CAPE TOWN – Superbikes have always represented the pinnacle of motorcycle technology. What's made these bikes so likeable over the years is their close connection to the racing versions. Buy a superbike from the showroom floor and the performance is not far off that of the World Superbike Championship bikes.

And now a couple of entrepreneurs have formed Italian Motorcycle Importers, which brings Aprilia (previously available in South Africa) and Moto Guzzi into South Africa. They allowed us to spend an hour on two of their bikes. This is barely a riding review of the one, but rather a brief introduction to one of the fastest and most advanced superbikes we’ve yet experienced.

What is it?

The RSV4 Factory is Aprilia’s top superbike, with its V4 engine of 1 077 cm3 capacity offering no less than 160 kW and 122 N.m. With a claimed dry weight is 177 kg, you don't have to be a maths genius to realise the power-to-weight ratio this machine offers is impressive.

There were numerous carbon-fibre parts on our test unit, with the most notable being the side aero blades (or wings) attached to the front fairing. These are designed to offer downforce at high speeds. The standard Acropovič exhaust pipe looks pure race bike while you can also peek in front of the swing arm to view the adjustable suspension. That wide Pirelli Diablo Super Corsa tyre is another reminder of the race intention of this motorcycle.

In the saddle

If you haven’t been on a superbike in a while, the compact nature of the RSV4 comes as a surprise. The rear wheel ends further back than the end of the tail, while once seated you basically see the road ahead of you. You need to look down to read the screen. It feels perfect, though; manageable, nimble and ready to be unleashed.

Talking of the screen, I didn’t have time to play with all the available functions, but it's clear there are numerous settings to learn as well as a plethora of information available to the rider. Apart from the usual horizontal rev counter that runs at the top of the screen, there is a live lean angle indicator as well as throttle opening indicator. Needless to say, when riding, you rarely look down to take in all that information but rather fully concentrate on the road (and try to absorb what's happening, while sometimes laughing out loud in your helmet).

As this was my first time piloting a V4 superbike, I thoroughly enjoyed the character of the engine. There is plenty of low-end grunt and the sort of roughness one associates with a V2 engine, while it revs almost as smoothly and high as an inline four. The torque on offer means you can scare yourself – and other traffic – purely using the middle of the rev range. However, force yourself to stay in a selected gear, open the throttle and you can thank the electronics for keeping the front wheel on the ground. And this is the case all the way up to fourth gear.

The brakes are super strong and confidence-inspiring while the flat-shift function of the gearbox (up and down) adds to smooth shifts. In addition, it sounds like a pure race bike when you down shift and the electronics auto blip to match the drivetrain’s speeds.

Other interesting stats from Aprilia is a top speed claim of 305 km/h, a maximum deceleration figure of 1,3 G and a 0-200 km/h acceleration time of only 7,5 seconds.

Summary

At R398 000, this model is certainly no budget bike. But this is sort of money you can expect to pay for a high-end superbike. Interestingly, Aprilia also offers the RSV RR, with a 1 000 cm3 engine with marginally less impressive performance (at a more palatable price).

It was only a brief introduction, but there's a lot to like about Aprilia’s top superbike. There's certainly enough performance to keep you occupied for the duration of your ownership experience.

Electric cars might be on the way and supercars might cost millions but hopefully there will always be superbikes. For a fraction of the money you can pilot a machine which most of us are unlikely to master in a lifetime ... all while looking hardly out of place parked in the most thoughtfully decorated living room.



FAST FACTS

Model: 2020 Aprilia RSV4 Factory
Price: R398 000
Engine: 1 077 cm3
Power: 160 kW at 13 200 r/min
Torque: 122 N.m at 11 000 r/min
0-100 km/h: +- 3 seconds
Top Speed: 305 km/h (claimed)
Fuel Consumption: n/a
CO2: n/a
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Warranty: 2-years/unlimited mileage