If you enjoy playing the Name-That-Engine game, you’d probably recognize the 2021 Aprilia Tuono 660 as a twin cylinder with your eyes closed. But lift those lids and… disconnect. In the flesh, the latest from Noale isn’t quite what it seems, let alone sounds like. Call it Cognitive Motorcycle Dissonance 101—the inputs just don’t compute.
For starters, the Aprilia’s burbling warble sounds more like a big-bore v-twin. But the motor displaces only 659cc and arranges its combustion chambers in single file, the same mild-mannered parallel twin configuration you’d find in a workaday Triumph Bonneville. Widen your gaze and suddenly the Tuono 660 also looks like a 4:5 scale version of a big bike, like it was left in the dryer a tad too long.
Unlike their British and Japanese counterparts, the enthusiastic engineers at Aprilia were apparently incapable of producing a sensible, daily-rideable, middleweight naked bike—something the Italian mainstay needed to fill out its range in a segment that’s key to attracting more casual or less-experienced riders. Instead of building a straight-ahead steed, it splashed acid gold and fluorescent hues onto multi-layered bodywork, adding winglets, inlets and ribbed bits to make the Tuono 660 feel like a proper (if slightly subscale) semi-naked superbike. Adding to the confusion is a just-over-$10k premium that flies counter to its starter bike positioning.
Is this a shrunken Tuono V4 1100, or a stripped-down RS 660? More the former in spirit and the latter in execution, but the Tuono 660 has its own unique qualities to appreciate and enjoy. It might not make the most sense, but for an emotional purchase like a motorcycle, I’m not sure that’s ever really mattered.
2021 Aprilia Tuono 660 Specs
- Base Price: $10,499
- Powertrain: 659cc DOHC parallel twin engine | six-speed transmission
- Horsepower: 100 @ 10,500 rpm
- Torque: 49 lb-ft @ 8,500 rpm
- Curb Weight: 403 pounds
- Wheelbase: 53.9 inches
- Seat Height: 32.2 inches
- Quick Take: Aprilia’s not subtle, and neither is its new intermediate bike.
The House of Tuono
Put simply, the latest from Aprilia is a mini-me of the big boy Tuono, the V4-powered 175 hp track bruiser that offers less bodywork and more upright, accommodating ergonomics than its low-slung superbike counterpart. The Tuono 660 isn’t entirely naked, but it is a naked-er version of the fully-faired RS 660.
Like its big brother, the Tuono spinoff brings taller handlebars and lower footpegs capped in rubber to soak up vibrations. The wee one also packs the same smooth-revving 658.8cc engine that produces 100 horsepower and 49 pound-feed of torque. For what it’s worth, Aprilia claims the greatest power-to-weight ratio in the segment, with a claimed curb weight of 403 pounds.
The middleweight engine revs to 11,500 rpm and squeezes 80 percent of peak torque from 4,000 rpm upward. Mean vee sounds are produced thanks to the 270-degree crank and the tuning of its underslung exhaust, which weighs only 13.6 pounds. There’s all manner of electronics on hand, including five drive modes which can be personalized with custom engine braking, ABS, and traction control, controllable via the left switchgear and a colorful TFT screen. Standard features include cruise control, while the available six-axis IMU ($200) enables wheelie control to be operated independently of traction control (without it, TC must be turned off in order to enable one-wheel riding). The option also enables lean angle-sensitive ABS and so-called bending headlights, which aim the beams into the anticipated direction of travel. Add another $200, and you get a quickshift feature for clutch-free upshifts and downshifts.
Riding the Aprilia Tuono 660
Straddle the Tuono 660’s 32.2-inch seat, and it’s hard not to be struck by its lightness. The bike feels slight and skinny between your thighs, and it doesn’t take much reach to grab the handlebars. There’s a quartet of buttons on the left handlebar to navigate settings, which can switch drive modes on the fly and are intuitive enough to operate once you get the hang of the menu structure. The TFT screen is clear and easy to read in sunlight, and the view over the handlebars feels like a proper sportbike, with bright, programmable shift lights to assist in the accelerative antics.
The bass-heavy exhaust note encourages lusty acceleration, and the Tuono 660’s powerband is linear enough to deliver predictable thrust all the way to its peak of 11,500 rpm. Apart from a flat spot midway to redline, the twin powerplant punches with strong low-end torque and free spirited revving, with an available quickshift system that works best when the Tuono is being ridden aggressively. Tap the foot lever up hard at high rpms, and the shifts are quick; try to swap cogs to early or half-heartedly, and the result can be awkwardly jerky.
Similarly, you can’t engage smooth, clutch-free downshifts without letting off the throttle and allowing revs to drop; unlike a car’s dual-clutch transmission, Aprilia’s quickshift system (like that of many other bikemakers) relies on a certain amount of forethought, rewarding proper timing and punishing ill-timed techniques.
The Tuono dips into corners with an almost neural ease, intuitively translating body position into lean angle. Mid-corner corrections are easily enacted—think, Miata/Elise/Civic Type R levels of flickability— and the chassis clearly communicates the road below through Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa II rubber and rebound/preload adjustable front and rear suspension. I didn’t fiddle with suspension settings, but in its baseline setup the 660 felt comfortable enough for all-day riding (aided by its accommodating saddle softness), but responsive enough to tame tangled routes like Malibu’s Latigo and Decker canyons. Reassuringly, feel from the 4-piston front and 2-piston rear Brembos is outstanding, encouraging late braking and a finely modulated release of the lever.
Aprilia’s Tuono 660 visually hits you over the head with its gregarious styling and boisterous colorways. But the brash middleweight proves far more livable than its psychedelic hues and provocative bodywork might suggest. Sure, there’s enough tech to back up the fashion-forward visuals. In fact, the new model offers some features you can’t even get in Aprilia’s pricey, yet-to-be-updated bigger displacement bikes. But the little Tuono is also tuned delightfully to handle twisty roads, offering nimble handling, a well-sorted chassis, and an enthusiastic engine whose only shortcoming is a brief gap in power midway to its climb to redline. There’s enough power from the parallel-twin to be involving, but perhaps not enough to get level-headed beginners into too much trouble if they approach it with the proper level of respect.
Standing Out in a Crowd
Though its premium pricing and Italian origins lend it an aspirational air, the Tuono 660 at least claims a distinct take on the middleweight genre. While the Husqvarna Vitpilen 701 ($9,499) offers charismatically postmodern style, the Yamaha MT-07 ($7,699) and MT-09 ($9,399) deliver remarkable value and performance without the European quirks, as do Japanese counterparts like the Honda CBR650R ($9,199), Kawasaki Ninja 650 ($7,599), and Suzuki SV650 ABS ($7,699). All those numbers, you’ll note, are under $10,000.
Like any passion-driven decision, there’s only so much spreadsheet studying that will persuade you to pick one middleweight motorcycle over another. After all, we don’t choose two wheels out of necessity; we ride because we want to. That said, Aprilia’s Tuono 660 and RS 660 are emotional options in a segment that’s far likelier to be shopped by newbies than experienced riders. From that perspective, both 660s bring of-the-moment electronics and a degree of user-friendliness that makes them perfectly acceptable—if a bit on the pricey side—for newer riders.
Then again, if you’re not turned on by the evocative exhaust note and enthused bodywork, the Aprilia premium might be largely irrelevant. It’s a great time to be shopping for approachable, involving motorcycles, and an arguably more exciting one if you’re ready to stray from the crowd and embrace an extroverted Italian.
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