Is the Indo-Italian sport bike capable of dethroning the KTM RC 390 off its perch?
Beautiful things often make you step outside your comfort zone. Like for instance, not sleeping through the night to catch a flight at a godforsaken hour only to spend around 20 minutes to ride the lovely looking Aprilia RS457. Lunacy at its finest, right? But was it worth the hassle and worth the wait? Has Aprilia India cracked the perfect bike that represents the Noale firm's sporty ethos without being exorbitantly priced? Time to find out by sticking to the firm’s motto: Be A Racer.
But before I hopped on, though, I spent a fair amount of time just soaking in all of the loveliness that the RS457 showcases, a typical Aprilia trait. The styling genes from the larger RS 660 and RSV4 have trickled down nicely. The sharp twin LED headlamp face is flanked with neat little aero elements that sit well with the sporty look that the bike is aiming for. The tail narrows down with what seems to be enough pillion seating space for a slender person. It is almost as if Aprilia would rather you ride this solo, as sport bikes are usually meant to be.
Aprilia RS 457
457 cc parallel-twin
47 bhp at 9400 rpm
43.5 Nm at 6700 rpm
6-speed with slipper clutch
Sport, Eco and Rain
Nestled in a RSV4-inspired aluminium twin spar frame is a brand spanking new 457 cc twin that brings 47 bhp and 43.5 Nm at your disposal. You do get a slipper clutch, ride by wire and three riding modes : Sport, Road and Rain. And since we are riding it solely around the Kari Motor Speedway for a limited amount of time, I left it in Sport mode only.
And boy does it come alive in a roaring fashion! There’s incredible drive available right from 2500-3000 rpm that lasts all the way to 9000rpm, post which the power tapers off. Down the relatively small main straight of the Kari Motor Speedway, I managed around 164 kmph in fifth gear, which is pretty impressive for a motorcycle of its class. There simply wasn’t enough road left to hit sixth and go faster.
What impresses you is just how powerful the mid-range punch is as it just picks up momentum and reaches triple digits in just third gear. But you get a sense that it runs out of breath soon and doesn’t have that great top end thrill that twin cylinder motorcycles are renowned for. Hence, this motor tuning might suit the upcoming Tuono 457 a great bit, but on the RS 457, I wish it had more fun at the top.
Plus, the vibes are pretty much evident, right from 5000rpm onwards and they get more and more serious higher up the rev band. At the track, you won’t be bothered much as the performance is enough for you to overlook it but it might be an issue in the real world, especially while high speed touring. Also, as I found out later while conferring with other journalists, this issue was a rather inconsistent one. While some bikes were suffering majorly, some were pretty smooth.
Also, I just wish the gearbox was slicker as both upshifts and downshifts were a bit clunky and crude. Clutch action was light and precise, though.
Lastly, Aprilia’s suite of electronic rider aids allows you to toggle between three levels of traction control on the fly and you can switch it off completely once you are at standstill. I did start riding the 457 in the least intrusive setting and a couple of laps later, switched it off completely. The bike simply held its own and didn’t cause any nervy moments.
Aprilia’s racing lineage has taught them how to design beautiful handling motorcycles and the RS457’s foundations certainly live up in that regard. The twin spar frame is suspended by USD fork and monoshock, both of which are preload adjustable. It uses a radial front caliper with a large front brake rotor. The tyres are specially developed alongside TVS Tyres to suit the bike. And all of this comes neatly into a package that truly lives up to the RS legacy.
Aprilia makes great handlers, period. Despite being made at Baramati, Noale’s traditions of making great cornering tools aren’t lost. The chassis inspires incredible confidence to push the bike hard and carry some serious lean angles. And it is just so light (175 kg kerb weight) and effortless that it swishes from one side to the other in a jiffy without it being too intimidating in its execution.
Credit to the superb TVS Protorq Extreme HR tyres here. Even when they were at their absolute edge, there was no squirming sensations or a feeling that the front was going to wash away. You could carry some serious pace without the front end showing any signs of duress and given our past experience of the same on our personal 390 Dukes, these tyres rarely break traction under hard acceleration.
What curbs your enthusiasm and hinders the fun are the brakes, which simply aren’t keeping up with the performance capabilities of the bike. There’s massive brake fade, something that I experienced on the initial fast laps itself. And even the initial bite is lacking, not reassuring. Aprilia has skimped a bit in this regard as the pads are organic and not sintered, the master cylinder is a rather simple unit and there’s no adjustable levers. These could have mitigated the issue to a great extent and opting for lower-spec hardware in this regard is a big no no from us.
Plus, ABS calibration was a bit too intrusive, kicking in almost too suddenly, which was another surprise because we felt this on the race track, where the tarmac is super smooth and without any gravel. Aprilia at least needs to sort this out soon, whereas for the former, find the nearest orange-coloured service centre and lift off the parts from there.
800 mm seat height, rear set foot pegs and raised clip ons, the RS 457 puts you in a nice place to have cornering fun. But it isn’t aggressive at all. It has just the right level of sportiness in its posture that will let you have fun without being too contorted or induce wrist and back aches, like you would experience on say the old RC 390 or the current R15. It is a tad bit better than the current RC 390 and the RR 310 but not too relaxed as well as the R3. It gets you in the zone to ride hard and fast and yet will be relaxed enough to handle the daily grind and go sport touring.
A small 5-inch colour TFT dash acts as command centre for the bike where you can check your ride and bike data, as well as change the various riding parameters like riding modes, traction control and ABS, with the help of the switch cubes. Plus, there’s music control and call control as well but no navigation assist whatsoever.
The RS 457 has no sintered pads, no adjustable levers, no standard quickshifter, and limited suspension adjustability. So, compared to the KTMs, it isn’t quite as sophisticated or packing features.
Plus, it still is a big unknown product in the grand scheme of things. So, sales touchpoints, service networks, spares, service costs and reliability are going to be fairly unknown. And we can only know more about this all post March, which is when the deliveries will begin from just 30 top cities across the country. So, again the reach for the same will be limited.
Lastly, a few motorcycles had some minor technical glitches and fitment issues, especially with the rear brake fluid reservoir that was spitting out brake fluid due to an ill-fitted cap. While the finish and quality is great, small irritants just dampen your spirits.
Aprilia’s first made-in-India motorcycle isn’t perfect, quite like its first made-in-India scooter – the SR 150 – was all those years back. It boasts of great handling and can be a worthy track tool-cum-daily runabout. However, the lack of outright oomph, braking inconsistencies and lots of unknown variables hold us back from recommending this bike to you wholeheartedly. And once can’t shy away from the fact that it costs a fair sum of money.
Sure, at Rs 4.10 lakh (ex-showroom), the RS 457 isn’t costing a bomb like the Yamaha R3. The Aprilia supersedes the Yammie in terms of tech, sophistication, features and handling but the sweet free revving R3 engine is something the RS 457 lacks. Plus, the Yamaha engine is a solidly reliable unit, something that we cannot say about the Aprilia just yet.
And for far less money, though, one can get the KTM RC 390. Yes, the styling isn’t to everyone’s liking, the Aprilia winning the beauty pageant every single day of the week. However, both of these Europeans are very very competent motorcycles. So, justifying spending the extra lakh of rupees might not be for everyone. For a definite answer between the two, we will bring a straight shootout soon. But until then, the Aprilia left me positively happy that it is here and it was worth the travel discomfort.
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