This Season’s Most Exotic Superbikes | Class of 2013

One-Percent Rides

By Aaron Frank, Photography by Kevin Wing

Aprilia RSV4 Factory


Aprilia’s awesome RSV4 has in many ways become our “Class of” benchmark. Since appearing in 2010, it has won this comparison twice, and barely lost last year to BMW’s stunning S1000RR. For 2013, it returns with the addition of ABS and updated Aprilia Performance Ride Control (APRC) electronics, while everything else we loved—including ultra-neutral handling and that soulful, 65-degree, 999cc V-four engine—returns unchanged.

Not surprising, then, that the RSV4 turned this test’s fastest lap, a blistering 1:50.75. Rent-a-wrist Bradley Adams, from sister publication Sport Rider, mostly credited the highly integrated APRC for superior on-track performance. Traction control, wheelie control, and ABS operations are very complementary, so interventions are always predictable and only advance forward motion, not impede it. Bonus points for oversized paddle switches that allow eight levels of TC intervention to be altered on demand without closing the throttle or clutch—though the on-screen menu isn’t easy to decipher, and pity the fool tasked with resetting the tripmeter after stopping for gas.

Testers universally praised both the RSV4’s fit and handling. The tiny tailsection and blunted upper fairing keep the overall dimensions tiny, but wide clip-ons, a long saddle, and ample legroom accommodate even over-six-footers. Carved-from-billet stability and near-perfect balance allow more aggressive inputs without bending the bike out of shape, improving confidence and masking some mass—at 465 pounds, the RSV4 is almost the heaviest bike here, 34 lbs. porkier than the Panigale, which is the lightest. Perhaps that poundage reduces ground clearance—the RSV4 again dragged both its bellypan and exhaust at the track.

Street reviews were mixed, with demerits for a firm saddle, super-tall gearing, and a surfeit of engine heat. The Öhlins suspension felt unexpectedly compliant on the street, however, and no one complained about the exhaust note that credibly imitates a small-block Chevy with a lumpy cam.

Note also that Aprilia has gifted wannabe owners with a substantial price cut—now at $19,999, it’s a full $3000 less than last year, despite the addition of standard ABS. Lap-leading performance, loads of Italian character, and bargain pricing (comparatively) keep the RSV4 in contention, even if the platform is now 4 years old.

The RSV4’s only significant update for 2013 is the addition of race-grade ABS, putting the Aprilia on equal footing with BMW, Ducati, and Kawasaki. Developed specifically for this bike in conjunction with Bosch, the 4.4-lb. ABS offers three levels of sensitivity, or it can be switched off entirely. The Rain setting delivers maximum intervention; Sport incorporates a Rear Lift-Up Mitigation (RLM) strategy to keep the rear tire on the ground under heavy braking; Track, in comparison, disables RLM entirely. Any of these ABS settings can be paired with any of the three engine/TC maps, and all three act on both wheels at all times.

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