Aprilia RSV4R vs. Factory vs. Ducati Desmosedici RR - V4 Mystery

Which Italian exotic is the one to buy?

Aprilia's RSV4R is a phenomenal motorcycle, but it's just the tip of the exotic Italian V4 iceberg. The Noale-based company also offers the up-spec RSV4 Factory, and then there's the Ducati Desmosedici RR-a carbon-copy of the Bologna-based manufacturer's 2006 MotoGP machine.

There's a $5000 jump between the two Aprilias, and 10 times that amount from the Factory to the Ducati. If price is any indication, you'd expect some significant upgrades with the RSV4 Factory, and more-a whole lot more-out of the Desmo. But in reality, the dollar difference is magnitudes larger than the performance gap.

With its fly-by-wire throttle, slipper clutch, Brembo brakes and race-ready chassis, the standard RSV4R is anything but. At the drag strip, the $15,999 machine's 149 horsepower and 74.4 lb.-ft. of torque propelled its 473 pounds down the quarter-mile in just 10.3 seconds, registering a trap speed of 141.0 mph.

Tack another 50 C-notes onto the R's sticker price and you can pick up the RSV4 Factory. Öhlins suspension, adjustable chassis geometry and variable-length intake funnels put the Factory a whole lot closer to its World Superbike progenitor. On the dyno, your five grand only adds 2.5 bhp, but that, combined with the 11-lb. weight loss afforded by forged-aluminum Marchesini wheels, magnesium engine covers and generous use of carbon-fiber, lets the $20,999 machine run the quarter-mile at a respectable 10.01 seconds at 143.2 mph. That's not that much better than the R's numbers.

Shell out an additional $51,500-or in this case an additional $60,300, since our testbike came with the optional Ducati Performance titanium exhaust, race ECU and air filter-and you can throw a leg over a Desmosedici RR. MotoGP DNA, gear-driven cams, titanium valves and conrods, magnesium case covers and a gas-charged Öhlins fork are just some of the ultra-exotic bits you can brag about. But when it comes to outright performance, the numbers aren't as outrageously spectacular as you might imagine. On the dyno, the Desmo's 990cc, 90-degree V4 pumped out 169.8 bhp and 72.4 lb.-ft. of torque, which propelled the bike's 430 lbs. down the quarter mile in 9.59 seconds at 152.8 mph. That's quicker and faster than a Hayabusa, though if you spent as much money on one of those-or even a GSX-R1000-it would crucify the Duc.

Like price, however, performance numbers only tell part of the story. Those who have ridden all three of these exotic Italian V4s say the RSV4R is tamer than the Desmosedici RR but no less forceful, easier to set up, cuts a tighter line and works as well on the street as it does on the track. Take into consideration less palpable factors-like you can ride the $16K Aprilia without worrying about having an $81,300 yard sale-and picking the bottom-dollar bike is a no-brainer.

And don't worry: The RSV4R still draws a crowd.

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