found my legs and, uh, “gentlemen’s area” positively cooking after riding in traffic for a while.
Riding the Tuono an incredible experience. The power and control available to you as a rider is second to none. The sound is addictive, and the whole thing makes you feel cool, but as someone who’s been riding motorcycles for a little over a year, I mostly felt like the bike was bored with me. I couldn’t come anywhere near its potential on the street or in a canyon.
Whenever I gave the Tuono a whiff of throttle, it leaped forward, eager to fling itself towards the horizon. But I always got the impression that somewhere, deep in its mechanical guts, it was laughing at me. The Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 Factory is basically the Aubrey Plaza of motorcycles.
When it comes to handling, the Tuono wants to lean into a turn but lacks the “I’m going to just fall over unless you work to pick me back up” feeling that some very aggressive performance bikes have.
To live with every day, the Tuono might be a little miserable. It doesn’t like going slow. At 35 miles per hour in first gear, it wanted to buck and stutter a little. It needs to go faster, and it wants to be out of the city, yet I found that there is no faster way to cover ground in a city like Los Angeles than on the Tuono.
The Tuono is a handful — such is the nature of fast motorcycles — but the thing that separates modern bikes from old widowmakers is the addition of highly intelligent electronic rider aids. This is especially true on the Tuono thanks to the Aprilia Performance Ride Control suite of systems.
The thing that makes APRC amazing is that it’s so adjustable to suit a variety of rider skill levels and road conditions. For example, APRC features eight-stage adjustable traction control that can be tweaked on the fly with a handsomely engraved metal rocker switch on the left-hand grip. It also features three-stage wheelie control, rear-wheel-lift mitigation and launch control.
All of these systems, in addition to antilock brakes, which are also adjustable, are tied into the Tuono’s highly sensitive inertial measurement unit (IMU). The IMU is used to adjust the way that the rider aid systems are used based on speed and lean angle, making the Tuono a heck of a lot harder to crash than it otherwise would be. Oh, and the Tuono has a pit speed limiter button and cruise control, because why the hell not?
The net result of these rider assistance systems is that the Tuono instills a sense of confidence and stability without feeling like it’s nannying you or holding you back. It makes what would otherwise be a very intimidating motorcycle feel much more approachable. The APRC systems are easily managed with dedicated controls, and displayed in the gorgeous TFT dash screen.
The Tuono is equipped with the latest and greatest Brembo M50 calipers on its front wheel, clamping two massive 330 mm brake discs. The calipers are paired with stainless steel brake lines and a Brembo radial master cylinder. This, compared with an aggressive pad compound, means that stopping the Tuono from road speeds is a one-finger affair. I found the brakes a little too sensitive for two-fingers-on-the-lever stopping, but you’ll never lack for feel or braking power. The rear brake, meanwhile, is a not-insubstantial 220 mm disc with a two-piston caliper.
The Factory trim level comes standard with a fully adjustable Ohlins suspension, and holy hell does it go a long way towards making the Tuono so enjoyable. It’s a supple setup — never soft, but it also doesn’t transmit sharpness from bumps to the rider. The suspension is smooth and progressive, and makes untangling a twisty road an unparalleled pleasure. Aprilia announced earlier this year that the updated, 2019 model will have electronically adjustable suspension, and I’m pretty hyped to test that out.
In short, the Tuono is a staggering machine. Within the first hour of riding it, it had utterly recalibrated my definition of what fast and quick meant (keep in mind that I drove a 700-plus-horsepowerjust a few months ago) and just how good and fundamentally life-affirming motorcycling can be.
The Tuono isn’t especially cheap by motorcycle standards with the base RR model starting at $15,499 and my Factory tester going for $17,999, but for the money, nothing on four wheels — and not much else on two — can come even remotely close to the experience.