Sports Bike 

2016 Aprilia RSV4 RF First Ride

No other brand has had more World Superbike racing success in recent memory than Aprilia with its V-Four-powered RSV4. Since its release six years ago, this Italian-built Superbike has been one of the most coveted rides for SBK’s top competitors, netting three championships in the hotly contested globe-trotting series. For 2016, Aprilia fine-tunes its Superbike flagship via internal engine updates,  revised chassis and updated electronic strategies with its limited-edition and Ohlins suspension-equipped 2016 RSV4 RF ($21,999) (for tech info check out the 2015 Aprilia RSV4 RR First Look).

ENGINE

Whether on the racetrack or road the visceral thrill of Aprilia’s signature 65-degree V-Four engine is undeniable. From the deep roar pumped out of the exhaust to the precise and direct response from the ride-by-wire throttle and engine, the Aprilia is easily one of the most captivating sportbikes to ride.

Perhaps the most noticeable improvement for 2016 is the RF’s added response throughout its 14,200 rpm rev range. The powerband feels snappier (as if you were running race fuel in this year’s bike) and has a greater appetite for building revs. From bottom to top the powerband is beefier yet continues to put power down smoothly – a key for turning fast laps. Top-end power is strong but certainly not as prodigious as other bikes in the class. The RSV4 pulls especially hard in the first three gears but acceleration tapers out in fourth and fifth.

For ’16 the RSV4’s three engine maps (Sport, Track, Race) have also been tweaked, with the previous model’s ‘Rain’ map dropped and replaced with a new ‘Race’ setting. Each of the settings allow for full engine power with varied degrees of engine braking according to gear position. We only had a chance to run the ‘Race’ map and it performed exquisitely, giving the rider accurate control of the motorcycle at all points on track, from corner entry to exit.

As always the OE-fitted electronic quickshifter helps keep the engine on the boil maximizing drive off turns, though it would have been nice if engineers incorporated auto-blip downshift functionality on the opposite end. Still considering the seamless function and well-sorted feel of its clutch and six-speed gearbox, it certainly isn’t a deal breaker.

ELECTRONICS

Since Aprilia introduced its APRC (Aprilia Performance Ride Control) software suite in 2011, it has positioned itself as a proven leader in the electronics realm. As before, the RF continues to employ eight-way-adjustable traction (wheelspin) and wheelie control. It also provides three levels of launch control (for use during race starts or drag races) and ABS. But the new RSV takes things further with the release of an iOS app allowing for real-time, turn-by-turn traction and wheelie control adjustment at pre-programmed circuits all over the world (iPhone must be mounted and wirelessly-connected to the motorcycle).

Aprilia has released an iOS app for the RSV4 allowing you to connect wirelessly to your motorcycle and adjust traction and wheelie control settings at specific turns at racetracks worldwide.
RSV4 RF Settings 
Suspension 
Fork
Preload: 10 (Turns in)
Compression: 8 (Turns out)
Rebound: 8
Shock
Preload: stock / 149mm spring length
Compression: 10
Rebound: 10
Drivetrain 
Engine: Race
TC: 1
WC: 1
ABS: 1
LC: 1

After selecting a circuit the user can fine tune traction and wheelie control in each turn. So say you’re hard on the gas exiting a wheelie-prone rise followed by a faster downhill turn – you can dial in more or less intervention for those exact circumstances. The app also offers a clever ‘Adaptive Race Assistant’ that compares lap times to help you lap faster on track. Lastly, it also has the capability of displaying real-time telemetry data including bank angle and acceleration slip (wheelspin). Like before paddle buttons on the left clip-on allow for ‘manual’ fine-tuning of either TC or WC on the fly.

Overall the iOS programming works well and we love the ability to tailor the electronics to certain points on the track. The only problem is that you can’t fully disengage either setting at specific points. And while it’s very fluid-feeling and extremely well integrated into the motorcycle both electronic aids can be too intrusive even in their lowest setting (Level 1). Here we’d like to see even finer adjustment options. That gripe aside, the Aprilia’s electronics remain effective at helping the rider feel comfortable with the acceleration, braking and handling potential of the motorcycle. Sure, you might be able to set a single flying lap faster with the electronics disabled, but lap after lap, you will never match the consistency of the machine.

CHASSIS

Over the years we’ve become fans of the Aprilia’s chassis especially in road holding and mid-corner performance. And the updated version continues to impress. With its sharper steering geometry, the RSV4 dips into




(Top) The RSV4 RF/RR’s electronics package continues to be one of the best in motorcycling. However we wish there was more finite adjustment between the least restrictive setting (Level 1) and ‘Off’. (Center) The RSV4 RF/RR’s smooth powerband and updated chassis is especially easy on tires yet still allows for high-levels of rear grip off turns. (Bottom) In the least restrictive setting Aprilia’s wheelie control helps mitigate power wheelies off turns helping the rider to achieve faster laps.

corners quicker and with reduced input but still requires some muscle to get hustled back and forth from full lean left-to-right and vice versa. We especially love the ultra-planted feel of the chassis mid-corner, the sensation complemented by an excellent Ohlins fork, which is responsive and near stiction-free. The result is confidence to charge hard into turns with virtually no reduction in stability or rear grip.

The fork is paired to a set of Brembo M430 monobloc calipers that provide tons of clamping force. Initial bite feels a little soft compared to other European manufacturers, however, there’s so much brake feel available giving the rider the confidence needed to squeeze deeper on the lever. Like before the ABS programming is so well-sorted that you don’t even know it’s there.

Dimensionally the RSV4 continues to feel like one of the smaller literclass sportbikes in the class with its ergonomics and seating position oriented for small to average-sized riders. Those standing six-foot and above will have a tougher time getting comfortable behind its windscreen and short seat area.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Squawks aside it’s hard to find real fault with Aprilia’s current Superbike package. Fast, charismatic and fun the 2016 RSV4 RF offers riders a highly adept track weapon. While it may not be the fastest machine in the class, with its well-engineered electronics package it certainly is one of the easiest to ride at full tilt. Factor in its enchanting engine howl and sensation-rich chassis and there’s no doubt that the Aprilia is one of the most lusted after sportbikes.

Aprilia RSV4 RF Highs & Lows
Highs
  • More responsive engine
  • Adept electronics package = easy fast laps
  • Superb fork and brake combo
Lows
  • Compact cockpit and seating position
  • Engine could pull harder in higher gears
  • TC and WC could offer more finite lower range settings
What the Pro Says:
 Leon Haslam took fourth in Race 1 at Imola but crashed out of the second event.

Leon Haslam, No. 91, Red Devils Roma Aprilia:

For me it’s the ride-ability of the RSV4. The smooth power delivery and the control it has electronically. That’s the biggest strength of the bike. It’s really easy to ride and it’s really good on used tires because of the smooth power delivery. The last few years we’ve been struggling a lot electronically (on other brands) and that’s something Aprilia definitely has under control.

2016 Aprilia RSV4 RF Specs
 

 

Engine: 999cc liquid-cooled V-Four, DOHC, 16-valve
Bore x Stroke: 78.0 x 52.3mm
Compression Ratio: 13.6:1
Fuel Delivery: Fuel-injection
Transmission: Six-speed
Clutch: Cable actuated wet multi-plate ramp-style slipper
Final Drive: Chain, 16/42 gearing
Frame: Twin-spar aluminum
Front Suspension: 43mm inverted Ohlins fork, three-way adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping; 4.72 in. travel
Rear Suspension: Gas-charged Ohlins shock absorber, three-way adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping; 5.11 in. travel
Front Brakes: 320mm discs with Brembo M430 monobloc four-piston radial-mount calipers; radial-pump master cylinder, stainless-steel lines w/ Bosch 9MP ABS
Rear Brake: 220mm disc with Brembo twin-piston caliper w/ Bosch 9MP ABS
Dry Weight: 397 (claimed)
Wheelbase: 55.9 in.
Length: 80.3 in.
Rake: 25.0 deg. Trail: 4.13 in.
Seat Height: 33.3 in.
Fuel Capacity: 4.88 gal.
MSRP: $21,999
Warranty: Two years, unlimited mileage

The Ohlins fork on Aprilias RSV4 RF is one of the best weve sampled on a production sportbike. It offers incredible road tire sensation during corner entry and has smooth stiction-free action.Mid-corner stability is one of the RSV4s biggest strong suits. Here the chassis feels planted and begs for more corner speed.
Although it appears unchanged the RSV4 RF RR engine features many new top end components including pistons camshafts and valves. The cylinder head is now machined from aluminum for greater tolerances and more power.The RSV4 RF RRs engine feels snappier as if you were riding the old version with race gas. It pulls hard in the first three cogs but could accelerate faster in fourth and fifth gears.The RSV4 RF continues to have one of the best-sounding exhaust notes in the business. This bike is simply a blast to ride at any pace.

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