Don’t be fooled – the Aprilia Tuono 660 Factory and its parallel twin power plant may look like a bike that is aimed at younger, less experienced riders but get it into the top half of its rev range and it’s more like a 600cc Japanese sportbike that had too many espressos
The price tag might seem a little high, but Aprilia have ticked every possible box in terms of electronic gadgets, suspension options and it even comes standard with very excellent Pirelli Diablo Rosso IV rubber
The upshot is that the Aprilia Tuono 660 Factory is an superb bike that managed to flip many of my expectations on their heads with its levels of comfort, diverse abilities and genuine sporting prowess
Despite first appearances, reviewing motorcycles for a living isn’t as cool or as fun as it might seem. Yes, you do get to ride a lot of different bikes and that’s definitely one of the biggest positives, but for 99% of the time it’s just a very vanilla, very straight-forward process. Get the bike. Ride the bike. Try and write something interesting about the bike. Take the bike back. Repeat ad infinitum. Once the novelty wears off, you have to really push yourself to keep each review interesting, original and on point. There’s only so many ways you can say that a fast bike is fast, that a cheap bike is good value and a versatile bike does a bunch of stuff pretty well. And thanks to modern manufacturing and new quality assurance practices, bikes haven’t been truly bad, dangerous or poorly built since the early 90s. Gone are the days where you could really sink your teeth into a review after a brand new bike would refuse to start, warp a brake disc or start blowing smoke mid-review. It just doesn’t happen any more.
The last bike I reviewed was BMW’s new-ish R 18 cruiser; I really relished the opportunity because it’s just so different from the rest of their mainstream offering. It’s also a risky move for them, too. Risky for them, but fun for me. A massive engine. Silly amounts of torque. Wheel base measurements that would make an aircraft carrier blush. It’s way out there and as such, it’s an easy thing to write about. Then came the Aprilia Tuono. Make no mistakes, this is a great bike, but without the V4 engine of it’s bigger siblings and a (relatively) tame 595 cc capacity, I was expecting to have to dig pretty deeply into my inspiration bag-of-tricks to make this review an interesting one. But as the universe does sometimes, my time on the bike was anything but average. In fact, it’s probably one I’ll never forget for as long as I live and it has more ups-and-downs than a roller coaster on a cruise ship. And that’s no hyperbole. Not even a little bit.
But let’s not rush ahead. Having not ridden an Aprilia properly for many, many years I was really coming at the task with a clean sheet of paper. The sum total of my knowledge on their range of bikes was brief at best. They have a V4 sportsbike and naked, a few 600-ish options and they’ve just released an off-roader called the “Tuareg” – a name I thought VW already owned. Yes, they make some motorcrossers and scooters, but they seem to be limited to European countries or thereabouts. For the rest of us, Aprilia is a smaller, Piaggio-owned manufacturer that can easily get lost in the pitch black shadows that the big makers like Harley or Honda throw on a daily basis. Hell, from what I understand they still make their bikes in Northern Italy. All things to all riders they are most definitely not.
But the facts are clear. A proudly Italian motorcycle manufacturer in pretty much any form is usually a force to be reckoned with. I probably should have known better, but as I rocked up to the Sydney dealership to pick up the bike I was already working out interesting way to approach what I thought would be a decent but ultimately middling bike that was seemingly aimed at newer riders who wanted something that looked the part of a bigger litre bike but that was cheaper, more practical on a day-to-day basis and that wouldn’t scare them too much. After all, parallel twins of this capacity like Yamaha’s MT-07 are huge hits with new riders. And in Australia, they even have a restricted, “learner legal” version that has done really well, sales wise. So despite my best intentions, I was judging this Aprilia book by its very nice cover. Silly me.
Features of the 2023 Aprilia Tuono 660 Factory Naked Sportbike
With a single engine that looks to have been repurposed for its entire midweight range, the Tuono’s 660 parallel twin can also be found in the RS and Tuareg models. And while the Tuareg model is clearly its own unique thing, on the surface the differences between the Tuono and the RS 660 would appear to be the ’bars and front fairing. Clearly looking for a more comfortable, less track-focused bike, Aprilia have mounted the Tuono bars higher and further back than the RS, while also making sure the Tuono’s front fairing is a more minimal, and more practical affair in terms of directing the wind up and over the rider. The rest of the bike’s catalogue blurb reveals a very nicely-spec’d bike that seems to justify a price tag that is clearly one shelf higher than most of its Japanese competitors. Five riding modes. Brembo callipers and master cylinders. A TFT screen. And the “Factory” option it’s named after means five more horses over the base model. So far, so good.
Called a “compact and lightweight latest-generation engine,” the parallel twin in the Tuono Factory 660 is – according to Aprilia – made with the “experience” gained from their bigger V4 learnings. Keen to have us draw a direct connection between it and this “half V4”, it’s a compact unit that leans forward in its chassis cradle while also serving as a load-bearing member of the rear suspension crew by holding the swingarm in position. A so-hot-right-now 270˚ crankshaft gives the bike a more charismatic, more “v-twin” power delivery and the “Factory” title in its name means that it has as extra 5 HP on its base model family members. The additional oomph this gives the rider is accentuated via a shorter final drive and a lighter lithium battery which saves the Factory bike a full two kilos. However torque figures are still identical to the non-Factory models.
Calling itself “APRC”, Aprilia’s electronics bits and pieces package brings a nice selection of safety and performance features to this Italian festa in the form of a ride-by-wire electronic accelerator and six-axis inertial sensors that measure the bike’s movements and tailor power, engine mapping, the quick shifter, wheelie control, cruise control, traction control, engine braking and even how the ABS performs. No doubt it also allows the bike to feature the ride modes that it does. I’d suggest that this impressive list (although by no means unique) again talks to trickle-down tech from the V4 bikes. I’m somewhat reading between the lines here, but with “multimap cornering ABS,” I’m thinking that it feels more like a feature that was already available to the Piaggio engineers rather than a piece of kit that the bike absolutely needed to compete with its competitors. It’s also a clue to a conundrum that I will cover off a little later on.
Aprilia shouts from the rooftops how light the bike is, and there’s little doubt that they are wise to do so. At 180-odd kgs (just under 400 lbs), it’s no prima ballerina, but it is very much on the lighter side of things. And while it’s not all that much lighter than the non-Factory version, it’s put to best use with upgraded Kayaba (KYB) front shocks that are fully adjustable for compression, rebound damping and preload, while the Sachs rear shock with separate reservoir is also adjustable for compression, rebound damping and preload. Then there’s a TFT screen, “bending lights” for better through-corner vision at night, twin Brembo callipers and master cylinders, cruise control and some craftily-concealed winglets in the bike’s “innovative double fairing” that is supposed to provide downforce at higher speeds while also directing hot air extracted from the engine away from the rider to spare them from any additional sweats in summer. Like me, you’ll really have to go looking for it though; it’s definitely no Ducati-like appendage that you can rest your coffee on at the café.
The new-ish donk is a “latest-generation” forward-facing, four-stroke, 659cc parallel twin-cylinder jobby that’s both liquid-cooled with a radiator and with a water-oil heat exchanger. Its breathing is handled by a chain-driven DOHC, and it has four valves per cylinder. Compression is a fairly high 13.5:1 and it manages to produce 100hp (73.5kW) at 10,500rpm and 67 Nm (6.83 kgm) at 8500 rpm. Unofficial top speed is around 230 kmh (150 mph). The tank has a 15 ltr (4 gal) capacity with an included reserve of 4 ltrs. Fully fueled and lubed, the bike weighs in at a very decent 181 kgs (400 lbs) and the seat height is an average-ish 820 mm (32 in). My bike was shod with very classy Pirelli DIablo Rosso IV rubber, with a front at 120/70 ZR 17 and a rear at 180/55 ZR with the official spec stating that a 180/60 ZR17 is also allowable here.
Initial Impressions of the 2023 Aprilia Tuono 660 Factory Naked Sportbike
As per my clean sheet of paper approach, I rolled up to the Aprilia dealer in Sydney’s North West to get the bike with precious little in my head regarding exactly what I was riding home on. I knew that the brand’s Tuono range was a naked sports bike design and that it was a 660cc power plant. Apart from that, I was ready for anything. After signing the appropriate paperwork that I probably should have read but didn’t, I followed the salesperson as they wheeled the bike off the showroom floor and onto the footpath outside the dealership. Initial impressions time. It’s definitely a small and light bike that’s clearly a sportsbike in its back half and a little more naked in its front. The bars are a dead give-away here as they sit high and proud of the small fairing, well above the height of the seat. Physically, the bike’s dimensions are also like four fifths of a litre bike. It’s not small, but it’s clearly not full size either.
Poking around its private’s I see that it’s a parallel twin. OK. So what we have here is a smallish 660 cc parallel twin? I think I get it. It’s like a comfy sportbike for newer riders, yeah? It’s light so they don’t feel overly intimidated. It’s comfy so they can ride it on a daily basis. Check, check and check again. It’ll probably put out around 70 hp and it’ll be a big seller in markets like India and South East Asia. I’ve seen manufacturers do plenty of this stuff before. They realise that not everyone can own a 175 hp V4 brute, so they make bikes that look the part with all their racy bits and colours but that are in actual fact more about commuting and not looking like a dork on a cheap Chinese wanna-be sportbike bike. Maybe the Tuono 660 Factory is one of these? At first glance it seemed to make sense. Remember that I still haven’t seen the bike’s spec sheet at this point, so in a way I was very much clutching at straws. Yes, I probably should have read the factory info sheet that Aprili sent to me previously, but remember – clean sheet of paper…
More circling and I start it up. I see that it has ride modes, a quick shifter and wheelie control. Damn. That’s a bit presumptuous, isn’t it? After all, this doesn’t exactly look like the kind of bike that’s going to be flashing its sump at oncoming traffic. Not from a 660 parallel twin. Banish the thought! It must be all about bragging rights. I smile to myself and remember the Yamaha R15M I reviewed last year. So cute, with its little quick shifter, USD forks and traction control. Of course, they were totally unnecessary, but it was a fun bike that was great to ride. Now the Aprilia isn’t apples and apples with the tiny Yamaha, but I was starting to think that there might have been similarities. This would be a fun bike. A nice bike. But a fast bike? No, this probably wasn’t going to be a fast bike. Definitely not slow, but not fast.
Other quick observations from my notes mention the rather eccentric v-wing tail section design, the hidden winglets I found sandwiched in the bike’s twin skin front fairing, the underslung twin exhaust ports and the large, plastic-y set of controls mounted on the bike’s left ‘bar. Boy, they look really chunky.
Roll on, roll off
Riding the bike back home from the dealership on a Monday afternoon in traffic, none of my hasty initial impressions are being challenged. Without the ability to push it, I’m just keeping up with traffic and trying to get used to the bike’s basics. The bike’s a cinch to ride and everything’s very well set up. It’s all working as a nice whole. The motor’s a nice one, but I’m not exactly fearing permanent damage to my shoulder joints if I were to pin the throttle. In fact, I do pin it at one point for shits and giggles. I’m doing about 80 kmh on an inner city freeway and I roll on the throttle in 5th to see what happens. As expected, the bike gets up and goes, but it’s all very polite and expected. Great for younger riders. Nothing too scary or dangerous. More grist for my mental assumption mill. One thing is for sure, though. It’s light as all heck and the suspension setup is definitely on the taught side. No, it’s not uncomfortable – especially not with the bars where they are and with this seat, which is definitely more comfy that the bike’s sporty looks might suggest – but I am noticing the road’s imperfection beneath me.
Riding the 2023 Aprilia Tuono 660 Factory Naked Sportbike
Riding in the City
It’s now a week or so later from when I first rode the Tuono and I have got off my fat arse and checked a few of the stats on the bike. And to say I’m a little shocked is an understatement. The two that really stuck with me was that it supposedly has 100 hp on tap and that it costs AUD $22,700 or thereabouts. Could this be correct? That’s a whole heap more than I was expecting on both counts. Yamaha’s MT-07 has similar specs and it only costs $14,000. Then the paranoia set in. What had I got myself into? Am I seriously going to have to justify to you lot why you should buy an Aprilia that’s more than 50% more expensive than the equivalent Yamaha parallel twin? Oh crap. How the hell will I do that? So I either spin the truth to keep Aprilia happy or tell it like it is and risk never being able to borrow a bike from them again? Don’t panic, Andrew. You haven’t really given it a good ride, yet. One 30 minute squirt in shitty Sydney traffic does not a review maketh. So I take a step back and count the seconds until Sunday morning.
The day arrives and I’m keen as mustard to get onto the bike. And a little intimidated. Did I miss something here? I know a bike designed and built in Italy is going to come with a premium price tag, but if this thing can’t outclass an MT-07 in a convincing fashion it’s going to be relegated to something that only die-hard fans of the brand and those with enough cash to make impulse purchases without comparing it against other bikes in the segment. And I’m off. Again, the bike is just so nice about everything. It’s still as comfortable and polite and friendly as it was previously. But it slowly dawns on me that the throttle hasn’t been anywhere near the exciting upper reaches of the rev range. Of course, I’m still trundling through suburbia so I’m not immediately able to itch this scratch just yet. But as things get further apart and the trees start to fill the gaps in between, something rather miraculous starts to happen. Low and behold, it seems that the Tuono 660 Factory has an alter ego that it only brings out on weekends…
I’d be relieved by this revelation, but I’m just having too much fun to care. Equal parts flustered and excited, all I can think of in my head are the trite cliches that moto journos always deploy in situations like these. “Jekyll and Hyde,” they say. “A wolf in sheep’s clothing,” they write. Or what about a tasteless quip about “split personalities?” But let’s not rush to judgement here. What exactly is going on?
In what I can only describe as a kind of Honda VTEC-esque transformation as the bike moves up through the revs, at some point between the comfortable low rev ranges and the bike’s 11,000 rpm redline, it does a sort of Clarke Kent “running while stripping off the business suit” to become Superman so that by somewhere around eight grand or so, you’re left with this stunning blast of speed. This is accompanied by a soundtrack that seems so out of character for what had previously looked to be a completely sensible engine, it’s easy to imagine that someone’s swapped it out for a V4 while I was sleeping. Can this be right? Yes, I’m confused. But I’m also very relieved. Now this is more like it. Turns out the marketing gumph about the engine being a “fusion” with the V4 isn’t all hot air.
Trying and failing to be like a responsible member of the general public, I have to talk to myself out loud in my helmet to cool things down. The phrase “No Andrew, overtaking four cars in a row down a short straight is probably not the best idea you’ve ever had,” comes immediately to mind. Remembering that the curves are coming up, I bid my time by making mental notes about never again jumping to conclusions when reviewing bikes. Doofus.
Riding in the Curves
One thing I didn’t get wrong was being able to tell just how well the bike’s suspension was set up for corners. And while it isn’t of the the kidney-shattering firmness that you may find on many a track bike masquerading as road machine, I did get a sense that it was no cushion-y luxo barge thanks to a tautness an ability to transmit the road’s surface to the palms of your hands. While not tiring or too focused, the bike is always telling you what’s happening with the front wheel and that combined with the charismatic vibes of that beautiful engine will mean tingling hands if you ride it for more than a few hours all in one go. But what with the way the bike demolished any set of corners I threw it into, that’s likely to be something that will happen more than you’d think. A bike this adept at changing directions has the tendency to render corners that you previously found challenging as child’s play. This naturally leads to you taking said corners much faster than you thought was possible and the resultant feedback loop here can, if not kept in check, lead to the kind of riding that makes law enforcement officers upset.
So I limit the silly stuff to the bare minimum and instead turn my focus to the bike’s riding position. If the more upright and comfortable posture of the Tuono results in any lessening of the bikes cornering abilities when compared to the RS 660, then I’m having a hard time eking them out. Sure this isn’t a back-to-back test, but right here, right now, the Tuono feels to me like it was born to do this. All we’re missing is a bowl of pasta and a glass of prosecco.
Smiling like a small child high on sugar, I roll up on the cafe car park that marks the halfway point on my Royal National Park test loop. Cappuccino in hand, I stand back and take in the clifftop scenery. Summer is in the air in Sydney; you can tell by the smoke blanketing the city from the local authorities conducting back burning operations to avoid more catastrophic bushfires. But let’s enjoy the beautiful weather and pleasant temps while we can. A fellow coffee-sipper approaches me for a chat. Still trying to get my head around the bike, I just make small talk and tell him that I’m really enjoying it. He points to a V4 Tuono across the way and smiles. “That’s mine,” he says. “I don’t know how I still have my licence,” he says, part joking and part serious. “I’m thinking of getting this one for my son when he gets his full licence,” he suggests. I consider a “It’s faster than you expect,” spiel but I just smile and tell him that I’m pretty sure he’d enjoy riding it, too.
Coffee imbibed, I jump back on the Tuono and start the return trip. Putting my sensible hat on, I mix the sheer enjoyment of the bike’s newfound abilities with some studious note taking on the more mundane aspects that the excited me might have otherwise missed. The cruise control is a little cryptic to engage and I spend a minute or two fiddling with it before I manage to get it working and able to hold the speed that I want. The bike’s quickshifter is nicely set up but unlike (say) Yamaha’s system, it can’t be coaxed to change gears if its electronic brain has decided it’s not allowed to. In other words, if you are on the throttle but also wanting to change down a gear to prepare for an upcoming corner, the Tuono won’t have any of it. And despite the bike’s mirrors being bolted directed to those very “informative” bars, vibes from both the road and the engine never seem to trouble or distort the reflection too much.
Last Bus to Italy
So there I was, riding along on my way back home. “What a bike this is!” I thought to myself. Like some sort of cheeky card trick, it had totally fooled me. “Look over there!” it said while pulling the cover off a pot of gold in the opposite direction. But the secret was out now; this is about as far from a beginner’s bike as you can get without signing up for the MotoGP. And wow, was I impressed. Like a movie that I had been dragged along to that had turned out to be one of the best you’d ever seen, the Aprilia was indeed speaking quietly and carrying a very big, very beautiful stick. What a bike.
And then I got hit by a bus. No, not metaphorically. I really got hit by a bus. A big blue one full of passengers. Like a slapstick comedy routine, here I am riding along and smiling ear-to-ear about having cracked the Tuono’s secret code when out of nowhere, blammo. With twenty tonnes of metal sailing through a give way on a roundabout, both the bus driver and I see it coming so when we actually collide we aren’t going that fast. Nonetheless, bang goes the bus into the Aprilia’s left side and bang, over the Tuono and I go onto the cement circle in the centre of the roundabout. Next thing I know, I’m lying next to the Aprilia which is now flat on the ground on its right side. Time goes all weird as it tends to do in these situations, but the bus driver immediately admits fault and a witness comes forward to tell me that he saw the whole thing and that yes, it was indeed the bus driver’s fault. Details are exchanged and photos are taken. Some Karen on the bus starts to berate the driver, worried that she might be late for her appointment…
The upshot is that the bike is still rideable, but it’s missing the left footpeg and the foot brake on the right has been borked to the point where it’s clearly not going to stop the bike if needed. So I lift the bike up, start it, and jump on. Two random guys that I hadn’t previously noticed watch me from the other side of the road to make sure that I’m OK and that the bike doesn’t give up the ghost. It doesn’t and I manage to ride it the kilometre or so back to my house with my left leg dangling in the air like a lazy, chubby windsock.
The next morning I awake with three thoughts in my head. Firstly, I got hit by a bus and I survived. Fist pump. Talk about bragging rights; is there such a thing as an anti-bucket list? Secondly, this will make for a great story to tell in the review. Sounds stupid, I know. Once a writer, always a writer. But thirdly and most importantly I feel a deep frustration – almost a sadness – that I can’t ride the bike again. Like some whirlwind romance where the beautiful stranger disappears into the early morning light never to be seen again, there’s just no way this bike will be fixed and returned to me for another ride before my publishing deadline is up. Such is life.
The bike sits in my garage for another week while I reminisce about the amazing ride we have and how I just get more and more frustrated as to how I can’t ride it again. Ill-advised thoughts of zip tying the footpeg back on and just not using the rear brake are dashed by common sense and the thought that dodging one bullet is probably all the hints I need from the universe that I was lucky not to be more seriously hurt. Besides, how would I explain to Aprilia that I’d managed to crash one of their bikes twice because I rode an already crashed bike a second time?
What Could Be Better on the 2023 Aprilia Tuono 660 Factory Naked Sportbike
Once the penny dropped for me with the Tuono, my previous apprehensions about the bike’s price vanished like Maverick Vinales down a main straight. It’s worth every penny of the asking price and then some. But I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t mention a few bits and pieces that I feel could probably be improved. The first and most obvious is the TFT display. Not only is it quite small for a bike at this price point, but the graphics looked more than a little like Windows ’95. My middle-aged eyes were left squinting to see the info it was displaying and the white-on-light grey colour scheme didn’t make things any easier. Apart from that, the bike’s controls felt a bit plastic-y to me and the switch cluster on the left-hand ’bars was comically oversized for the bike’s petite proportions.
The only other thing I noted was that the bike’s tail section and it’s rather peculiar v-shaped torture device that most definitely will preclude any passengers from sitting on it, yet the bike also comes with passenger footpegs. Of course, it seemed a little odd to me. Doing my homework, I then realised that the bike comes with a second passenger seat that can be swapped out for the Batmobile option you see here. Scrub that one, then.
Final Thoughts on the 2023 Aprilia Tuono 660 Factory Naked Sportbike
So let’s wipe the blackboard clean and put this puppy to bed. The 2023 Aprilia Tuono 660 Factory had me a little confused at first, but I think it’s fair to say that it was all on me. After riding an army of Japanese bikes in this same midweight, parallel twin, 600-odd-cc engine capacity range, I was way too quick to pop in into the same “good motorcycle for a newer rider” basket without really understanding what the bike was all about. And while there are certain aspects of the bike that would suit that role perfectly, I feel that it’s probably a little too powerful, a little too fully featured and a little too accomplished for it to really suit a rider that’s grown tired of their first or even second bike. Show me a “new rider” that needs wheelie control software and I’ll show you someone who should probably check that their health care plans are up to date. That or they just wouldn’t be riding the bike anywhere near its real sweet spot.
No, it’s not going to keep up with a litre bike and it won’t bring a parking lot full of sunday riders to a standstill as you roll up on it, but for the other 99% of the time you’re on it, it’s either going to be spoiling you around town with it’s surprising comforts and Italian flair or making you look like a much better rider than you actually are through the twisties, all while entertaining you with a soundtrack that’s part operatic masterpiece and part erupting volcano. With 20/20 hindsight, it’s now obvious that Aprilia wouldn’t just throw their “Factory” branding around willy-nilly. After all, it’s the very same nomenclature they use on their V4 Tuono and RS. And while BMW And Audi may see fit to go slapping their M Sport and RS initials on any two-tonne SUV that moves, I get the distinct impression that Aprilia is smarter than that.
Like an internal-combustioned dance of the seven veils, the Aprilia sneakily revealed itself as a fast, perfectly balanced, beautifully capable, multi-faceted machine that wrong-footed me to the point where I felt like a clueless teenager who’s somehow managed a date with an Italian supermodel with an engineering degree. It’s also the ultimate panacea to the age-old sportbike conundrum. It’s all-day comfortable where a Japanese inline four 600cc sportbike is not. It’s happy pretty much everywhere and not just doing 180 kmh through a racetrack corner on the edges of its tyres.
It’s the bike I wish my old GSX-R 600 was, and it wraps all those positives in that beautiful Italian flair that ensure the bike has a soul and isn’t just a cold, calculating tool to get the job done. With that jaw-dropping 660 parallel twin on board, the Aprilia is a stunner and I’m having real trouble thinking of another bike in the category that could come close to it. If you are in the market for something a bit special and sporty that’s got pretty much the perfect balance between power, comfort, useability and yet will still make your heart skip a beat, the Tuono 660 Factory is probably it.
The 2023 Aprilia Tuono 660 Factory Naked Sportbike