Aprilia have arguably created a new segment with the light, 100-hp, parallel-twin RS 660: an affordable and usable sport bike with a plethora of rider aids for the road
The big, new Noale middleweight looks promising
Aprilia’s rs 660 is so good, you have to question why this hasn’t been done before. a fun, light usable sport bike which isn’t too radical or extreme, that is attractive to young and new riders alike, and has a plethora of sophisticated rider aids to keep you safe on the road or track… Where have you been?
as much as 100 hp from a usable parallel-twin motor that has character and punch on the road, placed into an easy-going chassis, then covered in sexy bodywork and given just-about-affordable price — what is not to like? i wish i had come up with this idea.
We’re told the supersport market is dead and, yes, sales show a monumental decline in this class over the last two decades, but these exciting, dedicated track bikes are simply that: race bikes with high-revving engines and radical riding positions that can be hard work for everyday use on the road. However, despite its supersport styling, aprilia’s rs 660 wasn’t designed for the track; this is a comfortable and unintimidating road bike with a typically aprilia sporting edge.
While the supersport sector has dramatically declined, the global demand for smaller capacity (250 to 550 cc) bikes has increased, and aprilia needed something to fit that growing market, especially in asia. The italian manufacturer also needed to produce a bike for loyal aprilia customers wanting to stay with the brand as they moved up from the rs125. aprilia didn’t have anything sporty in the middle market, so it made sense effectively to cut an rsV4 1100 in half and produce a completely new bike.
The rs 660 is powered by a parallel twin with a 270-degree crank, which is essentially the front half of the rsV4. But although the rs 660 is an “entry-level” bike for aprilia and is designed for a young and inexperienced audience, it’s neither bland nor dull — the opposite, in fact — and even uses more rider aids than aprilia’s flagship superbike, the rsV4. Cornering aBs, multiple track and rider modes, traction and wheelie control, an up-and-down quick-shifter, even cruise control make for a world-class array of electronic aids on a 100hp £10,000 (rs 9.8-lakh) bike.
i couldn’t wait to get to italy to ride the new rs 660. as a big fan and racer of the TT lightweight class at the isle of Man (the rs 660 will be eligible for the 2021 TT), which consists of racy parallel twins, the rs 660 got my attention when it was unveiled two years ago. i’m also old enough to remember aprilia’s legendary two-stroke rs250. The rs 660 was a bike i’ve been so looking forward to riding.
all the ingredients are there. it has a short wheelbase (1,370 millimetres, 69 mm shorter than aprilia’s own rsV4 Factory); at just 169 kilograms dry or 183 kg with fuel, it is light; there’s adjustable suspension; a wide 180-section rear pirelli diablo rosso Corsa 2 tyre; and, in the purple and red colour scheme, reminiscent of the legendary rs250. aprilia have always delivered excellent chassis and i was like a starved dog outside a butcher’s, salivating with anticipation.
i was expecting the rs 660 to be sharp and racy but it is far more relaxed than a wannabe track bike. The seat has some padding, the bars are relatively high and wide, the ergonomics are comfortable, with low pegs. you may think i sound disappointed, but i wasn’t. so many times i’ve jumped on a so-called sporty road bike only to be disappointed by its performance, but that isn’t the case with the rs 660. The parallel twin is a road bike first and foremost, but one that can also be taken on the track.
The steering is light, which is exaggerated by the wide bars. it’s toy-like yet stable, giving you the option to steer into the corner or hang off the inside, knee on the deck like Bradley smith. despite its lightness and willingness to steer, it’s stable and predictable. it is user-friendly and welcoming, there is no “getting used to each other” period — you just jump on and ride, safe in the knowledge that you have excellent rider aids at hand, such as cornering aBs, should you arrive into a corner too hot.
We only got to test the rs 660 on the road in the dry and, although the pace was brisk, we weren’t really pushing the handling limits. The front 43-mm Kayaba fork is fully adjustable and were faultless on the test, while the rear unit is also adjustable (apart from compression) and even at a brisk road pace it is hard to fault. arguably, it doesn’t have the plush “toplevel” feel of quality Öhlins units or similar and i’m sure you’ll need a little more support on track with race tyres. But, overall, it’s an easy handling road bike which can cut it and delivers safe, light positive handling.
like the suspension, the brakes may be lacking headlinegrabbing spec, but these standard radial Brembo stoppers with braided lines and radial master cylinder are more than up for the job, especially when you consider the bike’s lack of weight and comparatively low top speed. When stopping 183 kg from a top speed of 225 km/h, you don’t need the most expensive race-spec Brembo stoppers. The feel is excellent, even the back brake, and the aBs isn’t obtrusive on the road.
interestingly, you have three levels of aBs. The most obtrusive is cornering aBs front and rear, mode two is similar but less obtrusive, and mode one is conventional aBs on the front, not cornering aBs and not aBs on the rear, which in experienced hands with the standard slipper clutch allows you back into corners for fun.
What aprilia have done is essentially use their rsV4 as a base, chopping the V4 engine in half to produce a parallel twin. The bore size is the same as the rsV4 1100, but now stroke is 63.93, not 52.3 mm. The twin-cylinder doHC engine produces a respectable 100 hp at 10,500 rpm and 67 Nm at 8,500 rpm — that is more torque than a yamaha yZF-r6 and Honda CBr650r. The little twin will bounce off the rev-limiter at 11,500 rpm but with a race kit will rev on for another 1,000 rpm. But this isn’t a race engine; 80 per cent of the torque is available at just 4,000 rpm and 90 per cent of it at 6,250 rpm. There will also be an a2 version for restricted licence
holders with 95 hp which can then be restricted further.
of course, it’s not as simple as just chain-sawing the V4 in half. There is a new clutch, a new intake system, a new cylinder-head, new 48-mm throttle bodies… this is a completely new engine, albeit one that leans on the experience and knowledge gained from the V4. aprilia have cleverly reduced vibration and allowed the engine to run smoother, with 270-degree counterweights on the new 270-degree crankshafts. This completely new engine is a structural part of the bike, too, with the swing-arm bolts directly to the rear of the engine. aprilia have clearly invested a huge amount of time and money into this new engine platform and, i’m sure, we will see more bikes from their range using this engine.
The 270-degree crank gives the rs 660 a unique exhaust tone, very much like a slow-revving rsV4. it doesn’t sound like a Kawasaki Z650 (with a 180-degree crank), with each cylinder balancing the other — this is much smoother. The light, onepiece, 6.2-kilo exhaust consists of one silencer per cylinder plus a cat’ exhaust/collector box, which then exits on either side of the rear tyre. The two protruding exhausts not only give the 660 a unique sound but also a distinctive symmetrical look. a tickle of the ride-by-wire throttle allows the revs to dart up the full colour TFT digital dash. The revs build effortlessly, quicker than i was expecting, and for a standard exhaust, the system adds a little soul to the rs 660 experience.
There are five riding modes to choose from: three for the road — Commute, dynamic, and individual — and two for the track — Challenge and Track attack. Each mode changes the engine character, feeling, and the multiple rider aids, including traction and wheelie control, cornering aBs, engine brake assist, while the-up-anddown quick-shifter, which comes as standard, is the same in all modes. again, you can change and personalise each mode if you wish. it may sound a little complicated for a 10k (rs 9.80 lakh) “entry-level” 100-hp middleweight, but, in reality, it isn’t. it’s simple and intuitive, the new switchgear makes it easier than ever (even if i do prefer the thumb and finger paddle of the rsV4).
We started our test ride negotiating small city streets of northern italy before heading to the playground of the mountains. i opted for the Commute mode, with the fuelling set to three, the softest
A versatile, fun, desirable bike for the inexperienced and experienced alike. This will be an Aprilia success story and a big step for the famous Italian brand
setting. like every other aprilia i’ve ridden recently, the fuelling was perfect. aprilia have a world-class fuelling team, throttle response is always perfect, which is particularly impressive for a parallel twin. again, like the premium rsV4 1100, the quick-shifter is perfect, too, both up and down.
Within a few miles, the rs 660 feels like a premium bike. on one or two occasions i struggled to find neutral, but that is my only gripe. as we headed into the alps, it was time to flick from Commute to dynamic, which automatically changes the engine character and response and reduces the intrusion of rider aids. you can feel the difference. The response is a little sharper, especially from a closed to an open throttle. it’s not snatchy, the fuelling is again excellent, there is simply more urgency. power is relatively linear (90 per cent of the torque is in by 6,250 rpm) and you can short-shift on the fast quick-shifter and still make progress, but thrill-seekers will head above 7,000 rpm. There is a little kick around 7,500 rpm and the little twin loves to rev to the limiter at 11,500 rpm. it sounds fantastic too. it’s so much fun to thrash, tapping up and down the quick-shifter with the clutch redundant, excellent rider aids and cornering aBs on hand if the road surface should unexpectedly change… i really felt i could attack the alpine mountain passes as if they were my local roads.
Then, for sheer (and immature) fun, i switched into the individual mode, which i’d already pre-set for no traction control, no anti-wheelie, power on the most aggressive mode, engine braking down to one, and aBs set to one, which means only conventional aBs on the front, no cornering aBs and no aBs on the rear.
and, yes, the rs 660 will wheelie in the first two gears with some encouragement from the clutch. it’s a brilliant engine to thrash, it sounds good, is responsive and fun and blessed with excellent fuelling and a synchronized quick-shifter. and,
thankfully, when you look down at the full colour TFT dash, you’re not doubling the speed limit and facing a jail sentence should you get caught. yes, the rs 660 is reasonably quick, i’d estimate top speed is around 225230 km/h, but, unlike an rsV4, it’s not scary on the road; instead it’s usable and a few handfuls of the throttle in the first three gears won’t result in warp speed and the potential for instant disqualification.
usually, when discussing price, it’s relatively simple: look at the competition and see where it fits. But what is the competition? The rs is nowhere near as radical as a yamaha r6, for example, and it can’t match the yamaha’s power, but the aprilia has more rider aids and technology.
yamaha’s outstanding r6 costs £12,221 (rs 11.98 lakh) but is very much a one-trick pony built to win races. you could argue the aprilia is more “entry-level” like Honda’s CBr650r, but comparing the rs 660 to the Honda is a little like comparing a hot hatchback to a normal family car; the Honda is similar in power but significantly heavier. The Honda is considerably cheaper (£7,495 = rs 7.35 lakh), which makes it a tempting prospect, but doesn’t even come close on technology or appeal. you could also throw in Kawasaki’s Ninja 650 into the argument — it’s cheaper at £7,049 (rs 6.91 lakh) (KrT Edition), but down on power, up on weight, and, in terms of tech, like comparing an iphone with an old Nokia.
some will say the rs 660 is expensive and, at £10k (rs 9.80 lakh), that is a lot of money for 100 hp. However, the flip side is it’s less than half the price of the rsV4 1100 Factory (£23,399 = rs 22.93 lakh), and £6k (rs 5.88 lakh) less than the standard rsV4 1000 (£15,999 = rs 15.68 lakh).
The 15-litre fuel-tank may not seem very large but the new parallel twin is frugal. aprilia quote 20.45 km/l, but on a steady ride in the afternoon, i managed 24.09 km/l, which gives a possible tank range of over 320 km. 320 km between fuel-ups or three to four hours in the saddle wouldn’t be agony either, because the seat is comfortable, the ergonomics are roomy for this type of bike, with pegs lower than the rsV4 and the bars that are wide. The bodywork is also impressive; the screen is almost a double bubble TT-style screen, making it easy to get tucked in at speed and at motorway cruising speeds does a half-decent job of wind protection. a speed of 120 km/h equates to around 6,000 rpm and, while a few vibrations are felt from the pegs and a little from the bar-ends as the speed and revs increase, it’s nothing untoward, though we only managed a short blast on the motorway. aprilia even offer a tail pack and a tank bag as optional extras and i’d happily take on some serious miles on the rs 660, especially as there is even cruise control.
as you can probably tell, i’m impressed by aprilia’s new rs 660. it appears aprilia have listened to the market and produced a usable, friendly, road-going sport bike laden with rider aids and made it affordable, just. it’s not extreme; instead it is comfortable with a versatile engine that shouldn’t get you into too much trouble. it sounds good, has character, looks great, and is certainly desirable. you could argue aprilia have overdone the rider aids and the suspension may need an upgrade for some serious racing/track action, but, i’m sure, there will be a sportier version in the pipeline soon.
a versatile, fun, desirable bike for the inexperienced and experienced alike, which i can’t wait to try on track. i believe this will be an aprilia success story and a big step for the famous italian brand.