Aprilia RS 457 first ride review: Does this mean the KTM RC 390 is history?
The Aprilia RS 457 has been a long time coming. After years of teasing and spotting mules we finally got to spend some quality time with the bike. With its 457cc parallel-twin outputting 47bhp and 43.5Nm of torque, it is the most powerful sub-500cc supersport available in the country right now. The RS 457 takes design and functional cues from the bigger RS 660 and the RSV4, but does it also perform at the same level (keeping the segment in mind) as those? To find out, we jetted to the Kari Motor Speedway in Coimbatore and put some hot laps in astride the all-new Aprilia RS 457.
Aprilia RS 457 design
I know you want me to get to how the bike performs but when it looks this good, I feel like we should start with the design. As aforementioned, for India, this bike now represents the starting point into Aprilia’s range of supersports, with the same design language trickling down as well. The front is fashioned with DRLs that immediately help identify it as an Aprilia RS bike. Under the headlights, you’ll see channels that work like air ducts/winglets and are integrated into the fairing rather nicely. Behind the sharp front end, nestled under the windscreen is a 5-inch TFT screen that is sharp and easy to read even under direct sunlight. The clip-on bars are mounted on an aluminium yoke with slats to give it a race bike feel. Another interesting detail here is the adjusters on the top of the suspension fork tubes, indicating the ability to adjust preload. Behind this the fuel tank which has a nice divet for the rider to place their chin when in full tuck. From the side, the fairing extends to the engine and reveals only the clutch case and gives it a proper supersport look. You can also see the underbelly exhaust with a nice pentagon shape for the exit. The rider seat is fairly large and allows even larger riders to move around rather easily. The rear seat, mounted on the subframe, ties up the design well and the batarang-shaped tail light is certainly another identifying factor.
The bike is available in three colours one black, one white and a third which changes colours based on how the light hits it. Quite an interesting colour, this. In terms of fit and finish, this is not the poster child for quality, but all the units there at the first ride certainly seemed better than they did at the first look event in Delhi and at IBW. How the plastics and the paint age, is something only a lot of kilometres and time will tell.
Aprilia RS 457 engine and performance
The Aprilia RS 457 is powered by an all-new 457cc, liquid-cooled parallel-twin engine with a 270-degree crank. Right off the bat, I want to address that this bike sounds really nice. Almost like a big bike. It comes to life and has an almost mechanical sound, something you’d associate with Ducati’s L-Twin motorcycles. The ’twin motor is good for 47bhp at 9400rpm and 43.5Nm of torque at 6700rpm. This makes it the most powerful bike in the segment even more so than the Kawasaki Ninja 400, Yamaha R3 and the KTM RC 390. The engine is mated to a six-speed gearbox and a slip and assist clutch which translates to a very light action at the lever. In terms of performance, the RS 457 is quick off the line and the delivery of power is spread out over the rev range well. The bike almost has two stages of power, one that is grunty and torque till about 4500-5000rpm and the second one kicks in after that and punches all the way to redline. One thing that stood out to me was just how tractable the bike is, especially considering the kind of power it packs. This makes the bike very friendly to ride on track. Considering that we rode on a track that I’m not personally very familiar with, the luscious spread of power came in very handy. In terms of speed, on the straight at Kari, I with my heavy frame managed to clock a top speed of 160kmph in fifth, and the engine wasn’t even close to the redline at this point. Roll-on from low double-digit speeds is quite impressive and the bike effortlessly pulls and pulls hard.
The gearbox is tactile and worked well for the most part. That in combination with the tractable motor and light clutch lever meant that I didn’t really miss that the bike was not fitted with the quickshifter, which will be available as an optional extra. The bike has three riding modes which are controlled via the ride-by-wire system — eco, rain and sport, each with a different map; we obviously rode only in sport mode. Throttle calibration was precise and power delivery was extremely linear and non-intimidating. Speaking of refinement, the motor is refined for the most part, with some vibes creeping in closer to the redline. But they aren't annoying in the slightest and you won’t be left with tingling or soreness even after a fast-paced track session.
Aprilia RS 457 chassis, ride and handling
The RS 457 makes use of a twin-spar aluminium frame, similar to that of the much bigger RSV4. The frame hangs off of a 41mm USD fork and a monoshock both of which are adjustable for preload. This in my opinion is a great feature and should be made available on all bikes. The bike runs on 17-inch wheels that are wrapped with bespoke TVS Eurogrip Protorq Extreme tyres. In terms of handling, this bike is one sweet handler. You’re sitting in a relatively sporty stance with your feet placed on fairly rear-set footpegs. The upper body reaches to clip-on bars but these aren’t ridiculously low, so when you get off the bike, you aren’t hunched over like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. But getting off this bike is something you won’t want to do. Not for a while at least.
The handling is composed and precise but not too sharp that you need to have inch perfection with your inputs. It tips into a corner with little effort and even allows for mid-corner corrections without scaring you. The tyres also play a big part in making the bike so capable and forgiving. The suspension setup is neutral and by this, I mean that it is neither too hard nor too soft and it gives you just the right amount of feedback. The best part is that the preload is adjustable so you should be able to get it to work in the optimal range based on your weight. How well the change of preload will affect the suspension is something we look forward to testing when we get the bike for a road test. While we rode exclusively on a track and I can't tell you exactly how this bike will take to our nasty Indian roads, I do suspect that this should be nearly as pliant as the new KTM 390 Duke is.
The overall chassis package of the Aprilia RS 457 is pretty impressive with the only real letdown being the brake setup. While there is enough bite available in front, the 320mm disc and the four-piston brake calliper, the performance fades, rather rapidly. With the front brake lever coming dangerously close to the grips as the day progressed. Aprilia tells us that this is because the brakes are specced for the roads and not particularly the track but if you were to buy the bike, I feel like comprehensive upgrades to the braking system are something you should definitely consider.
Aprilia RS 457 features
At the centre of it all is a five-inch colour TFT screen which is bright and easy to read even under harsh sunlight. There are multiple sub-menus, including a dedicated track display and all of this is very easy to navigate using the four arrow keys on the left switch cube. The switch gear is backlit and tactile as well. In terms of features and equipment, the Aprilia gets three ride modes, four stages of traction control, if you count off as a level too, and two calibrations for the dual-channel ABS with the intervention becoming less on the front wheel when you switch ABS off at the rear. Apart from that you also get connectivity features that allow you to control calls, music and even navigation to a certain degree on screen. The connectivity-based features are something we can test only during our road test, so more on that later.
Aprilia RS 457 price and verdict
The Aprilia RS 457 is priced at ₹4.1 lakh ex-showroom. This makes it more affordable than the newly launched Yamaha R3, a lot more affordable than the Kawasaki Ninja 400 and a little more expensive than the KTM RC 390 which we all know is due for an upgrade and in turn a price hike this year. Has Aprilia managed to justify what initially seemed like a slightly high price tag? In my opinion, yes. The bike is everything you expect an Aprilia that bears an RS tag to be and then some. The package is one that is very capable, largely refined, very forgiving and in turn rewarding to ride. The only major gripe I have is the braking performance of the bike. So would I recommend that you go out and buy one? That would also be a yes, but there’s a caveat there. This is the first bike that Aprilia is manufacturing in India and we also don’t know what the service cost will be like. Only time will tell how well the build quality will last and whether or not any major issues crop up. But as it stands, this is a sweet machine that gets my stamp of approval.
P.S. I CANNOT wait for a Tuono based on this. Aprilia, are you listening?