First ride: Is the Aprilia RSV4 RR a bargain sportsbike or a false economy?

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When Aprilia’s sportsbike was a V-twin, the firm used to sell far more of the higher-specification Factory models than the base model. However recently this has all changed, so much so in fact that last year Aprilia UK didn’t bother importing the updated Euro4-compliant 2017 RR and instead only concentrated on selling the top of the range RF.

However due to the fact that this year they have argued a ‘killer price’ on the RR with the Noale factory, for 2018 the UK’s riders now have the option of both models. With the RR costing £15,599, which is a massive £4400 less than the RF, could this be the bike to finally turn the UK’s riders towards Aprilia’s V4 sportsbike? MCN took an RSV4 RR to Brands Hatch to see if it is a brilliant bargain V4 or a false economy.

What’s missing?

Where the RF has Öhlins NIX30 forks and an Öhlins TTX36 shock, the RR uses Sachs units front and rear. The level of adjustability is identical, as is the 43mm diameter of the forks, but the RR’s Sachs steering damper isn’t adjustable where the RF’s Öhlins unit is. The RF’s forged wheels have five Y-spokes where the RR’s cast alloy items have three and the RF comes with the Aprilia V4-MP multimedia platform, which is a £250 accessory to fit to the RR. The two bikes share an identical engine, electronics package, adjustable frame and swingarm and have the same claimed wet weight.

Sachs suspension instead of Öhlins

Visually, there is nothing better than a bit of Öhlins gold, but for 90% of riders the Sachs suspension is more than good enough. And even if it wasn’t, there are far cheaper solutions out there such as getting it rebuilt by an expert than having to resort to replacing it. Around Brands, the RR’s suspension was good enough for a fast trackday group pace on a hot day. Given a bit more time I would have probably started to stiffen the rear slightly to deal with my weight and growing confidence in the APRC’s ability to allow me to fully unleash that 198bhp V4 exiting Clearways, while once I reduced the cornering ABS’s level of intrusion a bit more support on the front would also have helped matters on the brakes into Druids. The only thing I did question was if I wanted an adjustable steering damper as the front felt like it was considering getting a bit twitchy on occasions.

Do the cast wheels take the edge off its handling?

On a dry race track, where you are far more positive with your riding inputs than on the road, you don’t spot the RR’s lack of lightweight wheels. The RR still handles fantastically and drops into bends with minimal effort and I reckon that with them fitted the Aprilia would have been even twitchier on the occasions when it did feel lively, so in some ways it was better not to have them. On the road you wouldn’t miss forged wheels unless you had them fitted and then reverted back to cast wheels, when you would probably notice the slightly slower steering.

A subtler look

The RSV4 RF’s gaudy paintwork splits opinions, some like its brashness, others think it looks like an explosion in a paint shop that was located next to a sticker factory, which also blew up. The RR is certainly a classier looking machine and its matt black (gray is the other option) is sporty without being ‘shell suit’ – while the red wheels add an element of track cool without going over the top. Everyone who saw the bike at Brands commented on the red wheels…

Is it good value?

The RR’s price tag places it a few hundred quid cheaper than the non-semi-active suspension Japanese inline fours (ZX-10RR, GSX-R1000R, YZF-R1, Fireblade) and a massive £3651 less than the base model Panigale V4. The BMW S1000RR Sport is £400 cheaper and comes with semi-active suspension, but you need the £600 Performance Package to match the RR’s electronics. So yes, the Aprilia is extremely good value when you consider it has a cutting-edge electronics package, amazing V4 motor and an (adjustable) chassis that has won three WSB titles.

MCN Verdict

When it comes to noticeably upgrading a bike’s performance, the expensive parts are the motor, electronics and chassis. And on this score the RR is right up there with the very best sportsbikes money can buy as the APRC is staggering, that V4 beautiful and the chassis is WSB-tested and developed. The compromises Aprilia have made to keep the RR’s cost down are simple, and cheap fixes few riders will ever feel the need to alter.

So impressive is the RR’s chassis you don’t miss lightweight wheels and getting the Sachs suspension set up by a professional would make it perform as good as Öhlins units for 90% of riders. As a taller rider I’d fit rear sets to the diminutive Aprilia to give me some more legroom and get rid of the non-grippy OE pegs, but that’s as far as I’d go – aside from feeding it sticky tyres and fuel!

This bike, at this price, deserves to sell. And sell as well as any rivals, possibly even better, as it is tremendous value for money. Although like all Aprilia models, selecting neutral is still a lottery!

The specification

  • Price: £15,599
  • Power: 198.2bhp @ 13,000rpm
  • Torque: 84.9ftlb @ 10,500rpm
  • Engine: 999cc 65-degree DOHC 16-valve V4
  • Frame: Aluminium
  • Suspension: 43mm inverted Sachs forks, fully-adjustable. Sachs monoshock, fully-adjustable
  • Brakes: 2 x 330mm discs, Brembo M50 4-piston radial monobloc calipers. 220mm rear disc with two-piston caliper
  • Wet weight: 204kg
  • Tank: 18.5-litres
  • Seat height: 845mm

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Jon Urry

By Jon Urry

MCN contributor, original 916 & R1-owner, human labrador