Test Ride: 2021 Aprilia Tuono 660

An impressive Italian machine imbued with emotion

Many motorcycle companies share a common history of having started out manufacturing bicycles—many before World War I, others in the years leading up to World War II. Founded in Noale, Italy in 1946 as a bike manufacturer, Aprilia is one of the younger companies out there and they didn’t start producing motorcycles until Ivano Beggio took the reins from his father in 1968. Even then, the first models were 50cc mopeds and it was actually the production of the Scarabeo motocross bike in 1970 that would ultimately provide the foundation for Aprilia as the performance motorcycle company it is today.

Taking Aprilia’s history into consideration, the addition of the 2021 Tuono 660 to the model range could be seen as a nod to the critically acclaimed RSV Mille Tuono which Aprilia brought to market in 2003. Based on the RSV Mille sport bike, the RSV Mille Tuono was Aprilia’s entry into the naked bike segment, and it featured high motocross-style handlebars and only a small front fairing.

From the time the Tuono was introduced it became increasingly more aggressive and powerful with models like the Tuono 1000 R and 1000 R Factory upping the ante for street and track use respectively. That blend of nominal comfort and high performance has garnered Aprilia a loyal following, as well as an intimidating reputation. So when we were invited to come out and ride their new middleweight Tuono variant, we were more than happy to accept, albeit with some nervous energy.

The Tuono 660 may be intimidating to ride, but it’s also a willing collaborator in one’s mission to be free of any concern—other than the next corner. Aprilia has successfully taken the formula of the mighty Tuono V4 1100 and reworked it to appeal to more riders of varying degrees of experience and skill.

It all starts with the engine, a 660cc parallel twin that makes a claimed 100hp, although it certainly feels like more when pushed hard. This twin is happiest up in the high-rev range and riders will certainly have a big grin plastered across their face up at the top of the tach as well. The exhaust note is enjoyable throughout, but revving out the 660 to redline brings a guttural racket to the ears that’s undeniably satisfying. Nobody imbues a machine with emotion better than the Italians.

Getting the most out of the engine is quite easy thanks to a buttery smooth and responsive throttle and a light, direct clutch. Many performance bikes are exhausting to operate, but at the end of our day with the Tuono 660 we were eager to keep going—no hand or wrist fatigue stood in our way. That feeling of wanting more is exactly what a motorcycle should leave you with.

Reflecting further on the most endearing qualities of the Tuono 660 leads us to think about the slick shifting six-speed gearbox that features a satisfying click from gear to gear and never left us hunting for the right one. The ratios have been well thought out for around town use and getting out in the canyons or at a track. An optional up/down quick-shifter is available for $199 and considering the bike’s $10,499 starting price, that should probably be standard. But if you opt to pre-order a Tuono 660 now, Aprilia will give you a $250 accessory credit that can cover the tab and leave a little left for the optional IMU. The fact that it not only adds six-axis lean sensitivity to all the bike’s rider aids, but also a lighting array that swivels to illuminate the inside of corners when turning, makes the desire for the IMU stronger.

Overall the Tuono 660 is an exercise in restraint and the result is a highly enjoyable experience that’s accommodating and exhilarating. At 403 pounds, the bike is easily flicked side to side and the chassis works in perfect harmony with the suspension to instill confidence in the rider. The 660 soaks up the bumps, ripples and sudden undulations that define the canyon roads east of Malibu with ease, allowing us to hold our chosen line without so much as a twitch of the eye.

Another thing that certainly doesn’t need improvement is the dual 320mm disc front brakes from Brembo. Initial bite is excellent and then remains firm, offering great linear feel throughout application. No grabbiness or vagueness came into play during our ride and thankfully we didn’t have to put the standard ABS to the test either. We left ours on all day, but if a rider wants to disable it, they can do so through the quick and intuitive menus displayed on the bright and crisp center mounted color TFT screen. Many motorcycle’s digital cockpits are brilliant in theory but frustrating in reality, but Aprilia has done a great job here.

The four-button layout on the left grip makes navigating menus a breeze. Riders have five distinct riding modes to choose from: Commute, Dynamic, Individual, Challenge and Time Attack. The last two are designed for track use, allowing more experienced riders to get the most out of the Tuono 660, while the first three have road riding well covered.

We mainly used Dynamic and Individual to explore what kind of results adjusting any of the often abbreviated parameters would yield. The ability to change engine maps and adjust engine braking on the fly is most welcome given how varied sections of road can be on the route we took.

Ultimately, we were more than pleasantly surprised by the Tuono 660; we are hooked. This is exactly the kind of bike Aprilia needed to deliver to entice a new kind of customer to give the brand a try, but without diluting the brand DNA or alienating longtime fans. It’s an excellent introduction to the naked bike philosophy.

Both “Iridium Grey” and “Concept Black” are attractive color choices, but “Acid Gold” captures the attitude of the bike and makes clear its intention: to have fun. The 2021 Aprilia Tuono 660 certainly delivers on that front and we imagine it’ll do the same for anybody else lucky enough to get in the saddle.

Images courtesy of Larry Chen