DANCING WITH FIRE | MC COMPARO

Testing All of the Ridiculous Your Money Can Buy

By Zack Courts, Photography by Kevin Wing

2014 Aprilia Tuono V4R APRC » vs. «
2013 MV Agusta Brutale 1090

Finding words to describe how these bikes feel is challenging. Really, it is. So in a moment of creative drought and desperation, I wondered, "What would my coworkers say?" EIC Cook would say something cheeky like, "Drugs these days must be strong because in my day, motor­cycles didn't have to be half this fast to thrill the pants off a young lady." Ari, on the other hand, ever the objective reviewer, would probably offer, "These bikes are raw, uncompromising, and viciously fast." They would both be right, but the phrase that kept coming up in my mind as I accelerated away from stoplights, laughing in my helmet, was simply, "I can't believe they sell these things to people."

If you've spun either of these bikes to redline in any gear, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, let me type it out in black and white. More than 130 horsepower lurk in the MV Agusta's four inline cylinders, while Aprilia's Tuono holds a cool 145.7 ponies in its superbike-derived V-4. That's not some hypothetical number taken from the connecting rod; we're talking at the contact patch. Both bikes make more than 70 pound-feet of torque, with more than 60 pound-feet available through much of their rev-bands.

Those numbers are big, you're thinking, but hardly enough to raise eyebrows these days. There are a handful of models sitting in showrooms across the country that make in excess of 150 horsepower. The torque numbers hint more at where these bikes excel because it's the way they make power that is so impressive. Put simply, there is enough oomph to wheelie anywhere within the bounds of a United States speed limit and enough torque that it will happen accidentally if you're not careful.

And so it becomes a test of Jekyll and Hyde. Shoehorning a huge motor into a chassis with a license plate attached to the back is one thing, but offering usability as well is a tricky recipe to perfect. Which bike can mind its manners and contribute to civilized society the best while thrilling your socks off at the drop of a hat? Despite being designed less than 200 miles from each other, these two Italian steeds are as different as the Alps and the Adriatic.

MV Agusta's Brutale 1090 is many years in the making. At least 10, since the Brutale 750 debuted in 2003—and who knows how long the engineers toiled before that—and in many ways it comes across that way. One thing is for sure; the sands of time have polished the Brutale's aesthetic nicely. The Brute is as cleanly executed and elegant as ever, with a fork-mounted headlight, simple dash, and neatly packaged exhaust that rides only millimeters from the beautifully exposed rear wheel.

The list goes beyond looks, too. The exhaust headers peeling toward the outside of the bike as they exit the cylinders—two to each side—is terrific, making room for the massive radiator to be tucked as far back as possible and keeping the Brutale compact. A generous fuel tank also shows forethought; if a bike is going to make gobs of power, there needs to be enough gas to get from A to B. More on that later.

The new kid on the block (relatively) is Aprilia's Tuono V4R. Technically a Tuono V4R APRC ABS, and if you think all that mumbo jumbo means a fleet of electronics, you'd be right. Aprilia Performance Ride Control—a bundle including eight-way-adjustable traction control, wheelie control, and a quickshifter—remains for 2014, with revisions to the software coinciding with the first true update for the V4R since its debut in '11. The Tuono receives the same set of updates for 2014 as Aprilia's RSV4 superbike did in 2013: bigger gas tank, revised seat, new Sachs fork, and high-spec Brembo M432 Monoblock calipers. Those brakes are backed up with Aprilia's sophisticated ABS, which has three settings (plus off), two of which include rear-lift mitigation. All easily adjustable by the rider.

The shape of the Tuono is the same as ever: edgy and purposeful but with a bit of a mutant insect overtone that not everyone is crazy about. There's also the fact that it's not truly naked, with substantial cowls shrouding the radiator and a frame-mounted headlight/dashboard assembly burdened with the load of electronics. (The original Tuono also wasn't fully naked, and that never stopped us from blabbering on about it.)

In some ways the Aprilia is the complete opposite of the MV, in that the Brutale is really one of the last remaining analog flagship streetfighters. It has traction control, yes, but no wheelie control, no launch control, no quickshifter, and no ABS. Just a fat motor in a trellis frame and nowhere to hide your fear.

Swing a leg over either bike and you'll experience many of the same sensations. The riding positions are sporty but not overcommitted, with flat bars and reasonably comfy seats. The Tuono's handlebar is wider and provides a more comfortable setting for everyone here, while the pegs are a little closer to the seat—17.5 inches to the Brutale's 18 inches. Aprilia wins the seat competition, too. The Brutale saddle is pretty plush but pitches forward noticeably, which, as we know, puts sensitive bits between the tank and a hard place.

Another trait that the two share, as if to remind us of their superbike roots, is an absurdly limited steering lock. The upright, almost dirtbike handlebars can deceive you into thinking the bikes can dance around easily at low speeds. Not so much. Our photo shoot quickly became a game of who could about-face with the fewest points in his turn. Much paddling was done, and much dignity was lost (but nothing a few wheelies didn't fix).

The Tuono's V-4 configuration makes the bike slender at the waist compared to the MV, though that could have something to do with the Brutale's 6-gallon fuel capacity. On the subject of the MV's big tank, it's a good time to mention the Brutale weighed in at 469 pounds with a full tank, 6 pounds lighter than the Aprilia that carries 1.5 fewer gallons of fuel but has ABS, which usually adds 5 to 8 pounds. The aforementioned "bigger" gas tank on the 2014 Tuono adds 0.4 gallon, and being that the gas light on our 2013 V4R consistently came on around 90 miles, the extra volume is a useful addition.

Once you press the starter button and begin burning that fuel, the Tuono will likely win your heart. The sound, first of all, is just magical. There is no other bike with a stock pipe that sounds as good as an Aprilia V-4—it's that simple. To a trained ear, the Brutale has a hearty growl but just doesn't compare to the V4R's note, which is rich enough to slice up and sauté in butter.

Let the clutch out, and the biggest difference between these two bikes is apparent immediately, and that's gearing. The Brutale is geared for either a parking-lot stunt show or an MSF course, while the Tuono's final drive ratios were obviously arranged by the newest intern at the EPA. By the time the Aprilia hits its first big punch of power, around 6,500 rpm, you'll be approaching interstate speed limits. Conversely, the Brutale will easily leave a stoplight in third gear. As bizarre as the difference is, resetting gearing is a cheap and easy fix when you add either bike to your stable.

Italians know brakes, and the gear fitted to these two is no exception. MV's Brutale is a reminder of what happens when high-end braking equipment is unhindered by ABS. The Brute's big Brembo binders are fantastic, with four-pot calipers squeezing 310mm discs, creating excellent bite, linear feel, and bags of power. The Tuono's lever feels slightly spongy—no doubt due to ABS plumbing. It's worth it, though, for the added safety of the ABS, with the ability to fine-tune the system within APRC.

As high-end as these two monsters are, neither is equipped with electronic suspension. And it's better that way. For this kind of machine, there's no need for adaptive damping or electronically adjustable preload. These bikes are for purists. Just set the suspension the way you want it for canyons or wheelies or whatever blows your hair back, and leave it be.

Fully adjustable Sachs components on the Tuono, including a 43mm fork, leave nothing wanting. The same goes for the Brutale's massive 50mm Marzocchi fork, though the Sachs shock on the MV lacks compression-damping adjustment. With proper settings, both bikes will attack a twisty road assertively, but we give the nod to the Aprilia due to the wide handlebar and totally competent suspension that inspires so much confidence.

No matter the road, whether going, stopping, or cruising, the Aprilia will charm. The quickshifter is buttery smooth, fueling is perfect, and APRC settings can be managed on the fly with intuitive controls. Tuono riders will be treated to ease of use and left to enjoy the symphony from the exhaust.

On the other hand, it's the nuances of enjoying a motorcycle that unravel the MV Agusta's allure. The Brutale's cast footpegs are, as Road Test Editor Henning put it, "a liability." Slippery, curved ends just don't cut it on a bike that makes 50 pound-feet of torque just off idle and will yank your feet off the rests. If you think it's silly to care this much about footpegs, Aprilia doesn't. The Tuono's cast pegs are knurled and track-ready.

Then, there are the MV's instruments. A clean analog tachometer stands out alongside a simple dash that shows speed digitally and gear position prominently (no need to look; you're in sixth already). Unfortunately, utilizing any of the dash's functions is absolutely infuriating. Everyone on staff struggles to get fuel mileage figures for the Brutale just because the dash is so frustrating to use.

Example? Resetting the tripmeter involves digging down two levels, and executing the reset requires holding the button for an indeterminate amount of time because the meter only resets when the button is released. It's ridiculous. Please, MV Agusta, copy someone else's system—Aprilia's, for instance—if you have to, but for the love of all that is good in this world, try something new.

Truth be told, griping about little things misses the point of these bikes. It's part of our evaluation—we can't help it—but these bikes aren't about little things. They're about the big things. Power, looks, and thrills. Letting the engines spin up, it's difficult to overstate just how violent the acceleration becomes, and when it's over all you can think about is how you want to do it again.

Evoking those feelings on the kickstand is another trick altogether, and each bike has to make you smile even after shelling out many thousand euros. If you're thinking this is where these bikes lose their charm, you're wrong. Global austerity in the motorcycle market has affected all walks of two-wheeled life, including exotic streetfighters. The base MV Agusta Brutale 1090 that we tested rings in at $13,998, making it roughly $1,000 more than Triumph's bargain Speed Triple—and around $2K cheaper than the Speed Triple R.

Aprilia's 2014 Tuono will cost you $501 more than the Brutale, at $14,449. Not to sound too casual about $15,000 motorcycles, but remember that when we tested Ducati's Streetfighter S against Aprilia's 2012 Tuono, prices were $18,995 and $14,999, respectively. Five-hundred fewer dollars for a more advanced Tuono V4R two years later is a sign of the times—and one we like very much.

It's a lot of money, but the feeling these bikes deliver is, for lack of a better word, priceless. Yes, there are faster bikes on the market, but for pure, hand-of-God-pushing-you acceleration, nothing else will put a bigger smile on your face. Just be careful. Seriously.

Horsepower

As the displacement discrepancy suggests, the Brutale mill creates more grunt down low, while the Tuono comes alive—and we mean really comes alive—as the revs climb. The MV’s torque curve is a little lumpy, but combined with the short wheelbase and even shorter gearing, it is hugely entertaining. By the time the Aprilia’s torque drops off around 9,500 rpm, it’s making about 130 horsepower and climbing, so you probably won't mind. Also, due to exceptionally tall gearing, 9,500 rpm in second gear on the Tuono yields 80 mph. Yes, seriously.

Torque

ARI HENNING | Road Test Editor

AGE: 28 | HEIGHT: 5'10" | WEIGHT: 177 lbs. | INSEAM: 33 in.

Vicious. Outrageous. Ridiculous.

All words used to describe the Tuono and Brutale, spoken by riders who've flogged the Panigale, S1000RR, ZX-14, V-Max, and other heinously powerful machines. The Brutale is borderline too much—like pounding finish nails with a framing hammer. Managing all that power with a hair-trigger throttle and stupid-short gearing is a challenge at low speeds, though I am a fan of being able to clutch up a wheelie in fourth gear… The Tuono can be just as wild, but it's not impractical. It's more manageable around town thanks to taller (too tall, really) gearing and switchable ride modes. It's more comfortable, too. And can we talk about that exhaust sound for a minute? The rowdy, syncopated rumble that's pumped out of that V-4 is just outstanding. The Tuono is thrilling, but it can also be tame when you want it to be, which makes it a perfectly…er…relatively reasonable motorcycle.

MARC COOK | Editor in Chief

Age: 50 | Height: 5'9" | Weight: 195 lbs. | Inseam: 32 in.

As a former owner of a two-pot Tuono, I have to recuse myself from discussing the amazing V-4 version except to say that I couldn't possibly own one. I would end up dead, broken like a twig beneath the thing when it finally mousetraps me—or wearing the finest day-glow fatigues from my local jail. I'm sorry, my daughter, but I hear that your college filters all inmate correspondence.

For me, the Brutale promises so much but delivers so little. It's fast, yes, and beautiful, no doubt. But it's also aggravatingly unrefined. There's no excuse for a punishing ride and no good explanation for the dumbass short gearing. An instrument cluster that's both difficult to read and nearly impossible to manipulate is, I'm sure, just the beginning of the agony of owning one. Some day, MV will begin actually developing its bikes beyond getting them presentable for the showroom. When that day comes, call me.

New for the 2014 Tuono is a softer and more comfortable seat, or so says Aprilia. We didn't notice much of a difference, though it does seem like there is more foam between your buns and the seat pan. What doesn’t show up in this chart is how much narrower the Brutale's handlebar is; we prefer the Tuono's wider piece, but neither is obviously better or worse. MV Agusta continues to struggle with slippery pegs, while the reasonably comfortable seat pitches forward too much for our liking. Mirrors on both bikes are adequate but not great.

Tech SPEC

  2014 Aprilia Tuono V4R APRC 2013 MV Agusta Brutale 1090
Price $14,499 $13,998
Engine type l-c 65° V-4 l-c inline-4
Valve train DOHC, 16v DOHC, 16v
Displacement 999cc 1078cc
Bore x stroke 78.0 x 52.3mm 79.0 x 55.0mm
Compression 13.0:1 13.0:1
Fuel system EFI, ride by wire EFI
Clutch Wet, multi-plate slipper Wet, multi-plate
Transmission 6-speed 6-speed
Frame Aluminum twin-spar Tubular-steel trellis
Front suspension Sachs 43mm fork adjustable for spring preload, compression, and rebound damping Marzocchi 50mm fork adjustable for spring preload, compression, and rebound damping
Rear suspension Sachs shock adjustable for spring preload, compression, and rebound damping Sachs shock adjustable for spring preload and rebound damping
Front brake Dual Brembo four-piston calipers, 320mm discs with ABS Dual Brembo four-piston calipers, 310mm discs
Rear brake Brembo two-piston caliper, 220mm disc with ABS CRC four-piston caliper, 210mm disc
Front tire 120/70ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa 120/70ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso II
Rear tire 190/55ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa 190/55ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso II
Rake/trail 25.0°/4.2 in. 25.0°/4.0 in.
Seat height 32.9 in. 32.7 in.
Wheelbase 56.9 in. 56.3 in.
Fuel capacity 4.5 gal. 6.0 gal.
Weight (tank full/empty) 470/446 lbs. 469/433 lbs.
Measured horsepower 145.7 bhp @ 11,700 rpm* 131.6 bhp @ 11,100 rpm
Measured torque 72.8 lb.-ft. @ 9,500 rpm* 75.2 lb.-ft. @ 7,900 rpm
Corrected ¼-mile 10.43 sec. @ 135.31 mph* 10.60 sec. @ 131.83 mph
Top-gear roll on 60–80 mph 2.87 sec.* 2.10 sec.
Fuel mileage (high/low/avg.) 37/25/30 mpg 30/29/30 mpg
Colors Competition Black, Matte White, Sunlit Yellow Matt Black, Matt Metallic Gray, Matt Pearl White
Available Now Now
Warranty 24 mo., unlimited mi. 24 mo., unlimited mi.
Contact apriliausa.com mvagustausa.com

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TrivQuad
I jumped on the Tuono bandwagon in 2012.  It's one of the most entertaining motorcycles I've ever ridden.  A touch heavy, but it carries the weight low which allows it to change directions with relative ease.  My KTM 990 SMR is my favorite though, and I'll be looking to test the Superduke 1290 soon.
We may be on the verge of a hooligan/street fighter renaissance.  Cheers.
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