Everything You Want To Know About The Aprilia RS660 (Except What It’s Like To Ride)

At long last, Aprilia has finally taken the wraps off the highly-anticipated RS660. The first model on a platform intended to be used for years to come, not unlike the RSV4, the RS660 clearly takes some cues from its superbike sibling. The thing is, in its presentation to the media recently, Aprilia representatives were quick to point out that, unlike the RSV4, the RS660 is not a track-focused weapon but rather a streetable sportbike. This is a motorcycle you can live with on track and on the street, says lead designer Miguel Galluzzi. 

It’s no secret there’s a large gap in Aprilia’s product line below the RSV4, especially in the US. Europeans have the RS50 and RS125 to learn on (lucky kids), but what then? Typically this means jumping to a 600cc supersport, and as exciting as a 600 can be to some kids (I’ll admit I was in that category in my 20s), the allure fades quickly once you realize the commitment these bikes entail. The riding position is uncomfortable, their engines demand to be revved high, and you really need to ride them hard to get the most out of them.

Instead of falling for the middleweight supersport trap, Aprilia is taking a different approach to the middleweight market. It’s betting on the fact younger generations are looking at sportbikes from a different angle. There’s a reason why middleweight Twins like the Suzuki SV650, Yamaha MT-09, Kawasaki Ninja 650, and Honda CBR650 (technically a four-cylinder, but you get the idea) are so popular – they offer plenty of performance without the commitment of a supersport.

With the RS660, Aprilia is exploiting this category. At 659cc, Aprilia says the all-new parallel-Twin will make 100 horses at the crank, weigh 403 lbs ready-to-ride, and come packed with RSV4-inspired electronics that will make those other bikes feel archaic by comparison. Despite this, the RS660 isn’t about the numbers. It’s about feeling the joy of carving corners, all the tech and performance details just live in the background. At least that’s what Aprilia wants you to think.

Well, there is one number to think about – coming in at $11,299 USD ($13,499 CAD), this level of performance, streetability, and technology doesn’t come without a price. That’s quite a bit more than the likes of the SV and MT, but as you’ll see below, you’re also getting more motorcycle.

Here, we’re going to take a deep dive into the new RS660. Be sure to come back on Monday, October 26 to read about what it’s actually like to ride.

Styling

Normally when we talk about a new motorcycle, jaded and seasoned riders like us instinctively start at the engine. We’ll get to that, don’t worry, but when we’re talking about a category that could potentially introduce buyers to their first Aprilia (some might even call it their first real motorcycle after stepping up from the bike they learned on), then the first grab has got to start in the styling department. 

With the RS660 there are some obvious RSV4 design cues, like the triple headlights in the front (which are all LEDs now) and sharp edges, but the most distinctive feature of the RS660’s styling is the dual-layered fairing. If you look closely you’ll see what looks like winglets – a design feature seemingly every sportbike has these days. On the RS660, however, the winglets are incorporated into the design of the fairings, not protruding from the sides of the bike “like a mustache,” says Galluzzi.

Here’s the difference between the RS660 and other sportbikes: its dual-layered fairing isn’t designed with downforce in mind. Rider comfort is the goal here, and the fairing design pulls air from front to back as quickly as possible, taking with it the hot air coming from the engine so the rider doesn’t feel it.

With the theme of rider comfort being the focus here, from an aerodynamics perspective, Galluzzi was less concerned about slicing through the air with the rider in a tuck as opposed to having the rider feel like they were in a bubble sitting normally. Attention to details like windscreen length – down to the millimeter – were taken into consideration. Through it all, the bike still had to look unmistakably like an Aprilia.

Ending at the back of the bike, the tail section takes clear design cues from the RSV4 with its sharp edges and minimalistic design, “but we gave this one [RS660] a more usable passenger seat,” quips Galluzzi.

Chassis

The die-cast aluminum frame is made up of two lateral beams bolted to the head stock (similar to the Harley-Davidson Livewire, of all things). Considering the intent of using this engine as a platform for many other motorcycles to come, the modularity makes sense. In this application, there’s an emphasis on compactness. As such, the engine is used as a stressed member.

This expands to the swingarm, too, as the swingarm pivot is mounted within the engine itself. Using the engine as the pivot also helps place the footpegs 18mm closer together compared to the RSV4.

Looking at the ergonomics a little further, more evidence of the 660’s street-first approach can be seen at the bars. The clip-ons mount below the triple clamp, with risers above the clamp so the rider isn’t in such a committed position. The seat itself is 32.3 inches from the ground, which sounds a little high, but Aprilia assures us the slim and narrow profile of the bike makes it easy to reach the ground. The footpegs are almost directly under the seat.

In fact, when deciding on the seating position for the RS660, Aprilia benchmarked two competitors: the Kawasaki Ninja 650 and Yamaha YZF-R6. Two sport-focused motorcycles, each lying on opposite ends of the sporty spectrum. For the RS, Aprilia decided on something in the middle – something a little more sporty than the upright Kawasaki, but not nearly as hunched over as the Yamaha.

Suspension components are Kayaba at both ends; a 41mm inverted fork and a shock directly mounted with no linkage. Both only have adjustability for rebound damping and spring preload.

Brembo provides brake components, but don’t expect top-shelf Stylemas. Nonetheless, radial-mount calipers are fed fluid through a Brembo master cylinder, grabbing 320mm discs. Three-level Cornering-ABS is standard (more on that later). Cast aluminum wheels wear 120/70 Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa II rubber up front, with a 180/55 rear.

Looking at the geometry numbers a little closer, the RS660 has a 53.9-inch wheelbase, 24.1º rake, and 4.1 inches of trail. Not aggressive numbers by any means, but definitely on the sporty side.

Engine

This, of course, brings us to the engine. The heart and soul of any motorcycle, it’s basically an RSV4 1100 engine with the rear bank of cylinders lobbed off. Even the 81mm bore size is the same as the RSV (stroke is 63.4mm). But the RS660 engine is obviously more than that. According to Marco Ghelardoni, one of the lead developers of the new 659cc parallel-Twin, there were four targets Aprilia set out to achieve:

  • Overall dimensions: The new engine had to be compact and as small as possible, which is one reason why the parallel-Twin platform was chosen. The physical size of the engine allows more freedom to position other components like the intake and exhaust. 
  • Lightness: with FEM analysis, Aprilia were able to design the frame, and its wall thickness, to be as light as possible. Having the engine serve as a stressed member and act as the swingarm pivot also helps keep weight down.
  • Vibration level: The new engine uses a 270-degree firing order, and yet Aprilia says only one counterbalancer was needed to keep vibrations in check.
  • Performance: “We didn’t want to make an extreme engine. That’s what the RSV4 is for,” says Ghelardoni. Instead, the RS660 engine needed to be exciting and inviting. To that end, the Twin makes 100 (crank) hp at 10,500rpm and 49.4 lb-ft (67 Newton meters) at 8500 rpm, giving it the most power in its class. More importantly, 80% of the bike’s torque is available at 4,000 rpm. 

Starting with the basics, the 659cc parallel-Twin is an all-new engine, down to the castings and molds, destined to power a family of motorcycles to come (the Tuono 660 being the next in line). It’s no secret the engine takes heavy influences from the RSV4, though. The intake path, combustion chamber, different-length intake manifold, and in fact the entire cylinder head borrow heavily from the RSV4. Four valves per cylinder are a given, so are the dual-overhead (hollow) camshafts driven by a single timing chain. The two throttle bodies measure 48mm in diameter, with the throttle operated completely electronically. Compression ratio comes in at 13.5:1.

The wet clutch has a built-in assist and slipper system which should yield a light lever pull and a resistance to rear wheel chatter should you botch some downshifts. Speaking of which, shifts in both directions can be done without the clutch with the Aprilia quickshifter – and because Aprilia is well aware people are going to take the RS660 to the track, reversing the shift pattern (first gear is up, the rest are down) is as simple as flipping the shift linkage and changing the software for the quickshifter.

Electronics

This is really where the RS660 sets itself apart from the competition, and even from the RSV4. Being an all-new platform means the RS660 is graced with the latest electronics, and as anyone who owns an electronic gadget will tell you, electronics basically become obsolete the moment you get home.

The brain of the RS660 is the Magnetti Marelli 11MP ECU, which will be used across several Piaggio (not just Aprilia) models and replaces the current 7SM unit. Where the old unit had 80 pins, the 11MP has 144. Frequency jumps from 50MHz to 200MHz, and the flash memory gets an upgrade from 1MB to 4MB, all of this means the ECU is able to handle an expanded array of connectivity across the CAN BUS system with increased processing power to boot.

If your head hurts after reading the last paragraph, then here’s what you really need to know: the RS660 comes with the latest iteration of the APRC (Aprilia Performance Ride Control) suite. Centered off the six-axis Continental (not Bosch) IMU, APRC includes:

  • Traction Control (ATC)
  • Wheelie Control (AWC)
  • Cruise Control (ACC)
  • The aforementioned up/down quick shifter
  • Engine Brake Control (AEB, something not seen on the RSV4)
  • Engine Map Control (AEM)

Another feature is the three-level Cornering ABS, with level 1 being the least intrusive (for track riding), operating only on the front wheel without any cornering function. Level 2 operates on both wheels without the cornering function, while level 3 operates on both wheels and activates the Cornering ABS function – the safest for road riding. ABS can’t be turned off completely at any time. You can thank homologation requirements for that.

Modern motorcycles are nothing without ride modes, and with the RS660, there are five of them, including a Commute mode with high intervention levels, further emphasizing the 660’s streetability. Next is Dynamic, which loosens the restrictions for sporty riding, followed by Individual, a totally customizable mode the user can set.

Interestingly, the last two modes are geared towards track riding. The fourth mode, “Challenge” brings all the electronic interventions down to low settings for the track, while the fifth mode – “Time Attack” – is completely customizable by the user. If you’ve been counting, that’s three preset modes (two for the street, one for track) and two custom modes (one street, one track). All this information is relayed back to the rider via the TFT display.

All That’s Left To Do…

Short of riding the RS660, that’s all the tech details we know about the new bike. On paper anyway, it looks set to blow bikes like the SV650 and MT-07 out of the water. Maybe it can even give the KTM 790 Duke a run for its money (sorry, Evans). Personally, I can’t wait to get one on a racetrack, and since Aprilia is a racing brand, Marco D’Acunzo, Marketing Director for Aprilia North America, has already let it slip that they are internally prepping one for track duty (MotoAmerica Twins Cup, anyone?).

Nonetheless, the RS660 promises to be a fun street bike, too. I’ll get to find out next week during the official North American press ride. You can read all about it on Monday, October 26.

In the meantime, the RS660 will be available in three colors: Lava Red ($11,299), Apex Black ($11,299), and Acid Gold ($11,499), and pre-orders are now being taken at storeusa.apriia.com. First deliveries are expected before the end of 2020, with the rest of the deliveries being fulfilled in Q1 2021.

 

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