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

The Aprilia Tuono V4R and Ducati Streetfighter S epitomize road-going aggression. This pair of Italian machines is viciously powerful and entirely unapologetic; engineered to exhilarate and impress—and even scare you a little bit! These nakeds give away nothing to their fully faired superbike siblings in terms of handling. In fact, the upright riding position and altered chassis yield better control on tight roads and more comfort around town. The two are separated by just $4000, 35 lbs. and 10 horsepower, but one of them is bound to do a better job of balancing the thrill of an upright repli-racer with the manners necessary to function in civilized society.

The Streetfighter’s chiseled tank and tail leave no doubt as to this bike’s origins. It’s rooted in the 1098 Superbike, and uses the same 1099cc 90-degree V-twin engine wedged into a frame with a 35mm-longer swingarm and slacker steering angle. Different intake and exhaust plumbing reduce peak output to 135 bhp at 9750 rpm, but the Streetfighter retains the 1098’s omnipresent torque and linear power delivery. Press the starter button and the big twin cranks over laboriously before firing. The dry clutch is concealed behind a magnesium cover, but its rattle is still audible and mixes with the loping exhaust note and desmodromic din to create a compelling cacophony of sound. The “S” suffix following the Streetfighter’s name means carbon-fiber where plastic would ordinarily do, eight-level traction control and, most importantly, Öhlins suspension holding lightweight, forged-aluminum Marchesini wheels.

Dab the starter and the Tuono V4R’s 999.6cc V4 fires quickly, the tachometer jumping as the ECU automatically blips the ride-by-wire throttle. Tuono means “thunder” in Italian, and while that name might have better suited the original Mille-based V-twin, the current V4 still makes itself known with a raspy bark overlaying a deep, booming bass line. Updating the decade-old Tuono wasn’t as simple as stripping the bodywork from Aprilia’s RSV4 superbike; the engine, chassis and riding position all were altered to tailor the bike to the street. The 65-degree V4 produces 145 bhp at 11,800 rpm. That’s 7 bhp down on the world-beating RSV4, but this engine has been tuned for more midrange power with revised valve timing and longer velocity stacks. Performance is enhanced with a heavier flywheel and shortened gear ratios in first through third. Aprilia also lowered the swingarm pivot and the engine position to bring the center of gravity closer to the ground. Like the RSV4R APRC, the Tuono comes equipped with the Aprilia Performance Ride Control electronics package that includes eight-level traction control, variable power modes, a quick-shifter, wheelie control and launch control.

Based on two of the most extreme superbikes on the planet, the Aprilia and Ducati are surprisingly usable as basic transportation. They throw off more heat and make more noise than your average streetbike, but they’ve got style for days and are content to troll around at little more than a high idle. Unless you just stepped off a single, you’re bound to be impressed by how slender the Streetfighter feels. Everything about it is compact, from the narrow steel-trellis frame to the simplistic dash and downsized controls. Although a high handlebar—now almost an inch higher for 2012—makes the ’Fighter significantly more humane than the 1098, the bar’s awkward bend still inflicts wrist pain while the slanted seat puts delicate body parts in contact with the gas tank. The stacked mufflers hug the rear wheel but crowd your right boot, kicking your heel out at an odd angle and making it difficult to operate the rear brake. The Tuono feels larger in all respects, and tips the scales 35 lbs. heavier than the 437 lb. ’Fighter. The V4R’s flat seat and dirtbike-style tapered handlebar are much easier on your upper body, but the shorter seat-to-peg distance puts an acute bend in your knees.

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.

Initially, the disparity between the V4’s soft low end and fierce top end was annoying, but once we grew accustomed to it the engine’s split personality was an appreciated characteristic. Slow your pace, relax your death-grip on the bars, toggle down to “S” for Sport power mode and the Tuono feels like a mild-mannered sport-tourer, with the ergonomics to match. Then, when you’re ready for a thrill, that 7000-rpm threshold is just a twist of the throttle away—and even more immediate throttle response is available at the push of a button. Meanwhile, the Ducati’s aggressive ergos, hair-trigger throttle, stiff gearbox and stiffer suspension make it impossible to forget you’re on a superbike.

Both of these naked bikes are truly badass, with inspired designs and inspiring performance. The Ducati has the looks and an engine that can turn there into here with a blip of the throttle, but it retains too much of its forbear's uncompromising ergonomics. Our testbike also developed a nasty habit of dropping out of second gear into neutral during deceleration. The Tuono's only faults are a thirst for high-test and limited legroom. The Aprilia is also $4000 less expensive, yet offers a more useful and comprehensive electronics package and slipper clutch. And the intoxicating power of that V4 can't be overstated—you'll have dreams about it! The Tuono is a more docile and accommodating streetbike around town and a more engaging and exciting sportbike on twisty roads. Did we mention it costs $4000 less? And unlike the Streetfighter, the Tuono has a respectable passenger seat so you can actually put the alluring power of this Italian exotic to use. MC

Off The Record
Zack Courts, Guest Tester
Age: 28 | Height: 6'2"
Weight: 185 lbs. | Inseam: 34 in.
Both of these bikes are tremendous. The Ducati looks the part, with a proper fork-mounted headlight and no body fat, but the Tuono stole the show. It's equipped with a better electronics package, not to mention a quick-shifter and a slipper clutch. In addition, better ergonomics allow the Aprilia to show good manners while cruising around town or sailing through canyons. But it's when you ask it to be bad that you really fall in love. It's difficult to overstate just how savage the acceleration is and how addictive it becomes. That V4 sound is absolutely fantastic, and the chassis remains tight despite the vicious power. As if that wasn't enough, it undercuts the Ducati's price by $4000. I'm sold.

Off The Record
Ari Henning, Road Test Editor
Age: 27 | Height: 5'10"
Weight: 177 lbs. | Inseam: 33 in.
If it were all about looks, the Ducati would win, instantly. I'm a big fan of its compact and clean appearance; as much a thing of beauty as a thing of power and performance. Riding the Streetfighter S is undeniably thrilling, but best enjoyed in short stints separated by long rests. Having spent a lot of time on an RSV4R, I was impressed by how well Aprilia dialed-in the Tuono for the street. The changes make a big difference, and the end result is one of the most exciting and versatile naked bikes I've ever ridden. My only issue is that it's not really a naked bike: The Tuono needs to stop being bashful and take off the rest of its clothes!

Aprilia Tuono V4R APRC | $14,999

The Tuono is as a naked bike should be: upright. It's a shorter reach to taller bars. The seat is also slightly lower, which makes it easier to reach the ground, but legroom is reduced by nearly 2 inches.

Aprilia's V4 doesn't have as much grunt off the bottom, but low-rpm numbers are still impressive. Power builds dramatically above 7000 rpm and hits hardest right where the Ducati signs off.

Tech Spec

Engine type: l-c 65-deg. V4
Valve train: DOHC, 16v
Displacement: 999.6cc
Bore x stroke: 78.0 x 52.3mm
Compression: 13.0:1
Fuel system: EFI
Clutch: Wet, multi-plate slipper
Transmission: 6-speed
Frame: Aluminum twin-spar with aluminum swingarm
Front suspension: Sachs 43mm inverted fork with adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping
Rear suspension: Sachs shock with adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping
Front brake: Dual Brembo radial four-piston calipers, 320mm discs
Rear brake: Brembo two-piston caliper, 220mm disc
Front tire: 120/70ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa
Rear tire: 190/55ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa
Rake/trail: 25.0°/4.2 in.
Seat height: 32.9 in.
Wheelbase: 56.9 in.
Fuel capacity: 3.9 gal.
Weight (tank full/empty): 472/448 lbs.
Measured horsepower: 145.1 bhp @ 11,800 rpm
Measured torque: 72.3 lb.-ft. @ 9500 rpm
Corrected ¼-mile: 10.30 sec. @ 135.30 mph
Top-gear roll-on, 60-80 mph:  2.81 sec.
Fuel mileage (high/low/avg.): 29/25/28 mpg
Colors: Yellow, black
Available: Now
Warranty: 24 mo., unlimited mi.
Contact: Aprilia USA 140 E. 45th St. New York, NY 10017 800.631.1101 www.apriliausa.com

Ducati Streetfighter S | $18,995

The Streetfighter has a high, slanted seat that threatens your unborn children, plus droopy bars that put an uncomfortable bend in your wrists. But it offers a lot more legroom for tall riders.

Power is as you'd expect from a racing-derived big twin. Torque surpasses 60 lb.-ft. at 3500 rpm and rises from there. Horsepower climbs all the way to 9750 rpm before the rev-limiter spoils the fun.

Tech Spec

Engine type: l-c 90-deg. V-twin
Valve train: DOHC, 8v desmodromic
Displacement: 1099cc
Bore x stroke: 104.0 x 64.7mm
Compression: 12.5:1
Fuel system: EFI
Clutch: Dry, multi-plate
Transmission: 6-speed
Frame: Tubular-steel trellis with single-sided aluminum swingarm
Front suspension: Öhlins 43mm inverted fork with adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping
Rear suspension: Öhlins shock with adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping
Front brake: Dual Brembo Monobloc radial four-piston calipers, 330mm discs
Rear brake: Brembo two-piston caliper, 245mm disc
Front tire: 120/70ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa
Rear tire: 190/55ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa
Rake/trail: 25.6°/4.5 in.
Seat height: 33.0 in.
Wheelbase: 58.1 in.
Fuel capacity: 4.4 gal.
Weight (tank full/empty): 437/410 lbs.
Measured horsepower: 135.1 bhp @ 9750 rpm
Measured torque: 74.1 lb.-ft. @ 7750 rpm
Corrected ¼-mile: 10.44 sec. @ 124.42 mph
Top-gear roll-on, 60-80 mph: 2.68 sec.
Fuel mileage (high/low/avg.): 37/34/35 mpg
Colors: Titanium, red
Available: Now
Warranty: 24 mo., unlimited mi.
Contact: Ducati North America 10443 Bandley Dr. Cupertino, CA 95014 408.253.0499 www.ducati.com
The Streetfighter S rolls on Marchesini wheels supported by Öhlins suspension. Looking for something less spendy? The Streetfighter 848 goes for $12,995. Aprilia’s RSV4R APRC costs $16K, making the $14K Tuono the most affordable way to enjoy Aprilia’s incredible V4. The electronics let you tailor the bike to suit your mood.
Sachs suspension provides a good balance between compliance and control. Smaller 320mm rotors and Brembo’s cast calipers have less bite but excellent feel.
The Aprilia's digital screen and analog tach convey info clearly. Switch the dash to Race-mode to put gear position, TC level, drive mode and engine temp front and center.
Bigger 330mm rotors and Brembo Monobloc calipers give the ’Fighter seriously strong brakes. The Ohlins fork has titanium-nitride-coated lowers for reduced friction.
The Ducati's tiny digital dash keeps the cockpit simple and clean, but navigating the various menus is complicated and requires manipulating a lot of buttons.