Aprilia Tuono V4R APRC vs. Ducati Streetfighter S | Brute Force!

By Ari Henning, Photography by Kevin Wing

The Aprilia Tuono V4R and Ducati Streetfighter S epitomize road-going aggression. This pair of Italian machines is viciously powerful and entirely unapologetic; engineered to exhilarate and impress—and even scare you a little bit! These nakeds give away nothing to their fully faired superbike siblings in terms of handling. In fact, the upright riding position and altered chassis yield better control on tight roads and more comfort around town. The two are separated by just $4000, 35 lbs. and 10 horsepower, but one of them is bound to do a better job of balancing the thrill of an upright repli-racer with the manners necessary to function in civilized society.

The Streetfighter’s chiseled tank and tail leave no doubt as to this bike’s origins. It’s rooted in the 1098 Superbike, and uses the same 1099cc 90-degree V-twin engine wedged into a frame with a 35mm-longer swingarm and slacker steering angle. Different intake and exhaust plumbing reduce peak output to 135 bhp at 9750 rpm, but the Streetfighter retains the 1098’s omnipresent torque and linear power delivery. Press the starter button and the big twin cranks over laboriously before firing. The dry clutch is concealed behind a magnesium cover, but its rattle is still audible and mixes with the loping exhaust note and desmodromic din to create a compelling cacophony of sound. The “S” suffix following the Streetfighter’s name means carbon-fiber where plastic would ordinarily do, eight-level traction control and, most importantly, Öhlins suspension holding lightweight, forged-aluminum Marchesini wheels.

Dab the starter and the Tuono V4R’s 999.6cc V4 fires quickly, the tachometer jumping as the ECU automatically blips the ride-by-wire throttle. Tuono means “thunder” in Italian, and while that name might have better suited the original Mille-based V-twin, the current V4 still makes itself known with a raspy bark overlaying a deep, booming bass line. Updating the decade-old Tuono wasn’t as simple as stripping the bodywork from Aprilia’s RSV4 superbike; the engine, chassis and riding position all were altered to tailor the bike to the street. The 65-degree V4 produces 145 bhp at 11,800 rpm. That’s 7 bhp down on the world-beating RSV4, but this engine has been tuned for more midrange power with revised valve timing and longer velocity stacks. Performance is enhanced with a heavier flywheel and shortened gear ratios in first through third. Aprilia also lowered the swingarm pivot and the engine position to bring the center of gravity closer to the ground. Like the RSV4R APRC, the Tuono comes equipped with the Aprilia Performance Ride Control electronics package that includes eight-level traction control, variable power modes, a quick-shifter, wheelie control and launch control.

Based on two of the most extreme superbikes on the planet, the Aprilia and Ducati are surprisingly usable as basic transportation. They throw off more heat and make more noise than your average streetbike, but they’ve got style for days and are content to troll around at little more than a high idle. Unless you just stepped off a single, you’re bound to be impressed by how slender the Streetfighter feels. Everything about it is compact, from the narrow steel-trellis frame to the simplistic dash and downsized controls. Although a high handlebar—now almost an inch higher for 2012—makes the ’Fighter significantly more humane than the 1098, the bar’s awkward bend still inflicts wrist pain while the slanted seat puts delicate body parts in contact with the gas tank. The stacked mufflers hug the rear wheel but crowd your right boot, kicking your heel out at an odd angle and making it difficult to operate the rear brake. The Tuono feels larger in all respects, and tips the scales 35 lbs. heavier than the 437 lb. ’Fighter. The V4R’s flat seat and dirtbike-style tapered handlebar are much easier on your upper body, but the shorter seat-to-peg distance puts an acute bend in your knees.

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