Aprilia has composed and unveiled an impressive package that is designed to welcome new riders into the fold and also invigorate experienced riders looking to join the Italian manufacturer’s brood. To say that the 2021 Aprilia RS 660 looks every bit the younger sibling to the RS V4, while true, is a discredit to this premium offering to the middleweight sportbike class.
It was two years ago when Aprilia introduced the world to the RS 660, a concept bike at the time, at Italy’s EICMA show. A couple of years later, the RS 660, no longer a concept machine, is a production model with all of the proverbial bells and whistles.
Looking at the front of the RS 660, you note straight away the new direction that Aprilia is making by way of a newly designed upper cowl with a new distinctive face, that houses a unique LED headlight setup, integrated blinkers in the daytime running lights, bending cornering lights, a twilight sensor to auto-activate the low beams, and emergency brake activation. It is a fresh take utilizing today’s lighting technology and integrating it into the overall design of the bike.
The RS 660 is presented in a sporty trim that reads ready for the attack, at the same time, is very welcoming and rider-friendly. In the saddle, where a larger rider like myself could have used just a smidge more room between tank and tail section, the rider stance falls between aggressive and sporting. The comfortable ergonomics are courtesy of the position of the narrow rear sets, the seat height and the above the top-triple-tree clip-ons.
With everything in reach, the RS 660 is easily manipulated to perform in a number of riding scenarios. A standout design feature for me is the fuel tank. Strong lines and a sculptured shape allow for and provide an impressive contact area for your inner thighs, most appreciated when the riding is fast and more technical. Being able to lock in and feel that connection with the bike boosts confidence and enhances the riding experience.
From behind the bars, the active TFT screen displays bike information, specs and data as well as serving as a portal to access the customizable features and riding modes that the RS 660 is equipped with. There are a total of five riding modes of which three are designated for street or road duty while the remaining are reserved for track or racing performance.
For my road test, I began with the ride mode set in “commute” before experimenting with the “dynamic” setting. The final option in the road setting is “individual” where you can adjust and customize settings such as traction and wheelie control, engine braking and the engine map, cornering ABS, cruise control and quick shift. The track settings include “challenge” and “time attack” options, displaying only the necessary data for on-track or competition activities. All settings can be adjusted via the switch control buttons at the left handlebar.
Addressing the elements of downward force control and aerodynamics enhancement, Aprilia utilizes fairing wings or winglets, referencing them as “double layer fairing.” Additionally, they move hot engine air away to help regulate engine temperature and do a decent job of shielding you from air pressure at speed. Before and after carving through Route 33 near Santa Barbara, California, an exhilarating blast on Highway 101 provided a nice opportunity to crack open the throttle and to see what the RS 660 had to offer in closer to a straight-line rate of speed. It did not disappoint. The RS 660 remained stable and sure of itself, handling with the desired response to handlebar input and throttle.
The RS 660’s nimbleness can also be attributed to its frame design and suspension set up. The mass of the 403 pound (wet weight) 660 is centered in respect to its frame. The swingarm, the subframe, the one-piece exhaust system and the rigid yet lightweight aluminum frame, are all strategically mounted the engine. The employment of lightweight cast rims, adjustable 41mm front forks and rear direct adjustable shock, all assist in providing impressive handling and feedback.
Most outstanding to me is the 660’s engine performance. The RS 660 is powered by is a newly developed compact and lightweight liquid-cooled forward-facing parallel twin that sets another benchmark for the Italian brand. With a maximum output of 100hp and 67 foot-pounds of torque, Aprilia’s new 658.8cc engine’s design delivers an impressive powerband with more than 80% of its torque output happening from 4000rpm and more than 90% above 6250rpm (maximum rpm: 11500). In other words, it had got some pretty big stones for a bike its size. The RS 660 isn’t just quick, its fast. Aprilia boasts a horsepower output of 100hp, the most in its class. And with every crack of the throttle, I enjoyed this perfect storm of horsepower, torque and aggressive acceleration. There was no waiting for the power to arrive. It was there from every twist of the wrist and roll on the throttle.
It is important to note that while the Aprilia RS 660 checks all of the boxes in the aesthetics department while delivering an adrenaline-infused performance experience… the advantage that the 660 holds over other bikes in its class is rooted in technology. To explain my point, take a look at the bike’s brain or ECU. The RS 660 is working with a new 11MP ECU from Marelli, that offers more options and connectivity compared to the previous 7SM ECU that Aprilia had been using. The Marelli 11MP ECU features 144 pins (7SM ECU: 80 pins), 200 MHz (7SM ECU: 50MHz), and 4 Mb of flash memory (7SM ECU: 1Mb). This ECU is what makes all the bells ring and all the whistles blow.
When lined up next to other bikes in its class, the RS 660’s ECU casts a mighty long shadow on its would-be peers. The 660’s electronics package is unexpected for a bike in this class. The implementation of intelligent technology is what will spearhead the next wave of Aprilia machines. Now, take that tech and add in the other features: the looks, the performance, the rideability… What you have is a machine that will draw in new riders to the Aprilia brand. What you have is a machine that the experienced rider will get excited about. At least, that’s the hope that Aprilia is broadcasting. They just may be right. Why? To say it in a way that is easy for everyone to understand… The RS 660 is just fun. Ripping through the canyons, the highway, the back roads, the bike is exciting and just damn fun to ride.
And then, there is the price. With preorders now underway, the 2021 Aprilia RS 660 is scheduled to arrive in US dealerships before the end of the year in three colorways. Lava Red and Apex Black are priced at $11,299 while the third option, Acid Gold has an MSRP of $11,499.
Aprilia’s RS 660 is poised to lead the charge for the manufacturer as they embark on a new direction with significant advancements in engineering, technology and design. With a Tuono 660 version rumored to be on the way and sincere interest from MotoAmerica’s twin class, the RS 660 is the formidable new face for the future of Aprilia.