With its multi-adjustable chassis and brutal 180-horsepower V4 engine, the Aprilia RSV4 was already the most race-focused roadbike we'd ever seen when we took it for a video road test earlier this year. Its race pedigree was proven last month at Imola when Max Biaggi cruised to a dominant championship win in what was only Aprilia's second season back in World Superbike. But the pace of progress is furious, and yesterday at Intermot in Cologne, Aprilia revealed a new model upgrade with a class-leading electronics package that brings MotoGP-style rider assist features like adjustable wheelie control and launch control to a roadbike for the first time, as well as 8-way adjustable traction control and a full-throttle quickshift system. If we thought last year's RSV4 was racetrack-focused, the new Arpilia RSV4 APRC Special Edition makes it look like a courier hack.
Aprilia never made any bones about what it was doing when it built the RSV4 – this was a bike built purely to win the World Superbike championship. It had lights and mirrors and a number plate holder, but these were bare-minimum measures that were really only there to let the bike get homologated for competition. In full-power Track mode, it was almost too highly strung to ride around town, lurching and snarling and begging to be let off the leash as it cooked riders' spuds with prodigious amounts of engine heat.
But in the hands of Superbike megastar and ex-GP race winner Max Biaggi, the RSV4 proved its worth – it was instantly competitive, making it onto the podium in only its second World Superbike championship round, and finishing 4th in the standings in its first season. By comparison, the top BMW S 1000 RR, ridden by Troy Corser, only managed 13th place in the 2009 contest despite considerable expectation.
By midway through the 2010 season, Biaggi had shot so far clear of the field that he was able to spend the latter half of the season cruising to an easy championship win – a first World Superbike championship for Aprilia and a remarkable achievement for such a new team and a new machine.
The "win on Sunday, sell on Monday" credo runs deep in Aprilia's bloodline, so achieving such stellar success has encouraged the Italian manufacturer to sharpen its top tool to an even finer edge with the announcement of the RSV4 APRC SE (Aprilia Performance Ride Control Special Edition) announced yesterday at Intermot.
Here's how the APRC SE bike differs from the RSV4 Factory:
- 8-stage Aprilia Traction Control system to keep the bike's huge power under control. The traction control is fully adjustable, even on the fly, using a small joystick on the left handlebar, making it possible to choose the perfect level of wheelspin for each corner on a racetrack if you're sharp enough to manage it.
- 3-stage Aprilia Wheelie Control system - this is the first time we've seen a dedicated wheelie control system on a roadbike, and Aprilia's language is a little vague on exactly what it does: "the AWC is able to "tell" when a wheelie begins and ends and kicks in to smoothen wheel contact with the road. Smooth, soft wheelie management avoid[s] harsh power cuts or pick-up[s], providing perfect acceleration control." Er, so what exactly does it do? Stop the RSV4 from wheelstanding? Improve your wheelies with nice soft landings? Keep power wheelies to a set height? We don't know. But when we tested the old model RSV4 we found its forward weight distribution did a great job of keeping the nose down, even under enthusiastic throttle application. I guess we'll have to wait and see how the AWC system operates.
- The new Aprilia Launch Control system - another world first on a production roadbike. Launching a motorcycle is another one of the many skills that have become redundant in top level racing in recent years; MotoGP and SBK racers merely engage their electronics, hold the throttle wide open and clutch it out to get going at maximum speed. The RSV4 APRC SE now offers a similar system, 3-way adjustable, for "race use only." Hold down both traction control buttons at a standstill to arm the launch control system, then whack the throttle wide open and release the clutch normally. The launch control system manages revs for the optimal race start, or a guaranteed win at the traffic light drags.
- A high-tech quickshifter system that lets you bang your way up through the gears at full throttle without using the clutch. The new Aprilia Quick Shift system reads engine revs and takes gear spacings into account when it's working out exactly how long it should cut the spark for. That means there's fewer wasted revs, and more uninterrupted acceleration even as you work your way up the gearbox. BMW's quick shift system has been a huge hit on recent K and S series roadbikes, and there's no reason to think the Aprilia system won't be a hugely fun addition to the bike.
- Dual display mode - Road and Race settings change the instrument panel display
- Lightened exhaust system
- Closer ratio gearbox
- Improved engine lubrication system
- A new 200-section rear tyre with a dual compound construction
So yes, this is a significant step forward for what was already an incredibly sharp bike. The omission of a factory-fitted ABS system speaks volumes – every one of the APRC SE's enhancements are focused on shaving tenths off laptimes as the ultimate track bike. No racebike runs ABS, it adds unsprung weight and is of no interest to top-level track riders. And while it's immensely useful as a safety feature on the road, that's just not what the RSV4 is all about. If it's not for racing, and it doesn't need to be there for homologation, Aprilia is just not interested.
No pricing or availability details have yet been announced, but we're happy to put our hands up for a road test when these beauties make it to the showroom! Check the image gallery for a boatload more photos.