Aprilia MXV 4.5

What Next, Four Cylinders?

By Brian Catterson, Photography by Andrea Wilson

Never have I ridden a dirtbike that attracts as much attention as this. Everyone who spies it does a double-take, makes a beeline for my pit area, gives the bike a good once-over and then waxes poetic about the futuristic styling: the shape of the frame, seat and plastic; the far-out front fender supports; the foam-covered air inlets in what appears to be the gas tank; and the dual exhaust outlets under the seat. Yet ironically, most don't notice the very feature that makes the Aprilia MXV 4.5 unique.

It's got two cylinders.

It's been a few years since the Italian company introduced its family of 450 and 550cc dual-sport and supermoto twins, and the motocrosser is the latest addition. Much more than a merely stripped-down version of its predecessors, the 'crosser features a heavily revised frame and engine aimed at optimizing power and weight.

Throw a leg over the MXV and, aside from the filler cap for the underseat gas tank being right in your crotch, most of the weirdness disappears. Until you kick-start it, and the fuel-injected, 449cc V-twin responds by revving out for a few seconds before falling back to idle, sounding like a pair of 250s parked side-by-side.

At low revs and slow speeds, the engine is torquey and tractable, pulling cleanly through technical sections and out of tighter corners. At higher revs and faster speeds, you'd better hold on tight, because this thing is a rocket! Fortunately there's a switch that lets you toggle from Hard to Soft engine maps, which is a real boon when you're tiring toward the end of a long moto. The spread of power from just above idle to 12,500 rpm is so broad that I didn't even realize the MXV had a four-speed gearbox until I read the specs afterwards! Those wanting more power have the option of switching the ignition timing from the standard Big Bang to Screamer mode, though you'd have to be seriously demented to do so.

Handling is excellent, particularly on the fast, rough tracks that are common in Europe (go figure). The spring rates felt too soft under my 200-plus pounds when landing off big jumps, and more so after shock fluid began seeping past the compression adjusters. But over big, sandy, desert-style whoops or braking bumps, the MXV was magic. Steering is better in fast sweepers than slow switchbacks, and the 238-pound (dry) bike does feel a tad heavy when it gets out of shape. Also, the engine is a bit low and wide, so the footpegs drag in rutted corners. But overall, this is a fine first effort from a company that most people don't realize started out making dirtbikes before turning its attention to the street.

The MXV 4.5 only really has two shortcomings. First, its twin-cylinder engine makes it illegal for AMA Pro Racing; check your local club's rules before you sign on the dotted line. And second, at $8499 it's expensive for a dirtbike, even compared to its fellow European exotics from Husqvarna, Husaberg and KTM.

That price won't seem so high to street riders, however, particularly those who've shelled out $15K or more for an Aprilia, Ducati or MV Agusta. And truthfully, if you've got one of those parked in your garage, the MXV 4.5 is the only worthy stablemate shod with knobs.

Particularly if you like being the center of attention.

By Brian Catterson
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