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

By Ari Henning, Photography by Kevin Wing

That big heat-sink of a V4 wafts hot air in slow-moving traffic, but it’s not as pronounced as the warmth from the V-twin’s header pipes, which pass close to your right thigh. In traffic the Ducati’s heavy hydraulic clutch tires your hand. On the freeway the ’Fighter’s abbreviated front end punches a clean hole in the air. while the forward cant of the riding position braces you against the breeze. Turbulence

from the Aprilia’s nosepiece coupled with the bike’s more upright riding position cause some buffeting at speed, but its tamer ergos, softer suspension, lighter clutch and clearer mirrors make it the preferred perch for longer rides. Even if you’re gentle, however, the V4’s fuel mileage is dismal. There’s no fuel gauge, only a warning light, and the 3.9-gallon tank needs topping off every 100 miles or so. The Ducati’s larger 4.4-gallon tank and lower revs let you go about 150 miles between fill-ups.

Wider bars, more sporting steering geometry and a shorter wheelbase let the Aprilia dive into corners faster than the Ducati, whose lengthy trail and wheelbase coupled with a stiff, non-adjustable steering damper necessitate a fair bit of muscle. But the S-bike’s upgraded wheels and suspension quicken steering significantly compared to the base model, which has been phased out of the lineup for 2012. Unlike the original ’Fighter, the S works as good as it looks.

The pricier Streetfighter doesn’t come with a quick-shifter or slipper clutch, nor does it boast as much peak power or offer as many electronic rider aids as the Tuono, but it’s not the least bit disadvantaged in the canyons. The Ducati’s only detriments are silly ones: slippery footpegs that make it hard to move around on the bike and a weak, wooden-feeling rear brake. The Aprilia’s excellent rear brake is useful for fine-tuning corner-entry speeds. Then again, no one ever felt like they got into a corner too hot on the ’Fighter. The Ducati’s planted front end communicates everything the contact patch is feeling, resulting in the confidence to enter turns faster than on the Aprilia. Chock it up to the superbly tuned Öhlins fork, since both bikes roll on the same track-worthy Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa tires.

Wheelies are prevalent and occur with the slightest provocation, but the Ducati is more willing to lift the front and spin the rear at lower speeds. There’s 60 lb.-ft. of torque right off idle. The V4R doesn’t make that much stomp until 7000 rpm, by which point the Ducati is already putting down nearly 100 bhp—20 up on the Aprilia. When the Tuono sips the potion of revs, however, it morphs into a savage beast, gaining 40 bhp in a little over 2000 rpm. Unless you’ve hit the afterburners on an F-22 Raptor or sat atop a Saturn V rocket, there’s nothing to prepare you for what happens when the V4 breaks into five-digit revs. Full-stick above 10,000 rpm is absolutely addicting, but not for the faint of heart!

The ’Fighter’s Testastretta twin is versatile; rev it out or short-shift it and let the prodigious torque stress the rear tire and exploit the DTC as you rocket out of corners. The Tuono is no slouch in the twisties, but its added weight and layered power delivery require more finesse and focus compared to the Ducati’s light handling and on-demand grunt. Give it room to stretch and the Aprilia will yank your arms straight and send the front tire skyward at the top of third gear. It’s insanely fast and more stable at warp speed, where the Ducati tends to feel unsettled.

While both bikes are equipped with race-derived traction-control systems, the Aprilia’s setup is easier to adjust and works better when the rear tire gets overwhelmed. Paddle switches on the left handlebar let you adjust the level on the fly, while the Ducati’s more complicated switchgear can only be manipulated while stopped. Be careful if you adjust the Tuono’s clutch lever, as rotating it too far forward can result in the lever touching the “minus” button when you pull it in, inadvertently lowering the TC level or even turning it off completely.

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